A Message from Unity’s Head of School
Dear community members of Unity:
At no other time in our students’ lives has society seem so unjust. Personally, I am ashamed, saddened, and angered by racial injustices that continue to plague our society as demonstrated by the glaring, inequitable impact of the pandemic on black and brown communities we serve and by the recent and continued killing of black and brown people by members of law enforcement.
While we all wrestle with the atrocities that continue to persist and what we must do to address them, it has been uplifting over the past few days to see people all over the country come together to demand change through protest. The words of our leaders in society have also provided clarity, direction, and helpful reflection. In the words of Michelle Obama:
“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”
When reflecting on Michelle Obama’s words and in grappling with my own beliefs and what needs to be done, I come to two core beliefs that I hold dearly and that I believe align with our collective work at Unity.
First, I believe that eradicating institutional racism needs to be the single greatest objective of our society. This is why I and so many of Unity’s faculty and staff devote our professional and personal lives to public education where the inequities are profound and deeply entrenched. Second, I believe that the protest of institutional racism must take the form of deliberate actions that are ingrained in our daily lives in order for us to make lasting forward progress in eliminating racism in our institutions. We, and by we, I mean white people alongside people of color, must take action each and every day over a prolonged period of time in order to realize lasting change.
As a school that was founded on the empowerment of all students through providing an exceptional education that equips them to lead fulfilling lives, I do believe that our consistent, daily work as a school has created positive and lasting change through our impact on students, their learning, and their outlook on the world. I feel most optimistic about the future of our society when I think of our graduating seniors using their Unity education on college campuses and in career training programs next year to engage in serious advocacy to change the status quo alongside their peers.
At the same time, there is much more that we as a school can and must do in the near term and long term to meaningfully contribute to eliminating institutional racism in our society. And here is where I feel not just grounded but inspired to work alongside our entire community and take ownership of my role in enacting meaningful change.
In the near term, we will continue to empower our students by teaching them to think critically about current events and their connections to history and other aspects of students’ lives. Tragically, what we are seeing is not new, but we have an opportunity to support students in improving our world so that what we are seeing ceases to be the norm. We will also continue to develop the core skills that lead to students being empowered and strong advocates for themselves and others. Finally, we will continue to create safe spaces for students to voice their hopes and fears in response to the world around them and do so with empathy, encouragement, and love.
Over the long term, as an institution that seeks to model that which we aspire for our broader society to reflect, we will continue to re-examine our systems at Unity, including our policies on school culture and restorative justice, and the ways in which we actively support, receive feedback from, and advocate for our families. This work is something that we have consistently done each year since our founding, but we need to do it with even greater urgency and effectiveness.
The road to a more just society is a long one. I believe in our collective resilience and resolve to make this world a better place for our children. Your support and commitment to our school’s mission has never been so challenged and is more greatly appreciated now than ever before.
With determination and in unity,
Head of School
Unity Preparatory Charter School of Brooklyn