Two National Luminaries Visit SFS
Civil Rights hero and member of the “Little Rock Nine,” Minnijean Brown-Trickey, and NAIS Vice President for Equity and Justice Caroline Blackwell, spent time at SFS last week.
By Nancy Nagramada, Head of Middle School
Last week was a big one for The San Francisco School. We had two wonderful visitors whose lives have centered around social justice and activism, who shared their wisdom and spent time on campus to learn more about who we are as a community.
On Tuesday, Minnijean Brown-Trickey, lifelong activist and leader, returned to campus to connect with our students. Thanks to Andrea Spero (Maya 3rd and Ella 6th), Minnijean spent time with grades 5-8 and joined Elementary Singing Time. The 5th Grade prepared for their time with this Civil Rights legend by brainstorming important questions that connect to her life and their studies. They made posters of major events from 1957, when she and 8 others, known as the Little Rock Nine, chose to be the first black students to attend Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas. They also studied major legal cases, such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, that set the context for Minnijean’s experience as a youth.
Minnijean looked beyond the past as well,with the 5th Grade and then later with the 6th and 7th Grades. In those conversations, she turned to how the events of her childhood events shaped the path of her life and demanded activism of her. She asked students what they are thinking about in the world they see now. And while they gathered their thoughts, she said, “I know you’re thinking something, because I was thinking something about what I saw around me when I was your age.” They spoke together about the inspiring work of the youth today in response to Parkland, and she reminded them,”How did we get presidents to listen to us? How did we do that in Arkansas, and later, how did children do that in Alabama? Because we came back. We kept coming back and we didn’t give up. If you stay home the first time something is difficult, you can’t make change.”
The 8th grade had separate time with Minnijean because of their own recent Civil Rights Study Tour of Alabama where students traveled with Freedom Lifted to Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, and Tuskegee, and met activists who in their youth were a part of the leadership of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), a student participant in the Freedom Riders, or child marching on “Bloody Sunday” across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Minnijean reflected that she was both moved and appreciative that we are taking the time to deeply educate our students on these issues. She reminded us that though there has been progress, we still have so much work to do - and we cannot do the work if we do not know that past. What a gift to have time with Minnijean.
On Thursday, the Vice President for Equity and Justice from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), Caroline Blackwell, came to visit SFS for the first time. She mentioned that she was excited to come because she had heard about so many great elements of our school from Donna Orem, NAIS President, when she visited earlier this year. Caroline toured our campus and met with Steve Morris, me, and Fro Rosqueta (Susanna 5th and Roel ’17), who chairs our Diversity Committee as part of his role as a Board of Trustees member. Together, we discussed ways she sees NAIS schools continue to grow and stretch in making progress on equity and justice, and we are excited to take that deep experience and include it in our work at SFS.
She then spent time with separate student and staff discussion groups, to get a better sense of how different parts of the school view our community. When she asked the students, who represented grades 5-8, what made our school unique, they described all that we would hope: that we are a place where teachers truly care about your learning; where students have a chance to learn about issues like justice and how racism, sexism, classism are in our world; where students are accepting of each other and “I can be myself”; and where we have the chance to do great trips - like traveling to Alabama to see historical places firsthand and talk to leaders who were there to make history.
Posted May 01, 2018