Dear Orchard Friends and Families,
It has been less than a week since people around the world have seen the video footage of the death of George Floyd. We heard bystanders pleading for his release, and Mr. Floyd himself repeating to Minneapolis Police Department Officer Chauvin, “I can’t breathe.” We have witnessed this scene too many times, heard this painful plea before, and in the days since George Floyd’s death, the heartbreak and grief throughout our country and in our own city of Indianapolis are real, and raw, and overwhelming. The list of lives that have been lost is so very, very long. And the pursuit of justice, and the ability for everyone to live their lives free of discrimination and violence, too often feels out of reach.
But in the midst of tragedy and loss, we also turn our collective efforts to facing the work that must be done to address racism. The American writer and activist James Baldwin observed that “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Facing what must be changed requires that we recognize our individual and collective grief and anger. That we acknowledge the great disparities that have existed for so long, and have been laid bare by a global pandemic. And that we take the time to listen, to reflect, to come together in community with one another, and to plan for intentional, peaceful actions that can help end the violence experienced by so many, for so long.
Last week Orchard faculty member Myra Haase and Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lisa Pryor shared their reflections with faculty and staff following the death of George Floyd, and helped us frame our shared work as educators who are responsible to the children in our care. Lisa asked of us, “What action are you committed to taking right now to begin or continue your work in anti-bias training?” That question is key to our school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work, and I’d like to share some of the resources that Lisa, Myra, and many others within our school community have found helpful.
For conversations with children:
As you reflect and connect and find intentional ways to take action in the days and weeks ahead, please read the letter that Dr. Dawn K. Batson, Vice-Chair of Orchard’s Board of Trustees, and Chair of our Diversity Committee, has shared below. We are grateful for the broad community and many voices who are committed to making our school, our city, our country, and our world places where every person is seen, known and loved.
With love and solidarity,
Sherri C. Helvie, Ph.D.
Head of School
Chair of the Board of Trustees
President of the Board of Governors
Can We Cry?
Today, someone somewhere cries for black sons and daughters. Tears that fulminate against systems that propagate, disseminate and perpetuate inequities created to preserve power. In a perfect world, all would cry and the deluge would obliterate the quest for dominance and spawn equity. In this imperfect world, however, as we simultaneously deal with the emotional, physical and mental traumas of a pandemic and the assault on human rights and bodies in Minneapolis, Louisville and in many other places, we find ourselves at a loss. How do we guide our children when we ourselves search for answers?
The first step is to listen. Many of our children are aware though they may not verbalize that awareness. Aware of their privilege, or aware that their bodies and souls too, are susceptible to the whims of an unjust world. Allow them the space to express their fears and their apprehensions. Secondly, give them the tools with which to fight - a sense of pride in their social and cultural identities and respect for the identities of others - teach them about those who came before and those who are here; emphasize equity rather than equality - today we may all have a fish but tomorrow if only one of us has a rod and a pond full of fish, there is no equity; teach them about inclusion - welcoming others into their circle regardless of color, creed, religion or any other societally imposed divisions. Finally, allow them the space, if they wish, to devise ways to address the injustices that they observe.
For us as adults there are no easy answers but introspection, empathy and action can stand us in good stead. An honest look within and without - an unvarnished examination of ourselves and our communities; an effort, if not to walk in other’s shoes, to at least imagine how they feel without telling them what to feel; and finally do what we can to move our world forward. Perhaps extend a hand of true friendship, read and pursue education about the issues at hand, speak out rather than speak for, march with humility, stand with and for besieged communities, use our influence to change structural inequities when we see them and most importantly, give ourselves permission to cry.
Dawn K Batson, Ph.D.
Chair, Diversity Committee of the Board of Trustees
The Orchard School