by Seamus Mohan (’22) | May 10, 2021
Often in conversations about inclusivity, the language used is one of the most overlooked aspects of activism, with people often deriding new terminology as unnecessary. However, Lancers Sahana Chandramohan (’22) and Namrata “Nammi” Deepak (’22) are helping to lead the charge for inclusive language and education both on campus and across the Bay Area.
Deepak and Chandramohan’s organization, Speak Love, ran messages on the school announcements throughout April for Neurodiversity Celebration Month— a term so new that spell-check doesn’t even recognize it. They explained, “Neurodiversity is essentially the term for people with atypical neurology in the sense that it differs from what we coined normal—as being diverse from the neuro majority. It’s not a label, per se, but it’s a respectful way to refer to people who have what are coined as ‘disabilities’ and a lot of people don’t like the term disabilities. So in order to make it more respectful and integrated, that’s where the neurodiversity came from.”
Chandramohan has a personal connection to educating on neurodiversity, too—she’s on the advisory council for PRAGNYA, a leading organization in the Bay Area serving the neurodiverse community. In addition to her work on the advisory council, she runs the blog and does one-on-one work. After COVID hit, the structure that helped a lot of neurodiverse people was completely shattered. She stepped in to help with PRAGNYA: “We would play games with them, talk to them, dance, sing, do crafts, and so on. We’ve also had a few really successful in-person, socially distanced events. Essentially all of this is to ensure that they understand they’re being integrated into our community and that we’re not going to just let them be there.”
It was this shared mission—to make sure everyone is integrated and included in our language—that led Chandramohan and Deepak to found Speak Love. Speak Love is not a school club, Chandramohan clarifies: “Speak Love is an idea that Nammi and I came up with— I guess you could call it an initiative or a project, but we don’t like to label it or think of the fact we started it.”
To summarize, they add, “Speak Love is essentially our effort, especially with both of us having experienced hate speech in different measures throughout high school, to ensure that we can make sure that high schools in the Bay Area—and everywhere—can be as integrated and accepting as possible in terms of rhetoric.” Speak Love’s mission is ultimately rhetoric, Deepak shares. “We’re equipping people who read our announcements and follow our social media with ways to talk about [the neurodiverse] community in a positive and constructive manner.”
“We’ve made a conscious effort this month to be positive about things, because there are so many things we can say, like ‘don’t say this, don’t say that.’ But quite honestly, that’s not what’s going to lead to change. It’s like, ‘What should you say?’ What are things that are constructive to this dialogue?” Chandramohan and Deepak explain further, “We’re not saying disabled anymore, we’re saying neurodiverse. And we’re trying to personalize it, so it won’t be something that’s so distanced from people.”
This is certainly a goal that they have succeeded in. Speak Love’s messages in the morning announcements have been educating on different neurodiversities, celebrating landmark legislation in rights for the neurodiverse, and sharing the stories of incredible youth activists like themselves. Speak Love currently has chapters at Wilcox High School and Fremont High School in addition to Saint Francis, with plans for more to come. You can find them on Instagram at @sfhs_speaklove and @speakloveinitiative.