Introducing DEIJ Blog: Voices of Fair Play

Darnell Epps
 
Dear Hawken Community, 
 
Hawken’s DEIJ team and I are excited to announce the upcoming launch of a blog dedicated to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice at Hawken. In the year ahead, you will hear more about the work taking place at Hawken as we continue to grow in this work and to learn about present and historical inequities in our local and global communities. On this site, we will share stories about our school community’s DEIJ journey and also feature resources to promote greater understanding about injustice and ways to take action. We are deeply committed to delving even further into these issues to educate, think critically, dialogue, and take steps to meaningful action. To echo  Hawken’s Diversity Statement, “Our motto of Fair Play demands nothing less.” 

Like many in our community and across our nation, my mind and heart are heavy thinking about all that has transpired in our world over the past several months. The loss of hundreds of thousands of people from the COVID-19 pandemic; the inequities the pandemic has further exacerbated; the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and other unarmed Black people who have not received the same media attention; acts of violence committed against peaceful protesters around the nation; and the uncertainty of others who are oppressed in many ways have elicited a range of emotions including sadness, anger, and frustration. Yet I believe we have numerous reasons to be optimistic. I am encouraged to see people supporting individuals suffering great hardship and loss. I am inspired by the acts of resistance and bravery demonstrated by people of every color working to improve their communities. I am hopeful as I witness all those who show up fully in their work to fight for justice and amplify the voices of those who are silenced. Further, I am grateful for the many people, institutions, and organizations who have reaffirmed their commitment to enacting equity and justice by doing this important work.
 
In my role as director of Fair Play at Hawken’s Lyndhurst campus, I work collaboratively with a team committed to DEIJ and to designing curriculum and programming to increase acceptance, cultivate empathy, and inspire civic participation. Examples include faculty workshops on racial identity, curriculum that interrogates systems of power and inequity, affinity spaces for students and families to foster a greater sense of belonging and affirm racial  identity, forums for students to lead dialogues about issues in our community, and service learning work giving students space to take meaningful action. Working together as a school community, we will continue to learn about racially discriminatory policies in education, employment, health care, and criminal justice (and many other areas) and use the power we each possess to take informed action. 
 
This summer, I am reading Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and How to be an Anti-Racist by one of my favorite scholars Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi argues that race is used to create “hierarchies of value” which benefits those in power. Kendi’s work renews my will to teach students how to value and recognize the dignity of ALL people and to counter hateful messages perpetuated in a society that has discriminated - and in many ways still does discriminate - based on the color of one's skin. His work motivates me to continue to hold space for needed racial equity conversations and to create programs supporting positive student racial development and exploration. Providing these important spaces is key to sustaining this important work and to fulfilling the Hawken Promise for students to “engage others with empathy and integrity.” It is through these ideals that our students will build a society that acknowledges and respects differences – a society that is more just and equitable for ALL people. 
 
In reflection and hope,
 
Darnell Epps
Pronouns: he, him, his
Director of Fair Play
Lyndhurst Campus
Hawken School
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An independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school, toddler through grade 12

Lower & Middle Schools, 5000 Clubside Rd, Lyndhurst, OH 44124
Birchwood School of Hawken, 4400 West 140th Street, Cleveland, OH 44135 

Upper School, PO Box 8002 (12465 County Line Rd), Gates Mills, OH 44040
Mastery School of Hawken, 11025 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

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