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s.t.a.r.t. Founder Kiah Zellner-Smith Inspired Students

May 4, 2012

South High 2010 Class President and s.t.a.r.t. co-founder Kiah Zellner-Smith returned to South High today to welcome the 2012 Facing Race Ambassador, Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati.  She also invited students from South, Farmington and Lakeville High Schools to celebrate s.t.a.r.t.’s progress and to unite for the work of the future.  Here is the content of Kiah’s speech:

“Good Morning Everyone,

My name is Kiah Zellner-Smith and I graduated from South high two years ago with the class of 2010.  Some of my closest friends and I formed the first S.T.A.R.T. group to  teach ourselves to talk about race in productive and progressive ways. We learned things that our classrooms and textbooks did not teach us and became passionate about the role race plays in our lives. As opportunities became available to us, we shared our work with other students and even spoke on a radio show about our work. It has been wonderful to see S.T.A.R.T. continue to grow and expand into other communities that lack racial discourse and cultural understanding. The work S.T.A.R.T. is doing is a testament to the fact that without each other, progress cannot be made. Through our differences in culture, nationality, and ethnicity we can extract more power than any of us can alone. I have too often noticed the apathy of students who feel that the fight for equality rests only on the shoulders of the oppressed, when in actuality it rests upon all of our shoulders. As said by Audre Lorde, “Without community, there is no liberation.”

            I am now ending my second year at Macalester College and am working towards a degree in American Studies, Urban Studies and Education. American Studies, which many are not familiar with, is a major focused on the study of race and ethnicity with regards to institutionalized systems of racism and prejudice in America. My experience in S.T.A.R.T. encouraged me to continue my study of race relations and was a great precursor to the things I am studying now. Dr. El Kati, who taught at Macalester College from 1970 to 2003 was an essential figure in establishing the American Studies major. El Kati defined his legacy at Macalester through his knowledge and insight on the African-American experience, his advocacy to increase campus diversity and his push to make multiculturalism a central component of study. He has written articles, essays, and reviews that have appeared in a variety of popular newspapers, published a book on the hidden history of Haiti and hosts a weekly radio show on KMOJ among many, many other accomplishments. On a more personal note, in the 1970’s my father learned more about his history and legacy from Dr. El Kati than from anyone else, and Mahmoud remains as an important mentor and leader in my father’s life today.

With all that being said, I am extremely honored to introduce to you Dr. Mahmoud El Kati.”

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