A message to the Waynflete community from Head of School Geoff Wagg
A message to the Waynflete community from Head of School Geoff Wagg

Dear Waynflete Community,

On May 25, the world witnessed a terrible act of violence that is all too common for Black Americans in this country. The murder of George Floyd by a White police officer was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a pattern of inexcusably racist acts. So were the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tamir Rice, and countless others. The racist oppression and violence perpetrated against the Black community in America is truly reprehensible and must stop. We state unequivocally: Black Lives Matter.

Since George Floyd's death, our advisors and other trusted adults have been checking in with students of color to talk about how recent events are impacting them and to lend support. We have held discussions with students and between adults to consider next steps in our work to make Waynflete and the larger community anti-racist, building on the experience of the many teachers who have completed anti-racism training and those who have been building anti-racist curricula across all grades.

But this isn't enough.

Yesterday, I received an email signed by over 150 students and young alumni imploring Waynflete to make a stronger statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and expressing disappointment at our "insufficient response to the continued anti-Black, state-sanctioned violence that the current protest movements seek to address."

I agree with their assessment.

We must do more and speak more clearly. Nothing will be sufficient until racist violence and all forms of racial inequality against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color end. Each of these young people who signed the letter has pledged to "listen to our Black peers, to educate [them]selves on the matter of race, to be explicitly anti-racist, and to combat this country's deeply entrenched anti-Blackness through material action." Their actions and advocacy are an inspiration to me.

Listening to the voices of students is central to our mission, and we are particularly invested in hearing from alumni of color about their experiences here and what they would change. The New England Youth Identity Summit, which we have co-sponsored with Seeds of Peace for the past four years, has been an important forum for students to design and lead critical conversations with peers and adults. This year's canceled event would have hosted important student led-dialogues across differences aimed at promoting understanding between police and youth of color and highlighting necessary reforms in the criminal justice system. The lack of understanding around such topics is clearly on display in our country right now.

We remain committed to having these conversations, even if they must be virtual. Next week, we will host an online community preview and discussion of the Poor People's Campaign documentary We Cried Power (register here). This event sets the stage for the PPC's historic online Mass Assembly and Moral March on Washington at 10:00 a.m. on June 20 (register here). Members of our faculty are compiling an anti-racist online curriculum for our students, with input from students. We have shared a Supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement page that contains educational resources for anyone who wants to learn more and take action now.

Promoting diversity, equity, and belonging is essential work at Waynflete. This is the moment to double down on coordinating our efforts across school divisions, making more professional development available on and off campus, and bringing current and former student voices to the table to carry out this priority. Our students and alums are asking for more faculty of color, and they deserve this.

Education is fundamental to bending the arc of history towards justice. For decades, Waynflete has been strongly committed to the belief that diversity in its many forms deepens our students' educational experiences and strengthens the fabric of our community. As a nonprofit institution, we seek to make our school accessible to as many students as possible—regardless of their ability to pay.

We know that this commitment makes us a more inclusive school, one whose graduates come away with a desire to be "caring participants in the world." But this commitment also requires that we continually interrogate and address bigotry and racism within our own walls. We still have work to do in this area.

We are grateful that the young people in our community are making their voices heard and pushing us to consider how we can do more. Only a sustained commitment will ensure the success of the Black Lives Matter movement and an end to racial violence and inequality. We look to our community to engage with us and be part of long-term sustainable change. I am personally committed to leading the work of advancing anti-racism at Waynflete. I hope you will join me.

Sincerely,


Geoff Wagg
Head of School
gwagg@waynflete.org