Tag: Diane Ijoma

From Division to Dialogue: Using Truth to Unity

The Wingspan receives guest articles by Centennial students and staff about various subjects important to them and the community. Earlier this week we received a contribution from a former Wingspan writer, Diane Ijoma. We feel that it is important to share Diane’s piece with the community in light of today’s events recognizing diversity of all cultures. 

– Sandy Eichhorn

Guest Writer: Diane Ijoma

It’s been over two weeks since the video that dominated Howard County headlines and conversations reverberated throughout the airwaves. In that time, what originated as banter among friends went on to affect hundreds, even thousands of hearts and minds beyond that dimly-lit room.

In many respects, the response has been very productive. I have been inspired by the energy to strive towards unity in the face of vitriol. In other areas, I have been slightly troubled by a sort of knee-jerk, instinctive dismissal of the notion that such ugliness could ever reside within these halls. Racism is not a Howard County problem, this belief states. It’s a Mount Hebron problem, perhaps a Glenelg problem, but certainly not a Centennial one. Somehow, this video has been used to, by contrast, paint Centennial as the beacon of  the completely unified, flawless multicultural community.

In part, I understand this sentiment. It is hard to recognize and address the flaws within ourselves; projection can be comforting.  In the face of such hate, the last thing we want to do is see any of that in our own community. However, these sentiments are harmful because, in addition to being, unfortunately, false, they work to silence and overshadow those who have significant negative experiences pertaining to these issues. It communicates a refusal to acknowledge what is real to members of the community, and perpetuates the feelings of disenfranchisement already present in certain groups. These actions have genuine consequences,  and to illustrate them, I have decided to share a story of my own.

Months ago, before any racist video made national news, I was the only African-American sitting at a lunch table with several people, some of whom were my close friends. At lunch time, several of my male peers began making demeaning and offensive comments about different females at our school. When I voiced disapproval at these comments, I was met with disdain. Some time after that, these same people began making racially insensitive comments about specific African-Americans at our school,  even going as far as referring to some of my friends as the “N-word”. It became fairly clear that in addition to insulting these people, these comments were intended to target me, intimidate me, and prevent me from being in their company. It worked. Soon, it got to a point where I developed anxiety on days where I would encounter these individuals, and as a result, I avoided lunch entirely.  I felt alone and pushed out of a group in which I had previously felt comfortable.  It was bad enough to hear these hurtful words, but the silence, and even laughter on the part of others seemed to amplify my hurt and discomfort.

I had been prepared to forget this experience and pretend it never happened. However, in light of what has become such an intense dialogue about the power of our words, I’ve realized that in keeping silent, I am giving my own implicit nod of approval to destructive behavior. Instead, reaching out and having open conversations about these types of experiences with other students, teachers, and members of the administration has been incredibly enlightening. I have learned that I am far from the only one with this perspective, and that I am surrounded by so many people that share a want to listen to these narratives so they can use their influence to truly progress as a community. In addition, the dialogues that have ensued from my honesty have developed a mutual understanding that I believe is emblematic of positive change.

No, it’s not particularly easy to talk about being racially intimidated out of the cafeteria on a stage as public as this one, especially when many people view you as a no-nonsense, self- assured individual who works towards unity on a regular basis. The truth is, even the best of us can be affected by what may seem like casual, relatively harmless rhetoric. What is essential, however, is the knowledge that with optimism and courage, there is “light at the end of the tunnel”, a saying that is as trite as it is true.  I hope that in speaking my truth, I can do my part to not only empower others to share their stories, but also facilitate a more open, honest conversation about these extremely difficult topics. To reach that goal, this is a small price to pay.

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Exchange of Perspectives on Crimea: Alina Badamshina Speaks Out

Words: Diane Ijoma

At first glance, Alina Badamshina looks like your average Centennial student. She is a member of the Centennial Muslim Student Association, is enrolled in several AP classes, and was a part of the Centennial Winter Cheerleading Squad. However, a closer look, and the sound of her thick accent reveals that unlike most Centennial students, Badamshina is not a U.S. Citizen. In fact she is a native Russian and is a part of the Student Exchange Program, which allows for more students to briefly experience life in other countries. In doing this, the traveling students as well as their host families are able to encounter alternative perspectives they would not otherwise had the opportunity to have.

Many have heard of the crisis occurring involving Russia, the Ukraine, and a disputed section of Ukraine called Crimea. While most the Ukraine has expressed wishes to join the European Union, many would strongly prefer to have strong ties with Russia. Even though Crimea is technically a part of Southern Ukraine, most of its citizens identify themselves as Russian. Recently, Russian troops have invaded Crimea in an effort to take control. Simultaneously, Ukraine has taken its armed troops out of the region.

Though Badamshina, a native Russian, is aware of all the international development, she says she has felt most of the personal impact stemming from the economic strain the crisis has placed Russia under. Since the invasion of Crimea from Russia, many countries, including the United States, have placed Russia under sanction. “Because of the sanctions from other countries, when I want to pay money, I have to pay more.”

In her unique perspective, Badamshina is able to see Russian as well as the American sentiments in the dispute; what she sees a lot of, she said, is propaganda. “I believe that there is a lot of propaganda on both sides. I don’t know what to believe. I feel like there are two sides. Of course, Putin didn’t do the right thing [in sending troops to Crimea]. On the other hand, Crimea owes a lot of money to Russia, and now they want to be in the European Union.”

It is easy to forget that as Americans, we often have a detached view on the issues we find ourselves involved in. The troops are not in our backyard, the economic sanctions do not affect us, and many of us have no personal connection to the people of that region. However, Badamshina in a unique situation was able to offer her views. “It is very sad that this whole situation has happened. I know a lot of Ukrainian exchange students don’t like the situation. They don’t want the two countries to become enemies; they want to remain close.”

Students Unharmed in Wednesday Bus Accident

Words: Corey Grable

Contributors: Sarah Yang, Bushra Lohrasbi, Maryam Elhabashy, Madhu Lal, and Diane Ijoma

On the morning of September18th, morning traffic was heavily backed up due to an accident involving a school bus that was transporting students to Centennial. A car driven by an adult female, an educator within the county not affiliated with Centennial, struck bus number 218 from behind at approximately 7:00am. Principal Claire Hafets said many students described the accident by saying, “It felt like they were running over a squirrel.”

The accident caused the bus to break down and become stranded directly in front of the traffic channel that controls the flow of cars into the Centennial parking lot.  Officer Perry received the call and was the first person on the scene around 7:03am, and Hafets, Mrs. Miller, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Steve quickly followed him to ensure students’ safety and to re-direct traffic around the bus.

Fortunately, no students or the driver of the car were hurt in the crash. The students were safely escorted from the bus and into the school without incident.  “I’m very proud of the students on that bus and the way they behaved,” said Hafets.

The bus was not damaged in any significant way besides a little chipped paint, but the car’s hood was damaged. The cause of the crash was a lack of speed control from the car, according to Officer Perry.