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CA Curious

Walking the Walk

December 7, 2017

I have attended the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) a whopping 15 times over the past 19 years!  Each year a courageous band of students and colleagues take a journey to a different location in the country to explore issues of diversity, inclusion, and identity. This year the conference was held in Anaheim, California; the weather was splendid, and so were the people! I am fascinated by this collection of over 6000 students and colleagues who come together to share this wonderful experience.  I am inquisitive about what others take away from the conference, and I hope you are too. So, I asked this year’s participants, “what was the experience like for you?”  Here are a few of the responses that they shared with me:

Attending PoCC was one of the best opportunities I’ve been afforded since joining the CA family. Not only was there a chance to learn about issues concerning people of color in our country right now, but I came away with a greater awareness of how these topics impact my classroom and how, as teachers, we can be advocates and allies.  ~ MS Teacher

I was enlightened, affirmed, empowered; it is the perfect event for anyone open to multiple perspectives and committed to social justice.  I am even more curious to explore the world around me to uncover all that I don’t know I don’t know.  ~ US Teacher

The People of Color Conference was a mind-blowing experience.  You are welcomed by so many different people and can relax as your true self.  It was empowering, uplifting, inspirational, and informative.  ~ MS Teacher

I was excited to be surrounded by the experiences, energy, and truth(s) of my people of color colleagues and friends.  ~ US Teacher

The 2017 POCC was an enlightening experience; it reminded me that I have an essential role as an educator to promote equity and social justice and to be an ally to all students.  I expanded my toolbox by learning new skills and curriculum that I am excited to start implementing.  ~ MS Teacher

I loved hearing from phenomenal speakers and talking with other educators.  Through those interactions, I gleaned material to bring back to the classroom and the school, but I also learned what I needed to learn–what I needed to research and do. ~ US Teacher

Naomi Johnson shared her perspective about SDLC as well:

The Student Diversity Leadership Conference was a truly eye-opening experience that – I believe speaking for all the students who attended (Anna Ibrahim – ’19, Becca Segal – ’20, Kenneth Williams – ’20, Paul Ibrahim – ’21, and Naomi Johnson – ‘18) – motivated us to continue the push for social change and strengthen diversity initiatives. The students we met at the conference all had such diverse backgrounds that it was impossible to not gain a new perspective and want to bring some of the tools and ideas that they utilize at their schools into practice at Cary Academy. Kenneth Williams (’20) thoughts were that the conference could best be summed up by a famous quote said by Martin Luther King: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Kenneth feels that “this quote is a perfect representation of SDLC because [he] saw people who have seen issues with their friends, families, and peers. They have been fully equipped with the means necessary to act in their community, and [he] hopes [he] can as well.”  Overall, the experience helped us examine issues of diversity in independent schools around the country and helped us harness a determination to improve our community to the best of our ability.

As I write this blog, I am chaperoning an Upper School facilitator’s training for Dialogue Across Difference in Berger Hall.  Fourteen students are training to facilitate courageous conversations throughout the Upper School. I had a revelation about our community as I watched them interact with each other.  We are fortunate to have a community that not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. We generate countless opportunities for our students, and colleagues to grow inward and outward, like the PoCC, SDLC and this training.

The theme of the conference was: lead, learn, rededicate and deliver.

  • How can we lead in areas of equity and justice?
  • How can we learn more about the experience and reality of others?
  • How can we rededicated ourselves to the service of our community and beyond?
  • How can we deliver the quality programming and experiences for our students to thrive in a shared humanity – Ubuntu?

Like Naomi, I am more curious and driven than ever about how to make our community and the world a better place.  Are you?

Written by Jason Franklin, Director of Diversity & Inclusion

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