“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last Friday, January 15, we held our school-wide observation of MLK Day and leaned into a conversation about racism. The day began with faculty, staff, and students viewing the film, I’m Not Racist, Am I?, and after the film, the producers provided us with trained facilitators to contextualize the film, answer questions, and lead a group discussion. After an afternoon of smaller breakout group discussions, we closed the day with a moving rendition of Lift Every Voice.
Today, we are honored to observe MLK Day with this community message from Head of School Dr. Peter H. Quimby, ‘85, P’14 and an address from Abdul-Aleem Ogunsanya ‘22: Dreaming of a Better Future for All.
Dear Members of the Governor’s Community,
At Governor’s, our mission calls on us to help all members of our community find the courage to discover their voices, develop their passions, pursue excellence, and collaborate in building communities that are vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive. Even in the midst of guiding our school through the challenges posed by a global health crisis, we have not lost sight of this vital work. In particular, we have been squarely focused this year on making sure that every member of our community has a voice, and on preparing our students to build communities that are equitable and inclusive—both at Govs and in the world at large. As this suggests, our work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion is core to our mission. We must create in our campus community the conditions that will allow our students to thrive and benefit from all that a Governor’s education has to offer. We must help our students develop the skills that they will need to be successful in an increasingly diverse and globally interconnected world.
As I reflect on the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, I am struck by how difficult it can be to do this work given the challenges we face in the world around us—of how difficult it is to realize Dr. King’s vision of bringing into being “that day when America will no longer be two nations, but when it will be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Watching a mob attack the United States Capitol on January 6 was a powerful reminder of how divided our country has become—and of how difficult it can be to have conversations about the things that divide us. In some cases, of course, there is no room for dialog. As a school community, we will not debate the ideas of white supremacists or anti-Semites—we must simply affirm our values and condemn hatred in all its forms. But there are other difficult subjects on which we must engage. We must talk about racism in America and its impact on our society and our school community. Fulfilling our mission demands this of us. We must ask ourselves what role we can play, as individuals and as a community, in bringing about a world that is more equitable and just. These conversations may make us uncomfortable, but to avoid them means acquiescing to a status quo that leaves too many of our students and colleagues marginalized and without access to the full Govs experience, just as failing to have these conversations as a country leaves too many of our fellow citizens without full access to the promise of liberty and justice for all.
At Govs, we tackle these challenges through formal planned programming, and by responding in the moment to events in the world around us. In the wake of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, we altered our class schedule the following morning and came together as a full community to reflect on the tragic events of the prior day. We then broke into advisor groups to process in small group conversations the complex range of emotions that people were experiencing. These spontaneous conversations are made easier because they occur within the context of work we have done as a school in community-wide programs. For example, on election day last November, instead of engaging in political conversations, we brought in an outside speaker who reminded us of our common humanity and talked about the importance of truly listening to each other, while learning how to ask questions that invite others in, rather than exclude them.
This year we held our school-wide observation of MLK Day on Friday, January 15, and leaned into a conversation about racism. The day began with faculty, staff, and students viewing the film, I’m Not Racist, Am I?, which followed a diverse group of high school students in New York City as they wrestled with their personal experiences with race, racism, and privilege. After the film, the producers provided us with trained facilitators to contextualize the film and respond to questions. In the afternoon, we moved into small groups to continue the discussion. These conversations about race and racism will continue throughout the year in an effort to bind us together. I am inspired by how our Govs community has engaged in intentional work to oppose racism. Yes, the work can be hard and we are bound to make missteps as we learn together, but we are committed to bringing each other along on this journey.
In addition to our work on campus, a group of faculty members and students attended the week-long People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference in December. Others participated in the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) week-long diversity and inclusion conference, and still others attended DEI sessions during The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) annual conference. A group of administrators is participating in a series of workshops focused on creating an inclusive working environment on our campus. Over the past five months, I have taken part in a working group with other heads of schools and DEI leaders focused on addressing the racial climate of our schools. These all represent important steps in moving our school forward.
In October I was privileged to hear our Pride Weekend speaker Sylvia Swain, a transgender woman from Montgomery, Alabama, speak to families, faculty, staff, and students about the importance of self-love and identity. After sharing her story, she concluded by saying, “I cannot control who loves me, sees me, and values me; I can control how I love others, see others, and value others.” This is why our DEI work is so important to the Academy — so that we can truly understand, love, and value each other.
Let me close with a quotation from Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I look forward to working together with you as we continue to help our students find their voices and work to build a more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive Govs.
Peter H. Quimby, Ph.D. ‘85, P’14
Head of School
Dreaming of a Better Future for All
Remarks by Abdul-Aleem Ogunsanya