The event, held on the land of the Duwamish people, honored the past—the first enslaved Africans that touched shore in Jamestown, the First Nations peoples and their civilizations that existed before European colonizers arrived—and imagined a future in which safe spaces are co-created and not defined by those in power.
The conferences were about both place and action; the themes for each put the spotlight on both history and the future:
- 1619. 2019. Before. Beyond. Amplifying our Intelligence to Liberate, Co-create, and Thrive
- 1954. With All Deliberate Speed. 2019. Integrating Schools, Minds, and Hearts With the Fierce Urgency of Now
General SessionsAs the sounds of the West African drummers who performed before her introduction faded into the background, Joy DeGruy took the stage to deliver a powerful opening message about memory—how it can live in our DNA, how it can hide in plain sight, and how it can be intentionally distorted. She began her talk by recalling the trauma before the enslavement of Africans in the Americas as many either died en route to coastal towns or died in bondage in castles, waiting for the ships that portended a harrowing, one-way trip.
I could listen to Dr. Joy Degruy all day!! 🔥 challenge to self: look for realities of our history that are hidden in plain sight with students. Currently planning ideas for how to teach the true story behind Lady Liberty and what she stands for 🗽 #hiddeninplainsight— Elena Pereira (@mspereira_13) December 5, 2019
One of my favorite parts of #PoCC is seeing how much more I need to work and learn in order to help further the changes needed, not just for me, but for all the students I’ve taught and those I have yet to teach. Fired up and ready to keep reading. First up, Joy DeGruy’s book.— The Nerdy Geek (@the_nerdy_geek) December 7, 2019
Subsequent speakers reinforced DeGruy’s point and the theme of the conference: In our quest to create a more just society, we can’t jettison our memories or our pain. Valarie Kaur, whose family friend was the first person killed in a hate crime after September 11, 2001, reminded attendees that revolutionary love also embraces opponents but not at the expense of self-love.
Valarie Kaur acknowledges that educators are at the frontlines of social justice. She implores us to help produce global citizens who are not only skilled for tomorrow’s jobs, but are upstanders prepared to take up for others and fight for what is just and right. #NAISPoCC pic.twitter.com/LnZv4dGsup— Josy Alcindor (@AlcindorJosy) December 7, 2019
I know @valariekaur told us to breathe as an act of self love for ourselves (invoking bell hooks & Audre Lorde) but felt like I was holding my breath through her entire talk, holding on to every bit of wisdom she shared from her life, as well as from our social justice ancestors. pic.twitter.com/Ga2ItOl28n— anthony c. ocampo, ph.d. 🇵🇭🏳️🌈 (@anthonyocampo) December 6, 2019
Other general session speakers included Mike Walsh, Anand Giridharadas, and Pedro Noguera.
Yes, and...one of the significant challenges lies in questioning the most prominent narratives - among them, the notion of the inevitability of an algorithmically determined future. Pay attention. Stay critical. #NAISPoCC https://t.co/CdFBz9qfvv— Sherri Spelic (@edifiedlistener) December 6, 2019
“Asking to surrender what you never deserved is the definition of justice.” @AnandWrites reminds us that if we’re asking folks to be woke, “then we MUST make space for the still waking.” #NAISPoCC @NAISnetwork pic.twitter.com/qQDNXFyUIK— Priya Singhvi, founder of Meaningful Minds (@MeaningfulMindx) December 7, 2019
“Independent schools occupy a unique place of privilege in this country. As racial inequality grows, our independent schools have a major responsibility....Any education that is not grounded in ethics & values will create more Eichmanns.” —Professor Pedro Noguera #pocc19 pic.twitter.com/yYlfyEFwtl— Tara Christie Kinsey (@tara_kinsey) December 7, 2019
In addition to the general sessions, attendees had the opportunity to gather in common spaces for affinity groups, featured speakers, and workshops. Some rooms became places of healing and solidarity and others were a place to build toolkits for leadership development or for creating more inclusive classrooms.
Featured Speakers and Workshops
.@anthonyocampo’s talk demonstrated how biography can fuel intellectual rigor. He inspired a testimony from the first Filipino student to graduate from Berkeley with an Ethnic Studies degree. #NAISPoCC! pic.twitter.com/V0EIPG0b0h— Koritha Mitchell (@ProfKori) December 6, 2019
I gained so much from Cinnamon Spear's talk. Understanding indigenous struggles for survival and presence has been central in contextualizing my family's history in the US. #NAISPoCC https://t.co/kQ13Cc0Adu— Sherri Spelic (@edifiedlistener) December 8, 2019
“The school-to-prison pipeline for black lives begins with a curriculum that denies the reality of slavery.” -Dr. Wayne Au #NAISPoCC— NAIS (@NAISnetwork) December 6, 2019
For more insights and perspectives on the many sessions and dimensions of the conference, check out the #NAISPoCC hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
In ClosingFor the closing ceremony, after the PoCC choir filled the room with music, Dori King took the stage and delivered attendees home with a message from a student she found scrawled on scratch paper: “Inform, educate, do not go off.”
In the spirit of that message, we hope that attendees of both conferences will continue the journey from last week. What does the return to school look like? How do transformative moments at PoCC become ongoing ones at your school? As you unpack your literal and metaphorical suitcases and reflect on these and other questions post-conference, consider writing for the Independent Ideas blog or Independent School magazine. Writing can be a great way to amplify your perspective. If you’re interested, send us a note at [email protected]. Inquiries and initial ideas need not be fully formed. We look forward to hearing from you!