Conversations on Race at the Waldorf School

Steering Group member Maleka Diggs has been working throughout the year with a group of parents, administrators, and teachers at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia. Alexis and I — two of PCM’s three summer interns — had the pleasure of sitting in on the last of these workshops, which took place June 4th. The goal of this year long program was to facilitate the creation of an anti-racist community at Waldorf through racial bias training. At this final training, the benefits of such a long-term committed endeavor were on display.

The gathering began with a potluck dinner, and participants chatted while they ate and music played quietly in the background. Later, Maleka explained that these things — the shared food, the music — were integral parts of the meeting. At this last meeting, participants would walk through a model “Mix & Match” gathering. Mix & Match, created by Maleka and other PCM members, is an intentionally multiracial gathering of families to discuss race, specifically Black and Brown peoples.

The potluck is a core piece of Mix & Match — it builds connections among the families, it sets the tone for a warm and authentic community space, and it provides an opportunity for cultural exchange and discussion thereof through the sharing of foods from different cultures. The music in the background was to simulate the effect of having these important, sometimes heavy conversations in the presence of children, who might draw their parents’ attention away at any point. Maleka reminded participants that this kind of distraction was a reality for parents and families engaging in these type of discussions, and that we do well to acknowledge and prepare for the reality.

As the conversation went on, it became powerfully honest, open, and constructive. Participants first spoke about recent events that were related to race and racism — the recent arrest of two Black men sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks, a viral video of a Black child being bullied and hit on a playground by a group of white children — and then naturally transitioned into talking about their own community. Participants asked important, hard-hitting questions: Do incident like this happen at Waldorf? When they do, how do we respond, as parents, teachers, administrators, as a community?

The training was a testimony to the power of dedicated community members pushing themselves out of their comfort zone in order to discuss the important impacts of race and racism on their own community. PCM is happy to have shared in part of this community’s journey towards being a more inclusive, anti-racist space for all its students, families, and staff!