Dear Families, Faculty, Staff and Trustees,
Our full-community engagement around MLK Day is one of the things I will miss most about Latin. Thanks to the commitment of our dedicated DEI team and our creative faculty in every division, over the years, it has grown into a full day of experiential learning focused on all aspects of identity and belonging. This year's theme was "Nourishing Our Sense of Belonging: Embracing Our Identities as Individuals and as a Community." Each division engaged in developmentally appropriate workshops and activities that allowed students and faculty alike to explore the importance of identity, belonging and community.
This year, we were fortunate to have two visitors on campus: featured speaker Eboo Patel, Interfaith Youth Core founder and author, who addressed our upper school and middle school students as well as families, and local artist Indira Freitas Johnson, who worked with lower school students on a community art project.
Eboo Patel's presentation took us through meaningful reflection on the Civil Rights Movement—a familiar reflection on this day—but highlighted the inalienable connection between racial justice and interfaith activism—an intersection that often gets overlooked. He invited students and faculty in the middle and upper schools to examine a history many of us know or have been introduced to in a new light. His talk also focused on the power and possibility of connecting across differences, that even though our belief systems may be at odds, our humanity is not.
In the lower school, Indira Freitas Johnson shared her process as an artist and her intention to connect peace and Chicago neighborhoods through her Ten Thousand Ripples project featuring fiberglass Buddha sculptures. She encouraged students to identify one way in which they can bring change to the Latin community through setting an intention that was incorporated into the community art project created in the afternoon. Keep an eye out for the students' work on campus soon.
In addition to speakers and workshops, the community collaborated across divisions by putting on a Winter Coat Drive, organized by the Upper School Student Service Learning Board, the Middle School Kids Supporting Kids Club, and the Lower School Change Makers Club. Due to COVID restrictions we were not able to make our annual trip to Uptown Baptist Soup Kitchen, so HandCut Foods provided bagged meals for guests.
Of course, the programming on our MLK, Jr. Day of Commemoration provides dedicated time for meaningful reflection on our identities and the ways we can create opportunities for all to thrive within every community we occupy, but this work does and must extend into every day. So, while I always enjoy highlighting the work we do as a school on this day, this is also an opportunity to reiterate some of the ongoing work on diversity, equity, and inclusion at Latin.
We are halfway through our first year of a curriculum review, working to align the work our faculty are doing in the classroom with the social justice standards created by Learning for Justice (formerly, Teaching Tolerance) that Latin adopted four years ago. For a look into that work, I encourage you to take a listen to Latin's recent podcast episodes where members of the DEI team—Jen Nabers, Kasey Taylor, and Brandon Woods— discuss why these standards exist, how they impact teaching and learning, and how Latin is implementing them in each division.