In December, 13 adults and eight students from Nobles joined more than 5,000 people for the 24th People of Color Conference (PoCC) and the 18th Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The three-day conference brought participants from around the nation as well as Bermuda, Jordan and the United Kingdom to Philadelphia, Pa., to celebrate and promote equity and justice for people of color in independent schools.
Opening ceremony keynote speaker Wes Moore—author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates—shared his story of hardship, perseverance and triumph. Growing up in a single-parent household in struggling neighborhoods in Maryland and Brooklyn, N.Y., his mother made sacrifices to send him to private school. However, Moore struggled academically and personally. “I found myself too rich for the kids in the neighborhood and too poor for the kids at school,” he said. Moore appreciates the educators and mentors who “never gave up” on him. He said, “Life is about the decisions we make and the people who help us make these decisions. I was surrounded by people—role models and mentors—who pushed me to see beyond what’s in front of me.” He compared his life to that of another Wes Moore, his age, who also lived in the same low-income neighborhood in Maryland in a single-parent household. The other Wes Moore was in prison for armed robbery before the age of 21. Moore contemplated how two people from similar backgrounds could find such different paths.
Moore advised students to think about their education in the bigger picture and focus less on grades. “Education can’t simply be all about what you learned, but about what you give,” he said. “What did you do to make humanity better?”
Attending lectures, workshops, affinity group meetings and performances of music, dance and slam poetry, participants networked with educators from all over the world. Nobles faculty and staff attended session about racism-related stressors, socioeconomics, diversity initiatives, affinity groups, and racial and cultural identity development. In nine affinity groups divided by race and ethnicities, they reflected on their past, present and future through drawings and group discussions.
In SDLC, student facilitators led a variety of activities in family and affinity groups. They shared stories and discussed issues of race, gender, socioeconomic status and religion. Students analyzed stereotypes attributed to different ethnic groups as well and to students of color in independent schools. Using those discussions, students led adults in a workshop on the last day of the conference.
Jaida Judge ’13 who represented Nobles as a student leader in the student-led adult/student dialogue said, “I don’t want to say that I was close-minded [prior to SDLC], but this experience has really opened my mind. It let me look at issues [in terms of the] bigger picture. You’re put in positions where you’re uncomfortable, and you’re surrounded by people who have many different views. You’re challenged to think in different ways.”