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2011 Fall Middle & High School Conferences

Conferences Overview

How does popular media influence how we understand and see race? This question was examined at this year's fall set of Calling All Colors conferences for middle and high school students.

Over 250 students from eleven area middle schools and ten area high schools gathered at Hope College on the 10th and 11th, respectively. This year marked the 16th annual conference for the middle school group and the 5th annual conference for the high school group.

During the morning session, the students heard a keynote address from Dr. Deirdre Johnston, Communications Professor at Hope College, who shared examples of racial stereotyping in Disney films. Dr. Johnston provided the following tips for analyzing media for bias. Look for:
1. Who is good and who is evil.
2. Who is missing.
3. Who is reduced to stereotypes.
4. Who is beautiful.
5. Who is depicted with greater humanity.

Students then participated in small group dialogues that challenged them to examine media and pop culture to see how historical stereotypes are perpetuated in modern media and affect today's perceptions. Volunteers facilitated an activity about stereotypes, then led a discussion and critical analysis on a recently aired Jimmy John's commercial (above) and popular Halloween costumes. Students were provided the opportunity to sign a formal letter expressing their objections to the commercial that will be sent to the CEO of Jimmy John's.

In addition, each school group convened to watch a clip from the documentary The Canary Effect and discuss Columbus Day. In the afternoon, the students participated in cooperative activities that encouraged sharing ideas with other students.

Special Thanks

Many gracious thanks to the Conferences Host: Hope College

Emcee: Sally Woods
Welcoming Speaker: Alfredo M. Gonzales, Associate Provost and Dean for International & Multicultural Education at Hope College 
Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Deirdre Johnston, Communications Professor at Hope College
Volunteers: Anita Brown, Bruce Cooke, Phil Coray, Kate Davelaar, Maria Espinoza, Latoya Gates, Pedro Gonzalez, Mary Hartfield, Ruth Hawley-Lowry, Kim Kalman, Paula Kendra, Jane Lindemuth, Paget Mangold, Lindsey McKenney, Jeff Meyer, Lisa Miller, Paul Nawrocki, Lorraine Rivera Newberry, Brenda Trevort, Brenda Vandermeulen, Linda Vugteveen, Mike Weller, Connie Widdis, Diane Ybarra, and Beverly Zell

Participating Middle Schools & Liaisons: Black River, Corpus Christi, Harbor Lights, Holland Christian, Jefferson, Lakeshore, Macatawa Bay, Spring Lake, St. Mary's, Steele, and White Pines

Participating High Schools & Liaisons:
Black River, Central, Grand Haven, Holland Christian, Muskegon Community Education Center, South Haven, Spring Lake, West Ottawa, Zeeland East, and Zeeland West

Student Feedback

  • "I learned that there are subtle, accepted stereotypes in the media and that they should be challenged."

  • "I liked getting to know other people and hearing their stories."

  • "I loved hearing opinions that I would not normally hear and discussing them."

  • "I learned about the way people perceive stereotypes and how they affect daily lives."

  • "I liked that I got to meet new people and see them in a totally different way."

  • "I learned that things we think are cool and fun could offend other people."