Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Holy Child
Dear Students, Parents, Alumnae, Faculty, Staff, and Friends,
I apologize for the Friday evening communication, but I wanted to send this email now so you are able to read, reflect, and digest this email over the weekend.
I am grateful to the members of our community who have reached out over the past three weeks as our nation responds to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among countless others. The despair in our hearts after watching recordings of these murders — coupled with a long list of names of slain Black men, women, and children — have inspired a call to action for our nation to address systemic racism and oppression. Many of you have spoken up about the injustices, discrimination, and prejudice that you have experienced, whether on our campus or in our broader society, and have called Holy Child to action.
Connelly School of the Holy Child can and must do more to expand our diversity and promote inclusion and equity in our community, particularly to support Black students and alumnae who have voiced concerns. You shared stories of microaggressions, code switching, feelings of invisibility, sadness, and resentment experienced within the halls of Holy Child and in your communities. I am grateful for the bravery of our students and alumnae for sharing their stories. On behalf of all of us at Connelly School of the Holy Child, I am profoundly sorry. I am committed, along with my administration and the Board of Trustees at Holy Child, to be an agent of change and do our part to end racial injustice and inequality. It is our moral obligation and our appointed mission from Cornelia Connelly.
I am partnering with our students, parents, alumnae, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees on this journey. This is most certainly a time of discernment for the school and for me personally. I will continue to listen to the experiences and recommendations from everyone in our community to fully inform our work and strengthen our mission to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive school. Some of our immediate steps include:
- Hosting an open conversation this past week with students, parents, faculty, and staff with the topic of “Unpacking These Troubling Times.” This was a discussion facilitated by alumnae parent, Leona Ba, and a presentation by Social Studies Department Chair, Brian Brown, on the history of racism in the United States followed by an open discussion amongst the group.
- Supporting the Student Diversity Committee’s Tigers for Black Lives protest caravan on Monday, June 15th.
- Hosting an alumnae discussion on “Diversity, Inclusion, and Holy Child” on Wednesday, June 17th at 8pm. Please RSVP here.
- Requiring all faculty and staff to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo this summer and hosting follow-up conversations with them throughout the summer on the book. We plan to continue this initiative during the school year with a diversity, equity, and inclusion book club for deeper discussions around important topics. Have a recommendation for books? Please let us know.
- Developing next steps in our diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan for the 2020-2021 academic year with the administration next week, as planned. This plan will include re-examining the curriculum; continuing to create student life opportunities; continued training of students, faculty, and staff; review of hiring practices and teacher evaluations; as well as student and teacher codes of conduct.
- Planning for more in-depth diversity, equity, and inclusion training for the Board, administration, faculty, staff, and students prior to the start of the next school year.
- Creating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committees on the Parent Association and the Alumnae Council.
- Continuing to work with our Board of Trustees Diversity Officer Odis Braxton, Jr. in developing the right path forward for the Board and school.
This is just the beginning. The work listed above and the work set before us will make Holy Child a stronger school. We all benefit from discussions that encourage creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving to help dismantle systems of inequality. I ask you to join us on this journey. To that end, I will be working closely with Katia Vargas, Multicultural Diversity Coordinator, as we move this work forward. We continue to welcome and greatly appreciate your questions, feedback, and ideas.
This week, our Christian Service Coordinator, Ogechi Akalegbere, shared this remarkable quotation from Sr. Thea Bowman during our conversations with students, faculty, and staff.
“What does it mean to be black and Catholic?” asked Sr. Thea. “It means that I bring myself, my black self. All that I am. All that I have. All that I hope to become. I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the church.”
This is a critical time, not only for Holy Child, but for our country. I am inspired by the courage and strength of our community, specifically the students and alumnae who have taken action. I hope you will join me in the fight against racial injustice and inequality because Black lives matter.
Actions Not Words,
Dr. Shannon Gomez