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Difficult Conversations for Stronger Communities

On Saturday, November 2, St. Clement’s School welcomed representatives from SCS and 8 of our colleague schools for the Race, Privilege, and Community Conference. We were grateful to work with New York-based non-profit Pollyanna Inc. to host their first-ever conference in Canada. The conference brought delegates together to discuss Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) topics and generate action plans to create movement. Students, faculty, administrators, parents, alum, and board members were all included in the discussion.

The conference kicked off in Powell Hall with a powerful keynote address from Annahid Dashtgard, author of the new book Breaking the Ocean: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Reconciliation. Annahid’s talk focused on the theme of belonging, and how the need to belong is a primal one, just as important as the need for food and water. When we belong, we are healthier, we take more risks, we resolve conflicts, we lift others up around us, and we are more resilient. But when we lose a feeling of belonging, we start to disappear. Annahid shared personal experiences of the racism and systemic discrimination she encountered in Canada from a young age, after her mixed-race family immigrated from Iran. She detailed the impact it had on her and her sense of belonging.

Following Annahid’s talk, the conference attendees broke off into constituent groups, before coming back together as a group for student presentations. The day was full of eye-opening, important, and at times uncomfortable discussions, as well as sage advice offered by the students. As Heather Henricks, Vice Principal, Learning, Research, and Innovation said in her opening remarks, such conversations are “complicated, messy, emotional, and absolutely necessary.” Delegates left the conference vowing to take what they had discovered back to their own schools and to continue the DEI discussions.

A special thank you goes out to SCS parents Tracy Pryce and Michael Salamon, whose generous contribution made the Race, Privilege, and Community Conference possible. We also thank our two lead conference organizers, SCS faculty members Aparna Singhal and Ana Fonseca, who worked alongside Vice Principal Heather Henricks for almost a year to bring this event to life.

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