The school community explored various topics in diversity, equity, and inclusion at our annual Diversity Forum this week. With the theme Embracing Community: Unity & Diversity, we examined the ways our differences help bring our community together.
The Lower School community started the day in the Little Sanctuary, where the Lower School prefects facilitated a workshop on “Thinking Before We Speak,” which delved into microaggressions that marginalized groups may experience in our community. After introducing terminology and concepts, the prefects read different scenarios to students who broke into groups to discuss them further. In groups they delved into the issues with each scenario, what might have been a better approach, and how they could handle the situation in the future if they ever witnessed something similar.
Lower School students then welcomed their keynote speaker for the day, Dr. Naomi Rowe-Gurney, a James Webb Space Telescope Guaranteed Time Observations postdoctoral research associate at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center employed by Howard University. Dr. Rowe-Gurney shared her experiences as the only Black woman, and sometimes the only person of color, in many of the spaces she entered along her STEM journey. Said Rowe-Gurney, “More diversity in science and technology means we have diversity of ideas; more empathy in STEM means those ideas value all of humanity.” After workshops exploring identity and environmental justice, the Lower School culminated its day with a Cultural Festival in Trapier Theater. Students were introduced to music and dances from various cultures, including Middle Eastern dancing, American Blues, Thai dancing, and West African drumming and dancing.
The Upper School kicked off Diversity Forum with a brief meeting to review the activities of the day before heading into workshops covering a multitude of topics facilitated by and featuring many alumni, including Pryce Bevan ’13, Sam Danello ’14, Thomas Duckenfield ’82, Matthew Sheets ’19, Peter Thompson ’08, and Ian Urbina ’90. Six students who attended the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference last fall also presented about takeaways they learned and facilitated spectrum activity with peers that helped them distinguish between facts and opinions. Alumnus and former parent Mark Niles ’84, professor of law at Hofstra University, served as the keynote speaker. Professor Niles explored the origins of Critical Race Theory and discussed why it has become such a polarizing issue. Said Niles, “The important thing is that we discuss important issues and talk about the truth and different ideas, and sometimes I think that is going to make people feel uncomfortable. … That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing.”
Many thanks to students, faculty, and staff on the Diversity Forum planning committee who helped coordinate this wonderful day of conversation and learning and to all of our guests who added to the enrichment of the day!