The spring of 2020 was marked by turmoil, not only from the COVID-19 pandemic but from the continued injustices and violence suffered by Black Americans. Witnessing these events unfold, silence was no longer an option for student-activists. Current students and alums of color used their voices to speak out and share their experiences, challenging Calhoun to live up to its promise of being an equitable, anti-racist learning community.
A group of Upper Schoolers came together to form the Diversity and Accountability Board (D.A.B.). Partnering with the school, D.A.B. is actively working to demand the changes necessary to make Calhoun equitable to all community members and to hold decision-makers accountable. Below is D.A.B.’s statement about their work and goals as shared with the Calhoun community:
D.A.B was established in the summer of 2020 amid not only a global pandemic, but a human rights crisis. The murder of innocent Black lives left thousands, including ourselves, in a whirlpool of conflicting emotions. In these difficult times, we have come together to demand change and equity within our Calhoun community. All summer, we have been working closely with the head of the Upper School, Daniel Isquith, as well as administrators and faculty like John Gentile, Eric Osorio, Martha Fischhoff, Meghan Chidsey and Ellen Kwon. Below you will find some information about the work we have been doing and plan to do in the future that we feel is important to share with our community.
Summer 2020 Work & Progress
Mandatory Affinity Spaces
This past summer, D.A.B, worked closely with the administration to create a more reliable, efficient and actively anti-racist affinity program. In past years, students who did not want to attend affinity groups would only be required to passively (if at all) participate in a town hall space that didn't fully align with our hopes for more robust anti-racist engagement. Taking this into consideration, we at D.A.B decided to remove the town meeting option because it does not function as an anti-racist space, but rather a space to sit in comfort and silence. We have decided that all students and faculty should be required to attend affinity spaces and engage in interesting, collaborative and difficult race-based dialogue for the 2020-2021 school year.
These spaces will not only be racially and ethnically diverse, but will bring together students from across grade levels. We will have one affinity group meeting each month, for a total of nine affinity group meetings this year. Throughout the school year, students will choose an affinity group based on how they self-identify in regards to race. We are aware that everyone is at a different place in their lives when it comes to their own racial development; keeping that in mind, throughout this summer, D.A.B. has been working hard to accommodate everyone. We have been creating a curriculum with other teachers experienced in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work to cover topics such as personal identity and social issues around the world.
Another idea we might incorporate in the future is cross-racial spaces, which will occur towards the end of the school year. Cross-racial groups are groups of about 12 students with one student facilitator and one teacher facilitator. These groups will serve as spaces to learn and discuss topics such as race, privilege, gaslighting, etc. Students will still be able to go to affinity groups while attending cross-racial groups.
Here you will find an FAQ that will address many of the questions you may have about affinity spaces.
9th Grade 101
Another space D.A.B. plans to develop, expand and make actively anti-racist is the 9th Grade 101 class. 9th Grade 101 was designed as a class to give all 9th graders the information and tools they need to be successful in high school. In the past, this has included study skills, social-emotional support, connection to various administrators and other staff, and related activities. Along with this information, we seek to insert a unit into the curriculum dedicated to providing students with the tools they need to be able to have conversations involving race.
Our goal for this shift in curriculum is to have 9th graders become more comfortable exploring questions surrounding race and identity, while also preparing them to participate in affinity groups and other conversations about race. These lessons will help students have a common vocabulary and baseline understanding of key concepts. Through 9th Grade 101, we can provide students with the materials to build fundamental skills, providing us with common ground to build on in the future. Examples of topics we may include in the 9th Grade 101 course curriculum include:
Racial identity: Who am I? How do I understand myself?
Implicit bias and stereotyping
Racism: How do we define racism? What does it look like on individual, institutional, structural, and systemic levels?
Historical underpinnings of racism in the United States
Our End Goal/Future
We carefully and intentionally created D.A.B. to last many years at Calhoun. The problems we would like to tackle will take much longer than one year to address. Our work goes beyond us, and our goal is to continue to tackle racial issues in our community each year. We are mindful that although other facets of identity aren't our focus, we are not going to be ignoring those important intersections. For the year of 2020-2021, our goal is to reimagine the structure of affinity groups, put one in place that works to educate others on what it takes to be anti-racist, while also guiding them in their journey to learning about their identity through the lens of race.
Our second main goal for this school year is to create a curriculum within 9th Grade 101 that supplies 9th graders with the tools to build fundamental skills to have race-based conversations in and out of school. And our last and most important goal along with these two structures, is creating a more comfortable space for BIPOC students overall. Yes, Calhoun has a long way to go in accomplishing this; however, this work goes beyond us, and this is only the beginning.
The founders of the Diversity and Accountability Board (D.A.B.) are Basma E. '23, Lauren H.'22, Sokhnamai K. '22, Lauryn M. '21, Emily B. '21, Jacob D.'21, Sebastian T. '21, Omar A-B. '21, Ava E. '21, Kyra F. '21, Fiordalise D-L. '21 and Shanely P. '21.
To learn more about Calhoun’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work, as well as its Anti-Racist Action Plan, click here.