SOAR holds open mic forum

Loberg’s announcement sparks conversation

Senior+Lauryn+Hill+talks+to+interim+principal+Wendy+Loberg+during+third+lunch+April+26.+Loberg+made+herself+available+to+talk+to+students+during+lunch.

Emmy Pearson

Senior Lauryn Hill talks to interim principal Wendy Loberg during third lunch April 26. Loberg made herself available to talk to students during lunch.

Andrea Melear and Talia Lissauer

Seeing an opportunity to amplify the voices of students of color, and to normalize conversations about race in school, sophomore Stayci Spates attended the open mic forum during Park Connections and lunch April 22. 

“I felt good about it because throughout my life, I never really got to talk about race. I’ve been to a lot of mainly white schools and no one really talks about it because it makes white people uncomfortable,” Spates said. “It was nice to get in here and listen to other perspectives. I genuinely do like listening and hearing what white people have to think about it.” 

While the open mic was hosted by Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR), a large group of diverse students and staff were in attendance, and according to senior Michael Boxley-Harmon, a variety of topics were discussed throughout the meeting.

“We started off talking about how the walkout went, then we started talking about the trial, because it was the day after the verdict was (announced). We just started talking about Ms. Loberg’s message on the loudspeaker earlier that day and how it was quite an offense,” Boxley-Harmon said. 

During third hour on the same day of the open mic, interim principal Wendy Loberg made an announcement regarding three different events: the walkout that occurred April 12, the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial April 13 and a fight that occurred in the boys’ bathroom April 13. 

Students in the Auditorium expressed disappointment and anger with the language used in the announcement when addressing the students who participated in the walkout. In addition, some felt like Loberg compared the murder of George Floyd to the unrelated school fight in the bathroom. 

After hearing the topic of the open mic had transitioned to her, Loberg said she knew she had to go to the Auditorium so students could talk to her. Before joining, she asked the SOAR members on stage and high achievement coordinator Lee Ann Stephens if they were okay with it. 

“When I learned they were upset with me. I wanted to own my actions. I wanted to not hide behind an office or something,” Loberg said. “I wanted to be in there and let them speak to me so I could hear their tone, look at their eye contact, look at their body language and really listen.”

Although it wasn’t planned for Loberg to join the conversation, junior Ezra Hudson said it allowed any students in attendance the opportunity to give feedback  not just SOAR members.

“I’m glad that so many students got to speak, especially to Ms. Loberg directly,” Hudson said. “Originally we were just going to meet with her, but she came in. I’m glad that she did that so all these students could directly talk to her because that’s what needs to happen.”

When Loberg initially arrived in the Auditorium, she did a combination of listening and responding, however, Boxley-Harmon stood up and asked her to just take in what students were saying. 

“I stopped her while she was talking because she started to sugarcoat things and then I just opened up the floor to everybody to criticize her respectfully, and everything went smooth.” Boxley-Harmon said. “Honestly, it was a really good experience. I feel like the more of those happen, the better school is going to get in touch with grace and all that stuff.”

Spates said one vibrant takeaway from the discussion was that staff members need to be educated and willing to create a more accurate and inclusive classroom environment. 

“I want this staff specifically to know that it’s really hard being one of the only black kids, let alone one of the only black girls in AP and IB classes,” Spates said. “When we’re talking about history, do not look at me, the only black kid in the class to represent all black people. I hate that and it makes me very uncomfortable.”

We are serious in terms of gaining student voices and advocating for students that we’re not going to stop and be silent, and that if we have to we are going to stop your curriculum, stop your normal whitewashed whatever to advocate for students.”

— Ezra Hudson

After hearing what students had to say, Loberg made another announcement April 26 apologizing for the previous announcement and said she is always looking to learn and better herself and to be a good role model for others. 

“‘Let me hear your concerns’ and boy they handed it to me on a platter, and I took it and I listened and I wish I’d taken notes because what they said mattered,” Loberg said. “I was just happy that they were able to vent in a place that was safe. I wasn’t there to judge. I was there to really gain an understanding of their perspective, which is what matters to me, and how can I be their best leader.” 

After the walkout and open mic, Hudson said he wants community members to understand the severity and need for change at not only Park, but beyond. 

“We are serious in terms of gaining student voices and advocating for students that we’re not going to stop and be silent, and that if we have to we are going to stop your curriculum, stop your normal whitewashed whatever to advocate for students,” Hudson said.