FMS and GHS students attend STOP Conference

The conference focused on how students can engage in anti-bias conversations to break down barriers

A group of students and teachers stand on the steps outside of a brick and glass building. They are smiling at the camera.
FMS and GHS students at the STOP Conference held at Siena College. Students were accompanied by chaperones Chris Jager, Bernard Rahman, Alicia Wein, Leah Werther and Derek Westbrook.

On Friday, Jan. 12, nineteen Farnsworth Middle School and Guilderland High School students and five chaperones attended the 2024 Students Together Opposing Prejudice (STOP) Conference organized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Held on the Siena College campus and attended by more than two hundred students from 15 area schools, the annual conference is part of the ADL’s ongoing No Place for Hate program.

Focused on breaking down barriers that bias may create, the theme of this year’s conference was “The Legacy of Bayard Rustin.” An advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, Rustin was a forward-thinking African-American activist and leader in nonviolence and civil and gay rights. Refusing to give up his seat and move to the back of a bus a decade before Rosa Parks, Rustin is known for having said, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”

At the STOP Conference, FMS and GHS students learned how Rustin was inspired by Gandhi and the philosophy of nonviolence activism and how he applied pacifist principles in support of civil rights.

“I found the conference informational,” said GHS senior Aliyah Famodu. “We learned about civil rights activist Bayard Rustin…I think he is an important figure to learn about because he played a huge role in gaining civil rights for black people in the United States. We learned about how he was erased from history due to his sexuality. I think it is important to learn about how the lack of intersectionality in the past did harm so that we can do better in the future.”

FMS eighth grade student Kylie Killens had a similar takeaway. “After attending the STOP conference at Siena College, I gained more knowledge about how to make our community a better place and how much work Bayard Rustin put into making his community, aka his country, a better place. One of my “ah, ha” moments from being there was actually when it first started and everyone got in their seats. I finally saw just how many people are interested in DEI, No Place For Hate and social justice in their communities just like me. Overall my experience was amazing and something I will never forget.”

FMS and GHS students left the conference motivated to pass on what they learned to others in their respective schools and perhaps to even follow Rustin’s path of being an advocate for human rights. “I think that we will bring up this civil rights figure in the Black Student Union, which is a club meant for all,” said Aliyah. “We may do a presentation and discussion meeting about him in relation to intersectionality.”

Kylie Killens left the conference inspired. “I will bring back the strength and courage Bayard Rustin had to build the DEI stronger. The impact this had on me was huge! After coming back, I felt like I had been heard and seen.”

No Place for Hate is a program of the Anti-Defamation League designed to create learning communities that are inclusive, respectful and equitable. The objective of the program is to cultivate student leadership, unite school communities and engage students and staff in active learning.

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