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Kaitlyn Garrett - Posted Monday, May 7, 2018 12:02:55 PM

by Kaitlyn Garrett / Lion Staff


“We want to keep the movement moving,” Sarah Packman (10) explained to me on the eve of the walkout.

The days leading up to the event were tireless and chaotic, according to Sarah. Students from all grades came together to participate in the event on April 20th: the 19th anniversary of the Columbine Shooting.

While they gathered for a variety of reasons, they were united in one common belief: Gun violence must stop.

However, this wasn’t any little stunt that a couple of fed-up teenagers assembled. Those supporting this cause are ready to fight for new regulations of gun laws until they see a change.

Most people mistakenly think that the walkout was organized by TAP, but it was actually led by Dylan Shapiro (11).

At 9:16 AM on April 19th he sent an email to the entire school explaining the plan for the walkout, welcoming those who want to speak out about their views on gun violence, and encouraging students to register as voters.

Dylan was first motivated to organize the event after he realized that Lovett students would be on spring break on March 14th for the National Walkout. The ball began rolling when a Westminster student reached out to him asking if he was interested in planning a joint event. They then decided that Westminster and Lovett have different, unique situations, but regardless, the fact that other people wanted to advocate was motivating. “It was really great to know that other schools in our area are equally committed to demonstrating support for gun violence prevention, and as a community, Lovett has no reason to be silent,” Dylan said.

But he also had many personal thoughts and preferences to motivate him to start the movement.

“The reason why I was inspired to organize this walkout is because I have a renewed sense of optimism as a result of the youth activism that has resulted from the Parkland shootings. I’ve always been a little pessimistic that our generation was too inclined to tune things out, or at least that we had so much thrown at us over the course of our lifetimes that we simply gave up on politics…. Lovett as a community must be a part of this movement, not only for the goal of pushing for common sense gun violence prevention legislation in our state and nation, but also to continue to foster this renewed civic spirit so that it carries over into the future issues we will face as citizens,” he says.

Many students, including sophomore Sarah Packman, worked closely with Dylan during the movement. She explained that the administration was very “nice and understanding” of the cause, but they were very clear that rules concerning tardiness and unexcused absences would remain effective. There would be no special treatment.

Mr. Alig was completely comfortable with the planning of the event and the outcome. He was especially proud of Dylan’s efforts: “He was very thoughtful and proactive and he met with me a couple of times, we had an email exchange. I was really impressed by the way that he and others approached it.”

The walkout began on Friday morning with a schedule of set speakers, a moment of silence, and an open mic for people to voice their thoughts and opinions.

Sarah Packman was one of those who prepared a speech for the day.

“We’re not saying that you aren’t allowed to hunt. We’re saying that a 17 year old with a history of violence shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon! We’re saying that assault weapons in general shouldn’t be necessary to keep you safe in your home!” she said to the crowd.

The walkout concluded with Sanci Smith’s (10) performance of Rise Up.

But what inspired this song to be the anthem for the Walk Out?

Sanci told me that the song is recognized as one of the songs for the movement: “Andra Day performed rise up at the March For Our Lives in D.C, so I thought it would be a good choice.”

Many other students were also involved in the movement, including Frances Wargo.

She was inspired to take a stand after she kept on imagining what would happen if the next shooting was here at Lovett or closer to her home. “I have a friend who goes to a different school, and someone posted a picture of them with a gun saying that they’d go out with a bang. The person was taken care of, but my friend was really shaken up. I don’t want to have that happen to me or anyone I know,” she explains.

Samantha Jones (11) says that she chose to participate in the walkout because of research she had done on the recent Parkland shooting, which revealed to her “how much of  a gun problem we have in America.”

She also believed that the event was necessary and was a good demonstration of unity within the community.

Emma D’Emilio (10) also had similar viewpoints: “I liked that people felt safe enough to voice their opinions.”

Brendan Okeson (10) also saw successes in the event. “I thought that it went really well considering it was one of the first major events like this that I organized.”

Organizers did have concerns that the rally may have appeared to focus on political parties and political beliefs instead of on the common issue that gun violence needs to stop.

“I think it definitely could have gone better,” says Paxton Trevett (10), a head participant in the walkout. “I think all of the speakers were fantastic, but I think the counter-protest going on next to it really put a damper on everyone’s spirit about it because we were trying to unite under the message that school shootings should be stopped.”

Mr. Alig felt the counter-protesters were free to express their opinions, but thought their message may have been running at “cross-currents” with the message of the walkout. “I don’t really think they were protesting the same idea because the protest was not about gun control. It was about stopping gun violence on school campus,” he said. “So the people that were objecting to that message really weren’t objecting to that message... they were protesting a different issue.”

Senior Jordan Jones, the leader of the counter protest, shared his perspective on their purpose.  

“It’s called the March For Our Lives… no one wants to see kids die, and just because I’m on the other side of the plaza on the bench protesting doesn’t mean that I don’t care that kids die,” he said. “I had some people come up to me after and say ‘17 kids died. How are you gonna protest against that?’ and that’s not what I’m protesting. I’m protesting the method with which we solve these school shootings. I think that there are other ways to go about it.”    

The official decision to follow through with the counter-protest came together the morning of the walkout when Jordan decided to buy a poster from the bookstore. After he created one, his friends followed his example.

One of the posters he created said, “The NRA won’t go away” and Jordan had a reason for this too.

“When you look at stats and stuff, guns aren’t really the problem...that’s what I believe,” he said. And he has no problem with the people who aren’t trying to have guns taken away and were protesting school shootings. “By all means I would gladly protest that,” he said. “But when people are saying that the NRA is buying politicians and stuff, that’s just not true so I have to sort of stand up against that.”

Senior Wilson Hobbes is interested to see how the war will play out between between politics and the attitude towards school shootings. Less than an hour before the walkout, he told me “we will be able to see how the gun rights issue compares to the political leaning of the school and if these events from the past couple of months and years have an effect on how gun rights gets out of the political context.”

Samantha Jones wonders about the long-term legacy of this event. “Years from now you won’t remember going to chapel and the rest of your school day, but you will remember being a part of history.”

Whether you were at the front of the plaza or in the back on the benches, or somewhere in between, one thing seems clear:  No one in the Lovett community is for school shootings. But there are many different perspectives on how to keep them from happening.

Evie Monroe - Posted Monday, May 7, 2018 11:53:02 AM

by Evie Monroe / Lion Staff


He repeats certain words, thinking them over carefully until the perfect next word pops into his head, or sometimes just for emphasis. He is careful when he speaks, knowing as he does the effect words can have. “Not, Not, Not,” he repeats, the cadence of the second slightly faster than the first, but the third is slow and calm, and then the best words he can think of to exemplify what he is thinking roll from his lips.

This is not something that is easily figured out, it’s not something that is seen by all students every day. He doesn’t try to hide it, but it is not revealed in his planned speeches, which he works on diligently. Those are rehearsed and made to appeal to a wide range of people, where here he responds quickly, without preparation.

His Virginian accent is smooth. It gives him a youthful quality as he says “yes Ma’am” to a woman who asked him if he was “tucked in all right,” a woman probably 10 years his junior. He finds casual ways to slip your name into conversations, letting you know that he is entirely focused on you.

“Oh golly,” Mr. Peebles laughs as I ask him for a reccomendation from the many books lining the shelves in his office. After all, he’s an avid reader, and wants us all to live a life of the mind. His choice: Stephen Oates’s With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. No surprise there. He says it’s the best one volume biography that he’s read of his hero.

Forever a student, Mr. Peebles epitomizes the idea of a “lifetime learner.” He attended Princeton University as an undergraduate student where he received a B.A. in politics. He then moved onto University of Virginia’s Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business where he received his MBA. It should surprise no one that after leaving Lovett, he plans to finish the classes required to receive a degree in Theology.

Mr. Peebles started teaching 33 years ago and even though he moved into the role of an administrator, he has always kept a foot in the classroom. This has allowed him to make more personal connections with a fourth of the ninth grade every year. “I so enjoy that conversation, that time with the kids, that gives me energy to make some of these tough decisions that ultimately the head of school has to make,” he explains.  

Those “tough decisions” about which he talks are something Mr. Peebles agonizes over at night, even to this day. He says they haven’t gotten any easier for him, despite his many years of experience. In fact, he thinks that he has become “a little bit more sensitive, particularly on these issues where you’re deciding the fate of a person in your school.”

After years of experience dealing with particularly complex issues,  Mr. Peebles has learned to ask more pointed questions as well as “reach out to a lot of people for their advice, their council, their wisdom, their ideas.”

His calm demeanor has been a crucial part of his ability to make these tough decisions, but it wasn’t always this way. “I’ve gotten a little bit more poise now, hopefully, then when I started out,” he admits. He has been able to maintain this due to his “great confidence in our community.” No matter how significant the problem is, “I’m confident that we’ll try to figure it out in a thoughtful way,” he says.

The only thing that has ever shaken his tranquil exterior is “when good people make poor decisions.”  He dreads having to ask a student or faculty member to leave because “we all make mistakes.” But he thinks it’s appropriate that these decisions are difficult. “You would never want that ever to become an easy decision,” he says. “You ought to wrestle with yourself.”

He has received and given great advice throughout the years, so I, of course, had to ask him one last time for some of his own wisdom. For the seniors (and underclassmen) he says it is important to “try and stay in touch with one another. We need each other more than ever in this world.”  To the new headmaster, he suggests leaning on people for support especially since in his own leadership experience, “you have to have a critical mass of people pulling for you.”

This is one of the things he has loved so much. The community in which he has been embedded, which “even in the down moments, people have been pulling for us, pulling for me, pulling for my family,” he says. “This group of people care so deeply about each other, care about the school. I’ve really felt that from the moment I got here.”

He remembers one specific moment from his first ever all school chapel. It was in August of 2003, a room of about 1,000+ people waiting for his remarks. “Rev Allen and I were about to process in and I’m pretty nervous because I had never spoken in front of that big of group before,” he says. “[A student] was acolyting and he sort of tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘You’ll do just fine.’” He still remembers the student’s name, even though he graduated close to 12 years ago.

From the beginning, Mr. Peebles set his sights on having deep (and wide) connections in the community. In the September issue of The Lion from 2003, Boone Dupree wrote, “He wants to teach classes, be at football games, and to know students on a personal level.” It’s poignant how true these things still remain.

Unfortunately, his recent knee injury has kept him from some of those favorite activities. However, it has made him realize why he loves springtime at Lovett, “being outside, lots of great events going on and the anticipation of finishing up another year,” says Mr. Peebles.

Of course, living on campus has allowed him to easily “get to all the great things happening across campus” not to mention  given him the “best commute in Atlanta.”

That’s not the only special thing about the house. There is a wall of names of graduated students who signed it during the baccalaureate, the Saturday before graduation. “Everybody that comes to the house for the first time, that’s one of the first things they ask, they want to see the wall,” he says, “It attracts a lot of great attention.”

Signatures adorning his walls are not the only thing he has collected over the years. He has been gifted art projects, books, and, naturally, lots of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. His favorites include a 7th grade art project of charcoal squares that resembles Abraham Lincoln and the letters he receives from students. “As someone who enjoys writing folks, these have meant a lot to me,” he says.

My last question is about his legacy. I can tell he was expecting it, but he still doesn’t have the perfect answer in mind. It is probably something he himself has been thinking about a lot these past couple of months.

“Ohhh,” he groans as soon as the word leaves my mouth. “I hope that I’ve been a good steward of the mission of the school, that I’ve honored the whole child philosophy,” he says, the yearning palpable in his voice. “The standing tradition that was in place long before I got here of Lovett being a caring community, I hope I’ve been a good steward of that.”

Towards the end of the interview, the voices outside of the conference room grow louder, reminding me only of how busy this man sitting in front of me is. Even at the time when most people would be going through some major senioritis, he is pushing for improvement.

I know I’m probably one of the 50 people he has met with that day, but he makes it seem as though I’m the only one that mattered, as if he had been looking forward to meeting with me. I’ll miss this, the time he gives to connecting personally with everyone. I don’t know exactly what fundraiser or building will be his tactile legacy, but his courage, respect and responsibility will forever be remembered by each student, teacher, faculty member, and maintenance worker he has ever met.

Thank you for fifteen fabulous years, Mr. Peebles. We will miss you and remember you with the fondest of hearts.

Evie Monroe - Posted Tuesday, Mar 27, 2018 12:52:00 PM

by Evie Monroe/Lion Staff


Nikki Giovanni is a small person. The blue sweater she wears swallows her body. I watch this renowned African-American poet disappear into the crowd of people that flock to her for book signings and pictures. She moves only her arms around people, lifting them to scratch a sprawling signature into their book. Yet people gallop towards her, the new replacing the old before she even has time to dot her last i.

I watch as she finishes her talk with Lab Atlanta before our interview, and then they introduce me to the poet.  “Hello Ms. Giovanni, It’s wonderful to meet you,” I say, extending my hand to meet hers. She smiles, shakes my hand, and asks me for my name. Her voice is loud, it fills the room. I don’t think the words “though she be but little she is fierce” have ever applied to anyone else better.

Nikki Giovanni gained fame during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and has written poetry ever since. Poetry Foundation describes her unique and insightful poetry as a testament “to her own evolving awareness and experiences: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, from daughter to mother.”  

Mr. May-Beaver, who runs the writer-in-residence program, says, “She demystifies poetry, it’s not poetry with a capital P, it’s more accessible than we think poetry can be.”

Similar to the way her discussion began the day before in her after-school talk in the Hendrix-Chenault theater, and that evening in her talk to 1,200 people in the Wallace gym, she launches straight into talking about her lunch without a prompting question. She talks while I flutter around laughing hesitantly at her jokes. I don’t want to start recording in case she says no. When she finishes her monologue I ask for permission to hit record, and she responds with a chipper “of course.” She seems surprised I even asked.  

People warned me she would talk for a long time and they weren’t wrong. I ask her a question about her most influential poem and she responds to the original question, but then goes into a long explanation of space, one of her many interests.

“Ego Tripping,” a poem about “how we get to the earth,” is one Ms. Giovanni believes is a favorite for many people despite the fact that it was written a while ago. She gestures with her hands outward to make her point that she has “been surprised, that it still has such a life and that people still like it.”

Since she loves space and “good math,” she begins to discuss the pyramids. “Every one hundred years a star falls,” she says. “You have to consider that that is good math, that’s not an accident.” Turning my simple question into a much more intensive look at the Earth.

She asks me if I have been keeping up with the Mayans, describing how it was her new favorite thing and how she was interested in viewing the empire from space. A self proclaimed “space freak,” she talks passionately about growing up with the “red planet” instead of Mars in school. Discussing the effects a nuclear holocaust would have on earth she says, “Whatever life form is in space will look and Earth will be considered the red planet because Earth can burn itself up.“

It’s clear from the beginning, she wants a reaction, she wants me to nod along with her, laugh at her jokes, and gasp in surprise after some of the things she says. For example, midway through a question about her poem “If I Have to Hospital,” she starts talking about her battle with breast cancer. Reenacting finding a lump, she grabs at the empty space behind her blue sweater, reaching for the very thing she lost during her mastectomy.

Talking about her “bad health,” she explains to me how she argued with her surgeon, Dr. Henshaw, after she told Ms. Giovanni she could go home after she had the surgery. “‘Joeleane,’I did this as slow as I could so she could understand, ‘Let me be clear, if it’s your [breast], you can go home overnight, but since it’s mine we are spending at least the night.” She laughs. “No, that’s not the way that works, not for my [breast].”

Expressing her feelings about old age, she speaks about hiring an agent to deal with the things she did not have any reason to care about anymore: i.e. the price of books in Asia. “I’ve done what I’m supposed to so now I can let that go,” she says.

She apologizes for eating an egg midway through our interview, but continues answering a question about one of her poems in which she says, “We seek Antarctica because poetry gave birth to Math and Science… not the other way around.” Then: “I’m a fan of science, I like science,” she says, holding her hand in front of her mouth, “but it’s what we have imagined that scientists have said ‘oh we can do that’.”

Charles Bolden, the former administrator for NASA, is a person Ms. Giovanni holds near and dear to her heart, literally. She keeps a picture of him in her wallet. “I want to see him send poets into space and he’s telling me why he can’t,” she laughs. She’s obviously pitched this idea to him hundreds of times. “I would love to see some writers, but also some composers, what music they would create just to go to the international space station.” She sighs. “Go up spend a couple of days, come back.”

Although most people would probably argue that writers, especially those who write fiction, are not the most truthful people, Ms. Giovanni knows the opposite is true. She’s ready to answer before the last words leave my lips, “We are the truth-tellers,” she says. Her goal is to “remind people that there is something better.” She says, “That’s why people in power”--she gives a list that includes our current president--”are always trying to shut down the writers.”

Mr. May-Beaver wants to bring writers “who are going to stir things up and make us look at ourselves, and I knew she was going to do that.” While there was some concern, in advance of her arrival, about some of her perspectives on things, he thinks “most people welcomed her and were excited about her speaking to us.”  

Nikki Giovanni is adamant about the role artists play in society. “We have an important job,” she says. “Our important job is to keep remembering and to keep imagining what else could happen.”

Fierce indeed.

Mimi Norton - Posted Monday, Mar 26, 2018 3:20:00 PM

by Mimi Norton/Lion Staff


Even though she’s two years younger than I am, I look up to sophomore Kendall Greene. She’s consistently involved in so many events across campus, but her extracurriculars extend far beyond Lovett. In fact, she is single-handedly planning an art showcase on April 22 at a gallery at the Center For Civil and Human Rights that she calls “Sacred Space.”

Inspiration came last year, when she “noticed a lack in student galleries in Atlanta - ones that were not only for students, but by students,” Kendall explained. She hopes to build the young arts community here because “it’s so prominent in Los Angeles, and New York, so everyone feels like they need to get away.” Kendall wants to bring together the countless artists that make this city so special and help show them a community of like-minded creatives who can support them.

Kendall has been collecting submissions for about a month, and she currently has over a hundred. She asked people to submit things that are sacred to them, or close to their heart. Her submissions are coming in the form of all different kinds of media - whether that be paintings, drawings, sculptures, films, song recordings, poems, or really anything else.

She’s also planning on contacting a few musicians who submitted songs to come perform in person, and she’ll be projecting films and music videos in addition to the physical pieces on display.

When I was chatting with her in the senior lounge, Kendall said that art has always been something she’s been surrounded by. “It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember!” she said.

Her dad was a teacher, and her grandfather was an architect, so they would always encourage her to be creative by giving her and her brother art supplies and learning resources. She remembers spending time in her room when she was younger, just drawing for hours and hours.

I was incredibly impressed, but not surprised, when I heard Kendall was planning all of this. “I’ve never organized anything like this before!” she said, laughing. She was able to find an available (and free) space at the Center for Civil and Human Rights thanks to Lovett Director of Multicultural Programs and Services Ellice Hawkins, who’s been helping her with some of the logistics.

Once she got the space and a date, “I just threw together some flyers and a website, and told a lot of my friends who are creative, and it just spread through word-of-mouth.” Kendall hung flyers around the city and talked to local businesses to see if they could help her advertise, which they all willingly did.

She also got help from local organizations re:imagine/ATL and Wonderroot who shared her gallery details with their young artists, so she’s gotten plenty of submissions that way, too.

“It’s a lot of putting myself out there, and seeing who responds,” Kendall admitted. “With an event like this, I know it’s my responsibility to reach out, but it’s also a lot of waiting on other people.”

This whole initiative has been completely driven by Kendall, but she acknowledged she’s had lots of support from her mom. “I can’t drive myself,” Kendall said, “so she’ll take me wherever I need to go. She also keeps me organized. Some days if I’m feeling lazy, she’ll remind me to respond to submissions or work on fliers, that kind of stuff.”

Kendall said she’s hoping to turn the idea of “Sacred Space” into her own non-profit organization, “but that’s still in the works.” She just wants to continue to have these spaces where people can celebrate themselves and their art and connect with each other. Kendall hopes this event will become an annual thing, or even a few times a year.

Right before I ended the interview, she added, “I just wanted to mention that everyone I’ve reached out to has been really cool and so willing to help. The city came out!”

If you are interested in coming out to the event, the date is set for April 22 on the bottom level of the Center for Civil and Human Rights from 12 - 5 PM! I’m sure Kendall would appreciate it if you spread the word, too. If you want more details, please check out Kendall’s website at or email
Katie Krantz - Posted Monday, Mar 26, 2018 8:58:00 AM

by Katie Krantz/Lion Staff


In early March, the traditionally Judeo-Christian Lovett school welcomed diversity in the form of a Muslim theologian in residence. Every year, the school invites a theologian to meet with faculty, participate in small class discussions, and lead an assembly. Embracing Celene Ibrahim, a female, Muslim chaplain from Tufts University, was an exciting opportunity for students to encounter new viewpoints and dispel stereotypes.

Ms. Ibrahim converted to Islam after growing up Catholic in Rural Pennsylvania. She found her faith on a study abroad.

I cannot imagine a more qualified individual to speak to Lovett students on Muslim culture. Ms. Ibrahim, who was appointed Muslim Chaplain at Tufts University in 2014, has served as Islamic Studies Scholar-in-Residence on the faculties of Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College. Her work has been highlighted by the Religion Initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations.

For her work writing and publishing on Islamic family law, Muslim feminist theory, and Qur’anic studies, she has been recognized as a Harvard Presidential Scholar. If you’re not yet convinced that Ms. Ibrahim is to religious studies as Tony Hawk is to skateboarding, she has also been a Fellow in Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

How did we ever convince her to fly to Atlanta and speak to us? Well, besides Rev Allen’s connections to some high places, Ms. Ibrahim is deeply committed to Islamic scholarship and to fostering interreligious learning environments. “I’ve trained in interreligious conversation, and I really just want to open up discussions that lead to a greater understanding for everyone,” she says.

“That was one of my favorite chapels,” says Senior Grace Anne Muller. “It was so cool to hear her speak, and I think it really showed that Lovett is committed to letting a lot of different voices be heard. I think that’s really important, and I appreciate it in a school.”

“I just wish I could have heard her speak longer,” says sophomore Catherine Sherling, who later went to the TAP meeting hosted by Ms. Ibrahim. The TAP meeting, according to leaders Neil Patkar and Samantha Jones, was a “resounding success.”

Sophomore Emilio Ferrara feels that he gained knowledge and understanding of Islam from hearing Ms. Ibrahim speak both at the TAP meeting and his religion class with Rev Reck. “Before she came to our class, I always wondered if Islam condones violence. Now that I’ve heard her speak about it and seen the actual verses, I feel a lot better about it.”

“It’s always nice to have a voice of someone who may seem like an outsider in our mainly Christian community,” says Rev Reck, who hosted a discussion with her in his New Testament class. “I just wish that she could have come to the middle school.”

Well, if you are a middle schooler or a slacker who skips chapel days, we have a treat for you: an exclusive Coffee With Katie interview with Celine Ibrahim.

Katie Krantz: How old were you when you converted to Islam?

Celene Ibrahim: I  was twenty-two. I’m pretty sure it was around then. It was in college. I was in the middle of my college experiences. I had done a few gap year experiences, so I was a little bit older than your typical sophomore, but I was in my sophomore year.

KK: Who did you find as a mentor when converting?

CI: I’m still in this learning process. I’m about fourteen years into Islam now, and I’m still learning the religion. I still have mentors, I still have spiritual guides that I’m learning from. That’s one of the things that drew me to Islam. It’s very deep philosophically, theologically, textually, and so there’s always room for learning. No matter how much you study, there’s always more to learn. That appealed to me.

More immediately speaking, I was living in the dorms of the American University in Cairo. The women’s and men’s dorms were completely separate. The women on the floor were very inspiring. There were women there who took their Islam very seriously, and were praying and would be fasting and doing the practices very seriously. Other women on the floor were more culturally Muslim but not necessarily observant. Of course, they knew their religion and I could ask them questions. They would explain things to me. Both groups were really powerful.

I was taking courses in the university on Islam. I found a really inspiring woman professor. She was not only a historian and taught the more esoteric branches of Islam, but a mentor that helped with application as well. She was an artist, and an incredibly accomplished artist on the world stage. Connecting with her as a young woman was powerful. A politics teacher, who taught History and Politics of the Middle East, with a lot of strength and intellect was inspiring as well.

KK: What role do your views on feminism play in your religion?

CI: I didn’t realize the ways in which I was acculturated into a specific type of girlhood. I was athletic, I was a tomboy. There was not much racial and ethnic or religious diversity in rural Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my formative years. Even though I went to an international boarding school for high school, I had a very narrow definition of what girlhood and womanhood are. I wasn’t aware of what feminism even was. I had some idea of the 1970’s, bell bottoms, and bra burnings, but beyond that I didn’t have a good sense of the ways in which feminism is part of a social justice movement or how you have different types of theology.

I just didn’t have a lot of exposure. Now, over the years, being able to study and being able to sit around the table with some of the most accomplished feminists of this generation, I’ve begun to take the value from feminism as a social justice movement, but also realize the ways in which certain types of feminism still restrict womanhood to very narrow definitions. When I’m sitting around the table, I think it broadens the definition of feminism to be able to include women who have religious convictions, in my case specifically Muslim convictions. Feminist movements can be a little anti-religion, because religion for them can be the epitome of patriarchy.

KK: Did you convert first culturally or religiously?

CI: I converted in Egypt. I had studied Islam in terms of books. I had known different Muslims in my life. Before I went to Egypt, I was never immersed in a Muslim-majority society. I was seeing the practice of Islam in a way that I had only theoretically understood before. In terms of how that plays into culture, I didn’t really know what was part of Egyptian culture and what was pan-Muslim custom. What is the result of other historical influences versus Islam directly? I think it was both at the same time.

KK: Who comes into your office at Tufts to talk?

CI: It is completely across the board. Some people have an assignment for a class that relates to Islam and want to come talk to me to get a question answered. They don’t come from a Muslim background. I had one young woman with a Turkish grandmother who had inherited a beautiful pendant with Arabic writing on it. She sat down with me because she wanted me to help her figure out what was written on that pendant. That’s one example.

Often times it is the people in the Muslim community specifically, or it is other women from the subcontinent, India or Pakistan, who may not be Muslim but feel culturally at home. Tufts has a large Bangladeshi population and a large Pakistani and Indian population. Both with folks who have come directly from abroad, or those who are first or second generation American-Muslim kids.

Particularly women of color in general come to visit, because even though I come from a Euro-American ethnicity, by virtue of being identifiable as Muslim in society, I’m familiar. Because of the xenophobia and the othering that occurs, I’m almost sitting in a liminal, racialized space by virtue of my hijab.

Ms. Ibrahim was easy to talk to, open, and one of the most insightful people that I have met in my short eighteen years. I’m so thankful that I had the chance to interview her and that Lovett found such a wonderful theologian in residence for my senior year. Thank you Rev. Allen. Thank you Mr. Peebles. Thank you Mr. Boswell. Thank you Ms. Ibrahim.

Arnav Rajdev - Posted Tuesday, Mar 20, 2018 9:45:00 AM

by Arnav Rajdev/Lion Staff


Two years ago, then sophomore Jay Sherman shocked the Upper School when he brought his musical talents on the piano to light during chapel. I still remember observing students slightly zoned out, but then jolting up as soon as he started playing.

Jay has this effect on his audiences, and over the past couple years, he has continued to hone his talents by joining the Ellington Jazz Band. Now, in his senior year, there are high expectations every time his fingers hit the keys. Such was the case prior to his senior recital.

When I walked into the Black Box Theater there were roughly 60 people, all already aware of Jay’s talent. So when the lights dimmed, and Jay walked out and sat down, we were all ready. Or so we thought. Much like chapel two years ago, when Jay finally started playing we were all shocked. His body movements were more animated, and his music was increasingly complicated yet just as incredible.

He exceeded expectations yet again.

I had the chance to sit down with Jay a few days after his recital and talk to him about his thoughts on the performance, and his journey with music in general.

Arnav Rajdev:  How long have you been playing piano?

Jay Sherman: I have been playing piano for close to 11 years now. I was in second grade when I started to have lessons.

AR: Why did you start?

JS: I don't know what made me interested exactly. I asked my parents if I could start having lessons and the rest is history. I still wonder what exactly inspired me to get started, but I guess I'll never know.

AR:  When did you realize piano was for you?

JS: The day I began to learn the instrument.

AR:  You said you had a family tree of your instructors; talk about that a little.

JS: My teacher brought this up to me recently, and it's a very interesting thought. Ludwig Van Beethoven taught Carl Czerny, who taught Franz Liszt, who taught Alexander Siloti, who taught Earle Voorhies, who taught my teacher, who has taught me. I think that's a cool progression of pianists and it's an honor to be a part of such a talented line of musicians.

AR: You said music is a lot like athletics. Athletes stretch their muscles before their practice to get the most out of their training session. How do you musically stretch before you practice?

JS: Being a musician is similar to being an athlete in a few ways. You have to be really self-disciplined, practice and warm up daily, and take care of your body both physically and mentally in order to be successful. In terms of warming up, practicing scales and arpeggios daily really improves not only your technique, but also your understanding of all the key signatures and how they work together. That's something a lot of pianists don't take advantage of when first learning the instrument. So it's been great how my teachers have motivated me to instill this knowledge.

AR: There is a visual component to your performances. Why do you move around the way you do when you play?

JS: People sometimes ask me if my visual expressions are a part of some act to make my performances more engaging. This is not true. The way I play is just a part of who I am, and how I like to interpret and feel the music. Every time I perform, I give it my all, because I love this music and I'm proud to display that.

AR: Do you think more people should play like that?  

JS: Yes, I think it's important for any musician, no matter what instrument or music they play, to really find a way to connect with the music they play instead of worrying about correct notes or small details when performing. Dr. Pitchford has told me to "Express, don't impress," and I try to live by that every time I perform.

AR:  How long have you been performing?

JS: I have been performing ever since I began playing.

AR:  When was your first true Lovett performance?

JS: While I played a lot during chapel throughout middle school, I would say my first big performance at Lovett was in 10th grade when I played Chopin's Grande Valse Brillante in a chapel service. It can be very nerve-racking to play in front of your peers like that. So I was really happy that I finally took a risk and did that.

AR: How was your mindset going into your first Lovett performance different than your mindset going into your senior recital?

JS: Obviously, my experience as a pianist and performer has changed a lot since that 10th grade experience. I think it also changed significantly after my recital performance last year with Ben Rau. This senior recital, however, brought forth some interesting challenges. It was very exciting yet challenging performance, because I had to carry the whole recital by myself, which is something I had never done before. Ultimately though, it was a very rewarding experience, and I'm so thankful to have been able to do it.

AR: How do you choose the music you played for your senior recital?

JS: I began working on the repertoire over this past summer. While most of the pieces chosen were based on requirements for college auditions, I picked pieces that I not only really enjoyed hearing, but were also a bit unique and not as commonly heard. For example, the Franz Liszt piece I played, titled Vallèe d'Obermann, has such an interesting story behind it that not many people know about. It turned out to be one of the more memorable parts of the program for those who came. So I was really happy to see that people enjoyed what is, in my mind, a very underrated piece.

AR: What’s your favorite piece of music and why?

JS: That is such a difficult question to answer, as I like so many pieces for so many different reasons. I would say my favorite piece of music to have learned so far would be Liszt's Vallèe d'Obermann like I mentioned earlier. It was so fascinating to learn about, both from the musical and historical perspective. It's a very long piece, close to 15 minutes. So every time I play it, I feel like I'm going on some epic journey of epic proportions. It's truly a unique experience, and I always hope to take those who listen on this journey with me.  

AR:  What kind of instructor do you prefer, a tough yet encouraging one, or someone like Fletcher from Whiplash?

JS: My teacher is someone who is always giving me constructive criticism to improve my playing, as well as always being incredibly kind and very honest with me. That has always been the case, and that is what I like in a teacher: someone who is willing to push you to your limit, while still maintaining a sense of care and support for your endeavors.  

AR:  How do you intend to pursue your musical endeavors at SMU?

JS: That's a great question. I will be attending SMU's Meadows School of the Arts this fall, which is a very cool program not only for musicians, but also for other artists. While I do not plan, as of now, to pursue music as a career path, I do plan to continue studying and playing music to the best of my ability throughout college. It's what I love to do, and I'm excited to see where it may take me in the future.

Kaitlyn Garrett - Posted Thursday, Nov 30, 2017 8:54:17 AM

by Kaitlyn Garrett/Lion Staff


“It is a science laboratory in the sky, literally.”

That is how history teacher Mr. Jewell describes Siempre Verde, an environmental escape located in Ecuador, where a group of nineteen lucky sophomores spent ten days in early October.

For the duration of the trip they hiked, completed school work, listened to history and cultural immersion lectures about Ecuador, participated in service work, shopped, and (of course) indulged in Ecuador’s finest home-cooked dining.

The Lovett community has been enjoying Siempre Verde’s timeless beauty for 25 years; they celebrated the quarter anniversary a few weeks ago at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Recently, Lovett students attended an assembly where they learned about the history of Siempre Verde, watched a video about the impact of mining on the local community, and participated in an online game.

On the sophomore trip, students had the privilege of experiencing everything that Ecuador has to offer.

The general itinerary was enjoyed by all, but Clayton Cross says that “The hiking was pretty fun, and the views everywhere were really cool.”

Caroline Long and Lauren Bernard’s really enjoyed visiting a school in Santa Rosa, located at the base of Siempre Verde.  “The little kids were adorable,” Caroline says. “We gave them school supplies and played with them.”

The school appeared to be the fan favorite. The kids range in age from  5-12, and “they are so sweet,” according to Virginia French. “You bring them bags and bags of clothes and school supplies and all this stuff, and you get to read to them, and play with them on the playground; it’s just so fun,” Virginia French says. For the kids, it’s like Christmas.

Even the less hands on activities were enjoyable; Olivia Sidman says that one of her favorite parts of the trip was hanging out with everybody around the fire.

The students stayed at the Siempre Verde lodge, which has bathrooms, bunk rooms, a classroom area, a dining room, and a kitchen area. “It’s like a giant house for kids,” says Virginia. “There are two big bunk rooms, and normally there's one for boys and one for girls, but since we had 18 girls we had two girls rooms, and then in the fireplace room there’s a wall and then a room and that’s where all the boys stayed.”

As a chaperone, Mr. Jewell valued the opportunity “to get to know students outside of the classroom setting.” He could witness their reactions to challenges like tough hikes, no lights, and interrupted internet access. And there were the more obvious pleasures like viewing nature, meeting farmers, shopping in an open air market, playing at an old-fashioned amusement park, and laughing near the Equator.

And of course there was the food.

“The food was absolutely amazing,” says Lauren. “It was served family style; it was something different every meal, and it was prepared by the kitchen staff or the host family, the Nelsons.”

So, our lucky adventurers got to take a step outside of the stress infected Buckhead bubble, leaving us to complain about our lives alone as they were out exploring the world.

“The students are in a more relaxed environment than typical day-to-day home life. They are free from technological distractions, well rested, and surrounded by serene nature and a warm fire,” says Ms. Pugh, a chaperone for the trip.

But that’s not the only benefit.

“We caught and measured birds. We saw a very rare species of a night crawling mammal… Mr. Reynolds hung moth sheets with a light and we saw oodles of different kinds of moths. And it is not only In Siempre Verde. On the way to Quito after visiting the cloud forest, we went to a bird rescue park and students were able to hold a larger bird on their fingers,” Mr. Jewell says.

Students also walked away with lessons in their back pockets that stretch beyond the science or spanish classroom: “I learned it’s good to try something new or something different, travel, and do things with people you don’t know that well,” says Clayton.

Sometimes those things pose challenges. Virginia says that her first day was her least favorite, blaming this much on the strenuous hike of their first day.

“The last mile is tropical forest so that’s cool, but there's no views, there's nothing really to see,” she says “It feels like it takes forever and you think ‘oh my god what have I gotten myself into,’ so that was my first impression because I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Ironically, the huge, exhausting hike they did of the Ariba Trail, turned out to be one of her favorite parts.

“People are gonna think I’m weird, but I thought that was really fun. It’s a hike that’s the equivalent of climbing 250 flights of stairs,” she says.

Others were less sanguine about the experience. “It was 1.2 miles but it took us six hours,” Caroline says. “It was straight up, literally straight up, people slid down,” Lauren added.

But all things considered, Siempre Verde was a rewarding experience, and the sophomores recommend that interested freshman give it a go.

“I’ve had a lot of people say that they regret not going and that they wish they had gone, and what’s the harm in signing up and trying it,” Lauren Bernard says.

At the very least, it’s an opportunity to build some new relationships. “It was great because so many different friend groups go and it’s a really good opportunity to hang out with people who you don’t normally hang out with,” says Virginia French.

Of course, this Garden of Eden 2.0 is not immune to the problems of the outside world, and it has to stand against outside threats.

After senior Jamil Atkinson visited Siempre Verde for his first time, he wanted to go back and help the people who were directly affected by mining companies, and he wanted to be able to find a market for their products in the US.

He put together a system to enable Lovett not only to support the farmers' alternate means of economy but also allowing for them to make more money for their products then they normally would in Ecuador. “What we did was simply partner with the producers and farmers of these products, and offer them a larger market space by selling their products here in the Lovett community,” Jamil says. “Essentially, we've opened up a long-term market for the producers of various products in the Intag region.”

This year, they sold 50 baskets with Ecuadorian products handwoven and made out of cabuya fiber, which comes from a local plant known as Penca, and all of them were sold; half of them were sold to the faculty while the rest were sold at the 25th anniversary event.  

In total, they raised $4,000.  “We purchased everything in the baskets and then all the proceeds are going back also, so it's like they sold their products twice,” says Mr. Reynolds.

All of the money from the successful event will be split between the groups that made the products, so the people that put in effort and hardwork will quite literally be paid back. Mr. Reynolds says this is one of the things he loves about the selling of the baskets event: “It's not charity,” he says. “It's supporting the hard work these families are putting in for a cause.”

Senior Christina Karem, another student who worked on this project, is glad they were able to raise awareness about the mining problem. “It drew a lot of attention and everything was a huge success,” she says.

Based on our twenty-five year of experiences, it would seem the relationship between Lovett and Ecuador is symbiotic. It first reveals its natural beauty to us, and then we are given the opportunity to help protect the flourishing culture, atmosphere, and people.

“Personally, I think Siempre Verde is genuinely like a home away from home,” says senior Chris Ocana. “The trip is amazing and I can't imagine having never seen it. The people that sustain the land in Ecuador, the region, the markets, the culture and the food are all fond memories and a part of one of the best trips that I have ever taken in my life.”

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