Students and faculty came together on Tuesday, Jan. 27 to celebrate, learn and understand diverse cultures and identities within and outside Archer.
Diversity Day, an annual conference organized by the Archer community, is an event that “underscores our commitment to an ongoing exploration of our commonalities and differences,” according to Archer’s mission statement.
“The diversity conference is a unique opportunity for all community members to come together and explore the many facets of diversity,” Dean of Students Gretchen Warner shared in an email.
“This event gives students and faculty a shared experience of coming together to learn about a new topic, hear from a keynote speaker or discuss and reflect on what it means that Archer is a community committed to cultural competency,” Warner continued. She has been planning and executing the conference for four years.
To start off the day, the Archer community welcomed Derrick Gay, a nationally renowned educational consultant, teacher, musical director and linguist. Gay has taught different schools in Delaware, Massachusetts and New York. Currently, Gay serves as a resource to schools around the world to foster more inclusive school communities.
Gay also spoke at the 2011 diversity conference at Archer as a guest speaker, where he led a workshop entitled, “Hair Me Out,” which uses hair as a metaphor to examine identity.
This year, Gay educated the Archer students and faculty through his keynote presentation “Do You See What I See? Probably Not,” which examined the importance of words and power of language on identity.
Gay led students and teachers through a few activities to convey individuality through different identifiers and perspectives. He also expressed the dangers of stereotypes, jokes and the absence of authentic stories, all of which may cause discomfort in our community.
“Your world view sets a template for what is assumed ‘normal’ and therefore not questioned,” Gay shared.
After Gay’s keynote presentation, each grade level separated into paired advisory sessions to debrief and provide insight on the presentation. Students began to brainstorm ideas on how the Archer community can use Gay’s messages to help the school become more open and inclusive.
“By being open-minded about what he had to say instead of comparing what he had to say to other speakers, we can change our perspective on diversity and become a more open community,” Kendra Casey ’16 said.
While upper school students listened to Gay’s presentation, the middle schoolers watched “I AM ELEVEN,” a movie highlighting the lives and thoughts of children around the world.
The Diversity Committee put together a presentation to showcase the diverse talents and cultures within the Archer community. The ninth and 11th grade gathered in the Library, while the 10th and 12th grade gathered in the Rose Room. To start off the segment, the Diversity Committee shared a quote that encompasses the overall purpose of Archer’s Diversity Day:
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other the space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion.” -American businessman and writer, Max De Pree
With performances ranging from singing and dancing to reciting poems and sharing stories, the Archer community saw a new side to their peers.
Marcela Riddick ’16 shared a poem entitled “The Apology” written by her friend, Asianna Santiago, who attends Princeton Day School in Princeton, New Jersey.
Members from Archer’s Dance Troupe showcased a small snippet from their African and Hip Hop dances that will be performed at this year’s Night of Dance on Feb. 21 and 22.
Dr. Seales spoke about the history of her native country, Panama, and her experiences as an Afro-Latina woman facing prejudices and adjusting to the culture in the U.S.
The culminating performance was a Bollywood dancing activity led by Anika Bhavnani ’17. This was followed by a group sing to “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson, led by choir director Kate Burns and the upper school choir.
In the afternoon, Archer students and faculty attended two different seminars that they selected at the beginning of the month. Seminars facilitated by students, teachers and outside organizations highlighted topics of religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, ability, race and identity.
“I work with a team of parent volunteers, faculty advisors, and student representatives to solicit feedback on previous seminars and speakers, seek out new topics and ideas and figure out ways to facilitate interesting and provocative discussions,” Warner said.
Erica Dick ’18 attended a seminar entitled “Beyond the Brochure: Investigating ‘Diversity’ in Colleges and Universities,” presented by Archer’s College Guidance counselor Scottie Hill.
“Many colleges combine the statistics for students of color with first-generation students, which isn’t necessarily true. It was an eye-opening experience to see what colleges are publicizing and learn what the statistics in brochures actually mean,” Dick said.
Although the Archer community only designates one day out of the school year to highlight diversity, students try to carry on the conversation of diversity by actively learning and understanding other cultures and traditions.
“Everyday, I seek to learn more about more peers and am always amazed when I learn something new. Something about their culture, their family, their story,” Sarah Boehm ’16 said. “It aids in my understanding of diversity in the Archer community.”