ABSEJ Event at NARA Park
BY EMILY XU '23 & ADI RAMAN '23
On Saturday, May 14, the Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ) held a gathering at Acton’s own Nara Park. ABSEJ was created following the murder of George Floyd to give students an open forum and a space to propose action. The club hoped to promote a better sense of community after the divide that the mascot removal caused. Families, students, and faculty members—including Principal Dean—were in attendance to a variety of musical performances and speeches.
At the event, music was a powerful tool in expressing the beauty of community and diversity as well as calling attention to the inequities that persist in our daily lives. Nino Ciampa ’22, who gave multiple performances at the event with his band Nino Ciampa y su Orquesta, explained the origins of the group and its importance in displaying AB’s cultural beauty. Founded in 2019, Nino explained that “the purpose of the group is to have an authentic yet inclusive ensemble dedicated to playing and learning about Afro-Latin music styles such as cha-cha-chá, bolero, mozambique, merengue, and most importantly… la salsa!” He added that salsa was created in the 1960s by Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican immigrants, emphasizing the rich history and diversity that inspired the band to play said genres. Additionally, Dear Asian Youth (DAY) featured Grace Chai ‘23 playing “Butterfly Lovers,” a tragic love story and “Songs of Fishing Boats at Dusk,” pieces that exemplify the beauty of Chinese culture and allow her to connect with her heritage. The high school’s choral ensembles took to the stage as well, with the all-treble voice group Bella Voce performing “Mercy Me,” the Madrigal Singers singing “El Almuercero,” and the mixed voices Chorale singing Moira Smiley’s “How Can I Cry,” a piece that encapsulates being able to see injustice and hate but not having the individual power to easily confront it.
Along with music, speeches by representatives of different distinct groups of the AB community also resonated in the amphitheater. Such speeches featured Danillo Sena, 37th Middlesex district’s state representative, Black Student Union, Common Ground, and Young Democrats. Performances were also introduced by other student groups, such as Latinx Affinity group, Muslim Student Association, Korean Club, and Dear Asian Youth. Mariana Maranga ’23, an ABSEJ student leader, described that the goal of the event was to showcase student voices straight from the source. “We wanted to uplift as many groups as we could in a way that wouldn’t be censored, which is why we didn’t give many guidelines on performances,” said Mariana. Citing Black Student Union’s speech, she continued: “Recently, there’s been little space for student voices, especially BIPOC voices, and a disappointing lack of change. ABSEJ wanted to provide a space to allow important messages to be shared with the community.” Mariana believes that “speeches are effective because they are very direct. They allow speakers to explicitly address an audience and explain ideas in their own words.”
Isabelle Clare ’22, an ABSEJ leader and a Young Democrats leader, described the process behind the poem that the Young Democrats presented: “We chose to [use] a rhyme pattern [to represent] the ‘youth’ and [non-rhyming] for ‘society.’ We thought that would best portray the drive that the youth have not only in politics and social movements.” Isabelle also mentioned how other works influenced the speech, such as the musical Hamilton and Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” from President Biden’s inauguration. Isabelle explained that the goal of the poem “was to express our frustration, as youth, of the dismissal we often face when creating change because of our age. We wanted to emphasize the importance of youth in an ever-evolving world, and reiterate that we are not only capable of creating change, but have already created change.” The goals of Young Democrats’ poem align with ABSEJ’s purpose of holding events: to create a space to amplify voices previously muffled by others.
Lastly, audience members also found themselves with a renewed sense of unity after the event. Stephanie Lin ’23 expressed, “it was great seeing teachers and students come together outside of school at a student-organized event to celebrate student voices. I think it really highlighted the goal of the event: to unite AB after a school year of division. It made me hopeful for the future, hopeful that we could overcome adversity together.” Finally, Stephanie highlighted another one of the attractions at the ABSEJ event: the food. “The lobster rolls were good. I don’t know if they were actually lobster,” she noted.