In honor of Black History Month, Mt. Hebron hosted Dr. Keisha McIntosh Allen on Feb. 15 in a unique Viking Time seminar to discuss race, culture and identity with all of Mt. Hebron’s community.
Dr. Allen earned a doctorate of Education in Urban and Multicultural Education from Teachers College at Columbia University as well as a Masters degree in Secondary Education from Hampton University. She taught English before becoming a Postdoctoral Fellow for Faculty Diversity in the Department of Education. She is currently researching and teaching how race is a factor in the education of marginalized youth, which she analyzes in her dissertation, “(In)visible Sons: Exploring the Enactment of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy with African American Adolescent Males as a Means to Increase Their Opportunity to Learn.”
After second period on Wednesday, students and staff were invited to listen to Dr. Allen speak on her work and how race plays a role at Mt. Hebron. Her focus was centered around the greater impact of the power of love rather than power based on fear and punishment, as well as the many values of diversity.
Guidance counselor Ms. Irene Bademosi organized the seminar for Dr. Allen to speak at Mt. Hebron.
“This is my 19th year here, and I just want us to be united. I want us to see our school like a Venn diagram where we can focus on the connections we share. Our school is like a mini-United Nations; we have a little bit of everywhere here,” Ms. Bademosi said.
“We need peace,” Ms. Bademosi continued. “Hebron has been in turmoil for over two years. This was not how it was when I first came here. I don’t want the future to be divided.”
Dr. Allen began her presentation with an activity about writing with full presence. Students were instructed to write what roles and descriptions made up their personalities, how they want to feel and a fear of theirs.
Dr. Allen then shared with the audience that she had written two letters to the students of Mt. Hebron, one addressed to African-American students, and one addressed to white students. In her letter to African-American students, she praised their collective attitude and actions against racism and injustice and encouraged them to “continue a legacy and work towards collective liberation,” she said.
She emphasized that using their talents and loving and accepting themselves is the truest form of “political warfare,” and that it was crucial that they “learn to be quiet enough to learn the genuine voice within yourself so that you can hear it in others,” she said.
In her letter to the white students at Mt. Hebron, Dr. Allen explained the sentiment of Ubuntu, which is the idea that each person forms an identity through other people, that humans are meant for interdependence, and that acceptance is key. She expressed the idea of “I am because we are” through a call to action to white students: “The black and brown students of Hebron are your brothers and sisters. How will you protect them? This is what I charge you with,” she said.
Dr. Allen then began to discuss the value of diversity and the way that diversity introduces new perspectives crucial to critical thinking and problem solving, increases empathy and knowledge, and supports skills critical to work in a global economy.
She closed her seminar with a group activity fueled by audience participation to reflect the writing with presence activity completed at the beginning of her speech. Students of all ethnicities, genders and grades were invited to form a circle at the front of the auditorium. One student began holding a ball of yarn and shared with the group a fear or quality of theirs. Whoever in the circle shared the same characteristics was handed the ball of yarn until everyone was a part of the “web of connection.” This activity was meant to prove the similarities and shared humanity of all of our community.
Although Dr. Allen’s seminar was short, she will return to Mt. Hebron at a later date to continue her discussion.