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Caring for Our Community: A Message and Resources from Head of School Julia de la Torre and Director of Diversity and Inclusion Dot López

The messages and resources below were sent to the school community on Monday, June 1:

Dear Moorestown Friends Community,

As our nation and world continue to navigate life in the time of a pandemic, our country has experienced additional suffering this week as we watch incidents of racial injustice unfold on the news. Many MFS community members have expressed outrage and have shown concern for our students, families, and employees for whom these events go far beyond news headlines to something much more personal. As a Friends school, we are committed to equality and to honoring the Inner Light in all people. We also believe that the only way to combat hatred in our world is to raise our voices and take action to make our communities better.

I am including below a message from Dot López, our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, who shares not only her reflections on recent events but also the many ways in which we support and will continue to stand by our Black families. School is typically a special place where students can be in open dialogue with each other and their teachers about how to make sense of the senseless. As we remain in a virtual space, there is the added challenge of distance that makes it hard to stay connected to the needs of our students and families. Although we are in our final week of school, MFS will remain a resource for our community now and throughout the summer.

In peace and partnership,

Julia de la Torre
Head of School

__________

Dear MFS families,

I am sending my best wishes for your safety, health, and peace. As the end of the school year approaches, we are trying to balance celebrating the milestones of our students while simultaneously processing the traumatic events that have taken place in front of our eyes. Those who have witnessed the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor likely know the emotional distress this repeated systemic violence evokes. Before this there was Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the list goes on of those who have lost their lives at the hands of police brutality or white supremacy. Additionally, racially charged incidents go beyond physical violence. Recent videos have shown people contacting the police as a weapon to threaten innocent people of color. These acts expose daunting realities and complexities of race and racism in America, leaving many unsurprised.

During my first year in the role as Director of Diversity and Inclusion, I have spent a lot of time listening to and learning from community members to figure out how to best support MFS around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. I felt compelled to reach out to all of you not just to offer support but also to inform you on how our community has worked together to coordinate statements and plans of action. At Moorestown Friends School, our mission and Quaker values prioritize the importance of understanding the lived trauma and experiences of marginalized groups. Our students are learning to use their voices to speak out against bias and hate. We encourage them to ask questions, to listen, to understand, and to engage in difficult conversations with empathy and compassion. We create brave spaces for students to form connections with one another and work towards a common goal of inclusivity. As educators, we recognize that white people who observe racism might be privileged to do so on an intellectual level, while black and brown people may be emotionally responding to racism and the injustices that may encompass their entire existence.

This morning we held a Meeting for Healing called “Hope for Justice” for our faculty and staff. A Meeting for Healing is a Quaker practice that offers a space for acknowledging suffering and holding concerns in the Light. It was an opportunity for us to pray, reflect, and hope for healing from injustice. Our faculty/staff affinity group leaders of the White Educators group and the Colleagues of Color group sent out statements to faculty and staff with resources for continued engagement in anti-racist work. Middle and Upper School students will have the opportunity to join divisional Meetings for Healing later this week. We hope that these spaces will offer support before we depart for our summer break. For parents and guardians, during the summer, we will continue to offer shared experiences related to social justice topics. At Moorestown Friends, we aim to dismantle the structures that sustain racism in our community by listening and learning from one another.

You may feel overwhelmed to begin having difficult conversations with your children or assuage their grief. If you identify as a Black person, like me, you may be in a perpetual state of fear about how to protect your loved ones while suppressing feelings such as frustration, rage, or anger. If you don’t identify as Black, you may feel helpless and confused about how to start a meaningful conversation regarding these issues and advocate for change. We believe that having a strong, communal, and Quaker foundation will give us hope and guide us to move forward.

The resources below provide developmentally appropriate ways to engage with children about racism, white supremacy, and police brutality. I hope you will take the time to explore these resources as they will help you to complement the work we continue to do at school. Please reach out if you would like additional support.

I encourage us to hold these recent victims of injustice in the Light. I am grateful to be part of a community that will stand with each other and join in the dialogue to search for truth. I hope you will join me in navigating these difficult times together with hope, empathy, love, and compassion.

In peace,

Dot López
Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Resources for Lower School Families

How to Talk to Kids about Racial Violence and Police Brutality – USA Today interview with psychologist and author Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum and Pepperdine professor Erlanger Turner

Talking to Children after Racial Incidents” – an interview with Penn Graduate School of Education clinical psychologist Howard Stevenson

Podcast: “Talking Race with Young Children” – NPR

Talking to Kids about Race” – National Geographic

Resources for Middle/Upper School Families

National Museum of African American History and Culture “Talking about Race” web portal

Talking to Children after Racial Incidents” – an interview with Penn Graduate School of Education clinical psychologist Howard Stevenson

Explaining the News to Our Kids” – Common Sense Media

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism” – Parent Tool Kit

Beyond the Golden Rule: A parent’s guide to preventing and responding to prejudice” – Tolerance.org

Ibram X. Kendi’s “An Antiracist Reading List” – The New York Times

Table Talk: Family Conversations about Current Events – Anti-Defamation League

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