Throughout the course of the year, we will typically meet in two groups, JK–2nd and 3rd–5th Grades. There will also be two sessions where US SOCA will have the opportunity to connect with LS/IS SOCA groups. Nanci Moore (SK Teacher) and Brittney Washington (2nd Grade Teacher) will facilitate the JK–2nd group and Albert Nascimento (IS/MS Dean of Student Life) and Kristyn McCullom (3rd Grade teacher) will facilitate the 3rd–5th group. If you express interest, we will further share meeting dates and times.
SOCA facilitators will communicate with students through the Portal. Your student will be added to a SOCA group on the Francis W. Parker Portal where you will receive updates, messages, and communication.
The term “People of Color” centers all people whose racial and ethnic background is not Caucasian or white. While the experiences of people whose racial and ethnic backgrounds allow them to fit into this broad category are varied and diverse, the term allows us to recognize that, while varied and diverse, to this day, because of the systems of race and racism in the United States, those experiences tend to be vastly different from those of people who identify as white. At the same time, we recognize that the language around race is always shifting and evolving. We use the term “Students of Color” at Parker in an effort to form solidarity amongst students with diverse yet similar experiences.
We understand that biologically, race is not as simple as the color of our skin, we also know that systemically our country’s history with race has significantly affected how we construct identities with regard to race. While we hope for and work towards a society where race does not impact how others perceive or treat us, we know that as a society we are very much not there yet. Therefore, we feel compelled to offer programming to our students, faculty & staff, and families that allow us to critically assess how the system of race in the United States affects our identities and experiences, and that empowers especially our students to lead by example in creating change. In addition to affinity spaces, this work is happening in classrooms JK-12 by way of a meaningful, connected, and evolving curriculum.
Affinity groups are spaces for students with similar identities to come together in an adult facilitated space to discuss their experiences and explore their identities. Grounded in research about Curriculum as Windows and Mirrors (Style, E., 1998), this is one space for children to see themselves and their experiences reflected in their peers. Affinity groups of all varieties begin in the Lower School and continue through Intermediate, Middle and Upper School.
At Parker, we believe each student deserves the opportunity to find her or his own voice, strengthen that voice, and use that voice to contribute to the community. Affinity groups at Parker are opportunities for students to come together in a safe, adult facilitated space to discuss their experiences, explore their identities, and consider how their identities influence their experiences at and outside of Parker. Our hope is that affinity groups provide interested students with opportunities to gain a stronger sense of who they are, in turn strengthening the overall Parker community.
While affinity groups have historically been more popular in upper grades, research and experience inform us that individuals in the United States are considering their racial identities as early as age three. They are noticing differences and attributing generalizations to those differences as they make sense of the world around them and their own place within it. We are putting a concerted effort into ensuring that all students, regardless of their racial identity, have the opportunity to form positive self-images. However, we know that young students of color face greater challenges because of the messages they often receive from society and can benefit from connecting with other students of color and being mentored by adults of color.
While the SOCA groups are only open to students of color, through direct, intentional programming within the curriculum in the Lower and Intermediate Schools, all students have the opportunity to consider their own racial identity and how it plays into their greater sense of self. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is the author of a previous summer reading book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Dr. Tatum describes racial identity development as “the process of defining for oneself the personal significance and social meaning of belonging to a particular racial group.” Research shows that “children internalize aspects of racial identity from the adults and peers around them. For students of color in predominantly white independent schools, resisting negative stereotypes and affirming carefully considered definitions of themselves are critical to counterbalance the limited number of role models who mirror them racially.” While white identity development is absolutely important to a child’s development, we know there are a number of factors in the racial identity development process of young children of color that can benefit from direct programming in a way that differs from that of white students.