Bears Repeating: I, too, am America

Bears Repeating: I, too, am America

Head of School Jess Hill shares her thoughts in her latest blog post: I, too, am America. Read more on her Bears Repeating blog.


I, too, am America

by Jess Hill

June 2020

"I, too, am America."
Langston Hughes

Words did not come. I admit to feeling speechless after all I saw over the last week. First the horrific death of George Floyd followed by the outrage in cities across the country, including our very own. The fear and anger in our streets Saturday night were made more poignant because they followed weeks and weeks of pandemic isolation, not to mention a disproportionate loss of life within our African American community.   

But this is our city. Nashville is the place where we are supposed to come together in tragedy, where we serve hot chocolate to protestors, where we stand together through floods and tornadoes. Nashville is the place, in 1960, where civil rights activist Dianne Nash confronted then Mayor Ben West on the steps of City Hall with the question, "Do you feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of their race or color?" The mayor truthfully admitted that he felt it was wrong. Nashville changed. America changed, yet, racism persisted. That sacred place on the steps of City Hall is commemorated by a plaque, a plaque that was unknowingly defaced on Saturday night during the riots. 

And now we find ourselves broken again, and broken all along, searching for words to inspire and comfort. The words do not come easily. It is time for more change.

The only word that finally comes to mind is "solidarity" -- it is the cry for our country, our city, and even our very own school community as we move forward toward a better, more just and humane world. Coming together and supporting and caring for each other is the first step. We do not need to have one mind, but we need to have one mission and one future that we create together. But solidarity means going further than simply coming together. It signals having the collective will to act. We cannot simply watch and remain speechless. We are called to create a better future for everyone, which means working daily to be anti-racist. 

I hope as parents you will talk to your daughters during this time of racial strife. It may be challenging to address such entrenched systemic problems in our country, but not as challenging as what our students will face if no one speaks up. To each student and family, as a school we will always pledge to help our students live honorably. As a community, we will pledge to work each day to do the next right thing. 

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed --

I, too, am America." 

Langston Hughes