Dear York House Community,
I am reaching out today to express my deep sadness and anguish over the senseless and tragic killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others in Black communities in the US that have provoked outrage and protest throughout the world over ongoing systemic racism. These are not isolated incidents. Sadly, racism and racial inequalities continue to permeate communities, justice and legal systems as well as organizations here in Canada. These need to be acknowledged and understood. Schools, including ours, have a role to play in addressing discrimination and violence and cultivating equity and justice for all. We are committed to doing this important work.
In these times, one can have a range of emotions and be at a loss for what to think or do next. We know that racism affects members of our community and their lived experiences in different and uneven ways. Anchored by our values, we must start with a commitment to see, hear, and honour everyone in our community. At York House School we believe that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights. As such, we are committed to standing against all forms of hatred and discrimination. We stand for building communities where all people are safe and protected, where they can access quality education, and realize their potential and their dreams. We acknowledge that we have work to do and this involves students and adults. This calls upon us to deeply examine the culture and practices within our own school community.
This work does not happen in one day, one discussion or one workshop. We commit as an organization to engage in this complex work. As Michelle Obama expressed this week, “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 out [racism]. 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.”
Each of us is responsible for fostering an equitable, respectful, and just community. At this moment, each of us has an opportunity to take action. I applaud those of you who have already done so. Teachers and students at York House have and will continue to engage with these important issues. For example, in Ms. Boteju’s class, guests Rhiannon Bennett and Andrea Hilder from Hummingbird’s Rising Consulting led a discussion regarding approaches to decolonization as part of a class exploration of Indigenous literature.
In addition, YHS Senior students have initiated a human rights project for the next academic year to encourage deeper understanding and engagement of social justice issues. Enlisting the support of two teacher sponsors, students are seeking to examine these issues with community leaders in Vancouver. From JK- Grade 12, our faculty are exploring race and Indigenous perspectives and realities through collaborative book studies, conversations, and curricular planning. This ongoing work will help us examine and develop practices and mindsets of social justice and shape our collective roles and responsibilities.
We are committed to joining forces to denounce and address racial inequalities and systemic racism. Together, as one caring community, let us support, respect, and honour each other’s uniqueness and differences. Through action, we can build a more just and equitable society.
Head of School