In 1945, Aggie O’Neil opened Georgetown Day School’s first campus in a small townhouse in what is now Chinatown. It was the first integrated school in D.C. While an integrated school in 1945 was radical, that was a long time ago—and in 2020, GDS has some catching up to do. While GDS is significantly more diverse than some schools in the country, better is not enough. GDS does not always feel inclusive to all students. GDS proudly remembers its progressive history, but at a certain point the school must stop relying on its past and start successfully working on creating a safe and inclusive environment for the students of color of the future.
Black at GDS is an account on Instagram that was created in June to make GDS a more inclusive community. Many schools in the area, including Sidwell Friends School, Maret, The Field School, Potomac and Walt Whitman, have accounts similar to Black at GDS. Black students, parents, faculty and alumni of GDS can send stories to the account anonymously to spread awareness and improve the community. Black at GDS has become an outlet for the many unheard voices and untold stories.
Students of color have not always felt that GDS is as inclusive as it claims to be. Black at GDS has ample examples from people who are Black in the community. For some students of color, it is quite rare that they feel safe in the environment that GDS provides.
“I often wonder had I not been Black if this would have happened to me,” Dion Harris, a GDS sophomore, said. Harris recounted an incident he faced last year where a different student said to him that they thought he “was using GDS kids for money.” This is not a rare occurrence. Many students at GDS have been stereotyped based on the color of their skin. When reported, however, the situations get swept under the rug.
While GDS tries to foster an inclusive community, students of color evidently don’t always feel safe.
“I have watched how the administration has handled cases of racism, and I cannot go to them because I am afraid that I will get in trouble, or be dubbed the title of the problem child, so I turn to Black at GDS,” said sophomore Nande Bond. Consequences are not always as severe as they should be and empathy for students of color is not as abundant as it should be. This leaves students of color in need of an outlet and safe space that GDS does not provide. The result: students turning to social media to share their stories.
Social media has propelled the Black Lives Matter movement by providing a powerful and convenient platform for the individual voices that make up the movement. A post can be shared with thousands of people at the press of a button. Information has not been this easy to share until our generation. Because social media is extremely accessible for young people, they have used it to educate others and spread information about protests.
For example, there was a sit-in at National Cathedral School on June 5 that was fully organized, run and attended by students from a variety of schools in D.C. Information about the sit-in was spread over social media and The Washington Post published an article about it. Social media has been one of the many steps taken in creating a safe and inclusive community at GDS and generally in America.
As America and the world experience another great movement for civil rights, it is important that GDS keeps up. By taking responsibility for the mistakes of the past and holding itself accountable for the mistakes that will be made in the future, GDS can start to actually create the community it aspires to be. Creating an inclusive and safe space for students of color at GDS is a necessary step GDS must take, even if it will take a while.
Sophie Bronner ’23, Keevan Kearns ’23 and Lucy Mezey ’23