HPA Session with Derrick Gay, 6/22

On June 22, over 150 parents, guardians, faculty and staff joined in a Community Connections evening presentation led by Dr. Derrick Gay on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. Although limited by Zoom, the evening was intended as a first session to help lay foundations with our parent and guardian community regarding the challenge of seeing and discussing the ways that race and inclusion play out in our lives and at Hackley.

We acknowledge that the conversation is urgent, important, and much larger than we were able to accommodate in a single hour-long session. We are fully committed and eager to further this work and to engage in genuine dialogue with our families in the months ahead. We are actively developing those plans which will include opportunities for direct conversations with both Dr. Gay and one another, and we look forward to communicating more details soon.

For families who were unable to attend, Dr. Gay left us with a key takeaway. Having just finished a call as a consultant to Sesame Street, he offered us the same advice he shared with that audience. He identified the single most impactful strategy for parents and guardians to advance in these areas. It is to engage deeply in the process of introspection and self-knowledge by learning about oneself: one’s background, environment, the images consumed about oneself and others while growing up, as well as assumptions about race. He noted, “We all see ourselves as good people, and we all have biases and blindspots.” Understanding both the contours and limits of our individual perspective helps open the window so that we may begin to glimpse perspectives that are not our own.

Speaking directly to families of color, Dr. Gay acknowledged, “It’s emotionally taxing when who you are, your existence, becomes political.” In recent conversations with students across the country, he has stressed that he does not want them to think that their “identity” is a problem to be solved. He continued, “We need to reframe the current moment so that everyone moves with the same urgency—as if this were your child. What would engagement look like then?”

Last night’s event is the first in a series of workshops and focus groups to be led by Dr. Gay during the coming year. Over the summer, Hackley’s senior leadership and DEI Team will be further developing our plans for 2020-2021, and we look forward to presenting a more substantive update on Hackley’s ongoing work before the start of school. In the meantime, I invite you to learn more about our efforts over the last few years on the DEI page on Hackley’s website.

I want to thank Hackley’s DEI Team—Rachel Mwakitawa, Adrianne Pierce, Amanda Esteves-Kraus, Willie Teacher—for their continued and tireless efforts to help advance these conversations and ensure that our school lives out the promise of its mission.

Please be in contact with me, any member of the team, or Michael Wirtz if you have any thoughts or questions.


Steve Bileca
Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs

Mirrors and Windows (Interview with Derrick Gay)
Talking About Race (National Museum of African American History & Culture)
Talking to Children after Racial Incidents (Penn GSE)
"Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism" (A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Families" Saturday, June 6)
The Anti-Racism Project