On Saturday, November 7, 2020, Winsor was honored to host the virtual AISNE Middle School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Conference. Winsor’s Head of Lower School Sharon Jones Phinney, and Director of Community and Inclusion and history faculty Julian Braxton, worked with members of AISNE to organize, host and moderate the inspired agenda for the day. Winsor faculty facilitated nine workshops, based on courses and discussions they lead with students and peers at Winsor.
On behalf of AISNE and The Winsor School, Mr. Braxton and Ms. Jones Phinney gratefully shared the following summary of the conference:
The conference brought together 470 middle school students and 155 faculty and administrators from 63 independent schools across New England, as well as invited guests from the Nwankwo family, The Steppingstone Foundation, and Camp Harbor View.
Our conference theme was Building Bridges to Activism: Empowered by the Past, Focused on the Future
. Maddie Cheng (IV) and Katina Handrinos (IV) introduced the morning keynote speaker, Joddy Nwankwo
, Dorchester resident, Stepping Stones Scholar, graduate of Beaver Country Day School, and currently a junior at Stanford University studying Medical Anthropology. Joddy spoke about the importance of medical health in communities of color and why she is compelled to pursue this passion. She empowered students to be activists for the cause of justice.
Following Joddy’s powerful opening, students were offered 18 workshop groups and there were two workshop opportunities for participating adults. In our workshops, faculty members, administrators and student leaders from AISNE member schools facilitated deep dialogues about topics including Black Lives Matter, immigration, microaggressions, stereotypes, expression through music, dance and social media, and much more. Each of these workshops provided new perspectives and resources about what it means to be an activist and how to get started.
After our workshops and a short break, we reconvened to meet trailblazer and American civil rights activist Ruby Nell Bridges Hall
. Zora Chirunga (III) and Saratu Waya (III) introduced Ms. Bridges who graciously opened the floor to hear any and all questions on middle schoolers’ minds, about her experience at the age of six, being the first student to integrate into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Ruby shared powerful messages about the importance of seeing people for who they are as people, not for the color of their skin. While it would be moving to hear from Ruby Bridges any day, it was particularly moving to be learning from her as we also received news the first Black woman of South Asian descent had been elected as Vice President of the United States of America. All of our middle school students will be receiving a digital copy of Ruby's book, This is Your Time
We asked Kabir Sen
to participate in the conference because he is both a talented teacher and Hip Hop artist extraordinaire. Kabir wrote a rap based on the conference theme, Building Bridges to Activism, Empowered by the Past, Focused on the Future
. His live performance was moving and beautifully captured the sentiment of the purpose of the conference.
It is always powerful when we come together as our community of independent schools across New England, to share and learn from one another, and to support each other’s growth and development.
Julian K. Braxton, The Winsor School
Sharon Jones Phinney, The Winsor School
Kristin Bedard, AISNE