By Jasmine Love
Back in the early Sixties, (yes I am that old), I went to what we then called “private” schools. My parents felt that as African American Indian children, it would be better for my siblings and me to attend a private school, especially given the climate in the country. If you know American history, you know the Sixties were turbulent times with a lot of violent tension between different races that sometimes spilled into schools.
I was born during the Civil Rights movement, six years before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
Integration was still a new concept for many people, and the public schools in the city where I grew up were not particularly safe places for children with dark skin, either physically or emotionally.
There were parents who did not want their children going to school with African American students, and even some teachers who thought that we were not as smart.
So my parents researched and chose a private school where they hoped their children would be safe and receive an equal education. There we were able to embrace our African and Indian roots.
There were only four students “of color” in my school, and two were related to me. It was very difficult being in the minority and feeling every day like there was a big spotlight on me.
Now over 40 years later, (I told you I was old), I choose to work in independent schools, and like my parents, feel they can be places where everyone is accepted and feel like they belong.
I learned about Chadwick through Ms. Sykes, long before she was thinking about leaving. I held the same job in another school, so she and I would share resources and talk about what our schools were doing.
When she told me Chadwick was looking for her replacement, I jumped at the chance. Not only would I get to teach history, I would also be the “Director of Multiculturalism and Inclusion” just like at my last job. In short, I feel like my job is to help to make sure everyone feels like they belong at Chadwick. AND THAT MEANS EVERYONE!
When I came for my interview, it was the first time I’d been on the beautiful Chadwick campus. I was thrilled to see so many different races and cultures represented. But I also know that you cannot see ninety percent of who a person is, so even more diversity existed underneath the surface.
As I learned more about Mrs. Chadwick, I feel that she was the original Director of Multiculturalism and Inclusion. Seventy-five years ago, she welcomed diverse children of all races and religions into this school, which was unheard of at the time.
I believe that this school has had a big head start in understanding differences, and this means that we can continue to have courageous conversations around issues of diversity.
I believe that every single person is a person of diversity. As people told me their stories, I learned that we have one of the most diverse and interesting groups of students, faculty and staff that I have ever met.
That diversity comes in the form of experiences, age, race, culture, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity (which is not the same as sexual orientation), ability levels, religion, language, region, and on and on and on. We can’t make any assumptions about who people are. In fact, if we let people self-identify, we learn so much more.
Sometimes people feel very uncomfortable talking about differences, but I want to encourage everyone to lean into that discomfort and talk about why. Thank goodness we are not all the same. Being different makes us stronger. But we share a lot of commonalities as well, so I like to find the parallels and intersections.
On a final note, Chadwick is taking fifteen faculty and staff and eleven students to the People of Color Conference and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in San Diego. What a commitment! I really feel like I’ve landed in heaven.
No, I am not naïve, I know there is lots of work to do, but we are ahead of the game.
I know this isn’t paradise, but in my world, it’s pretty darn close. Plus check it out: teachers get to write in the student newspaper!