September 16, 2020

Black Lives Matter: Why This Matters at Oakwood

As we settle into the new school year and adjust to this new mode of teaching and learning, we imagine that you may also be making similar modifications to your own work or school life, and we hope that you are making your way through this unusual season of our lives. The twin pandemics of these times—COVID-19 and the persistent effects of systemic racism—have taken a real emotional, economic, and physical toll. This is disproportionately the case for members of the Black community. One can come to understand how in a number of ways: by looking at national health data or by considering the 400-plus year history of anti-Black racialized violence in America. In the face of these overwhelming facts, we hope this message helps to “Embrace the Moment,” to focus on the work at hand, here and now, with one another.

Today we are writing with an update on the ongoing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Antiracism work Oakwood is doing to make this community more just and aligned with our longstanding values.

Black Lives Matter: 
Why This Matters at Oakwood

Each year, in partnership with high school student leaders, we choose a DEI theme that focuses our work throughout the year. Previous themes have been: “Windows and Mirrors,” “Intersectionality,” and “Gender Beyond Binary.” Last year’s theme, “Race Talk 360: Courageous Conversations About Race,” enabled our community to examine the complexities of racism within white supremacist culture. Additionally, we deliberately focused on Black excellence. One significant outcome from Diversity Week last October was a critical examination of the Oakwood gorilla mascot and its connection to antiblackness, racist tropes, and violence. Oakwood also sent the largest and most diverse group of faculty, staff, administration, and students to the NAIS People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Seattle, WA. In January, prior to beginning remote learning, Oakwood saw over 300 folks attend the Voices Envisioned speaker series with Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility—which was Oakwood’s DEI community book read.

As a natural continuation of the ways in which we engaged in the work last year, our school-wide DEI theme this year is “Black Lives Matter: Why This Matters at Oakwood.”

More Ways to Undertake the Work

As a way of rising to the moment of our current national racial reckoning, we have reimagined Diversity Week to be an ongoing conversation throughout the school year. Our longstanding Voices Envisioned speaker series is also expanding. From October 2020 to May 2021, every month will feature a prominent racial and social justice activist and/or author. We invite and encourage alumni families to attend this virtual series.

We are honored to welcome Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, as our first guest speaker in this series on Tuesday, October 20 at 7pm. She will also lead a special all-school assembly for secondary campus students that school day. Click here for the full line up of Voices Envisioned speakers.

In addition to these monthly speaker events, Oakwood parents and guardians have even more opportunities for deeper engagement. As a companion piece to the schoolwide Pollyanna Racial Literacy Curriculum work being done by faculty and staff, K-8 families will be asked to partake in one of a series of discussions led by Monique Vogelsang.

In response to many White-identifying Oakwood parents and guardians seeking more sustained involvement in racial equity work, we are offering two workshops. The first is a three-part series with Christine Saxman and Ryan Virden-Williams. The second, an Allyship Workshop facilitated by Ms. Queenie Johnson will take place on Tuesday, October 27 at 7pm. In this workshop, participants will examine the 5Ps of antiracism work—Power, Policy, Proximity, Perspective, and Persuasion—and build skills and confidence for effective allyship in relation to the four levels in which racism operates: Personal, Interpersonal, Institutional, and Cultural.

Becoming a More Responsive & Equitable School

Our community-wide DEI theme and work is all the more relevant as former and current Black Oakwood students have shared personal stories of their experiences with racism through @blackatoakwood. These personal stories of both macro and microaggressions have led us to solicit the outside services of Alison Park of Blink DEI consultants. Two action items the school is developing as part of this partnership are an Antibias/Antiracist Reporting Protocol as well as a full community Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Audit.

An Antibias/Antiracist Reporting Protocol will enable Oakwood School to do the following:

  • Empower identification of bias incidents within the Oakwood community via a reporting tool and process;
  • Evaluate incidents to discern the school’s responsibilities and actions; and
  • Track the school’s handling of incidents, from submission through resolution (when possible) and/or broader policy, programming or other institutional changes.

A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Audit is a two-pronged method of assessing equity and inclusion in design and demonstrated outcomes (i.e. intention and impact). This audit will be integrated into institutional systems and processes to provide evidence and insights into community experiences. These two initiatives will be ongoing, developed and piloted over this school year.

Supporters, Allies, and Accomplices

Going back to the earliest days of Oakwood School, when our founders planted the seeds that would grow into the educational community we are today, all of our community members have been woven into the very fabric of school life. The mission in our Statement of Philosophy, “… to foster independence of thought, intellectual integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others, and prepare students for participation in a democratic society” is therefore all of ours. This mission would be impossible without the partnerships happening within our entire community helping to do this work.

We look forward to keeping you all updated about everything that Oakwood is doing in the areas of DEI and Antiracist work. Thank you for your support.


Jaime Dominguez, Head of School
Linda Rose-Winters, Director of DEI Programs K-12
Kevin Golden, Assistant Principal K-6, Associate Director of DEI Programs, K-12