Reflections From This Year's PoCC/SDLC Conference

For the past several years, Princeton Day School has sent a large cohort of students and faculty to the annual People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The mission for the annual conference is "to provide a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools" (NAIS webpage). This year was in many ways a critically important year for the conference and, undeterred by the pandemic, it was held virtually, with many PDS students and faculty attending,

Student representatives to the SDLC included: Britney Chia '21, Chima Chukumba '21, Nikhil Gandhi '22, Idaliza Perez Jiminez '22, Maddie Nowack '22 and Albert Zhou '23

Faculty attending this year's PoCC included: Casey Upson, Deva Watson, Alana Allen, Amy Matlack, Elizabeth Monroe, Jason Park, members of CMDT, Anthony McKinley (also DEI Director), Daniel Cohen, Victor Cirilo, Darling Cerna, and CMDT Chair Caroline Lee.  

Here, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tony McKinley shares his reflections from the conference.

What were your biggest take aways from this year's conference?

AM: "I have two big takeaways from the conference. The first is the absolute importance of truth telling, particularly as pertaining to the genesis of independent schools. We have to change the notion that talking about our history is a bad thing. Truth telling is the first step toward healing. 

The second is that this movement for DEI work isn’t for me or the School, it’s for the world. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re looking to change the world; the stakes are high."

How do transformative moments at PoCC become ongoing ones at our school? 

AM: "This is a difficult topic for me. To be clear, there are transformative moments at PoCC that are solely for the individual. These deeply personal transformations don’t have to be tied to the school, though I do believe that schools will benefit from these personal developments. That aside, many moments of the conference become ongoing moments at the school through intentional commitment, creativity, endurance, open-mindedness and time. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of initiatives here at PDS begin with the planting of seeds at PoCC and SDLC, the most recent being additional student and faculty affinity groups."

Were there any specific moments that resonated with you?

AM: "One thing that resonates with me is the absolute necessity of this conference. This year, I felt the need for this community space like never before. NAIS did an impressive job of adapting to the times, but there’s nothing like the camaraderie, fellowship and familial energy of being in person with those having the same experience as you. Nothing. I’m putting into the universe that next year in Baltimore will be in person!"

How has attending the conference expanded your thinking?

AM: "My thinking is expanded each time I attend this conference. This year, the notion of good intentions not equaling good outcomes has reverberated in my mind time and time again. As a result of this notion, it’s crystal clear that schools have to put in the Work. Fortunately, PDS is committed to doing so."

For more information about diversity, equity and inclusion at PDS, including updates on recent initiatives, see Our Journey: Teaching and Learning for Social Justice. For more information about the PoCC and SDLC experience and resources, see PDS's December CMDT newsletter here.

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