Asare '22 Reflects on Student Diversity Leadership Conference
In December 2020, Velda Asare '22 and five other Chatham Hall students attended the virtual National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). The conference is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of high school student leaders from across the world. According to the conference website, “SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles.” Below, Asare reflects on her experience.
Before attending the conference, I knew I would have the opportunity to gain a great deal of information to bring back to my community, Chatham Hall. While this is undeniably true, little did I know how much of an impact this experience would have of my emotional well-being.
Upon attending this conference I met some of the coolest people. While I saw several faces through a screen and we were not all physically present with one another, I felt that the connection I experienced with the community was profoundly memorable. Attending this event is something I will simply never forget. I have gotten to meet amazing people, some I am still in contact with. SDLC was an experience that opened my eyes and deepened my knowledge.
Over the course of the four days, we unpacked several topics about racism, classism, privilege, pain, identity and numerous others. One of the first topics that was discussed was identity. Everyone created their “molecule” which depicted portions of who they were, such as their gender, race, family structure, and more. Identity played a huge role in this conference. At the beginning, these aspects of who we were were rated, meaning that we were supposed to write if we felt positively or negatively about each of them. By the end of the conference they wanted to know if we felt the same about each aspect or if our rating had changed which happens frequently.
Identity is something that may be a struggle, a burden, a privilege, or a blessing to various people. We talked about how these things affected everyone in society and how they made our feelings change. I even learned how to use better language when addressing people, and my mind was exposed to more issues and topics.
One portion I fell in love with in this conference was my affinity group. I got the opportunity to see so many beautiful and successful Black people in one place. We shared experiences, struggles, obstacles, and I had never gotten to relate to so many people before. With so many intellectual individuals, we were able to discover ways on how to bring back change to our own communities.
We talked about some of the most common issues such as performative activism, being stereotyped, discriminated against, and disrespected. We came up with ways we could instill change such as getting people uncomfortable, keeping people accountable, calling people out, making changes in the overall curriculum, and more. I got to hear the ideas and contributions from a vast number of people. We even talked about ways we could make our own communities better by discussing colorism and by talking about how some Black people feel excluded. Diane Nichols, one of the leaders of the affinity group stated, “rewrite the narrative of Blackness to include all of us.” This meant that at the end of the day, we are all facing the same problems and the only way to overcome them is as one body. One unit.
Attending SDLC 2020 was an experience I will never forget. I am so glad I got to participate in the event. I learned so much and met people with whom I connected deeply. People who were funny, smart, strong, and were all concerned about making a difference. A difference that benefits everyone. This conference took me through the experiences of others. This meeting not only initiates change, but it creates a home-like feeling. Everyone is accepted and loved. Throughout this meeting I heard powerful and influential words from great individuals. The experience was memorable and encouraging.
A girls' boarding and day school in southern Virginia, Chatham Hall prepares girls for college and for productive lives. Our innovative academic program offers advanced courses, global study and travel, as well as project-based learning. We foster the intellect and character of each student and, through our Honor Code, live in a community of trust. Grounded in its Episcopal heritage, the school welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.