Last week, I had the honor of attending the 32nd annual (my 20th) National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Seattle, along with 4 of my dear colleagues: Hanan, Kemmeo, Alex, and Paolo––It was amazing! This conference provides a unique opportunity for People of Color and their allies to come together to explore the complexities of race, identity, power, and social dynamics in independent schools.
For all of us, one of the highlights was participating in the affinity groups. Hanan expressed a sincere appreciation for being with other Arab, Persian and Southwest Asian folks. Paolo noted what an honor it was to be in the room with such diverse difference-makers. He observed “The speakers, especially Dr. Joy DeGruy, lit a passion in me with her presentation, which I felt blessed to be a part of. Resilience and dedication are a life blood for People of Color, and to hear the history told through so many lenses was amazing.“ For me, being at the PoCC is also a reminder of my deep connection to a larger community of educators and of my own commitment and responsibility to engage in courageous conversations that support transformation and shifting paradigms toward awareness and equity.
Historically, the PoCC has drawn between 3500 and 4500 attendees. This year, over 7000 independent school educators attended, making it the largest conference in NAIS history. We came together, recognizing the fierce urgency of engaging this moment in our social and political climate, to improve ourselves with an eye to making the world a better place for everyone, especially our students.
The conference opened with a powerful call to action by Dr. Joy DeGruy, an internationally renowned researcher and educator in the area of racism and trauma, and it ended with sociologist Pedro Noguero, Center for the Transformation of Schools, UCLA, discussing how social and economic conditions impact schools. In between, over 700 workshop were offered, and we heard from author and entrepreneur Mike Walsh; activist, lawyer, and filmmaker Valarie Kaur; and editor and journalist Anand Giridharadas.
We are blessed to be part of a community where our White colleagues not only supported our attending this important conference, but many also thoughtfully engaged in their own work together, examining identity, power, privilege, and roles and responsibilities of allyship.
My hope is that this is only the beginning of our work around race, identity, and social constructs. As our self-awareness and our capacity for understanding one another grows, we will better serve our children and our community. I look forward to continuing to engage in this important work with you.