How often do young leaders have the opportunity to share a stage with Civil Rights Icon’s straight out of our history books? Well, last Thursday, March 25th, 2021 students from the Mater Dei Prep Global Institute of Emerging Leaders were presented with this historic occasion!
MDP Global Institute students Emma DeBiase (’23) and Abigail O’Sullivan (’24) had the dual opportunity of serving on The “Season for Non-Violence” Planning Committee and played a vital role as moderators, technology assistants, and structural designers. Cathrine Volk (’24) also assisted with the virtual event. The MDP Student Presentation “Our Voices Matter” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7COYEX94I0 opened the conference and was led by a compelling narrative by MDP student Tyler Malik Ismail (’22). Tyler spoke powerfully about how in order to create change we must see the world through each of our lenses in order to understand our views and how they are impacted. Tyler was followed by fellow Global Institute Leaders Mia Rodriguez (’24), Abigail O’Sullivan (’24), Cathrine Volk (’24), Gianna Wohanka (’24), Oliva Crowe (’24), Garrett Nolan (’24), Mark Paone (’24), and Mary Kate Brew (’24). Each shared how Tyler Malik Ismail’s words impacted their own concerns within their respective communities. The “Season for Non-Violence” Conference honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. The evening was possible because of the tireless devotion of Co-Chairs Lindy P. Crescitelli and Shawn Denise Landry. The evening conference introduced its audience to Civil Rights Leaders past and present. Speakers included Angeline Butler, Organizer to The Nashville Sit-Ins, James Zwerg “Freedom Rider”, Kings Holland deep south desegregationist, Linda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest marcher on The Edmund Pettis Bridge and author of “Turning 15 On the Road to Freedom”, and Voz Rivers Tony, Emmy and Academy winning producer and Civil Rights activist. Kings Holland spoke powerfully about the role Catholic schools played in his life because they did not adhere to segregationist policies and it allowed him to receive the education for him to attend Fisk University and prepare him for his role in Non Violent Civil Disobedience. Debra Rose, NYC Councilwoman, also presented a powerful message regarding the movement today. The evening presented other Civil Rights legends and performances in music and spoken word from organizations from Japan and Africa. The evening ended with a short viewing of the Broadway production “Turning 15 on The Road to Freedom” and a memorable rendition of Ben E. King “Stand By Me” by well-known New Jersey music artist and UN Representative, Ray Anderson. http://mrray.com/
The following statements by the Mater Dei Prep students expresses their experience of the overall event.
Tyler Malik Ismail - “My statement embodies what I as a conscious Melantated man in this society views on a day-to-day basis. It was an honor to a part of a conference with such powerful activist and human right figures. I would also like to thank Mr. Anthony for selecting me as the lead statement in the presentation. I want to additionally thank my classmates for sending out such powerful messages.”
Emma DeBiase, Pathways to Peace United Nations Delegate and Sophomore United Nations Representative of Mater Dei Prep - “I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to work with Civil Rights Leaders over the past couple of months. Being able to be in the same Zoom room with them makes me feel like I am a part of something extraordinary. Helping out Mr. Crescitelli and Ms. Landry with technological aspects and being able to help with the overall event is an amazing honor. I would like to thank Mr. Anthony for motivating me to be a part of something great. We are the force that aspires change, we are the change that can make a difference.”
Gianna Wohanka - “Yesterday was a dream that had turned into a reality. If a person came up to me a year ago and told me that my voice would be told to the world and that I would have the opportunity to meet profound individuals that I have only read about in books and watched in movies, I would have never believed them. A year ago, I was the person that lacked the self-confidence to speak my voice and tell the world what I was feeling. Today, I can proudly say the tables have turned and this program has greatly changed me for the better. Mr. Anthony is truly an amazing teacher that will push you to be the best that you can be. This class is not just a quick high school experience, it’s something that will prepare you for the real world. It teaches you how to speak to a crowd, and how to show emotion when you talk, because down the line when you do a profession you will need to speak to your colleagues with emotion and passion. The last couple of months have been an experience that I will never forget. In the video “Our Voices Matter” I talked about social media platforms and news channels and how they form people’s views. I chose this topic because I think it plays a big part in how people form their views of situations. I feel that there is so much misinformation, malformation and disinformation in our news channels and social media platforms, you truly don’t know what to believe anymore. One thing that I found not only to be true but quite impactful was a saying by one of our Politicians, “it’s not the truth that matters, it’s what people believe because that’s what becomes their reality.” It really doesn’t matter what the moral of the story is, it matters what they believe because that’s their truth. Seeing the video being played at the conference in front of Lynda Blackmon-Lowery, King Hollands, and Catherine Burks-Brooks, was a very real experience. Their stories were so incredible that they gave me goosebumps. They were so unique and impactful for what is currently going on in our world. This experience has taught me so much and I am beyond grateful. The main thing I learned from this experience is that “when the whole world is silent, one voice becomes powerful” - Malala Yusufzai
Garrett Nolan – “If you asked me a couple years ago if I thought I would ever be a Pathways To Peace United Nations Representative as a freshman in high school, I wouldn’t have believed it. For the past year, I have been afforded the opportunity to work side by side with Civil Rights icons and organizations thanks to Mater Dei Prep’s Global Institute of Emerging Leaders ran by Mr. George Anthony. This program has accomplished numerous tasks and paved the way for me in becoming a Representative for the United Nations. In this program we do things such as U.N. promotional videos, Globe Quest competitions, and various acts of charity. A number of months ago, we started discussing a “Spring Project” to present at the 24th annual “Season for Non-Violence” Conference webinar. The class discussed important topics to address in our presentation and I made the choice to address religious persecution across the globe. This topic was important to me because while thankfully the situation has improved, as an Irish-Catholic, I was well aware of the discrimination we faced throughout history. To say that this video was a long time coming is an understatement, our class labored to improve this presentation and to confirm that it would resonate with hearts and minds everywhere. During the evening of this event, we were able to see our hard work pay off. We presented it at a historic meeting because such icons attended like Angeline Butler, the woman who organized the Nashville lunch counter sit-in, James Zwerg, the man who organized the freedom riders and the integration of schools, and Linda Blackmon-Lowry who was the youngest person to complete the full-length march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama and was part of “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. When our presentation was started, these leaders were moved and impacted by its message because despite it being sixty years later, our great Nation is still facing such trials and tribulations. I hope that our message continues to be spread around the planet because we all have a responsibility to repair the world.”
Cathrine Volk “When starting the Global Leaders program, I never could have imagined I, a freshman in high school, would be on a planning committee for one the largest Peace Conferences. To be able to work and listen to civil rights icons like Angeline Butler and Catherine Burks-Brooks was unbelievable. I learned their incredible stories in history class and I cannot express what an honor it was to work directly with them. I was given the opportunity to create a video with my classmates to spread our voices across the world. Our words are the most powerful part of us, it’s what people remember. I spoke about different treatment of boys and girls from a very young age. I am just one of billions of girls to face this and one of thousands to talk about it. That does not mean my voice matters less, it means together our voices amplify each other’s. I will continue to use my voice and share mine and other’s stories. This is just the beginning.”
Olivia Crowe – “The filming and writing process took a lot from our own individual experiences, opinions, and ideas. I think the most important thing about filming and writing is you can only write so much on a piece of paper that you need to honestly say what is from the heart. When I was writing I had to sit down and think about what has affected us as humans and I concluded it has to do everything with being on social media and our phones. Especially my generation is affected by it because there is so much toxicity our phones and social media. I think it's just all about letting your voice be heard because it is needed especially now even if that voice is making your own club, zoom call, or speaking to others that would love to help expand your ideas and grow them!”
Dylan Coleman - “My role in this class was to design a PowerPoint that captured the energy and commitment we all feel in moving the message of peace forward. I had the privilege of creating an origami peace dove in the opening frame that models an organization we work with called “The Peace Crane Project”. The link their website can be found here: https://peacecraneproject.org/. This class is very powerful because I learned that everyone has a voice and you can’t be afraid to express yourself and make it be heard. I experienced being in 3 or 4 videos promoting this program and meeting inspirational individuals like Linda Lowery, Avon Mattison, President of www.pathwaystopeace.org, and so many others. I also gained a voice I never knew I had which I can now use. After COVID, I hope to return to the UN and meet more amazing people and go to many inspiring conferences”.
Mark Paone – “I had the chance of a lifetime and was able to speak in our video “Our Voices Matter” at this conference. This video really gave me the opportunity to emphasize my opinion on some things I think people don’t really pay too much attention to. It also helped me voice my opinion to the United Nations as a whole. Having your own voice is extremely important and now that I got to use it and have had it heard by over 192 countries, I can honestly say I feel really amazing and proud. I couldn’t ask for anything better from this program!”
Abigail O’Sullivan – “I don’t think I could have ever had such an honor to be part of the Season for Non-Violence committee. I was able to talk to Mrs. Marion Fuson who is a 101-year-old Civil Rights leader and an inspiration to all of us. It was an evening I will never forget. I truly felt I was walking side by side with these living legends I have only read about in our history books. I look forward to joining them again next year moving their message forward.”
Evangelia Ameno-Cataudella - “These past couples of weeks that we all spent working on the Spring Project was definitely a great experience. Between planning everyone's role, to writing PowerPoints, all the way to figuring out the right words to make an impact in someone else's life, it turned out amazing. A few of my Peers and I got to put a PowerPoint together introducing our class and the amazing things past generations have done throughout the years. It was presented across our school and to many other people to invite them to join in our movement. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible. At this conference, my class had the opportunity to show the video they all prepared. It was showed to so many amazing people around the world on this historic event. All the different speakers and words used were amazing, the words especially by Lynda Lowery were beyond incredible. They definitely made an impact. Just know, as long as you have a voice, you have the power to change the world!”
Mary Kate Brew - “There is a field beyond all notions of right and wrong. Come, meet me there”. I never would’ve thought I’d be quoting Rumi, but there I was. I had the opportunity of closing out this year’s Spring Project video. I had the chance to make a change, and speak potent words in front of people who matter. In this class, I’m learning to find my voice and knowing that others will be impacted by the message I’m trying to convey. The message in this film is, in order to repair the world, we have to move our hearts and our minds to a place of peace; a safe place where we can all be heard.”
Mia Rodriguez sums up this extraordinary experience with these words. “As Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” While growing up in our society I have learned that the world has become too accustomed to the injustices and hatred of our communities. But I refuse to become just another number in the grand scheme of things. I am not a demographic. My life isn’t destined to become another tragedy. We must learn how to fight against these things. As a woman of color myself, I have always wanted to speak my truth when it comes to the racial injustices all around us. Mr. Anthony gave me a platform to share not only just my story but the stories of those who can’t speak for themselves. In our film “Our Voices Matter” I spoke about the importance of recognizing the racism people today still have to face. As I mentioned in our film racism truly isn’t a thing of the past. That’s evident in the fact that we are still referred to as the “minority.” Why is that? Don’t you think it's strange that we are still referred to as a word that separates us from others? Racism is so deeply rooted in the world we live in that we don’t even realize small things like that impact our daily lives. This is why it's so important to teach our generations that our voices matter. Our society shouldn’t care how old or young you are, we are all profound thinkers that deserve to be heard. As a student of Mater Dei Prep’s Global Leaders class, we are taught how important our voices truly are and that’s the message we wanted to share throughout our film. We wanted to provoke thoughts and questions within our viewers about the world we live in and that’s a goal I feel we achieved. My journey is not anywhere close to an end and I owe it all to Mr. Anthony for this opportunity. In my life I intend to use my voice to fight against the things we pretend not to see. I will use my voice to make a difference... will you?”
Lindy P. Crescitelli, Co Chair and Organizer of The Season for Non-Violence Conference, stated “Emma and Abigail played essential roles in the Intergenerational Planning & Organizing Committees of The Institute For International Leadership, Nonviolence & Service: LEARN LEAD SERVE INC. 24th Annual Gandhi-King Season For Nonviolence. In addition to many other things, Emma served as one of our Technical Directors and Abigail helped head up The Global Leader Institutes contributions to The Annual Flags of The World/May Peace Prevail On Earth Ceremony, which this year was truly Global including videos sent in from places like Japan and many African Countries.”
George Anthony stated “The Global Institute at Mater Dei Prep strives to connect our students with partner organizations such as www.gandhikingsfn.com and www.pathwaystopeace.org in order to provide our students with every opportunity to create the change they wish to be in the world. I truly believe our students can provide the solution to heal the world if we just offer them the skills and the platforms to do so! Mater Dei Prep continues to take the lead in building better communities for all!”
To view the historic conference please visit www.gandhikingsfn.com