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WPHS Students Come Out in a Show of Support for the Asian American Pacific Islander Community

By Mia Caridi and Eva Mandelbaum

On April 28, 2021, many White Plains High School students showed their support for the Asian American Pacific Islander Community and demanded a change in the world through participating in a powerful walkout. Clothed in red to show their support, a crowd of students marched outside in a peaceful protest. With guest speakers including Mayor Roach, Superintendent Dr. Ricca, and many student leaders and representatives, this event sent the strong message of a demand for change in not only the White Plains community but also the world.

Throughout the event, a myriad of speakers addressed several major issues in society as well as commending the WPHS student body and staff for their efforts to rally against discrimination and racism. Mayor Thomas Roach of White Plains made a guest appearance at the walkout, eulogizing the monumental efforts of the White Plains community. Mayor Roach encouraged the student body as the emerging voices of the future generation, to continue to preserve and uphold our beliefs and fight for equity. “You coming out today confirms for me what I’ve always believed about our young people. Their hearts are in it, I fully support that, and they stand up for people when other people push them down... I’m proud of all of you, we’re all proud of you,” Mayor Roach commented.

Mayor Roach truly touched the hearts of many young voices, encouraging us to continue to stand up for what we believe. Throughout our lives, we have all been silenced, but Mayor Roach helps guide us in realizing that we can rekindle our candles and burn as bright as a wildfire. Change is coming to this world, and it starts here. It starts now. Our voices cannot be silenced. We must recognize that we hold this power to make a considerable change. Although it seems like this fight has been endless, we have forged a momentous and lasting historical change, and we must not falter in this fight for equity and justice in this fight for life.

Dr. Joseph Ricca, the Superintendent of the White Plains City School District also made a guest appearance, sharing his proud and emotional sentiments and positive messages for the community. Dr. Ricca did not hold back and truly praised the work of the student body. “It’s hard to change hearts and minds. It’s hard to tear down hundreds of years' worth of systemic racism.” Dr. Ricca also acknowledged the lengthy and continuous struggle that our generation faces. We hear of the fight for change and how things really should be. However, it is problematic to implement that change. The world has unfortunately been structured on racist ideologies, discriminating against all who don’t fit society’s molding. “You’re intervening right now. Your voices, your spirit, and your desire to change this world will make it happen but you have to keep at it... You have to pick up the torch, you have to pick up the mantel... This today is a prime example of that work and I am so proud to be here among you,” Dr. Ricca remarked.

It is immensely difficult to break free of the molding and eradicate it, but we must remain committed to shattering the molding because we are made to embrace our differences and appreciate our cultures. This systemic racism has existed for centuries, it has slowly but surely started to fracture, but there is still much work to be done, and we must pledge ourselves to this cause, we must devote ourselves to this change, or else our world will crumble at our feet.

This event was provoked by the many hate crimes and widespread marginalization of members of the AAPI community. It would not have been possible without the strong student leaders at White Plains High School who have noticed these worldwide problems with eyes wide open and have decided to do something about it. The White Plains High School student body is filled with highly spirited, knowledgeable, and change-making teens, which is evidenced by this student-led walkout where students made their voices heard loud and clear. One student, Santiago Nino Pinzon, spoke beautifully about the oppression members of the AAPI community constantly face, and how “we stand together today in support and solidarity.” He spoke about a recent hate crime in Harlem where Yao Pan Ma, a 61-year-old Asian immigrant was a victim of a hate crime, which put him into a coma. “This is not an isolated issue,” Pinzon continued. “This is one of many representations of systematic racism and immense hatred. And that is why we are here today, to lift our voices...and show the pain and fear the Asian community has gone through.”

White Plains High School junior Alex Garcia spoke on behalf of the daughter of a victim of a recent hate crime. With confidence in her voice, her recitation ended with the empowering message that “Things will change, and things will continue changing. The outcome of your challenging work is you will see a future-a future generation that will refrain from being apathetic. That will stand together. Please support the students and guide them, so that there is hope for the next generation.” Another White Plains High School student, Sadaf Mohammad, spoke eloquently on behalf of the Asian Club at White Plains High School. “I come in solidarity with Asian Americans and students of different groups,” she began. “As a part of the diverse community that makes up White Plains, it is important that in times where we are the most disconnected and divisive that we stand together and stop hate against Asian and Pacific Islanders.” From these many student leaders who made their voices heard to the various social justice clubs at White Plains High School who contributed to organizing this walkout, this event was certainly a team effort that was pieced together by the ideas of many.

Voice is such a powerful tool in the modern world today. It is vital to protest and actively use our voices to fight the discrimination and racism in our world. We are the future generation and are encouraged to use our voices to reshape society. To admit our faults and to resolve them. Even as “younglings” if you may, we have all experienced or seen racism and discrimination in our everyday lives, and because of this we are inspired to correct it, to make a lasting and reverberating change. It starts with one stone dropped into the pond, the ripples spreading across its breadth. We will not forget those who have come before us and continue to fight through their legacy, words, and courage.

The White Plains student body and countless individuals have set a prime example for the world by challenging, standing up, and supporting so many imperative causes such as Climate Change, the Black Lives Matter Movement, LGBTQ+ Rights, and an end to hate and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Community. The White Plains student body and community assist multitudes of students to find and share their influential voices. Invigorating them to carry out change, and most importantly, hold hope for the world. We must continue to fight with hope in our hearts to create change in the world, we must persevere through every hardship and obstacle because change is possible, but we must believe in it.

Too often our voices are silenced but as White Plains High School students show us, our voices can be heard and used to make change. There are ways to help, and it can all start at White Plains High School. We have a plethora of social justice clubs and organizations that play a fundamental role in making our community a safe place for everyone. You can join a club to help overcome the hatred and discrimination that has been existent for centuries. Taking an active role in the community is a crucial step toward making a difference, and after all, change starts with you. As a generation, we know what the world ought to be, and we are willing to recognize and rectify our faults and past injustices. Wielding our voices can seem so simplistic, however, it truly mobilizes and urges us as humans to fight for a way to make change. For too long we have been groomed to remain silent, accept things as they are, but as one we can now strive to revolt against those standards, to establish a world where we no longer tolerate hate and discrimination; we can create a world of justice and equality that has been the ambitions of so many before us. This is a call to fight together, we must amalgamate ourselves and our differences, not oppose and tear one another down for them.

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