In Dec. 2013, Antonia Haley ’14, Marcela Riddick ’16 and Zaire Dupont-Armstrong ’16 attended the National Association of Independent School’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in Washington DC. The girls engaged in various workshops and activities about the importance and definition of diversity, and about how to identify and discuss diversity in their own communities.
According to the Director of SDLC, more than 1300 private school students from all around the world were selected to attend the conference. They were divided into “family” groups of roughly 60 students, who spent several hours a day sharing stories and learning about diversity.
In their family groups, the girls learned about “the seven identifiers” that make people diverse, and what assumptions and stereotypes go along with those identifiers. The seven core identifiers are: race, gender, sexuality, age, religion, socioeconomic status, and ability. The SDLC administrators recognize, however, that there is an endless list of personal identifiers.
Students also gathered in “affinity groups” where they talked about issues specifically concerning their race and sexual orientation and participated in unifying activities. For example, each member of the multi-racial affinity group designed their own puzzle piece with their race(s) and other characteristics that make them diverse and combined them in a mosaic that symbolized the beauty of diversity. One participant described his time in his affinity group as “an extraordinary experience to learn about other peoples’ stories.”
On the last day of the conference, author Stacyann Chin spoke to both the students and chaperones and read from her book, “The Other Side Of Paradise.” Chin is famous for discussing issues of race and sexuality in her writing.
Archer teachers Beth Gold and Talia Geffen chaperoned the girls to Washington DC. and continued to their own conference called the PoCC (People of Color Conference). Teachers and chaperones from around the globe discussed the progress and problems they face trying to promote diversity at their school. Gold says some teachers talked about “how much resistance they have encountered in trying to set up GSA groups on campus, which is something that Archer students take for granted.”
Diversity conferences allow students to express their individuality and learn about their growing community. “Knowledge battles ignorance,” said Riddick, “so the more we can learn and teach others the more accepting the world will be.”
For a more personal in depth view of the SDLC, look out for Riddick’s blog about her experience, which will be published in the Oracle’s Voices section when we return from winter break.