WARREN, NJ -Inspired by the “National United Against Hate Week,” the Watchung Hills community participated in a Warriors United Against Hate  event on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Students, teachers, parents, and community members walked around the high school track at Tozier Field with their phone lights on to symbolize healing and forward-thinking.

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The event concluded in the south auditorium with a presentation by national reconciliation consultant, Guillermo Lopez Jr.,and representative leaders of the student body. 

Teresa Rotolo, Amanda Aschoff, and Reagan Miller welcomed everyone to the South Auditorium and Joi Langston sang I Know Where I’ve Been.

Deepa Irakam, President of the Watchung Hills Class of 2020  spoke on how one event has the potential for changing the culture at Watchung Hills. She asked,” what legacy do we want to leave at this school?” She then said, “the Class of 2020 pledges to lead the entire Watchung Hills community into the light.”

Matthew Alarcon spoke as a senior representative of student athletes, and said that they “pledge our commitment to confronting racism and establishing a culture of inclusivity."

Roopa Irakam, All School Council president, said“, “there’s only ONE human race.” She asked students to be upstanders, a term coined by Watchung Hills alumni. “Bias left unanswered is approval. If you don't speak up, you're saying in your silence that you are OK with it."

Kyle Davis, member of the Black Student Union, spoke on the history of the use of blackface, and said, “some students of color feel like guests at Watchung Hills, since we represent a small population,” and “ it’s important for other students to walk in our shoes to understand the weight that we carry each day."

 

Katerina Calvo, Izabella Calvo, Leanni Calvo and Sarah Marreiros sang What the World Needs Now

 

WHRHS Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jewett delivered closing remarks, recognized and thanked all of the student leaders. "When we strengthened our commitment last year to making diversity, equity and inclusion a district focus around which we wanted to build our capacity as educators, we did not expect our ability to handle difficult topics to be tested so publicly, and so widely, so soon," she said. “Let us not forget these mistakes, but forgive them and use them as a catalyst for progress and growth as a school community. I look forward to working together as we continue our work towards making the Watchung Hills community a better place tomorrow than we are today."

Jewett invited everyone to sign the banner as " a symbol of our collective stand against hate."

Own Furlong, accompanied by Katerina Calvo, Izabella Calvo, and Sarah Marreiros, played guitar and sang Imagine to close out the evening.

Most in attendance then signed the Warriors United Against Hate banner.

"It is you who has to make the difference inside yourself which then causes people to react differently, “ said Lopez. “That’s when the change happens. If we keep doing the same thing over and over again, chances are there's not going to be much change."

Lopez, Jr. is a first-generation Puerto Rican born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Guillermo has trained and consulted with over 20 universities and 31 communities in 14 different states and 2 different continents. He was one of seven selected from over 10,000 consultants as a Delegate to the 2001 United Nations World Conference on Ending Racism, Xenophobia, and other Intolerance in Durban, South Africa. He is the director of the NCBI International Latino Constituency and the Co-Director of the NCBI Law Enforcement and Community Partnership Program as well as a senior trainer for NCBI International.

As a consultant for US2, Guillermo focuses on the importance of reconciliation within a community after a traumatic incident. Rather than condemnation, Guillermo utilizes his skills and theories of US2 to repair relationships and emphasize action st incident. Rather than condemnation, Guillermo utilizes his skills and theories of US2 to repair relationships and emphasize action steps that can be taken by everyone impacted by the incident.

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