West Hartford’s Aiken Elementary School displayed luminaries Monday night for the ‘Light it Up for Solidarity’ effort.
By Ronni Newton
Hundreds of luminaries lined the sidewalks and shone in the windows of West Hartford Monday night as the Aiken Elementary School community made a visible commitment to take a united stance against racism and discrimination.
“Light it Up for Solidarity” was planned by Aiken’s EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Parent Committee, and members created luminary kits for all students, including those in the remote learning experience, and school staff.
“As the most diverse elementary school in West Hartford, we want to make a visible commitment of support towards all those who have ever been made to feel marginalized or discriminated against,” said EDI parent committee member Abiah Ruel.
The message sent home with the luminary kits included the following message: “In honor of our Aiken community, ‘Light it Up for Solidarity’ is a moment where our beautiful, diverse Aiken community can show up for each other. Each lit luminary bag kit represents your commitment to stand in solidarity against racism and discrimination, support and protect each other from all forms of hate, and be anti-racist in our words, actions, and solutions.”
The community was asked to decorate the luminary bag and then put the lit bag outside or in the window on April 26 at 7 p.m., to show their solidarity, and also to use the experience to initiate a conversation about what it means to their family and to the community and how they can support and protect one another.
“Aiken is not just a school. It is a second home for many – a village for every child, family, teacher, and staff to feel welcomed and safe,” the message stated.
The luminaria tradition originated in Mexico, and according to the EDI Parent Committee came to be celebrated by the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico who would light their way to church on Christmas Eve. The tradition has spread throughout the world, and taken on other symbolic meaning.
“Our Aiken community will use luminaries to spread awareness against hate and express our solidarity for anti-racism, equity, unity, and love,” the EDI Parent Committee’s message said.
“I am so very proud to be part of such a supportive community and deeply grateful to our Aiken EDI Parent Committee for organizing this event,” Principal Shannon Mlodzinski said.
In addition to Ruel and Mlodzinski, the Aiken EDI Parent Committee Jen Johnson, Mike Keo, Jill McKelvey, Lyndon Pitter, Trisha Pitter, Tina Provenzano, Amy Raider, Jeremiah Shockley, and Sarah Willen.
They also offered the following tips on having a conversation with children about solidarity:
- Talk about recent events or how some people are harmed or mistreated because of who they are, share your feelings, and ask them how they feel.
- If a child says, they are afraid or angry, acknowledge their feelings. Let them know that racism, discrimination, and any form of action that harms anyone (including bullying), whether through words or behaviors, is wrong. Share with them that there are good people in our community and the world fighting to ensure that we are all treated fairly, feel safe and protected. Name a couple of organizations they might be aware of.
- Give one or two examples of how you can support people who are mistreated as a family because of who they are. Then, ask your child what can they do at school?
- Then, as a family, identify one thing that you promise to do to stand in solidarity with the Aiken families or your communities.
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