People of Color Conference 2015

By Brian Johnson, Diversity Coordinator & Director of Admission (grades 1-7)

Earlier this month, Matt Eskin, Madeline Ortiz-Leonard, Katrina Jones, Catherine Bogart-Rome, Frances Hoover, and I attended the National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference in Tampa, Florida.  The focus of the annual conference is to provide a safe place and environment for people of color and white allies from Independent schools across the nation to share ideas, learn new strategies/concepts and cultivate/maintain networks.  The 4,300 students, teachers and administrators in attendance made this year’s conference the largest ever in its 28-year history. Two TPS alumni in attendance were Madison Harris. Ray Hill-Cristol, and Amma Thomas.

Conference highlights included a sit-down conversation with Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White.  Irving's book was our faculty’s summer reading book and the focus of a recent four-part TPS parent book talk. We also heard from many great speakers who have accomplished much in the field of diversity and inclusion work.  Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to go to space, spoke at length on the importance of STEAM education and the promotion of careers in the sciences for females and students of color. Harvard social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, creator of the Implicit Association Test (which measures implicit bias towards people), gave a captivating presentation about her work. Her battery of tests has been used in the private and public sectors to mitigate bias in the workplace and in the hiring process.

TPS staff attended numerous workshops over the course of the conference.  Notable topics included: applying Critical Race Theory to school policies and practices, the role of diversity in the hiring process, the impact of implicit bias, the effects of microaggressions, strategies to support black male students, and the promotion of racial identity development amongst students and white privilege in our schools.

For many participants, the conference also represents a time to re-energize, soul search and self-reflect.  The shared time with like-minded people can be very invigorating and have a big impact on one’s journey with diversity.  In the spirit of reflective practice, each TPS participant walked away with new goals and mindsets to apply as a diversity practitioner in our community.