Ransom Everglades continued its celebration of Black History Month with two alumni speakers on February 22. Matthew Beatty ’01, the vice president and chief operating officer of The Carrie Meek Foundation, spoke virtually to upper school students, and Charlie Weyman ’11, Education and Outreach Coordinator at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, remotely addressed middle schoolers. Beatty’s talk looked toward the future; Weyman’s examined the past.
The alumni highlighted a month of study, reflection and conversations, including a forum on the Black Lives Matter movement at the upper school; advisory discussions of microaggressions; a number of Black-history-themed video presentations at the middle school; and an on-campus jazz concert by the RE jazz combos just before the mid-winter break. Carla Hill, Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement, worked with students to organize the events.
Beatty challenged RE upper school students to take responsibility for making their school a diverse, equitable and inclusive place after a turbulent year in U.S. history.
“What are you going to do to ensure that RE becomes the open, diverse and thriving place that we know it is meant to be?” he asked. “When your grandchildren ask you, what were you doing during this tumultuous time … They’re going to ask you: Where were you? What did you do? Did you embrace your fellow man, your fellow woman, your fellow person… or were you part of that system that sought to ‘other’ them?”
Beatty, who was profiled in the Miami Herald
after joining The Meek Foundation in December, recalled being part of a thriving Black Student Association during his time at RE, but also experiencing a racist taunt after a PE class. “Ransom Everglades was a place of high highs and low lows, but it was a place that taught me to be resilient and a place that prepared me for life,” he said.
Though his father – a former attorney and vice president at the Herald – wanted him to attend an Ivy League school, Beatty sought to experience life at a historically black college, so he chose Florida A&M University. His sister Victoria Beatty ’00, now on RE’s Anti-Racism Task Force, went to Spelman College in Atlanta and then Howard University in Washington, D.C., for her JD.
George Floyd’s killing last summer at the hands of a police officer, Matthew Beatty said, changed his life. After years making a positive community impact at The Miami Foundation, he wanted to work directly to help change the systems that were doing harm to people of color.
“I’m late to the game on this work,” he said. “There are thousands of people who have been on the front line, marching, advocating, raising their voices in classrooms, in the streets across the nation, to ensure that black people get equitably treated.”
Weyman led middle school students on a journey through Miami’s segregationist past, focusing particularly on the 82-acre Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, which became the first beach in Miami-Dade County for people of color in 1945. The beach endured a 26-year shutdown before it was reopened in 2008. In both cases, citizen protests spurred the beach’s opening.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” he said about the beach. “I encourage every one of you to take up a cause, whether it’s civic activism or environmental activism. You guys really have the power to do this.”
Weyman, the son of a Canadian father and Panamanian mother who attended Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, encouraged students to visit the park, one of Miami's historic treasures.
It’s “everybody’s park,” he said. “No matter who you are, this is your park.”