BLACK LIVES MATTER.
A Message from Patricia T. Hayot, Head of School
– Audre Lorde
Dear Chapin Community,
With our nation and with members of our Chapin community again experiencing overwhelming grief and anguish resulting from the recent brutal deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Black people who died at the hands of white police officers, and Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man pursued and killed by armed white vigilantes, the question "When will this terror end?" hangs in the air like thick smog.
During my long tenure at Chapin, I have been privileged to have countless opportunities to address our professional community, students, parents and alumnae. As have many of my Chapin colleagues, I have often spoken on the transformative power of brave and fearless conversations around difficult, challenging topics, urging us all to pursue these constant engagements and collective explorations as they hold the potential for deepening our respect, esteem and regard for one another. I have frequently concluded my remarks with something like this: "As long as we have breath in our being, there exists the opportunity for another conversation."
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and innumerable others lost forever the opportunity for another conversation. I'd never talked about that possibility, if the opportunity for another conversation is abruptly and violently ended, but now, in light of what has happened, yet again, it is impossible to ignore.
What if suddenly each of us lost the opportunity to have another conversation? What would we regret not having spoken of? What injustice would we regret not having called out? What action would we regret not having taken? What new opportunities do we have today for another conversation—a brave and fearless conversation—with those who have the power and authority to make change and to ensure racial justice in face of the realities of racial inequality and injustice in our country?
More critically, how best can we expand and intensify our work by applying what we learn from the generosity and patience of many Chapin students, parents and alumnae who share their life experiences and expertise so that we all can learn and deepen our sensitivities and convictions?
The essential question for each of us in this context is what will we do at Chapin and in our own lives, communities, professions and arenas of influence to advance the conversation about creating our "more perfect union" with freedom from oppression, in a grand country where every American enjoys equal respect, value and regard? How can judicial, social, political or economic structures that are holding us back from being a country that lives "all are created equal" be transformed so that we as a nation can "stand together to use our strength in the service of our vision?"
Decades ago, W.E.B Du Bois wrote:
It is the wind and the rain, oh God, the cold and the storm that make this earth to blossom and bear its fruit. So in our lives, it is storm and stress and hurt and suffering that make men and women bring the world's work to its highest perfection.
Our challenge today at Chapin and within this nation is to find and take a path forward, to recognize and work to end the "storm and stress and hurt and suffering" that so many in this community and in our country are experiencing, so that together we can bring our world to its highest perfection.
Informed by Chapin's Mission, which reads in part, "Guided by our motto, Fortitier et Recte, Chapin considers bravery, compassion, service, and respect for self and others to be fundamental values. We believe that equity, inclusion, and collaboration are critical to personal growth," I believe that I speak for each of my colleagues when I say that we are committed to redoubling our efforts by expanding opportunities for the necessary dialogue and learning around these critical questions. Our teachers have been responding to this latest series of horrific racial injustices by adjusting curriculum and making space for conversation and action, many in response to students who have, in the midst of a pandemic that has forced us all to accept isolation, reached out to express their anguish and profound need for answers and connection with others.
Our promise to do everything possible to meet these needs and to advance conversations that will create space, convey solidarity and lead to the creation of action plans will not end with my departure from Chapin. Our new Head of School, Suzanne Fogarty, stands alongside me in this commitment. She has long prioritized the developing of partnerships and the creation of civic engagement opportunities in collaboration with her colleagues and in service of students beginning in their earliest years.
While we stand in this particular moment in time, perhaps feeling especially defenseless, the opportunity for conversation and action awaits. So, too, does the opportunity for us to embrace the ethic of care so as to erase the forces of white supremacy, racism, discrimination and privilege that disguise reality. We are ready to face this challenge.
Brave for Others, Brave for Self.
Patricia T. Hayot, Ph.D.
Head of School
The Chapin School