Be Part of Our Change
Recently, a group of employees gathered via zoom to share our own emotions regarding the horrifying murders of Black Americans and the resulting protests, including a Black Lives March here in Bethel. The overwhelmingly heartbreaking questions of, How can this possibly be happening – still? Why is this happening? filled our space.
In 2020 alone, we have seen, literally seen, Black and Brown people murdered in their bed, tortured and killed on the street, and shot down while jogging. We can’t help but pose those questions out of disbelief and disgust.
In a community, seemingly distant from those horrors, Gould is aware that we must incorporate and honor the experiences and voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). In the past year, Bethany Allen ’89, Program Director at Peer Health Exchange, began work with the faculty sharing her own experience as a student at Gould as well as her professional expertise on how to bring the voices of our marginalized people to the center of the community.
During that time, it became evident that the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the students wanted and needed more direct focus on these efforts. Strategies to build a task force, support professional development, and perhaps dedicate employment resources began to take form. These strategies stand on the already existing efforts of faculty to incorporate essential voices in our curriculum (Katie Stack’s course, History of Indigenous Peoples in America) and required summer reading for faculty (Stamped Kendi, Reynolds).
The past month, we have heard from alumni and students that we are not acting swiftly or decisively enough. Which is fair. Because the truth is that we are behind in this work. And the work we must do is answer the very questions we pose in our disbelief. How can this possibly still be happening? Why is this happening? There are answers. There are reasons. And if we allow ourselves to ask the questions, we must require ourselves to seek the answers. One way in which we are seeking answers is in reaching out to alumni and students who have voiced their concerns on Gould social media. Those conversations have been rich with experiential knowledge, suggestions, and offers to support Gould in furthering our work regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
We are grateful to the alumni who have spoken out, reached out, and are helping us understand how we need to change moving forward.
This systemic social, emotional, physical violence that has sustained “white privilege” (a term that is a politically correct way of recognizing the inherent racism in the United States) economic distortion of equity, social outcasting, and justified violence against Black and Brown men, women and children can be found just outside the normative history books we teach in our classrooms. Therefore, as educators, we are committed to a comprehensive curriculum audit that will seek out the voices not being heard and bring them into our teaching.
When we talk about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we will examine and continue to ask,
- diverse from what?
- Equity regarding what?
- Inclusion to where?
We might want to add Access or Belonging to those words. But again, these are merely nouns where we need verbs. Action verbs. We are committed to examining our community programming, our social-emotional spaces for wellness, and how we empower students to be fully human and learn how to interact with each other as fully human.
Gould Academy has a long history. That history has not been held accountable to an expectation of creating a community with representation even from the Indigenous Tribes that inhabited the land on which we are built. We will commit to building capacity for BIPOC students and faculty.
Like our country, our history does not have to define us.
There is a building consciousness in the Gould community at large. A consciousness that requires and expects accountability for these transgressions of our history. A consciousness that has been surfaced by faculty at Gould. A consciousness that has been spoken from Alumni, most recently Alumni who have said, enough is enough. A consciousness that is being demanded by George Floyd Jr., by Breonna Taylor, by Ahmaud Arbery. A consciousness that has marched in the streets of cities and towns all over the country, including Bethel. A consciousness that cannot continue to be ignored. To be ignored would be to tragically dismiss allegations of racism in our country and community. It would categorically perpetuate the inherent racism in our institution.
How can this still be happening? Why are Black and Brown people still being murdered in front of us? We know how to find answers to these questions, even if we don’t know the answers yet. And we will. With your help, we can change. With the leadership of the school. With the determination of the faculty. With the continued accountability to fully prepare our students to be “ethical citizens who will lead lives of purpose, action, excellence, and compassion in a dynamic world,” we will seek these answers and learn to fight against our own sustained privilege.
At this moment, we are asking you, alumni, and students, to share with us your voice, your experiences, your expectations of Gould.
We want to hear as many of you as are willing to speak truth with courage. If you are willing to contribute to this work for change, please be in touch with me. We have several people standing by to listen. Those of us who don’t live in fear must work harder than ever to transform the very systems that perpetuate emotional, social, and physical violence.