Diversity and Inclusion in NYC Firm Schools

by Gina Parker Collins on March 22, 2010

Gina Parker CollinsOn the eve of my first blog post with I am happy to say that there is a lot to put out there and I welcome feedback from all who look forward to our private and independent schools resembling the micro and macro communities we are tied to.

There are so many things to talk about regarding diversity and inclusion in our Firm Schools that I am tripping over thoughts to share them with you. OK, here is one for you: I was doing a wonderfully inclusionary thing in getting to know a great family only to be disappointed to learn that they are elated to be moving on to a new city, a new job and a new school. The new school was really the icing on the cake for them because it was absolutely evident that their new school was putting their mission where they mouth was by representing an incredibly diverse student population. They also fessed up that had there not been a new job, in a new city-there would have certainly been a new school. You may have guessed from my desire to be inclusionary, that this family was among the dominant culture in our Firm Schools, yet they desired a proper perspective for their budding thespian to thrive from. For them, diversity is not only an imperative, it is reality. So, I had to ask myself, what in the heck am I thinking? Self reflection is so humiliating at times!

Another great contender for a topic (from the P.O.V. of a family of color crazy about independent school education) could have been the top five things a new family of color should do as soon as they sign that contract! I would also have a great time rapping on about how affinity/support groups can strengthen the ties that bind us, by partnering to solve the cultural and business struggles that challenge today’s Firm Schools.

Well, my decision was made rather quickly when my six year old shared two songs he will be singing harmoniously with classmates in an upcoming concert. Common Thread and Siyahamba (a South African Folksong), are two wonderful socially conscious songs. I really like the rhythm of Siyahamba, it’s quite catchy. The words to both encourage our children to march in the light of peace and to rise together in their many colored fabrics made from strands of a common thread. Will they reflect on this common thread when faced with the intolerance on the campuses of our higher learning institutions? Can someone quickly spread these songs, just like the powerful freedom songs of the 60’s on the campuses of UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and Columbia Teacher’s College? How about our upper schools?

I am happy to learn that there is a strong interest and a place to discuss race in our independent schools. The 2009 NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Denver presented a compelling workshop by Hilary North, The Calhoun School, and Jeffrey Cox, Brooklyn Friends School, called, Re-focusing the Diversity Lens: Building Blocks of Anti-Racist Work. And this year’s annual NYSAIS Diversity Conference theme will be, embRACE: Race and Education. Broadway is even talking about this riveting four letter word – can’t wait to see David Mamet’s play called RACE, has anyone seen it?

Let the conversations begin, it makes for good therapy and a healthier environment for our schools, for our children.

About the Contributor: Gina Parker Collins, Founder & President of RIISE, is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of diversity.

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