With the many incidents surrounding race that occurred in the past year across the country, St. Anne’s-Belfield, like many other schools and institutions, are making an effort to learn more about the impact of racism. In November 2020, the School hosted author Ibram X. Kendi via Zoom to discuss his New York Times best-selling book How to Be an Antiracist. Earlier in the year, several Upper School students read Kendi’s book when they participated in a reading club led by Head of School Dr. Autumn Graves and humanities teacher Jordan Taylor. Two students from the book club, Ellie P. '21 and Cheryl O. '21, were chosen to lead a Q&A session with Kendi.
In the below podcast of Raise We Our Voices: The Belfield Banter, Ellie and Cheryl discuss their experience preparing to interview Dr. Kendi, who also won the National Book Award in 2016 for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.
The opportunity to participate in the Zoom conversation was just as exciting for Kendi as for the more than 700 people who registered for the event.
“Most of the book chronicles my life during high school and college, and so I’ve been eager to engage in this book with high school and college students,” Kendi said.
Throughout the session, Ellie and Cheryl asked Kendi a series of questions based on his book and his research: How do you engage in conversations with people who don't share your views? How do you talk to children about race? How do we bring other races into antiracist discussions?
During the conversation, Kendi pointed out that a critical clarification he hoped to make with his book was that the opposite of racist was not “not racist,” but antiracist.
“For far too long, people are like, ‘Let's just not be racist,’” he said. “There wasn't any action to that. What are you striving to do on a daily basis? But when we have a conception of striving to be antiracist, now we’re trying to learn.”
At the end of the session, Dr. Graves thanked Dr. Kendi for this call to action. “It will sustain a lot of the energy that started over this summer around dismantling racism,” she said.
The event was held as part of the Booth Family Inspiration Speaks Series, which welcomes scholars and leaders to the School.