With regard to making a change in our lives, how many of us have said, “I’ll start on Monday.” Change, no matter how small, can be so daunting that we try to control it by assigning an official day to the change. The days leading up to that momentous Monday of the new you are filled with anxiety and getting in all of the “business as usual” behavior we can indulge in until 11:59 p.m. and 59 seconds on Sunday night. It’s amazing that we can stand in our own way — that we can resist — even when the change we’re seeking will result in positive change in our lives.
The attention to racial injustice around the world is unprecedented. Traditionally marginalized people are demanding to be truly seen and heard in society. It’s no different in independent schools. Ransom Everglades Black Alumni (reBa) sent a letter to school leaders on June 19 – Juneteenth – outlining areas of weakness at Ransom Everglades and providing specific targets for institutional improvement. Many Black alumni also shared their experiences of racial and cultural insensitivity on our campuses during two town halls. These alumni are deeply invested in making sure that the future of Ransom Everglades is one in which students can feel, literally, safe in their skin.
This summer, Ransom Everglades’ Board of Trustees also established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and an Anti-racism Task Force to further the school’s interest in making diversity, equity and inclusion additional focal points in our tradition of excellence. An invitation to apply to be a part of the Task Force, which I am co-chairing along with trustee Stephanie Dua, was opened to alumni, faculty, staff and parents in mid-July. Its 16 members began work in August on developing strategies and initiatives that will be presented to our school’s leadership and Board of Trustees that can increase dialogue and fundamental understanding of the experiences of marginalized groups at our school. The Task Force is charged with identifying important actions and initiatives Ransom Everglades can adapt toward more equal and consistent representation of said communities. The ultimate goal being to enhance the experience and success of students, staff and faculty from all backgrounds.
The four pillars used as the basis for the Task Force’s work were those presented in the Juneteenth letter from reBa; REtention (efforts to ensure the retention of students through graduation); REsponsibility (upholding antiracist and anti-discriminatory behavior as a school community) and REflect & REach (suggested by co-chairs to ensure transparency and continued communication with the community). It’s the hope of the Task Force to work alongside our school’s faculty-led Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for feedback and input along the way. And then, most importantly, to turn that work into action and substantive change. .
Working toward being an antiracist institution benefits everyone and every group. This isn’t a political stance. This is a stance for humanity. We’re all responsible for ensuring that anyone who chooses Ransom Everglades as a place to work or educate their children knows that we treat and speak to members of our community and those who we call our neighbors with respect for their experiences and how they identify themselves.
“When it comes to race, racism, and antiracist work, it is important that everyone feels safe, but equally important that many also feel uncomfortable. It’s only through discomfort... that we grow, develop, and change for the better,” Frankie Condon and Vershawn Ashanti Young comment in their book Performing an Antiracist Pedagogy (2017). Our tradition of educational excellence must incorporate inclusive excellence. We have to be “all in” as a school community and work through the discomfort of change together. The soul of our school is counting on all of us to stay the course. We must choose courage over comfort. Ransom Everglades, it’s our Monday.
Carla Hill Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.