Affinity Groups Return to School After a Critical Summer


(Photo/Princeton Day School on Twitter)

Adya Jha, Online Staff Writer

This past summer, in the wake of nation-wide racial justice protests in response to the deaths of several unarmed Black men and women at the hands of a corrupt policing system, PDS pledged to combat racism and increase inclusion in the community through several initiatives, including round-tables, a Non-Discrimination Policy, partnering with diversity consultants such as Dr. Artis, establishing a Black Alumni Council, and appointing Upper School educator Mr. McKinley as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

In the Non-Discrimination Policy dispersed to the entire Princeton Day School community in October, the school committed itself to several new plans that aim to foster a culture of inclusivity in all areas of PDS learning and education, stating “PDS has an affirmative duty to ensure that its curricula, athletic programs, extracurricular opportunities, and community experiences are equitably available and instill respect for the experiences, perspectives, and contributions of our diverse community.” This begs the question: how do student-run Affinity Groups fit into this larger picture? Will there be any structural changes, especially considering the recent Black Lives Matter protests?

Senior Josh Colon, the head of the Black and Latinx Student Union (BLSU), shared, “We hope to provide a safe space for our Black and Latinx community, especially during a year [in which] getting political is arguably unavoidable given the election.” Upper School English teacher Caroline Lee, the faculty advisor of the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) Affinity Group, added, “We have a lot to process, and it’s important that we keep the conversations going. We are hoping to provide a space and a curriculum where we can learn from one another and honor our group’s stories, experiences, and histories.”

Additionally, senior Katie Jain, cohead of the Multiracial Student Union, commented, “As we continue to have very real and self-reflective conversations about race and identity at PDS this year, I think that looking at the complicated aspects and at the nuance within each individual issue will be so important, and one intricacy within discussions about race is the question of where do mixed people fit in.” Senior Vinay Rao, student head of APIDA, continued, “We would also like to build solidarity throughout the year so it is important to have meetings with other affinity groups.”

Overall, there seems to be a general sense that Affinity Groups this year will have a greater focus on becoming a safe space for all, in which members of the community can share their concerns and foster a sense of belonging. Furthermore, the closed spaces will work towards addressing the racial justice protests of this past summer following the unjust and deplorable killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many more, and how their specific community fits into the larger narrative. As faculty head of the Latinx Student Union Darling Cerna said of the BLSU, “Our goal is to create spaces where our students feel supported and valued, where they can share what their experience at PDS is like in absolute transparency, while feeling supported by their peers and the faculty advisors. Our group is already one big family, I cannot wait to see what the year will bring for all of us. I know we will accomplish wonderful things!”