A new addition to the upper school schedule this year is a block for special programming on Fridays. For the first in a series of special guest speakers, Dean of Student Life Hillary Freeman invited Black Lives Matter activist and local Bay Area native Kenan Moos to speak.
“We were looking to bring in relevant topics that students would be excited about listening to,” Hillary said. “I was very fortunate to meet Kenan at a Black Lives Matter mural painting in Palo Alto. The more I talked to him, the more I thought ‘He’s a Nueva kid, a Nueva adult now. He’s just so Nueva.’ I knew I wanted to invite him to speak at our student council leadership retreat and that blossomed into this opportunity for him to speak to the whole upper school.”
In a conversation moderated by student council equity and inclusion rep Fiona T. ’22, Kenan shared not only his background and life experiences, but also how he became an activist and how Nueva students can step up to take action.
“We’re really excited to hear more about your journey and how you got into the work you’re doing,” Fiona began before launching into a dialogue with Kenan.
Kenan grew up in Los Altos, and he graduated from Los Altos High School in 2016. He is currently a senior at University of Oregon, where he is a journalism and advertising major. He identifies as Black and Jewish, and shared that growing up he felt isolated in school because, he said, “There were no other Black people to turn to when something happened, and no one who understood what I was going through.”
When he returned home from Oregon in the spring due to the pandemic, he realized that he needed to help make change.
“The first day I got back from Oregon, I went for a walk with my dog and I got followed by the cops,” he shared with students and faculty. “And I have been pulled over 24 times in my life. I decided it was time to step up. I decided this was the time to take a stand for myself and for my family.”
Kenan’s activism grew out of what he saw take place in the spring throughout the country, as well his own experiences at home. He founded Justice Vanguard and helped to organize the Black Lives Matter march in Los Altos in June. More than 5,000 people attended.
“I realized that I have the platform, education, and ability to speak up and make a change,” he said. “I didn’t want to look back years later and think that there was something I could have been doing.”
I realized that I have the platform, education, and ability to speak up and make a change,” he said. “I didn’t want to look back years later and think that there was something I could have been doing.” – Kenan Moos
Kenan shared details about how he was able to organize groups of people and create a network of activists because, “when we come together we are much stronger,” he shared.
Following Fiona’s questions, upper school students had an opportunity to ask follow-up questions. One student asked, “What are ways white students can help students of color?” to which Kenan replied, “Listen. Ask students of color what could be helpful and where you can fit in and provide assistance. Realizing when it’s time for you to stand up and when it’s time for you to step back and support is important.”
As the event wrapped up, Hillary shared words of gratitude with Kenan for what he brought to the Nueva community.
“Thank you, Kenan, for taking the time out,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do everywhere and a lot of work to do at Nueva. I’m so excited that we had 545 people here, listening to you and hearing your experiences living in the place that we live. I hope that everyone heard what you said, and that it increases empathy. I hope you have inspired people to participate in any way they can.”