Joan Edwards, the school’s Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency organized the event, which was facilitated by The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a renowned international human rights organization.
Edwards described the day’s program of presentations, panels, and discussions as a “community conversation” designed to challenge the KO community to powerfully live out its core values of honesty, integrity, and respect.
A group of 50 KO students and teachers, called the “NAMES Squad,” planned and organized the program over a period of several weeks to facilitate the day and define the norms to enable the KO community to become its better self.
The day began with a NAMES assembly where students courageously stood up in front of their peers and recounted their personal experiences of dealing with the influence of diversity and the impact of bias in their lives.
Diane Drake, a trained inspirational speaker from the ADL, facilitated the morning session and actively engaged the students in a call and response. She said that her role was to empower people to acquire and use the tools needed to address injustices and promote the greater good.
“I want you to open up, not only your ears but your hearts,” she told the students. “That is powerful.”
Several students performed a short skit portraying social exclusion to familiarize the students with the roles of perpetrator, target, bystander, and ally.
The students explained that, while bystanders witness unfair treatment, allies see the negative experience and boldly move to take action and assist the target. The goal of the assembly, the student leaders said, was to convert more bystanders into allies.
Six student panelists then disclosed their own stories about receiving injurious actions or perpetrating hurtful behaviors.
Other students admitted to moments when they themselves acted unkindly and then reflected upon the impact of their actions and on how they learned from their mistakes. One of these students told the assembly “If you have the chance to be kind, take it,”
After the introductory assembly, students formed small groups to reflect upon the assembly and share their personal experiences.
Reconvening at an afternoon assembly, a spokesperson for each group described actions the community could take to create more allies, including befriending someone who is sitting alone in the cafeteria, leading with one’s heart, and creating more safe spaces for people to share their pain and discomfort.
The afternoon session concluded with a reading of an anonymous poem, “I Am Only One Person,” about the bravery exemplified by Rosa Parks when she said the single word “No” to the bus driver who demanded that she move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, AL, in 1955.
Just as one person catalyzed the civil rights era, Drake said, the power of one individual and the power of words can create positive change.
Gabrielle Ruban ’18 concluded the assembly by performing a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which ended the day on a beautiful, uplifting note.
“We are Wyverns, and we take care of one another,” Ruban told the students. “This is just the beginning of the conversation about how we can stay connected in a real way.”