Using our Voices for Justice, Equity and Peace: A Statement on Anti-Racism from BSS
June 3, 2020
Dear BSS Community,
There are no words to express our shock and dismay at the recent racist acts and violence in the U.S., Canada and around the world that have exposed again the systemic racism that scars our communities. We grieve together for the family of George Floyd and the entire Black community who have experienced hatred, injustice and violence.
BSS is striving to learn from our differences and celebrate unique voices so that our students can freely express their perspective, while also respecting the voices of others. We know that our students’ futures will depend on their ability to work and live in a connected global community.
Sharing our Voice
It is important that, at a time like this, we voice our grief and express our opposition in word and deed. At BSS, we encourage our students to use their voices for justice, for equity and for peace. Students in our Black Student Union have led change by sharing their experiences and showing where our convictions and statements about valuing diversity have to translate into action. Teachers and staff have committed to participating in ongoing learning conversations with students and each other to forward the work of equity, social justice and anti-racism in our school.
This past week, the hurt and pain of our Black students and staff were palpable. In the past few years, their leadership, and that of all students and staff at BSS, who are committed to change, has challenged BSS to grow in practicing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. But we are not yet there. We know that there is justified anger among many of our students, staff and Old Girls around the injustice and prejudice that continues. No one should be restricted or diminished by these, and especially not at BSS.
We must make a commitment to rooting diversity, equity and inclusivity more deeply in our culture, our learning environment, and actions as a community. We have worked increasingly harder over the past decade to understand how to be an inclusive school and welcoming to all. Teachers and leaders have attended conferences where schools around the world share, but it’s been workshops for staff created and presented by our Black Student Union that have revealed problems we hadn’t acknowledged or dealt with. Having Black students speak to our teachers about their experiences at BSS has been sobering and instructive. We know we have much more work to do.
This week, our students, faculty and staff are taking time together to learn and strive not to be silent. They have responded to the outrage with meaningful expressions of hope and determination to end the violence.
- Grade 12 graduates Timeyin and Ella created a spoken word video as a stark reminder of the injustices faced by people of colour. The video was posted to our Facebook and Instagram channels on Monday and features a very moving poem called “Black Trauma.”
- Throughout the year, our Black Student Union has been collaborating with our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to amplify the voices of people of colour and address inequity and bias. On Tuesday, all students participated in a Chapel Chat called We Commit, a summary of which can be found here.
- Students from BSS, Branksome, UCC and St. Andrew’s College are participating in a Middle Ground discussion today that will look at how diverse communities are handling COVID-19.
The BSS Learning Commons is sharing age appropriate reading resources to help students learn more about the complexities of systemic racism.
- BSS will be sharing beautiful visual art by Old Girl Janelle ALLAN ‘18 that brings the stark realities of racism to life.
- In the Junior School this week, our faculty approached the thoughtful and compassionate insights and questions of their students as they discussed challenging issues more recently and throughout history. These conversations were in the context of our focus on community, rights, responsibilities and belonging.
The Black philosopher and social critic, Cornel West, wrote, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Our commitment is to continue to work with our students and staff to realize a vision of justice for all our students – past, present and future.
Dr. Angela Terpstra
Head of the School
Chair, Board of Governors
Artwork by Jacq T, Class of 2020 and Black Student Union member