For God and Humankind: A Call to Solidarity and Action
Dear Holderness Family,
I write this letter with a heavy heart and as a call to action. The senseless killing of George Floyd and the countless black men and women who have needlessly died before him continually expose the deep fractures of our society made manifest by racism and injustice. In our outrage and pain, the Holderness School community stands in solidarity with our students and alumni of color, the black community, and with the peaceful protestors across the country.
As an Episcopal School, we acknowledge and renounce the sin of racism against black Americans and people of color. We also acknowledge that the school’s institutional history is undeniably tied to societal and economic structures of power that have failed to reflect the ethical vision of the Beatitudes depicted in the window above the altar in our Holderness Chapel of the Holy Cross. The school motto -- For God and Humankind -- teaches that God is made known to us in humanity, and that means systems that oppress humans are systems that conceal and suppress God. Racism stands against God and Humankind, but Holderness is for God and Humankind.
Holderness School holds tremendous privilege, and we have a responsibility to act. Therefore, Holderness School commits to the following:
Survey our alumni of color to understand their Holderness experience so we may better support our students and alumni of color.
Establish and empower an Equity & Inclusion Committee focused on issues of race at Holderness which will make recommendations to the administration and the board.
Support comprehensive access to equity, inclusion, and anti-racist professional development for our faculty and administration.
Create more time and space for our community -- students, adults, and alumni -- to engage in conversations regarding race.
Partner with and support local nonprofits who champion racial equality.
Reevaluate our strategies in admissions and in hiring to better support being a more racially diverse community.
Holderness asks each of us to be empathetic, to take initiative, and to serve others in the creation of a caring community. How might we act to express empathy and to take initiative in order to build a community, a city, a nation that shows that black lives matter? What steps can each of us take today? There are so many questions that we must constantly ask ourselves and answer.
We are heartened and inspired by our students and alumni who have reached out to us to ask how they can help with the expectation that all of us can do and be better. We ask that you partner with us in taking daily actions and also to hold us accountable for taking specific steps to support and make Holderness a more racially inclusive, diverse, and supportive community.
The soul and spirit of Holderness School compels us to act in tangible, meaningful, and enduring ways. As an institution we have not done all we can, but even as we do more in the future, the work will only be in its beginning. Ultimately this work is vital and linked to our mission, which asks me, you, and our school to work for God and Humankind.
Humbled and deeply appreciative of a community that desires to always be better,
With calls for racial justice reverberating across the nation and the world, schools everywhere - including Holderness School - are grappling with questions of how to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive places to learn, live, and teach. It’s in that environment that English teacher and Dean of Students John Lin is actively mentoring the next generation of school administrators of color.
A big part of what makes Holderness School so special are the teachers. This summer, we’re taking the time to get to know just a few of the amazing educators who call Holderness home.
Today, we’re meeting Jiabao Mei, the school’s Mandarin teacher. A native of Guangzhou, China, Jiabao just completed her first year of teaching at Holderness - and she's the first native Mandarin speaker to ever teach at the school. Here, we ask Jiabao about the challenges of learning a new language, the importance of understanding other cultures, and how she found a home in the Holderness community.
Inside Out Back: 50 Years of Adventure Education at Holderness School premiered on FaceBook, Instagram, and YouTube June 30, 2020 at 7 pm. The documentary, filmed and produced by Holderness alumni Jake Norton '92 and Josh Povec '94, goes behind the scenes during the school's 50th Out Back program, explores the history of Out Back, and its impact on student’s Holderness experience.