Welcome to FDS at GDS! I cannot tell you how personally grateful I am feeling this evening knowing that we have gathered with a common purpose and a cohesive vision that aims to benefit our individual school communities and so many others. As invitations were sent out for the Second Annual Future of Diversity Symposium, I began to receive messages asking me to talk through the purpose of this time together. Perhaps there are some of you sitting here today who are also wondering whether the purpose described in the mission of FDS is truly possible. The mission reads:
The purpose of the Future of Diversity Symposium is to determine how to robustly position diversity and equity as foundational touchstones and luminous beacons for independent schools. Beyond the inherent moral imperative of this work, it is a fact that diversity, defined in its fullness, is essential to a school’s learning and living community. It is also true that independent schools’ very survival, in light of rapid demographic shifts, requires successful navigation of the diversity/equity landscape. Participants in the Future of Diversity Symposium will collaborate to design action plans, nourish a robust professional network and continuously refresh a marketplace of ideas and best practice to further elevate diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools.
We are all here for the next three days in order to come together once again with the goal of thinking about what makes an ecosystem grounded in justice, goodness, hope, and action possible and sustainable. While our schools are great bodies of intellectual breadth and creative thinking, the ability to multiply the capacity of our work together is exponentially magnified when we open our doors and share ideas, and critique each other’s work, and develop partnerships, and establish a commitment that we hold one another accountable for.
We are here because the occurrences in our communities, our nation and our world today punctuate the need for us to be here. I am here as an educational leader grounded in social justice and equity work because I know that my voice of practitioner aligned with that of my head of school and trustees and anchored in this work allows for a bridge that serves as a brave and safe crossing place for all. While not without risks, crossing this bridge cannot be optional.
This year, we asked each and every one of you to include the voices of your students in this process because throughout our time together what will matter most is that all of the innovative action planning and sharing that takes place is done while keeping our students at the center of our collective work. Our GDS students loved the lunch bunches dedicated to FDS as well as the dedicated class conversations within our 9th grade course, Diversity and Equity: The Intersections of Identity. I look forward to hearing about and learning from your own sharing of your students’ voices.
The other day, out of the blue, I was compelled to do something on Facebook that I do not typically do. If you follow me on Facebook, you will know that I post many, many resources, informative articles, current events, and I let you into my children’s world. On this day, I posted words. Just words. My words. I was moved to write,
Embers can eventually become mighty fires that result in new life. The intentionality to evolve from embers to fire must be real in order to experience transformation.
So, who are we in this space?
We are here as embers ready to become mighty fires. We must tend our embers. We must put forth all of the energy necessary to help them grow. We must act swiftly in order for the embers not to lose life. We must come together in our collective strength, when the embers require tending through the tough days. We must have in front of us the goal to become a mighty fire. We are trying to prepare our students to be action agents in a world that will not always mirror our mission statements. In order to do that, we must learn, grow in our capacity and skills, and model being action agents committed to making a positive and strong social impact.
And, why are we here?
Hopefully you’re sitting here because you are compelled to engage in a dialogue that is honest and forward thinking. Hopefully, you believe that our aspirational missions can be truthful stewards of positive action. And to the diversity practitioners sitting here in the audience, who live and breathe the work of social justice each and every day, thank you. Heads of school and trustees, please take full advantage of building a solid relationship with your diversity practitioners. We are on the ground, we build relationships each day, we hear the voices of every member of our community, and we can tell you when our mission is being truly lived and where it is not. We are a critical part of the leadership of our communities, and we humbly step into our journey each day, even as we know that challenges will come our way every time and sometimes threaten to bring us down.
And thus, hopefully, a piece of each of us sitting here today feels that in light of the work that needs to be done, there is no choice but to be here. And to be present. And to use our voices. And to lean on one another. And to question. And to dig. And to commit, together, to tending our embers.