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CCERJ Beginnings

Center for  Community, Equity, and Racial Justice (CCERJ)  

When Daija Yisrael ‘19 was a student leader at Potomac, she came up with the idea for a multicultural center at the school. Daija’s idea gained traction with the leadership of Bliss Davis ‘20 and Malachy Dwyer ‘20, and, with the support of administrators, plans were eventually put in place for the center’s establishment within the Upper School. This fall, Potomac’s highly anticipated Center for Community, Equity, and Racial Justice has opened. It is located in a refurbished space that formerly housed the school store, on the main level of the Upper School’s Tundra Building. Twenty-six student affinity and alliance group leaders, representing 10 different groups, have been instrumental in shaping the look and purpose of the space, which is now known by the acronym CCERJ (pronounced like “surge.”)

The student leaders plan to use this new space as a gathering and educational center. Kennedy Ferguson ‘22, one of the leaders of the Black Student Alliance this year, says, “I envision the CCERJ space as a welcoming area for students to relax and hang out, continue class discussions they're passionate about, and connect with others outside their typical friend groups, classes, activities, or grade. I also see it as a learning center, where students can borrow books and other materials on social justice, learn about current events, see artwork with a message, and more.” Representing the alliance group Empowering Women of Color, Yabby Maelaf ‘23 says, “My hope is that the CCERJ will be a unique place where anyone can learn or hold an open discussion about the experiences of marginalized people. Importantly, it needs to be a place where marginalized students will feel at home.”

Kennedy also hopes that the CCERJ will help promote the importance of affinity spaces. Mina Bahadori ‘22, one of the leaders of the Muslim Student Alliance, says, “It will be treated like a safe space, a place to exhale,” and Pippa Westland ‘23, one of the leaders of the Gay-Straight Alliance, adds, “I hope this space will be a place for us to feel free to be ourselves and express our unique identities.”

Arya Bansal ‘23 and Arya Kumar ‘23, student leaders of the Indian Alliance, also helped celebrate the opening of the CCERJ this week by using the center as a part of their US assembly on Diwali., “We hope that students come with an open mind to learn about the various cultures of different communities, as well as learn about the hardships these groups often face. We want students to hear this information and then take steps to make change and be an ally to others.” Arya Bansal ‘23 and Arya Kumar ‘23

Daija, now a student at Tulane, says she hopes “the entire student body will benefit from a hub of diverse cultural expressions, as it will enhance their curiosity as well as their understanding of the world around them. Marginalized students will also benefit from a sense of security in having their own space to gather and access to resources that they may find helpful.” She also offers some advice to current Potomac students from traditionally marginalized communities, saying, “This center was created to serve you. Do what you need to do to feel comfortable. Bring your favorite album or your favorite piece of art. Suggest ways to make the center more accommodating. Everyone perceives the world differently, and often others need help to see what you see.”