Allies and Allyship

Clark hosts annual conference to empower social change

Drashhti Bilimoria, Scarlet Staff

On Nov. 4, Clark University’s Millennium Leadership Club hosted the annual Millennium Leadership Conference, this year entitled “Allies and Allyship.”

The Millennium Leadership Club hosts this conference every year to raise awareness of critical topics in society. Topics the conference covered included diversability, people of color, anti-Semitism, crime and justice, and ways to help people without taking from their unique perspective or voice.

To begin the conference, participants were asked to consider what they thought allyship looked like, felt like, sounded like, and acted like. One attendee, Lia Scala (’21), likened allyship to popping kernels, loud and vocal sometimes, but silent at other times. Others used words such as “listening,” “love,” “validation,” “inclusion,” and “unity” to describe allyship.

Through discussion, attendees found that many of them related allyship to supporting one another–whether this is through a Facebook post or by holding others accountable for their actions–and celebrating our differences despite turmoil or backlash we may face.

Over lunch, attendees chose from a variety of topics, including immigration, education, and sexuality, to discuss in small groups. Within each broad topic, the discussions touched upon a variety of issues. Within the scope of immigration, the group discussed their opinions and experiences while relating them to current issues in the media, such as the 14th amendment right to citizenship, dreamer’s rights, citizenship tests, and Republican plans for DACA recipients.

These discussions were led by Clark faculty and students, who allowed those in attendance the chance to share not only a unique perspective, but also a part of their identity with others–even identities we may not realize people hold, at first glance.  

After lunch, attendees broke off into smaller group workshops, some of which were taught by Clark personnel, including Hall Director Demetrius Evans, Director of Multicultural & First-Generation Student Support Hayley Haywood, and Assistant Director for Campus Life Kamaro Abubakar.

Some workshops offered during the conference included “Identitree,” “Desensitization to the Black Community: How to Reverse It,” “LGBTQ Allyship,” and “Imagining Better Allyship Through Written Narrative.” These workshops focused on different aspects of allyship and how a person can grow while empowering and supporting others.  

“Identitree,” taught by Kamaro Abubakar, focused on personal identities and how one’s experiences growing up have shaped them. During the workshop, each member created “trees” with the branches being different aspects of their identities, such as religion, ethnicity, citizenship status, sexual orientation, and ability, and the leaves showing how often they thought about each aspect of their identity.

After creating personal trees, members split into small groups to discuss identities and the privileges they have experienced (or not experienced) as a result of it. Abubakar then assisted attendees in using their personal identities to become better allies.  Each workshop during the conference was unique in that it focused on different aspects of allyship and how a person can empower and support others as an ally while also growing as a person.

After the workshops, all attendees reconvened to discuss the day’s events and see how their definitions of what allyship looked like, felt like, sounded like, and acted like had changed throughout the day. Many found that they had expanded on their definition of allyship, and could find ways to support one another with even the smallest of gestures.  

The day ended with dinner and various performances by Clark entertainment groups.