Nishant giving opening remarks at the NAIS People of Color Conference on Dec. 8.
Last week, the city of Atlanta hosted the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) annual People of Color Conference. Fifty-three hundred attendees, including 1,600 high school students, from 42 states and five countries participated in the conference. Sixteen TCS faculty and staff attended or volunteered at the conference. The opening act – a student performance before the keynote speaker – was visioned and choreographed by our own Christy and combined talent from four schools: Atlanta Girls’ School, Paideia, TCS and Woodward. The conference’s theme, “Advancing Human and Civil Rights: Fulfilling the Dream Together,” invoked the legacy of our civil rights leaders, old and new.
The speakers all hit on the theme of building and engaging in community. Christine King Farris, the older sister of Martin Luther King, Jr., said in her introduction: “I would be remiss if I did not say to you that the answer to answering the dream is to build what my brother called, the beloved community, where community is the call of every day.” The closing speaker, Brittany Packnett, vice president of National Community Alliances for Teach for America, had a similar message, “The answer to advancing the dream is to build the beloved community where love is always the order of the day. Fight the issues and not the people.”
This message of community and love is appropriate for all seasons, however it is particularly necessary for us to heed now. The times are changing, and for over 12 months now, personal and professional relationships have been strained in many houses and workplaces across our nation. News reports of harassment and rage at the slightest disagreement or provocation are becoming more common. Division, rather than unity, are threatening communities everywhere. Sobering voices are calling for healing those divisions. So how do WE do it? What can WE do? The silence of friends and colleagues threatens our national bonds as critically as the voices of those who wish us ill.
The answer lies in the above quotations. At TCS, WE deeply cherish inclusion, compassion and service as the underlying values that define our actions. TCS graduates are applauded citywide for their skills in navigating complex social situations and mediating, rather than creating, divisive conflict among their peers. Rather than accepting the default cultural narrative, our students are taught to write their own story and empower others to do the same.
Our students learn these values through the modeling of three necessary traits: engaging authentically in community; practicing empathy for the needs of others; and giving generously of one’s time, talents and treasure. Such traits cannot be honed in one day, one week, one month, or even one season a year. The holidays are a good reminder of why our community is essential to the broader conversation happening in homes and at work and in the news media. This season is a necessary one for us to practice kindness, compassion and gratitude. Change doesn’t happen externally if it isn’t already occurring internally.
Our children are looking at us to lead them now and lead you do! From admission ambassadors to field trip chaperones and committee volunteers for events like the Halloween Carnival and Auction, you’ve stepped up every single time we have needed you! Your generosity has also led to more than $300,000 in redirections through the Georgia Private Tax Credit program and $2.1 million in pledges toward our $3.5 million goal for the capital campaign. As we near the end of 2016, I hope you will consider a stretch gift over the next three calendar years to help us reach our goal and continue our efforts to transform your child’s education.
From the afternoon of December 16 to the morning of January 3, I hope that WE will all, with our families, reflect on the change WE wish to see in the world. And when WE know, I hope that WE will have the empathy and the generosity and courage to act on it. For such a time as this, WE are the right community, the right philosophy, and the right actor and maker of peace and equity.
On behalf of the TCS faculty and staff, I wish you – wolves and pups – a happy and generous holiday season.
For the children,
Head of School