In response to the recent violent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Head of School Laura Danforth addressed the community to reiterate that Masters’ anti-racism work is an essential component of the School’s philosophy.
In a letter to parents and students sent on May 30, Danforth highlighted the inequalities and injustices that continue to plague the United States and stressed the importance of active education in the work of “recognizing, confronting and dismantling racism.” In that message, Danforth shared the article “Don’t Say Nothing” by Jamilah Pitts of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s long-standing Teaching Tolerance program. Danforth stated that “Neutrality or inaction about racism undermines our mission to be powers for good in the world” and called on both students and parents to accept her call to action of “educating and parenting toward social justice.”
In the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests calling for justice, The Masters School provided several virtual opportunities for students, faculty and administrators to discuss recent tragic incidents and share their collective pain. Director of Equity and Inclusion Karen Brown, who helped lead these conversations, recently said that “We must not only be there for each other, but it is important that we role model what it truly means to be an ally — silence will not suffice.”
At The Masters School, the work toward a more just society is proactive. The upper school diversity ambassadors work year-round to educate the community on issues of social justice ranging from racism and privilege to gender and ability. These student leaders also participate in the annual Saturday Summit on Social Justice, a full-day conference hosted by The Masters School and Rye Country Day School that provides local independent school communities with an opportunity to come together for exciting, meaningful and empowering dialogue on subjects ranging from equity and inclusion to identity and the importance of activism.
In the Middle School, the student-led Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leadership group regularly hosts events aimed at raising awareness around a variety of social issues. Whether it’s a fundraiser for The Innocence Project, a showing of the film “Hidden Figures,” or a multicultural potluck lunch, these initiatives aim to educate students in grades 5 through 8 about issues of diversity, equality and justice in our country and world.
In recent months, the Equity and Inclusion Department, in conjunction with the diversity ambassadors, has held presentations for the parent community on privilege and implicit biases as well as other topics addressing social justice. The School’s Parent Association Equity and Inclusion Committee also recently held a book club discussion on “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.
These are just a few examples of the work that is being done in different areas of the School and with multiple constituencies. Danforth and the school administration recognize that, despite all the efforts taken, there is still work to be done and assure the community that these topics will continue to be at the forefront of educational values at Masters.
In addition to providing a space for education, reflection and introspection, the goal behind these initiatives is to expand the dialogue beyond the most immediate circles of influence.
As Danforth stated in her May 30 letter, “I urge all of us in the Masters community to actively educate ourselves and our families with regard to the pervasive and toxic presence of racism in our world and to commit to being active proponents of social justice. Without this commitment, none of us can reach our potential as powers for good in the world.”