Students plan throughout the fall to host an event that provokes thought and encourages cross-school engagement. This most recent retreat unpacked the theme of Color Blindness vs. Color Bravery. Talking about race can raise feelings of discomfort and disconnection, but the best way to improve lines of communication across lines of difference is to be brave enough to lean into the discomfort with an open mind and a full heart. The retreat interrogated the realness of race as a social construct too undeniable to ignore.
Roughly 65 students from neighboring schools—Agnes Irwin, Baldwin, Episcopal Academy, and Shipley—began with dinner and jovial conversation with peers in The Haverford School's Big Room. Following a brief introduction by VI Former and Diversity Alliance President Jose Martinez, V Former and Communications Chair Tyler Campbell led an icebreaker activity that asked students to stand in a circle and move around whenever someone in the middle of the circle said something that related to them (e.g., "I like music" required everyone who liked music to move to a different spot in the circle). After the activity, everyone seemed to be more relaxed, to feel more at home. The activity was followed by a TED Talk Keynote speech given by Mellody Hobson that laid the theoretical groundwork for the night's discussion. Hobson introduced the concept of Color Braveness and why society must move from Color Blindness to this new and better idea that encourages us to deal with problems directly instead of turning a blind eye.
The reflections left us with a profound sense of the work yet to accomplish and a window into how bridges that seemed to be cracked and broken in modern-day America can be mended or at the very least be made traversable.
Following the keynote, students discussed the idea and shared their own experiences in smaller breakout sessions, each facilitated by two members of Haverford's Diversity Alliance. Topics ranged from examining racial diversity in schools to defining diversity, with a focus on generating ideas to support communication across lines of difference. All groups reconvened in the Big Room to share reflections in the following format: I wonder, I realize, I notice.
The reflections left us with a profound sense of the work yet to accomplish and a window into how bridges that seemed to be cracked and broken in modern-day America can be mended or at the very least be made traversable. Sixth-former and Vice President of Diversity Alliance Drew Weiss said, "This past fall retreat was undoubtedly the most successful one I've seen in my four years in the Diversity Alliance. The students responded well to Mellody Hobson's TED Talk, which ultimately led to very enriching discussions." Thoughts similar to this one were echoed by many others.
In a time when the country seems to be divided, events like this empower the youth and show them that division is temporary, that in the end the division will subside and unity will take its place.
All of the students who attended were brought together by a desire to learn more, to be better, and to help. They wondered what the event would be like; they realized the power that said events have; they noticed that by using one another as resources, they have an infinite network of power and are able to change their schools, their communities, their world. In a time when the country seems to be divided, events like this empower the youth and show them that division is temporary, that in the end the division will subside and unity will take its place.
- The Big Room Blog