FSSA On It’s Way to Becoming an Anti-Racist Institution
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts’ (FSSA) Anti-Racism committee is in full swing after a year of tragic events affecting the world and many minority groups. Ending off the summer after experiencing the death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd earlier in the year, Sinatra students, faculty, and alumni have made it their mission to turn the school into an anti-racist institution.
With the guidance of the principal, Mr. Frankel, and administration, students have gone into the new 2020-2021 school year with the intention of making changes in the classroom as well as in the curriculum. Having the committee being broken up into three sections of student, staff, and parent/ alumni, there is reinforcement that students of all races and backgrounds should be and feel safe when entering and leaving the school building.
The committee has been in effect for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the death of George Floyd in May when everything seemed a lot more paramount than it was before. The execution and development of the committee became more of an expectation and not a goal.
“After the murder of George Floyd and the news about Ahmound Aubrey and Breonna Taylor came to light in early June, I think it was the obligation of every school, every company, every organization, every community to really think about what was happening in our world and our role and place in that,” said Mr. Frankel.
Over the summer there was the creation of an Instagram page titled ‘blackatsinatra.’ It contains more than 160 stories of microaggressions experienced by students attending the school. The account became a very popular safe space where many alumni and students felt comfortable sharing the uncomfortable and racist situations they encountered. It always seems easier to share an anonymous story and have no one know it was you, then to have the difficult conversations.
“Mr. Frankel used the student town hall meetings as a platform to express our concerns and air out how we are feeling,” said Danielle Sanois, a junior dance major at FSSA and member of the Anti-Racist student committee. “After that really good conversation between students, teachers, and staff it was realized that we needed to have a space to talk about issues like this and current events; because we don’t talk about this in class.”
Since the start of the school year, there have been countless meetings and guest speakers attending the school’s town hall meetings. Allowing people to claim their stories without being afraid of backlash or consequences from others is the goal. Stripping away the anonymity of each story is the goal, as well as creating an institution where racism is not welcomed nor tolerated.
By attending the meetings participants are welcomed by not only people of color, but allies of the community who want to see a change inside the walls of FSSA. The overarching mission is to inform and assist the community regarding racial discrimination within FSSA while addressing all acts of inclusion and implicit bias accurately and appropriately.
In recent weeks an Anti-Racism and Social Justice Speaker Series has evolved in connection with the committee. The series entitled “Empowering Students To Create Positive Change” invites all students, staff, parents and alumni to partake in workshops and conversations that will put the community on track for a non-racist environment. The creation of these efforts begs the question: Why didn’t FSSA start this sooner?
“It took so long because they didn’t know how to talk about it,” said Dallas White, a junior dance major and student on the committee.
This speaks volumes as to why we see issues from centuries ago still arising in today’s society. Instead of having the difficult conversations that have always been needed, it is easier to put on a temporary solution and revisit the problem later. It’s important to remember that band-aids don’t fix the problem, they only conceal it from getting bigger, and they are always temporary.
Mr. Frankel’s hope with the committee is that throughout doing this anti-racism work FSSA students can analyze what is going on in society and become activists for change.
There is recognition that work needs to start within the walls of Sinatra before critiques in our community can be made. Learning will take place once the teachers start to listen because within every classroom things are being said that shouldn’t.
On the faculty and staff side of things, there is very little space for opinions and attitudes because the case of whether racism affects FSSA is not an opinion, it’s a fact. Once personal opinions are set aside it opens up a whole new space for respect and appreciation for the students that sit in their classes 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
It is imperative that especially during these times where learning is remote, the work that is being done within this committee doesn’t lose momentum. For the committee to be able to meet weekly after school through Zoom aids in creating the space where concerns and opinions are welcome and needed.
By amplifying the voices of minorities and making reforms towards a more diverse curriculum and multicultural arts program, this committee welcomes all to do the work that has been needing to get done.
If you asked how Sinatra will become an anti-racist school and make this change sustainable? The answer is simple: Allow the committee to provide the framework for a new school community that is actively trying to be less ignorant and more aware.
Students need to be more vocal and understanding about how their race, whether they acknowledge it or not, comes with certain privileges and disadvantages.
Students need to continue having these difficult conversations frequently, and not only when another death makes it popular, because racism, as well as racist acts and microaggressions, are not a trend.
FSSA’s Anti-Racism Committee meets every Wednesday at 3:30pm. Use the link below to get invovled:
– by Laurice Lawrence ’21