01/03/2017 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Conference Reflections: 2016 NAIS People of Color Conference

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In December, NAIS hosted its 2016 People of Color Conference in Atlanta. Bringing together educators with diverse experiences and points of view from all corners of the nation, the conference features lectures and workshops that accomplish the collective goal of advancing racial and ethnic equity. This year’s theme, Advancing Human and Civil Rights – Fulfilling the Dream Together, found participants exploring the question of responsibility and accountability around evolving the rights of our fellow humans.

As we prepare to host our third-annual Diversity Forum at the end of January, three members of our Boston office who attended the conference share reflections on their experience.

Seliat Dairo, Placement Counselor

“Attending PoCC in Atlanta this year was one of the greatest privileges of my professional career. From participating in workshops focused on ‘How To Be Your Authentic Self’ where the room was brimming with people – sitting on the floor, leaning on the walls – to the workshop led by two women I personally hold in high esteem and who also have worked closely with CS&A using their story as the catalyst for a discussion on building cross-cultural relationships, I was renewed. Although most of the conversations were between educators, teachers, and administrators about how to create opportunities for themselves and their students in schools, I used that as insight into the work that we do at Carney Sandoe. It is easy to feel removed from classrooms and students, but the work we do has an impact on the culture of a school and great implications for the children. I left the People of Color Conference with a restored sense of purpose about the work I do back in Boston. I feel confident and determined to continue pushing for progress in my communities, working off the strength and resources of the educators on the ground. The most honest awakening I had at the conference was that advancing human rights is the responsibility of all people. It is incredibly difficult work and can often feel isolating if you are the only voice heard – or unheard – but there is too much at stake for us not to do our best in making more inclusive and supported spaces for all people.”

Kim Garner, Director of Conferences and Operations

“I went into PoCC with a nervous and excited feeling. I was really excited to attend PoCC this year because I missed the 2015 event. As one thinks back on the Civil Rights Movement and the current social climate of the country we live in, being in Atlanta added another layer of emotions.

The keynote address by Brian Stevenson was incredible! His work with the Equal Justice Initiative was inspiring. Brian helped to set the tone and encouraged us all to have hope in times when we feel hopeless.

I was so excited CS&A had the opportunity to sponsor the Master Class lead by David Johns. His work with the White House on Educational Excellence for African Americans was awe inspiring. His passion and words were felt by all in the room.

The event as a whole was incredible! It was a wonderful time to spend with my colleagues as well as make new connections. I feel nourished from my time at PoCC. Lots of great memories, laughter and conversations! My cup runneth over.”

Ada McElroy, Placement Associate

“PoCC 2016 was an enlightening experience. I loved having the chance to engage with educators from across the scholastic spectrum, representing the woven mosaic of our world. The immediacy of the moment was crystallized not only in the inspired words spoken throughout the Opening Ceremony, but also in the voices of our next generation of leaders, the children – as the Atlanta-based Unity Ensemble performed their powerful musical piece, I thought about how the choices we make as a nation will help shape the songs our children sing in our collective, cultural choir.  I also thought about Zora Neale Hurston’s observations in Their Eyes Were Watching God: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”  2016 felt like both a question and an answer, with the dreams of our next generation hanging in the balance.

Intentionality also seemed a recurrent theme at PoCC this year; from the directive words of Colorline’s Rinku Sen during her General Session, to the remarkable workshops and presentations, a spirit of intention reverberated throughout halls of the Georgia World Congress Center. We can dream and sing our truths to our heart’s desire, but without action, there is no movement (or, as Frederick Douglass noted, “without struggle, there is no progress”). We all make a series of micro decisions that shape and frame the steps of our lives and communities, and PoCC 2016, for me, cemented the importance of recognizing what concrete reality those social footsteps can take. From making one’s individual intentions known as an ally and support system, to fostering an institutional commitment to advancing equitable outcomes for all, we must strive for intentionality.”

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