Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences (VAAS) is widely known for having a student body who is accepting and celebrates their diversities. A month ago on October 14, to celebrate its queer community, the leadership class held a 70s themed “coming out” dance and called it “Stonewall Studio” as a tribute to the 1969 Stonewall Riots which was of great importance to the gay liberation movement.
After Donald Trump was announced the President-elect of the United States, VAAS’s seniors were quick to plan a protest while forming a safe environment for everyone affected. The event was planned on social media without the consent of staff first. The staff was quick to find timelines filled with enthusiasm surrounding the walk out. Angela Oriol and I met with the principle, the rest of the administrators, and set a goal: students were going to be heard. The conversation kept flowing through our twitter feed, I even commented how important social media was to movements throughout the country including ours – and that condemning it doesn’t stop us from forming a platform.
The walkout was started by (from left to right) yours truly, Troy Kohen, Angelina Gomez, Bryan Casillas, and Angela Oriol on Thursday, November 10. The turnout was massive. When people had no more room to sit in the cafeteria, the stairs became filled with students. We found ourselves looking out to a sea full of students with last minute posters and hopeful eyes.
“We felt safer to express ourselves in healthy ways and we were there to support one another. Seeing everyone in unity really helped the student body through our struggles,” said Amélie, a senior at VAAS.
Both teachers and students during the open mic spoke about their experiences throughout the election, tears were shed and hugs were shared. The mic was also offered to those who supported the President-elect; they even brought along their own signs. It was made clear, in the beginning of the open mic, that the stage will be shared with people of opposing views and our democracy was not going to fail us. The best part was how quiet it got when people spoke and then how loud cheers of encouragement rang throughout the school.
On that stage – one known to be danced on every lunch while music plays- stood students holding one another. The message rejecting bigotry was loud and clear.