From the murder of George Floyd to the controversies of death sentences following the case of Brandon Bernard, this year presented numerous cases of injustice that have opened the eyes of our country to the realities of the systemic racism ingrained in its foundations. But among these instances of injustice follows a light of growth as we learn to see past our prejudices. Despite the divisions seen across the year, protesters and activists alike have been able to band together like never before, igniting a series of movements towards equality. Two Tenafly students, Karis Cho (’23) and Serine Jang (’23), are donning their capes to fight against racial inequality.
CAPE, Community Activity Promoting Equality, is a student-founded and student-run organization that advocates for social and racial equality. It was originally founded by 15 high school students in March, as an entry to a federal program aiming to increase youth volunteerism rates for Project Grant. However, CAPE then rebranded itself to be more inclusive of general social injustices. “As minorities ourselves, we have experienced and understand what it’s like to live as a minority in today’s society,” said co-president of CAPE Yena Choe (’23) of Leonia. “This organization has provided us with a larger platform to speak up and work towards making a change.”
Through fundraisings, volunteer work, and activism through social media, CAPE works towards spreading further awareness about social injustices while also supporting the targeted minority groups. Every month, CAPE executes community service projects. Its first project, a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) drive, amassed a total of 2,000 face masks and 400 hand sanitizers.
Now, CAPE has extended its mission to not only stand for racial equality but social justice overall. It has been working on rebranding its organization to accept more members who are passionate about what CAPE stands for. Tenafly High School sophomores Cho and Jang continue to advocate for social justice. “I believe that everyone should be treated equally despite their race, gender, sexuality, etc.,” said Jang, Secretary of CAPE. “Life is unfair and we, as people, should do our best to make it fair. There has been a lot of racial and gender inequality in our communities and we have been working to bring light on these matters although they may be hard to talk about.” As members of minority groups themselves, Jang and Cho utilize their personal experiences with social and racial injustices to speak up for what they believe in. “I grew up always surrounded by inequalities,” said Cho, Creative Director of CAPE. “Growing up not fitting with the typical ‘western beauty standard,’ or being ‘inferior’ among friends, I was deemed as ugly and felt unwanted. Now, especially after the BLM movement, I think it opened not only me but many other people to be more empathetic towards the Black community… [towards] a change that needed to happen.”
There are many ways for students to take action and make a difference in their communities, as seen in Tenafly High School’s CAPE representatives. “Join an organization that advocates for what you believe in,” said Jang. “Post [something] on social media and [advocate] for what you believe in. You don’t have to make a BIG impact. A small one matters just as much. If everyone made small impacts, it would become big and bring light onto injustices.” In fact, one of the greatest and simplest changes that you can make is educating yourself and those around you about the current events in your community and the greater world. “I think just acknowledging that inequalities exist is the first step in the grand scheme of raising awareness,” said Cho. “If we all strive to understand, be more compassionate, and are open to hearing another person’s perspective, I think social injustice can then be better integrated in[to] our daily conversations as something that needs change.” Social justice begins with a change of mindset, which begins with you.