The Haverford School has been educates its parent and faculty/staff communities about the power of diversity through SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity). The national program is adopted by schools and organizations to create conversations around personal, organizational, and societal change toward social justice.
On Feb. 10, the parent and faculty/staff SEED groups, which run separately but cover similar topics, came together to hear from Temple University professor, author, and ethnic and cultural diversity expert Lori Tharps. Tharps presented “Doing Diversity with Intention and Joy” and challenged participants to identify and commit to ways they can become more action-oriented in their quest for and support of diversity.
Tharps began the presentation by tracing her roots from her time in an independent school where she was one of the only people of color, to her enrollment at Smith College in Massachusetts where she strongly aligned with those considered to be “others.” “I had a diverse group of friends who were ‘the other’ -- Jamaican, Thai, Korean -- we bonded over similar experiences.”
I created a diverse community in my own household: I married a Spanish man and we have three children, all with different skin tones and hair textures. My own family make-up required me to look at diversity and to approach it with intention and joy … I didn’t have a choice but to fall in love with diversity. Lori Tharps, professor and author
Tharps continued to be drawn to diverse communities as she looked for places to live and organizations with which to be involved. “I created a diverse community in my own household: I married a Spanish man and we have three children, all with different skin tones and hair textures. My own family make-up required me to look at diversity and to approach it with intention and joy … I didn’t have a choice but to fall in love with diversity.”
Tharps presented data about how diverse workplaces result in enhanced innovation, efficiency, and accuracy; framed diversity as work that requires continual action; and engaged in conversation about how to pursue a more diverse life.
Participants worked together to define diversity, starting first with discussion around what diversity isn’t. “Diversity isn’t forced assimilation,” said Tharps. “Diversity is an action word -- it’s something you do.”
She provided several tips on how to “do” diversity:
- Cultivate a diverse mindset. Champion diversity, talk back to bias, replace judgement with curiosity, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Go on a diversity diet. Pick and choose diverse inputs for your lifestyle, whether it’s the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the books you read, the restaurants where you eat, or the places you worship.
- Find a diversity coach. You are who you are. Start where you are, and identify someone who can help you “do” diversity.
Tharps ended the session with a challenge to begin the journey toward becoming diversity fluent by committing to one item on the diversity diet checklist.
Lori's positive approach to diversity and her emphasis on action steps is a message I think the Haverford community can embrace and act upon. We can get bogged down by the "hows" of doing diversity work. Lori's presentation served as a reminder that healthy community change comes from the combined actions of individuals. Sara Barton, SEED facilitator
“Lori's positive approach to diversity and her emphasis on action steps is a message I think the Haverford community can embrace and act upon,” said Sara Barton, facilitator of the parent SEED group. “We can get bogged down by the "hows" of doing diversity work. Lori's presentation served as a reminder that healthy community change comes from the combined actions of individuals.”
“Diversity should be a requirement, not a goal,” said Tharps. “It is simple, but it is a commitment, it is a practice, and it requires intention. And it results in joy.”
About Lori L. Tharps
Lori L. Tharps is a content creator whose work lands at the intersection of race and popular culture. A public intellectual, Tharps strives to use her words to broaden the conversation about race in America; to challenge racial stereotypes; to dismantle white supremacy; and to celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity whenever possible.
An associate professor of journalism at Temple University, Tharps is also an award-winning author and a mother of three. Originally from Milwaukee, Wis., she now makes her home in Philadelphia, Pa.
Tharps is the author of three critically acclaimed non-fiction books that deal with race, culture and identity; Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America (St. Martin’s), Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain (Atria), and her most recent, Same Family Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families (Beacon).
Tharps is also the author of the novel, Substitute Me (Atria), which explores the complicated relationship between a young white professional woman and her African-American nanny who is not exactly what she seems.