Dr. Allan Boesak and Waseema Ali Speak at Shortridge High School’s Friday Connect

Dr. Allan Boesak And Waseema Ali Speak at Shortridge High School’s Friday Connect Speaker Series

Shortridge High School believes in connecting their students with diverse real-life leaders, authors, business people, and professionals. Every Friday for 30 minutes, students are able to listen to and interact with various and inspiring leaders.  On January 22nd, in response to the recent celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dr. Allan Boesak, Executive Director of the DTC spoke about Martin Luther King Jr., breaking the silence, and the power of having a voice. The following Friday, January 29th, the Managing Director of the DTC, Waseema Ali spoke about being an agent of change through human connectedness and community engagement.

IMG_5017On Friday, January 22nd, Dr. Boesak opened his Friday Connect speech with a quote from Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Using global examples, Dr. Boesak highlighted how we must not be afraid to speak up for justice. When the Pope was in Bolivia, he realized that some farmers have no land, families have no homes, laborers have no rights, and humans have no dignity. There are senseless wars being fought. Something is very wrong and we must not be afraid to speak out in nonviolent ways against these wrongs. We must follow the paths of Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for Civil Rights, and Nelson Mandela and Albert John Lutuli’s in non-violent struggle against South African apartheid. These individuals—despite persecution, incarceration, and vilification—forgave their persecutor and continued to follow their dream of justice and liberating not only the oppressed, but also the oppressor.

Peace, justice, and reconciliation requires forgiveness and nonviolence. Even after 27 years of imprisonment, we look back at Mandela’s actions. Mandela never sought revenge; rather he continued his commitment to rebuild South Africa on the basis of forgiveness and equality for all.

In conclusion, Dr. Boesak reminded the students that today, as in the time of Martin Luther King Jr., we need a true and radical IMG_4995revolution of values. We must always stay true to our voice and find strength in our commitments. Despite transgressions, hatred, and violence against them, some of the world’s greatest leaders remained committed to their voice, forgiving the unforgivable and encouraging peace in a culture of violence and revenge.  Dr. Boesak encouraged the students to make their voice heard; each and every one of us has voice and it is a powerful tool against injustice if we have the courage to speak up and speak loud.

The next week, Friday January 29th, Waseema Ali presented at  Friday Connect, following Allan Boesak from the previous week. Ms. Ali’s presentation focused on encouraging the students to be agents of change. She began with a plea. She said to the students, “I need you.” She described the philosophy of ubuntu, the idea that “I am because you are” and unified humanity. “When I help you to heal”, she said, “I in turn heal myself. When I dehumanize you, I dehumanize myself.” Quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ms. Ali explains how difficult ubuntu is to render in the Western language because it speaks of the very essence of what it is to be human. In the West, we are becoming increasingly disconnected with our own humanity. To be so separated from our human essence often results in violence and anger. To regain peace and reconciliation in our world, to end violence, and to establish change in our local and global communities, we must first reclaim our own humanity and acknowledge the humanity of others.

To engage the students in the concepts of connectedness and humanity, Ms. Ali presented a short spoken word video by artist, Prince Ea, “Can we Auto-correct Humanity?” In his video he says, “Isn’t it ironic, how these touch screens can make us lose touch?…. We sit at home measuring our self-worth by numbers of followers and likes and ignoring those who actually love us…Call me crazy but I imagine a world where we smile when we have low batteries because it means we’re one bar closer to humanity.”

IMG_7677“People need people to be people.” Behind all of the technology, Ms. Ali says, are humans desperate for human connection. This concept embodies the ideas of human connectedness, community, and mutual caring for all. The distractions are overwhelming, but we can regain our humanity through engagement. Ms. Ali discusses two primary forms of engagement: civic engagement and active citizenship. Through those means, we can choose to fully participate in our society via both political and non-political processes. It is in community engagement where change happens through us and not just to us, where we are participating in our democracy. She says, “It’s about Choice and Voice.” Ms. Ali identified three ways to affect change: be present, be cordial, and be a leader. Know what you care about and what you stand for, be respectful and gain the respect of both supporters and opponents, and know that you can have influence without power, no matter age, gender, or socioeconomic background.

Building upon the process to becoming an agent of change, Ms. Ali closed the event with another Prince Ea video, “Why I Think the World Should End.” The essence of the video is summarized, “instead of trying to change others, we can change ourselves, we can change our hearts. Love is the most powerful weapon on the face of the Earth. Robert Kennedy once said… each of us can do our part to change a small portion of events and the total of all those acts will be written in the history of a generation. So yes, the world is coming to end, but the path to a new beginning begins within you.”  When we regain our humanity, we regain our ability to be compassionate, to forgive, and to heal, we become an agent of change. Change begins within each of us. Change begins with YOU.    

Written By: Allison Troutner

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