Andover to host student activism symposium April 6

Plenary speakers include thought leaders Jay Smooth and Dr. Ali Michael

by Neil C Evans

March 21, 2017

—Educators and administrators will come together at Phillips Academy on April 6 to explore student activism at independent secondary schools. There will be a particular focus on anti-racist initiatives in the current political climate. Entitled “Stand Up: Student Activism in Independent Schools,” the day-long symposium is open to colleagues at independent schools. Register online

From 1960s lunch counter sit-ins to recent movements at the University of Missouri, student activism has long sparked institutional change in American high schools, colleges and universities. And yet, independent schools have often been considered sites of privilege. How might these schools’ policies and histories engage or hinder student activism in equity and inclusion?


Participants will discuss these issues, learn strategies that may apply to their own schools and share best practices. Symposium organizers, who include LaShawn Springer, Andover’s director of Community and Multicultural Development, hope that the day will leave people inspired and equipped with the tools and momentum to better engage with students, faculty and staff—all those who are doing important work around equity and inclusion.

There will be two workshop tracks, as well as time for reflection and small group discussions. Also on the agenda as plenary speakers are thought leaders Jay Smooth and Dr. Ali Michael.

Jay Smooth is a veteran hip-hop DJ, cultural commentator and videoblogger at He started his career at WBAI radio, where in 1991 he founded New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, the Underground Railroad. On the Railroad Jay helped break artists including the Wu Tang Clan, Naughty by Nature, Jean Grae and Natural Elements, and was recently cited by Chuck D as home of “the best hip-hop conversations.” Jay founded in 1997 and was pivotal in launching the hip-hop blog scene. Jay’s mix of humor and incisive analysis has garnered millions of views and been featured by NPR, CNN and MSNBC where Rachel Maddow hailed him as a “genius.” Ill Doctrine videos including “How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist” have become part of the curriculum in many schools and universities, and his TEDx talk, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Talking About Race,” is among the site’s most widely viewed.

Ali Michael, Ph.D., is the Director of K-12 Consulting and Professional Development at the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of the Race Institute for K-12 Educators. She is the author of Raising Race Questions: Whiteness, Inquiry and Education (2015, Teachers College Press). The book is designed to support teachers in the long term and personal process of understanding the role that race plays in their lives and in their classrooms. Ali believes that the skills required for racial competence can be learned and practiced. She is also co-editor of Everyday White People Confront Racial and Social Injustice: 15 Stories (2015, Stylus Press). She and her partner, Michael, live in Philadelphia and consider questions of race and education on a daily basis in the raising of their two children.

For more information about the symposium, contact LaShawn Springer at