Open Ears, Open Hearts: Why Not Speak Day Returns


Though Covid has been behind the cancellation of many cherished events this past year, one tradition Williston is thankfully forging ahead with is Why Not Speak Day, an annual event dedicated to bringing the community together to hear others’ stories in the hopes of creating community-wide empathy and bonding.

This year, WNS Day is happening on Apr. 21. Erin Davey, The Dean of Inclusion and Community Life, along with the help of other teachers, will bring the event to life.

This year’s WNS theme is: reflect, respect, connect.

“The main purpose of Why Not Speak Day is to give the many identities within our community a voice,” Davey explained. “It is a day to share our stories, respect the lenses from which they are told, and engage in workshops and activities that help us celebrate and honor our similarities and differences.”

Due to Covid and all of us spending excessive hours on our screens, Davey said it will be important this year to get off our computers and phones and interact with one another in person.

This year’s WNS Day will not feature the 30-plus workshops it typically does.

“While that was, and will again be, an integral part of the day, we feel it is important to step outside the classroom and off the Surface for a day to reconnect and seek value in the simplistic practices of sharing our stories and building empathy through community activities,” Davey explained.

Wendy Staples, a Visual and Performing Arts teacher, is on the committee planning the schedule for WNS Day this year. She’s looking forward to hearing the stories of those in the Williston community.

“This day is designed to bring people together to learn about one another’s identities and their stories, and it’s with the hope of building empathy and bringing one another together,” she explained. “Just by understanding one another you come closer together.”

The organizers have altered and adapted the format for WNS Day in hopes of the event being as educational and effective as possible.

Affinity groups this year include Asian, Asian Pacific-Islander, Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) Latinx, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Multiracial, White, European Awareness and Accountability, LGBTQIA+, Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, and Hinduism.

Sofia Michalski, a junior day student, from Easthampton, said WNS Day allows her to meet new people she usually doesn’t talk to.

“This day just gives me the chance to talk to new people in general and get to know people I usually don’t hang out with that are not in my grade or my social circle,” she said.

Director of Middle School Admission, Allison Marsland, said she had an amazing experience taking part in a workshop last year.

“I was able to do a workshop last year with Elsa [Frankel] on Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Marsland said. “I loved doing that with her. I got to work together in a way that was just different from what my daily rhythm is, and her idea was so creative of how to try to show people what it’s like to live in a brain that connects in a different way from other people.”

Marsland emphasizes the importance of hearing others’ stories we usually don’t hear, and is confident WNS Day helps us as a community achieve that.

“WNS Day is focused to encourage all of us to hear stories that sometimes we’re closed off from,” Marsland explained. “It’s encouraging each of us to share things that matter to us and not just say them into an empty room, but to say them into a room full of people with open hearts and open ears.”