GDS Social Justice Teach-In Days 2022
At GDS, student learning is sustained through a regular diet of social justice-minded education. And, throughout the year, the community is treated to special feasts of justice-focused learning. As in past years, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)—in partnership with faculty, staff, students, parents, and visiting experts—hosted one of those “feasts,” with February’s GDS Social Justice Teach-In Days, two days filled to overflowing at both the High School and Middle School with workshops, seminars, and mini-lessons to honor the life and work of social justice activists who have paved the way for our future leaders.
The theme this year was Tasteful Journeys: Experiencing the Flavor of Our Cultural Roots. “Our intention behind this theme,” explained program associate Guyton Mathews, “is to highlight the many ways food, music, and storytelling can be a bridge to understanding one’s own culture and build appreciation for others’ cultures. As food is so central to the human experience, it serves as such a great catalyst for connecting across cultures.”
Following a keynote address in each division, students and faculty/staff dispersed into more than 30 different sessions, many (though not all) of which followed this foodways learning experience. In both divisions, participants had the opportunity to choose from among Exploring Latin Culture Through Food; Food Deserts in DC? Yes!; Jewish Culture and Jewish Cuisine; Master Class with Chef Kareem "Mr.Bake" Queeman, and Life Resettled: A Journey Through Food. At the Middle School, students could also choose Hummus, Pita, and the Middle East as well as “High on the Hog” How African American Cuisine Transformed America. High School students joined other division-specific sessions, such as Rejecting Diet Culture, Reclaiming a Joyful Relationship with Food, and Tracing The Immigrant Food Experience. A number of annual sessions continued, including Harlem Renaissance, AAPI Representation in the Media, Black Women and the PWI Experience, and Islamophobia in America.
Middle School Principal Debby Previna lauded the impact of the day in appreciation of the DEI Office. She said, “With more than 30 student, family, and teacher-led workshops, the day was a tour-de-force and fulfilled its intended objective of bringing us together to deepen our knowledge of the lived experiences of members of our community. We left inspired, joyful, and connected. So, thank you DEI office for creating this space for us to commune and celebrate the power of diversity, equity, and inclusion in practice.”
Each division’s day kicked off with a keynote from Gabrielle E.W. Carter, a multi-disciplinary artist and cultural preservationist who uses diasporic and local food as a vehicle to reimagine wealth, marginalized food systems, and inheritance. At the High School, participants were treated to a closing keynote from award-winning chef Pati Jinich (Juju ’24, Sami ’20, and Alan ’17), who shared behind-the-scenes stories from her upcoming PBS docu-series “La Frontera.” Middle School students had a sweet end to their day with a keynote presentation from Kareem “Mr. Bake” Queeman, who began his sweet journey in the kitchen alongside his grandmother at five years old; he now runs his own cake & confections company.
Gabrielle, Pati, and Kareem were joined by GDS chef Khari Bell for the Social Justice Teach-In evening programming, where they shared favorites recipes at an online “fireside chat” that flavor their life story.
Crispy Skin Salmon over Groundnut & Collard Stew (Gabrielle E.W. Carter)
Pinto Bean Soup with Masa Dumplings (Pati Jinich)
Sweet Potato Cake (Kareem “Mr. Bake” Queeman)
Carrot Bisque (Khari Bell)
Gabrielle also invited students and their families to explore creating a Micro Archive for Food & Tradition. This resource was shared courtesy of Revival Taste Collective.
“I learned lots of important information at [Middle School history teacher] Toussaint and [Middle School counselor] Pryndall's workshop, The Stigma Behind Mental Health Awareness in the Black Community,” said Julia ’28. Toussaint and Prydall also presented the previous day at the High School, where the students and facilitators had the opportunity to discuss the impact of generational trauma and cultural stereotypes on mental health awareness. Julia also added, “I especially took away that it is important to always think about what you're going to say before you say it, especially if the person you are saying it to [may have] been having problems with mental health.”
Ninth grader Eliana Green ’25 said, “I learned a lot about racism within the Latine community from my first workshop [Yearning for Whiteness: Dealing with Racism & Colorism in the Latine Community].” That session, while exploring the history of white supremacy’s impact on those communities, also discussed possible ways to uproot its lingering effects in Latine communities. “I also liked what the keynote speakers [Gabrielle and Pati] had to say and appreciated what they talked about,” Eliana added.
Many thanks to DEI Director Marlo Thomas, program associate Guyton Mathews, and program coordinator Shakera Pardner as well as staff, students, and families who made the days successful (Maintenance Team! Tech Team! Divisional Office Teams!). Though we can sustain ourselves and grow from regular helpings of social justice learning, there’s nothing like a feast of a day to give us a boost and inspire a recommitment to expanded cultural competency and anti-bias education.