In late November, a group of Madeira students and adults traveled to the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and the People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Anaheim, CA. The two conferences, with almost 6,000 attendees total this year, run concurrently and are both organized by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Those attending from Madeira included Zoe Crawley ’18, Isabel Kim ’19, Perrin McHugh ’19, and Tarina Ahuja ’20, as well as Assistant Head of School Andre Withers, Student Diversity Board faculty sponsor and science teacher Chandra Smith, science teacher Joel Wallace, and English teacher Becky Zahradnik.
According to the PoCC program: “PoCC thrives because of its distinctive mission and the focused opportunity it offers to examine and advance educational issues through the lens of people of color and their experiences in independent schools. The rich and complex diversity of our attendees – coupled with the critical thought, knowledge, and perspective they bring – challenges the status quo, drives professional and personal growth, and develops and renews a culture of racial equity, social justice, and inclusion in our schools.”
There were many featured speakers, including opening speaker Professor Kimberlé Crenshawr and closing speaker Ta-Nehisi Coates. Professor Crenshaw spoke on what intersectionality truly is, since she coined the term, and what it means for those working in equity and justice. Mr. Coates participated in a moderated conversation focused on his writings on race and racism in the United States.
During the conference, students attended workshops, affinity groups, and activities meant to explore diversity, equity, and justice in their own lives and to develop their skills as leaders in this work, especially with their peers. They bonded with students from other schools who are invested in the same goals. The adults also had access to a PoCC Makerspace that was co-created and staffed by our own Chandra Smith. In addition, Andre Withers hosted a workshop during the preconference events titled “From Diversity Practices to Strategic Diversity Initiatives: The Path to a Sustained, Inclusive Culture.”
Students and adults alike found the experience educational, affirming, and empowering, and returned ready to bring some of this same experience to all of Madeira. To this end, there will be an All School Meeting organized by the attendees and members of the Student Diversity Board on January 26th to share knowledge and inspire greater understanding in our community.