Equity Out Loud

Stamping Power of Unity

By Vishavijt Singh

I had the privilege and honor to be the keynote speaker at the 2019 STAMP conference at History Colorado Center.

STAMP stands for Students Taking Action and Making Progress. The gathering is a rare, unique and literal stamping ground for high school students across Denver taking charge of the conference with participants from close to twenty local middle schools.

STAMP is a youth leadership development program of CIRCLE organization founded in 2009.

After a half day leadership training, high schoolers or Stampers met weekly for over two months to plan the conference. They came up with a theme for the day - The Power of Unity - Bringing Opportunity.

I opened the day with a keynote focusing on our unique stories rich in diverse experiences and histories. In this embedded diversity lie connections between our collective narratives.

I started the keynote posing two questions.

What words came to mind when you first saw me? Where do you think I am from?

Turban, beard, shiny shoes, Alladin, somewhere outside the US, Arabia, Middle East were some of the responses.

I then proceeded to share my story with the aid of my cartoons which I call Sikhtoons. At the end of the talk I posed the two questions again.

Brave, creative, cool and American were some of the responses.

This is the power of stories. Once we get to know a little bit of each other’s stories it gets hard to stereotype or put each other is shallow boxes.

The point is to judge each other not by our appearances, gender, origins, heritage but by our action filled stories.

With this message the remainder of the day was highlighted by an amazing array of workshops designed and hosted exclusively by Stampers.

Captain America or Capitalist America?
Discovering the power of privilege in America.

Ex-Ed Out to X-Men
We all have super strengths so why do we only focus on our perceived weaknesses?

Indefinite Identity: Gender and Sexuality in a Changing World
Tools you need to grow as an activist and the integrity to combat injustices that infiltrate the world.

Me Before You
A safe space to learn ways to deal with your stress, love yourself, and you will leave with resources for when you are struggling.

My Body Through Our Eyes: The Evolution and Interpretation of Body Types
How media, our culture, and our identity shape how we see ourselves and each other.

The People vs. The Power
Dismantling systemic racism and examine the evolution of micro and macro aggressions.

Scream and Shout!!
Discovering the connections our crossroads can create when we scream and shout in harmony!

Take my Race to the Old Town Road
Sharing my history, so you can connect with me. Finding my affinity. This is my Identity!

Teachers take a back seat at STAMP conference

The day ended with a feedback session from the youth participants. Each group of middle schoolers reinforced the following lessons.

To treat each other with respect.
To listen to each other’s stories.
To never judge anyone unless you get to know them well.
Be an outstander not a bystander.
Be you, accept you.

It was an inspiring and humility filled day for me. The high school leaders were wise and graceful in their leadership. The middle school participants were open and honest in their learning ways.

We adults can genuinely benefit from a conference hosted and managed by high school students.

To quote one of the greatest American storyteller Studs Terkel, ‘Hope Dies Last’.

The youth at STAMP conference bring a hope filled vision and action for a better future.

Vishavjit Singh
sikhtoons.com

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