Dear Members of the Hamden Hall Community:
In his 1998 memoir, Walking with the Wind, John Lewis eloquently stated, “… I am forever indebted to the wonderful, powerful, magnificent Spirit of History. I was touched by that spirit long ago, and I have followed it ever since. I only hope and pray that my journey will continue to be blessed.” Despite the 45 arrests, clubbings, jailings, and other physical and mental abuses he suffered at the hands of white supremacists, John Lewis remained diligent and focused on continuing his fight for civil rights and social justice. His legacy is inimitable.
An older contemporary of Lewis, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, also of the Atlanta area, famously spoke these words to Selma, Alabama, sheriff Joe Clark on March 21, 1965: “You can turn your back on me,” Vivian fired at the sheriff, pointing his finger. “But you cannot turn your back upon the idea of justice. You can turn your back now and you can keep your club in your hand, but you cannot beat down justice.” Clark responded by clubbing Vivian, causing him to fall down the steps of the Selma Courthouse.
Clearly, these men were not deterred by the brutality they faced as they fought for justice. The response to very recent incidents is reminiscent of the energy of people in the past who gathered to fight racial and social injustices. Part of this energy has been channeled into calling out institutions including independent schools. Hamden Hall is not exempt, and some past negative experiences have been expressed. Every institution and individual has an obligation to make their community an equal and safe place to live, work, and go to school.
Over the years, our school has committed to ongoing diversity programming for students and faculty, with programming led by Yasmin Haque and Krysi Crimley as well as outside consultants and speakers. It is clear that more work needs to be done to ensure our commitment to be an equitable and inclusive school community. Our promise is to become a completely anti-racist and multicultural institution. On July 1, Dr. Lisa Hill assumed the newly created senior-level administrative position of Director of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity.
We further commit to the following actions:
1) The school will immediately begin a several-month-long process with the goal of creating a rolling multi-year, Anti-Racism Multicultural Plan. The plan will include a review of all school practices, policies, programs, and curriculum to uncover any racial, cultural or ethic inequalities or insensitivities.
2) It is critical for members of our community to share any past or current grievance and for us to hear these concerns. While social media is one outlet, and we certainly respect the individual’s right to anonymity, please consider using this link if you would like to submit your concern or grievance directly to the school - name and email address are optional. We also encourage you to reach out to one of us, or any faculty, administrator, or trustee. In addition, we acknowledge the grievances mentioned on social media and want to assure you that those concerns are indeed being addressed. Please know that your voices are being heard, and we are taking your concerns seriously.
3) The school will create a Board of Trustee Anti-Racism Multicultural Committee. This committee will be charged with holding the administration and faculty accountable for executing the multi-year, Anti-Racism
Multicultural Plan. Trustee Dr. Bayo Afolalu will chair this committee.
4) Alumni – and particularly those of color – will be asked to lend their voices to an ongoing dialogue regarding their experiences at Hamden Hall in an effort to strengthen our school community with regard to programming and initiatives.
Ultimately, the school’s commitment is to increase awareness to anti-racism and multiculturalism, as well as to improve our practices so that there is full participation in decisions that shape the future of the institution. Hamden Hall is proud of its student diversity but we will move forward with a solemn focus on inclusion and equity in order to make every student’s experience one of which they can be proud.
Lisa Beth Hill Bob Izzo
Director of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Head of School