The Haverford School Diversity Alliance organized two events to mark the National Day of Silence in April. The National Day of Silence is a student-led demonstration organized by GSLEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, where LGBTQ+ students and allies take a vow of silence to protest the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in schools. It began in the 1990s.
On Tuesday, April 20, the DA, led by Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Brendon Jobs and Upper School DEI Coordinator Katharine Hudson, organized an Upper School assembly featuring Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart. Washington-Leapheart, who serves as the Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs for the city of Philadelphia, presented “Queering Silence – From Weapon to Art Form” and discussed how intentional silence is a form of power.
Washington-Leapheart discussed the phenomenon of ghosting or giving the silent treatment as a way to protect yourself from pain, or to inflict harm. She then shared her thoughts on how participation in the National Day of Silence can instead bring awareness to social issues.
“The National Day of Silence to me represents a use of silence that isn’t a silent denial of what’s going on – it’s a use of silence that serves to bring attention to an issue,” she told students. “How can you curate a silence that brings about justice for LGBTQ+ people? Think of yourself as a curator of meaningful, powerful silence, that furthers the goal of justice and inclusion.”
Jobs said, “I was moved by Rev. Naomi’s illustration of the ways that silence ‘stops, soothes and shows solidarity.’ By choosing to participate in the Day of Silence, participants exhibit denial and resistance to all forms of oppression in ways that bring folks closer together through community action. Such action encourages story sharing critical for healthy identity development and community engagement.”
On Friday, April 23, the DA passed out wristbands to Haverford School community members who wished to participate in the Day of Silence. Jobs, Hudson, and the DA Executive Team then held a “Breaking the Silence” celebration after school.