The theme of this school year is “Ardent Love of Neighbor.” What exactly does that mean, though?
At the core of this phrase is the understanding that as Marist students, we strive to welcome and love all those around us regardless of differences in religion, race, sexual orientation, and ability. And it is important that we take our passion for empathy and hospitality with us wherever we go.
During these past few months, our country has experienced turmoil and a heightened awareness of the divisions among our communities. This awareness has brought up in many the desire for change in education, equality, and justice. In fact, many students across America have taken the initiative to establish or participate in projects that focus on inclusion, anti-racism, and raising awareness in hopes of learning more about the things we as students can do to spread “ardent love” to all those around us.
The ARE Project, short for Anti-Racism Education, is a worldwide organization founded by current Stanford University student Sasha Ronaghi. Ronaghi started the project to “connect teenagers” in a conversational learning environment. “When young people have these types of conversations,” Ronaghi told USA Today, “they will feel inspired to change the world.” ARE focuses on interpreting different forms of media that cover topics such as the civil rights movement, police brutality, and discrimination within the legal/educational systems. These works analyze the detrimental impacts of racism on minorities; some also put the reader in the shoe’s of people discriminated against, and thus informs us the importance of anti-racism.
Dozens of student organizers from around the world participate in inclusive monthly meetings to discuss the importance of being actively anti-racist. To be anti-racist evokes passionate empathy and love for all by outwardly taking the initiative to combat racism. It is more than merely being opposed to prejudice based on the color of one’s skin; being anti-racist means continuously calling out these biased acts or words.
Many of those participating are highschoolers wanting to take part in a supportive community that embraces learning about the impacts of racism on American minorities, even after the headlines move on. Jack Bellows ‘22, a junior at Marist, decided to join the ARE Project because “I Want to talk with people my age about how racism impacts all of us,” said Jack Bellows ‘22, who recently joined the ARE Project. The organization encourages people to have conversations that use the knowledge they gain from discussions and others’ experiences, ultimately stimulating the growth of “ardent” love and solidarity for all through anti-racism.
Another student-focused organization is the Grassroots Law Project. It revolves around seminars that, like those of the ARE project, bring light to the prejudices that minority communities in this country face within the legal system. Amari Parker ‘22, who is also a member of the ARE project, joined Grassroots to “have access to the resources that I needed to become a leader in my community.” With the leadership tools this project provides, members can advocate for the acceptance of all people.
We show love to our neighbors through simple acts like holding open doors to the more challenging task of being inclusive to all and listening to those who are struggling. The embodiment of love is wonderfully different between every person. During times like these, it is important to remember that love for others is also a warm embrace and willingness to step forward in light of one’s struggles.