Community Letter Following Protests and Unrest

Angela DeGraff
Dear Princeton Friends School Community,

My heart is tender as I share the deep and collective pain that many within our cities, towns, nation and world have been experiencing these past days. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are a reminder of the racism and inequity that plague our communities. As an African American mother, who has raised four sons and a daughter, and has dedicated my professional life to educating young people, I am acutely aware of the impact of racial bias on people of all cultures. While children of color experience this bias in unique and different ways, I’ve seen the negative impact on all children.

In times of challenge, I ask myself, “What is the lesson I am to learn?” For me, the quest to discover and name the lesson leads me from the despair of hopelessness to the light of wisdom, and ultimately to love. It adds clarity to the steps I must take and the “call to action” I intend for community members, friends and loved ones.

Our Quaker foundation leads us to strive to create an equitable society to see the light in everyone, to be bound together as one community of diverse individuals. We hold an unwavering commitment to human rights and freedom for all. Now more than ever, our Friends education must show its value to our community and the world while we stand in solidarity with those who suffer the indignities of racism.

The last three months have led us to look at our world differently. The unprecedented pandemic, which highlighted inequities in our healthcare system, and the painful cry from our black and brown communities for the end to racism, which has plagued our country for generations, provide us with an opportunity. I encourage us to consider the ways we can be more effective and loving in our honest attempts to stand up for each other, to bear witness to the suffering of our neighbors, and to do what is right with clarity of heart. It is time to align our voices and our actions to work for justice.

It is my hope that we are witnessing a long-overdue pivotal moment in our national history. I know we are witnessing critical moments in our students’ lives. Tomorrow, at PFS, we will pause our regularly scheduled common work time to create developmentally appropriate groups for reflective conversation about recent events and what they tell us about the need for healing the effects of systemic racism. In addition, we invite the community, including Princeton Monthly Meeting, to join for an hour of reflection and contemplation tomorrow, June 3, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

I have also included some resources to support you in your efforts to continue this important work at home.

- Talking to Kids About George Floyd
- George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?
- Supporting Vulnerable Students in Stressful Times: Tips for Parents
- Talking about race with young children | NPR

This past weekend, I delighted in visiting the homes of each of our eighth graders to deliver congratulatory yard signs. On each sign was the caption, “Now, go out there and change the world!” Our graduates have significant milestones yet to achieve to prepare for leading changes in the world, including high school, college, graduate school and launching their professional lives. And yet, the world is in need of profound change now. Until they are ready, we must lead the change.

Let’s join together in our efforts to make a difference.

Angela
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