Voices of SLUH
Introduction from Voices of SLUH: BLM Committee
Simonie Anzalone, Adam Cruz '10, Frank Kovarik '94, Jim Linhares, Daniel Shields and Kate Toussaint
Since 2017, Voices of SLUH has provided a venue for members of the school community to talk and listen to each other about issues that extend beyond the walls of SLUH. It aims to build an ever more loving community at SLUH. Through all-school assemblies, essay series and class meetings, Voices of SLUH has focused on a variety of topics, including racism, sexism, neighborhoods and, most recently, stress and anxiety.
As hundreds of thousands march and protest across the country, renewing the demands for racial justice that became nationally prominent during the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri, we felt that another Voices of SLUH series was in order. The unique circumstances of our current moment made a video series the most attractive format. We are fortunate to have courageous members of our SLUH family who are willing to share their perspectives.
Let’s look to The Graduate at Graduation, which summarizes our Jesuit program of formation. One part of being Open to Growth is “becoming more flexible and open to other points of view.” A SLUH graduate “realizes the potential for learning through listening openly to others” and “recognizes his own biases, limitations and thinking patterns.” Being Committed to Doing Justice includes “beginning to understand the structural roots of injustice in social institutions, attitudes and customs,” “developing a sense of compassion for the victims of injustice” and “the impact of public policy decisions on social justice.” Please keep these ideals in mind as you watch the following testimonies.
- EPISODE 8: JOSHUA SALEEM '02
- Episode 7: Daniel Heard '04
- Episode 6: Chris Brooks
- Episode 5: Jack Callahan '18
- Episode 4: Corey Lyles '21
- Episode 3: Albert Harrold '21 & Carter Fortman '21
- Episode 2: Xavier Jallow Turner '22 & Ish Karim '22
- Episode 1: Ryan Hopkins '16
Welcome to the final episode of this summer’s Voices project. Entitled “SLUH Values Black Lives,” this series has sought to help the SLUH community reflect upon the current historical moment in the United States. Americans across the nation, outraged by the snuffing out of George Floyd’s life before our eyes on video, have taken to the streets to call for racial justice. What is SLUH’s role in this movement? What is our role as individuals?
Joshua Saleem ’02 provides a fitting conclusion to our series. Mr. Saleem does anti-racist youth organizing in St. Louis, striving for an equitable world in which life outcomes are no longer predictable by race. His testimony here offers a wonderful road map for each of us as we consider how we can play a part in the struggle against racism.
Here are his Six Tips for Racial Justice Activism:
Focus on systems and institutions
Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Learn from history
Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint
Be a Man for Others, showing up for people who are hurting, especially those who are not like you
Mr. Saleem also cites local activist Kayla Reed’s reflections on what it means to be an ALLY:
A = Always center the impacted
L = Listen and learn from those who live in oppressed conditions
L = Leverage your privilege
Y = Yield the floor
After watching Mr. Saleem’s segment, take some time to reflect on it.
What was your most important takeaway? Why? How will it affect your actions in the future?
What are you still confused about? What would you like to have Mr. Saleem clarify? What might you discuss further with a friend, teacher, or family member?
Thank you for your attention to this series. Like all of our activities at SLUH, we dedicate it to the greater glory of God.
Daniel Heard ’04 was the keynote speaker at SLUH’s Black History Month assembly in 2019. In his remarks at the assembly he spoke about the special place that SLUH has in his heart, as well as the challenges that he faced as a Black high school student, both within and outside of SLUH. When he saw the first installments of our current Voices of SLUH project, he reached out with words of encouragement and an offer of support. Mr. Heard was instrumental in the creation of our final two episodes: he contributed today’s and recruited fellow alum Joshua Saleem ’02 for the final episode, which will be posted later this week. Thank you, Daniel Heard, for this assistance and for your generous love of SLUH!
As you watch today’s video, consider the two key steps that Mr. Heard outlines—education and action—and think about how you might undertake them.
This summer, what have you done to educate yourself about Black History or the experience of African Americans today? Considering studying at least ONE of the resources compiled here by SLUH librarian Madeline Powers.
Through the current Voices project, SLUH has endeavored to demonstrate its value for Black Lives and educate the community about what it’s like to be Black in America. Have you watched all of the episodes? Have you spent time discussing them with friends or family?
What ideas do you have for taking action, for using your gifts to create positive change? What organizations might you connect with, both at SLUH and beyond? How might you work together with your friends and family to amplify the effects of your actions?
The Latin word “Magis” refers to the philosophy of doing more for Christ, and therefore doing more for and with others. This message of the Magis, which in Latin means “more” or “greater,” is one of hope, of acknowledging our current situation while working toward something better. Father Bryan Massingale, author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, describes the Ignatian Principle of the Magis as such: ‘Magis is that inner longing...that which...entices us to reach beyond where we are now.”
Episode Six of Voices of SLUH embraces Father Massingale’s definition of the Magis. A St. Louis “lifer” and former member of the SLUH football coaching staff, Chris Brooks Sr.’s primary role in our SLUH community is that of a father of a Jr. Bill. In the vein of the Magis, Mr. Brooks's message hits on two major messages: stories of “unfortunate” moments in his life that have shown the difficulties of being a Black male in America and hope that unfortunate situations like these can lead to necessary change and understanding. Ultimately, like so many of our SLUH parents, Chris speaks of a better world and hopes for his son’s success.
After watching Mr. Brook's video, please reflect on the following prompts:
1. Mr. Brooks tells two stories from his past where he has been racially profiled, and even vilified in racist ways: first, when he decimated from the University of Missouri as a senior in high school; and second, when he was pulled over with his sons in the car for being in the “wrong neighborhood.” Did these stories surprise you? What insights into racial injustice did they give you?
2. Mr. Brooks talked about how a key to the “learning process” that many in our country are now experiencing is facing fear of what they don’t know. What is it that you don’t know? What scares you? How can you, to quote Fr. Massingale, move beyond where you are now with things, people, communities, and cultures you don’t know?
3. To reach understanding and lead to change, Mr. Brooks encourages us to engage in different environments and engage in difficult conversations. What difficult conversations might you have that could lead you to better understanding of your brother? What environments are you striving to understand?
In 2018, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love: A Pastoral Letter against Racism.” We recommend reading the letter in its entirety, but will focus on this line today, “As Christians, we are constantly called to examine our own hearts and consciences for how we might contribute to or break down racial divisions, intolerance, and discrimination. The failure to act to end systemic racism hurts those who are victimized and denies all of us the opportunity to benefit from the gifts of diversity.”
Over the past weeks as we have been examining our hearts and consciences, we may have begun to wonder what more we can do. Our fifth episode addresses this question and demonstrates the power each of us have in our daily lives to enact real and powerful change. Jack Callahan ’18 discusses what he did at the University of Alabama, a school with a long and complicated history of racism.
After watching Jack’s video, please reflect on the following prompts:
Through his work with his fraternity, Jack is contributing to the efforts of many at the University of Alabama to acknowledge the school’s history of racism and turn the page to a better future. How might you learn about the racist history of an institution that is important to you (SLUH, for example) and then join efforts to chart an antiracist future for that institution?
Consider the opening quotation from St. Ignatius. How does it inspire you as you consider the role you will play in the struggle for racial justice?
Jack says that his fraternity will continue to donate to Brown House and will double the amount of volunteers, yet he says that this is not enough. Why do you think he says so? What would be enough, in the following areas?
“Each of us as Catholics must acknowledge a share in the mistakes and sins of the past. Many of us have been prisoners of fear and prejudice. We have preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism it condemns. We have allowed conformity to social pressures to replace compliance with social justice.”
- Brothers and Sisters to Us, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1979.
In our fourth "Voices of SLUH" episode, we address the importance of acknowledgement, understanding and continued education. Rising senior Corey Lyles '21 discusses his thoughts and sentiments regarding the recent incidents in our country. He speaks on his optimistic hope for a future that embraces equity and inclusion for all people of color. He also provides insight on how allies can be impactful by simply acknowledging and combating the struggles and inequalities that their fellow brothers face on a daily basis.
After watching the above video, please take some time to reflect on the following questions:
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, what have you done to educate yourself on the complex issue of systematic racism in America? How do you plan on continuing your understanding of these issues if/when the current momentum subsides?
Have you ever imagined yourself in the shoes of a fellow African American classmate? If so, how did this experience make you feel? How can you pull from this instance to be an ally for those who experience injustice and inequality?
Corey invites White students to seek out their Black peers for perspective. If you are a White student or a student of color who does not identify as Black, what considerations should you take into account before asking a Black peer to share their feelings about such a sensitive topic? If you are a Black student, how would you feel about a White peer asking your opinion? How would you respond?
In the words of Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ: "The solution to an unjust system is radical kinship." In his interview with America magazine he goes on to say, "Radical kinship is the only thing that mattered to Jesus. We are one and we belong to each other. We need to widen the circle until no one is left outside."
In our third "Voices of SLUH" episode, we address White allyship. Rising senior Carter Fortman '21 (right) interviews his best friend of three years, Albert Harrold '21 (on left), about his thoughts, feelings and experiences as a Black teenager. As a White ally, Carter does a wonderful job of listening with the intent to understand. In response, Albert offers some easily achievable suggestions for how White allies can use their privilege to amplify Black voices and work toward an equitable and racially just society. We are so grateful to Albert and Carter for sharing their friendship and experiences with us in this way.
Please watch their video here and after, take some time to reflect on the questions below.
1. Imagine that George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery was your sibling or cousin. How would their death impact you? How would your reaction be similar or different to what it is currently?
2. Have your parents had a conversation with you about how to handle being pulled over by the police? If so, was it more similar to Albert's conversation with his parents or more similar to Carter's conversation with his mom? If you have not had this conversation with your parents, why do you think your parents have not seen it as a necessity?
3. Albert offered some concrete suggestions for White allies. If you are White, which of these steps have you taken? If you are Black or Brown, what suggestions would you have for White students to take their first steps toward racial kinship?
a. Educate yourself
b. Reach out to your black friends and offer support
c. Go peacefully protest beside your black brothers and sisters
d. Be vocal and try to educate those friends and family around you
Our second installment of Voices of SLUH: SLUH Values Black Lives fell into our lap. Or, rather, it fell into the voicemail of SLUH President Alan Carruthers, when a concerned citizen named Andrea Mackris called him to pass along her admiration of two SLUH rising juniors. The students, Xavier Jallow Turner '22 (pictured left) and Ismael "Ish" Karim (right), had been targeted with hurtful and racist language last week by a random man at Forest Park. The way they handled the situation deeply impressed Mackris.
We are proud of Xavier and Ish, yet this story is disquieting. Not only did the man use racial slurs to harass the boys, but he also followed them when they tried to walk away and made threatening references to "getting his gun." They flagged down a passing police officer, but the man fled and was not apprehended. The incident is a reminder that the violence of racism and racist language is free-floating in our society. In taking to the streets to call attention to the murderous violence that claimed the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, many Americans are saying that enough is enough. We hope that listening to this audio story will help motivate you to join that same struggle in whatever ways you can imagine.
After listening to this episode, please consider one or more of the following questions:
If you were a target or a bystander in a situation like this, what would you do?
What does this story teach you about the challenge involved for, as Coach Alphonso Scott puts it, “us as Black men and how we live in this country”?
Both Ish and Coach Scott mention that being an ally requires listening and understanding before acting. What are some ways that you can listen in order to understand the struggle for racial justice that is taking place in our country right now?
Ish mentions that, in the situation in Forest Park, he was “vulnerable but not powerless.” Understanding your own vulnerability, what power do you have right now to be a part of ending injustice?
As a SLUH student, Ryan Hopkins ’16 was a vibrant member of the community. He has just graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television Production. In his reflection he discusses a number of films he has made, including Roundabout, which we are proud to present here alongside Ryan’s remarks. We suggest watching it after Ryan’s video reflection. Warning: The seven-minute film does include brief moments of violence and profanity, as well as substance use.
After watching Ryan’s reflection, please take some time to consider one or more of the following questions:
What parallels or differences do you see between Ryan’s experience in the park and fates of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery? What do you make of those parallels or differences?
How does the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders inform Ryan’s understanding of our current historical moment?
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
At the end of his testimony, Ryan presents us with a challenge drawn from Martin Luther King, Jr. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” How might you respond to this challenge?
If you were to encounter Ryan after his experience in the park, what would you say to him?
What most stands out to you from Roundabout? What does the film mean to you?