At the end of November, I attended the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) 31st Annual People of Color Conference. The Conference theme was “Equitable Schools and Inclusive Communities: Harmony, Discord, and the Notes In Between.” The meeting was held in Nashville, and it was the first time I had attended.
The conference was huge: roughly 6,400 educators from independent schools across the country gathered at Nashville’s vast Music City Center. The workshops were divided into a number of categories, including Anti-Racist Teaching, Equity and Justice Exemplars, Organizational Development and Institutional Change, and Racial and Social Justice and Activism. In addition, there were large general sessions with prominent speakers and a number of affinity groups.
NAIS writes in the overview of the conference that it hopes participants leave the conference “feeling renewed, re-energized and recommitted.” There’s no question that I left feeling just that way.
I also left with a shared experience, hearing my colleagues’ stories and appreciating the challenges so many of them face in moving their schools down this path towards understanding and consideration. It was an emotional few days, a time filled with thoughtful personal and professional reflection for all in attendance.
After the conference, I returned from Nashville to attend the second annual Dorris Roberts Memorial Celebration at TCS, a beautiful and inspiring tribute to one of our most influential teachers. While I never had the pleasure of meeting Dorris, I listened to her family, friends, and former colleagues speak about her life, her love, and her legacy.
Former TCS Director, Peter Wilson, delivered a message that he explained was, in Dorris’ way, “speaking truth with love.” Peter shared that for a period of time in the 1980s, Dorris was the only person of color on the TCS faculty and staff. While his message included a warm celebration of Dorris, he also reminded us that the work the school began on issues of equity and inclusion decades ago remains a work in progress and that we must be vigilant in our pursuit of social justice.
I couldn’t agree more. As we continue our search for a new Director of Equity and Inclusion, we have frequently said inside the school that this effort, which will be led by this new director, is all of our work. It takes the dedication of the entire community to continue down the path that has been set for us, and the work should be intentional, thoughtful, and celebrated.
As a white attendee of the People of Color Conference, I certainly listened closely to those who spoke about everyone’s role in advancing equity and inclusion programs. In one session, I felt that one description was particularly apt: “Allies in this work constantly educate themselves, and they never give up.”