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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

We Mourn – We Lament – We Pray – We Listen – We Learn – We Act – We Love

Dear St. James School Community,

What can rightly be called the “original sin” of slavery has left an indelible imprint on our nation’s soul. We mourn the fact that Racism is alive and well and responsible for the ongoing disproportionate impact of deadly violence against our Black sisters and brothers — from Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner to Michael Brown to George Floyd.

While Racism only occasionally rises to a place on America’s national agenda, we lament the fact that St. James School students and their families confront Racism every day. The senseless Memorial Day killing of a Black man in police custody is yet another painful reminder that our Black sisters and brothers still cannot breathe.

When we pray for guidance, let us recall the words of The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

St. James School is not neutral. Led by our Racial Equity Teamwe listenwe learn and we act to challenge and evaluate racial equity and inclusivity in our policies, practices, and most importantly, in our individual hearts.

What Will You Do Next?

Yesterday, the teachers and staff who comprise our Racial Equity Team released a statement with concrete recommendations for “next steps” each of us can take. Written by Black professors of criminology at American University, the statement has been adapted to fit the context of our school community.

I offer these next steps as a resource for you and your family:

1. Read with intention. Seek knowledge. Read nonfiction about racism, inequality, and police brutality. Read research by Black scholars. Read Responding to Racist Violence, a resource from The Episcopal Church.

2. Listen with intention. Listen to the voices of disenfranchised yet resilient Black people. Their narratives paint a telling picture of historic and pervasive discriminatory treatment by criminal justice institutions. Understand #BlackLivesMatter does not equal white subjugation.

3. Talk with intention. Not small talk. Not concerned talk. Not empathetic talk. Real talk. Informed talk. Uncomfortable talk. Processing by yourself can reinforce your biases. It is critical to engage in conversations with people who challenge anti-Black narratives.

4. Act with intention. Get involved. Donate. Call out/in others. Seek to bring forward awareness, concerns, and ideas so that our approach to issues of racial injustice is comprehensive and consistent whether we are at home, church, work, or in our social circles.

5. Reflect and Recommit with intention. There is no magic button. There is no quick fix. The weight of institutional racism, structural inequality, and oppression will not be lifted overnight. It requires each of us to reflect and recommit to this process, with intention.

What Will Our School Do Next?

As a school founded and operated mostly by White people, St. James School has a responsibility to educate our White mission partners, volunteers, donors, and friends about White privilege – how we and they came to inherit it, how it persists, and how it enables Racism. We recommit to doing that with intention and love.

Through teaching our students a more complete and unbiased history, we can arm them with the tools and knowledge to better engage complex issues like systemic Racism, and to help solve these issues. We recommit to doing that with intention and love.

Let’s reflect together on these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Please join St. James School as we recommit to advocacy for justice with intention and love.

Faithfully,

David Kasievich
Head of School
dkasievich@stjamesphila.org