Student-led assembly raises awareness of racism and bias

Students and panelists on stage during the SABAR club's assembly raising awareness of racism and bias

By Kathlyn Paananen, ISB’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader, and Rhea S of the Student Anti-Bias and Anti-Racism club

Edited by Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Published on Friday, January 12, 2024

Students at international schools have the incredible opportunity to study alongside classmates from all corners of the world and walks of life. To help ensure strong relationships across its diverse community, the International School of Beijing (ISB) has a special focus this semester on raising awareness of the power of words. People’s words can be used to make people feel cared for and loved, or their words can be used to make people feel excluded and hurt.

ISB’s drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not just led by faculty. Students are also invited to take a lead on issues they care deeply about. The Student Anti-Bias and Anti-Racism (SABAR) club was initiated by High School students in 2020.

On November 7, SABAR led a High School assembly featuring professionals talking about their experience with bias and racism. In order to build strong relationships with people who may be different from you, it is an important skill to listen to someone else’s story and understand their experiences. Or as educator and author Gholdy Muhammad put it, “Identity is made up of who we say we are, who others say we are, and the people we desire to be… When we have true, clear, and complete understandings about people different from us, we are less inclined to hate, show bias, or hold false views of others.

The SABAR students organized this event in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy’s Diversity Equity Inclusion and Accessibility Council. The panelists shared about times they have experienced discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, and/or gender on a personal and professional level. They also spoke of the implicit biases that all people carry and strategies for addressing them (including through awareness-raising events like this one). Click here for a video produced by students of the panelists answering one of their questions.

ISB Elementary School students and teacher dancing during an assembly

Students experience joyful learning in ISB's diverse community

The assembly was a striking and inspirational experience for students. “The panelists’ insights on these important topics helped me to understand, to a deeper level, how being respectful and aware of other people’s identities is essential in an international community like ISB,” said one SABAR executive.

Panelist Vanessa Shaw-Dore, Country Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration China, said, “Let’s continue to be fearless, hopeful, full of belief, and ready for the action needed to improve ourselves and our communities!”

ISB is proud of its students for demonstrating bravery and leadership to have conversations like this one in search of ways we can all understand and connect with one another.


Thank you to our SABAR assembly panelists and student organizers!

  • Raphael X. Moffett is Chief Student Affairs Officer and Associate Dean of Student Life with the Schwarzman Scholars program, Tsinghua University.
  • Jeffrey Idigo is a member of faculty at ISB. Currently the High School’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator, he has experience teaching several social studies subjects.
  • Vanessa Shaw-Dore is Country Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s China Office. Ms. Shaw-Dore leads a team working to strengthen the safety and quality of food, pharmaceutical, and medical device products produced in China for the United States market.
  • Elizabeth (Liz) Jones oversees content for the U.S. Mission China’s social media platforms as the organization’s Deputy Strategic Content Coordinator.


Empowering students to purpose and compassion, including through clubs like SABAR, is one of three main Strategic Focus Areas for ISB. This news article is part of a series looking at aspects of ISB that are examples of the three Focus Areas. To find out more, click here.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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