This past week, I attended the NAIS (National Association of Independent School’s) People of Color Conference in Anaheim, California. The theme this year was: Voice of Equity and Justice Now and in Every Generation: Lead, Learn, Rededicate, and Deliver. It was time for us as a school to have a presence at this conference, and I come away from it with more questions than I went in with, concrete resources (books, articles, student activities), connections all over the Bay, and a sense of purpose for the work ahead.
First off, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the important work that our school has been doing (Gender Spectrum trainings, library assessment (buying new books, getting rid of old), engaging in conversations staff wide, and prioritizing the work that our Social Justice Committee is doing. I am inspired to forge on, feeling somewhat daunted by the fact that this work is never “done” and will be hard every step of the way. After attending I am thankful that we have such a progressive community that is eager and willing to do this work.
The conference began with American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory Kimberle Crenshaw (You can see one of her TED Talk’s here). She spoke about the history that we are obligated to re-remember, the importance of looking at intersectionality and urges us to ask why erasures such as the deaths of black women continued to be silenced in the mainstream media. Author, journalist and educator, Ta-Nehisi Cotes, emphasized that it’s beautiful to be ignorant. He stressed the importance of accepting the hard work that it takes to shift culture, and being sensitive to the young black students we have in our classrooms. Anita Sanchez author and coach shared stories from her work all over the world, and specifically with her experience with Native American elders. She spoke about forgiveness, unity, healing and hope.
Our world is quite tumultuous right now. The overall feeling at the conference was that there is a sense of urgency to be having these “hard conversations” about race, class, gender, sexuality, gender, culture, language etc…with our students, with one another, and as a community.
Bell Hooks, a known writer, social activist and feminist is quoted as saying, “most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them.”. I feel so privileged to be able to work in an educational environment that encourages critical thinking, and am reminded of how easily we can (unintentionally or not) silence children, peers, colleagues, even strangers, and how important it is to listen and to be open to change and learning.
If you are interested in hearing more, or engaging in dialogue, please reach out- I’d love to share more, or just listen.