Masked teacher teaching elementary school children.
Fall Heads Gathering 2023: A Long Talk About the Uncomfortable Truth

If you were to peek inside this year’s Fall Heads Gathering, you’d find things looked a little different than in past years. While heads were learning together as usual, this year heads of schools had, well, homework. Then you’d find them spending two hours on a Sunday evening engaged in two hours of intense online learning and conversation about the history and implications of racism in America. The following Thursday, you would have seen them huddled in small groups throughout the Worship Room in Friends Center, role playing how to actively challenge and interrupt racism. Last but not least, you would have found Directors from the Friends Council Board actively participating in the entire experience alongside heads of schools.

Welcome to A Long Talk, an anti-racism activation experience. Friends Council engaged A Long Talk for this year’s heads gathering and board meeting as part of our focus on supporting schools in their goals around becoming anti-racist institutions. This focus is outlined in our Principles of Good Practice used for the Quaker Self Study process for Friends Council membership.

A Long Talk’s mission is to energize, activate, and empower people to listen, view, and respond to situations in real time, in the pursuit of a shared purpose of eradicating racism in America. It does so through ongoing conversation focused on truth, understanding, and problem solving, leading to individual and cooperative activism. 

Led by the organization’s Chief Empowerment Officer, Kyle R. Williams, an educator and Sidwell Friends School (DC) parent, and its President, Kamal Carter, scientist, activist, educator and management consultant, A Long Talk is more than a training. The idea is to provide an experience where individuals make connections between history and today’s current reality, learn the “CPR Protocol” to challenge racism and activate their own activism by collectively and consistently identifying and interrupting racism.

One head of school, Michael Gary, head of Friends Select School (PA), had the following to say about his experience with A Long Talk in his heads letter to his Friends Select community: 

Friends Council on Education hosted heads of Quaker schools from across the country here in Philadelphia last week. It was a special time to connect deeply with colleagues who bear the same challenges and have the same joys of leading a Quaker school. The session that moved me the most was the presentation by A Long Talk. I left their session with tools to employ in doing antiracist work and many thoughts still marinating in my mind; one of those tools is called CPR, which helps start a non-confrontational conversation with someone who holds white supremacy views. Also, their online platform is full of content about our racist history I had not seen previously. Their mantra is the frontline to combating white supremacy is in the classroom. Lest we Quaker schools think we have arrived, A Long Talk was started by a parent who had three sons attend a Quaker school and experienced white supremacy from teachers and fellow students. Unpacking and revealing racism and white supremacy is a full-time job for us all, if we are serious about eradicating it. I’ll leave you a thought that A Long Talk shared and still has me flummoxed: if America could eradicate smoking in public places in roughly twelve years, America could eradicate white supremacy and racism if we really wanted to in the same amount of time—profound.

Photo Credit: Eddie Einbender-Luks

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