I am writing today to follow up on last Thursday’s forum which was hosted by Lori Patriacca ‘01 and John Bouton focused on the film Just Mercy. The film - watch it if you haven’t - focuses on the work of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative work Stevenson does to review and exonerate those - mostly Black and on death row - who have been wrongfully prosecuted and convicted. It’s an eye-opening film into a skewed legal system and it prompted good community and self reflection. The forum is part of an on-going series of conversations and listening sessions organized at Proctor since the protests, unrest, and calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Over the last week we have collectively borne witness to the news of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while in police custody, have seen the spread of angst and anger in communities, and seen images of protesters across the country. We have seen property damage. We have seen teargas shot into crowds and riot police knocking over protesters. We have seen police kneeling alongside protestors, peacefully. We have seen images of military helicopters intimidating crowds. We have seen journalists attacked and arrested. Amidst all of this (and the pandemic) it is hard for individuals and communities to find a framework for the turmoil that doesn’t make it feel overwhelming. We wonder where and when the healing will begin, when the requisite societal changes will take shape, and who will lead us through this valley.
Oh, the places we go, the geographies we ramble across, the memories we make. When we spend time in a particular setting and then leave, we carry with us the memories of people and adventures, but we also carry within us the geography of place, and that geography is a powerful force within us. Or as Wallace Stegner once noted in reflections about wilderness spaces these places can become “geographies of hope,” entering into the heart.
In a cacophonous world, in a time when it can feel like whoever is the most persistent, is the last one talking out the other voices to claim the narrative, the truth, the facts, the mute button has something to teach us. This Zoom, WebEx landscape may not be such a bad thing for us to experience these days if we can take this one little lesson, a lesson that is reminiscent of what my mother used to remind me whenever I used to blurt out some inanity without thinking, “Please…just please remember to engage your brain before you engage your tongue.”
This past weekend would have been Proctor's Spring Family Weekend. Teachers and advisors would have gathered with parents to discuss student growth. We would have played games Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, seen a sneak peak at the Spring Musical during assembly, and Head of School Mike Henriques would have shared his annual "State of Proctor" conversation with families.
It’s not easy finding the community fix these days. It’s not easy for faculty, not easy for staff, not easy for students. The virtual get-together gets you maybe half way there, but there’s nothing quite like the face to face. So we find it where and when we can, and I am fortunate enough to be able to duck into the kitchen now and again.
In this time of unbelievable uncertainty, the decisions, the big decisions can be hard to make. Do you make the move or not make the move? Education for a child is one of those big ones, particularly if you are considering investing in a new community. The tuition and room and board fees? Those are big numbers. How do you know if the school is going to be right, if it’s all going to click? If the faculty are going to understand your child, if the peer group is going to be right, if the whole thing is going to take? For those of us who may be a little ahead of you on the journey, perhaps there is some wisdom to share.