Derrick Gay, an internationally recognized consultant to schools and educational organizations on issues of diversity, inclusion and global citizenship, was the featured speaker at Westminster’s schoolwide Diversity Day held Jan. 26.
Gay’s approach to deepening inclusion draws from his knowledge of scholarly theories and research, his expertise in organizational development, and his 18 years of classroom teaching, coaching, musical conducting and serving as a senior administrator. A graduate of Oberlin College, Oberlin Conservatory, the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University, and The University of Pennsylvania, where he earned an Ed.D. in educational leadership, Gay has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and on NPR. He is also proficient in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, with studies in German, Korean and Latin.
Gay began the day by speaking with Westminster faculty and further developing the thesis of his TEDx Talk “The Double-Edged Sword of Diversity.” He shared the ways in which the word diversity often functions as an identity representing historically marginalized groups. While recognizing and distinguishing among diversity (difference), inclusion (sense of belonging), and equity (differentiating supports to enrich equitable outcomes for all), Gay discussed reframing diversity so it resonated with all identities. He spoke about his experience working in independent schools and how students need skills to work with people who are different from them. He emphasized the need to build a culture of inclusion and cultural competency.
Gay began his presentation to students by asking, “Will you be prepared for success in the 21st century?” He shared how he works with schools and organizations regarding global citizenship. “We will spend time talking about what global citizenship looks like, your identity and how who you are frames how you look at the world,” he said.
Gay presented some examples of how people learn about themselves and each other through media. Then, after asking the students what they think is identity and explaining how it is “very much externally constructed,” Gay asked the students to complete a reflection activity and partner exercise. “The idea is to get a deeper sense of identify frames we use in the world,” said Gay. He ended his talk by encouraging the students to see more of what is taking place around them, so they can become more culturally competent and have a deeper sense of what is going on in the world. “It is not what you look at,” he said. “It is what you see.”
Following Gay’s presentation, Third Formers and Fourth Formers met with peer facilitators and participated in activities that involved self-awareness, as well as looking inward and outward. Fifth Formers and Sixth Formers attended one of 16 sessions presented by faculty members on a range of topics, such as “How to Address Someone Whose Statement Stung,” “Powerful Dynamics: Understanding and Acknowledging Privilege,” “Feminism and Gender Equality,” “Masculinity: What Keeps It Alive,” “Balancing Life as a College Athlete” and “Gentle Yoga: A Moving Meditation.”
The day concluded with a screening for students and faculty of the “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” a 2009 documentary written and directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman which tells the story of the American civil rights movement through its music, followed by advisory group meetings.
Lisa McGrath, Westminster’s director of diversity and multicultural affairs, organized the day with the help of 28 faculty presenters and 18 student peer facilitators.