May 2021 Update from Pollyanna
May 2021

Many of us have participated in a Circle of Identity exercise during a workshop. It’s an excellent ice breaker and a good way of getting to know a group of people quickly. You’re asked to fill in five circles, each with a word that captures an identity that defines you. I know Mom, Daughter, Woman, Jew and White were always my five words. 

Mom and White are the words that have transformed me the most in the last 25 years. Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and it is a day that always puts me in a reflective place. Those reflections began last Monday when a friend gave birth to her first child. Babies magnify feelings of hope, fear, curiosity, and love. And, 25 years ago, I wondered what the future held for my new son.

There were milestones and hard days that stand out. There were also pivotal, transformative days. One day in the park, I remember pushing my then three-year-old on the swing, and next to us was a Black mom pushing her son’s swing. My son looked at the woman and announced, much to my embarrassment, “she has brown skin.” The woman was very kind and said, “he’s just observing.” At that moment, she was also teaching me that’s what children do…they observe.

When Trayvon Martin was killed at the age of 17, I remember being devastated for his family. My son was the same age, but I never had to have “The Talk” with my son that Sybrina Fulton had to have with Trayvon. Speaking with moms of Black and Brown boys they describe the heartbreaking process of seeing their beautiful boys grow into being perceived as threatening by society-at-large.

I feared talking about race with my son since no one spoke with me about it growing up; not at home and not in school. As a parent, I knew I needed to teach my son about race and racism, and his whiteness, in spite of not having these conversations when I was younger. It wasn’t until early in his life that I learned more about the history of this country, and learned how to talk about race. Some people think we focus too much on race and others believe we don’t learn and talk enough about it. The ability to understand another person’s experience and being able to talk across differences are much-needed skills. Fully understanding and celebrating our differences is the best path towards unity between groups of people.

The following is an excerpt from Tyler Perry’s recent speech when he accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, 

"My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgment. And in this time and with all of the internet and social media and algorithms and everything that wants us to think a certain way…it is my hope that all of us will teach our kids…just refuse hate. Don't hate anybody."

That sentiment, so appropriate for Mother’s Day, might be a good place to start the conversation with ourselves, our families and our schools. 

All best,

Casper Caldarola

In the News

Teen Pollyanna Member
We never cease to be amazed at what our youth can do when we simply get them together and let them take the lead. Here’s to supporting their ability to better understand structural inequity and create a more just and inclusive future for all! Stay tuned for more thoughts from students.
Pollyanna at the White Privilege Conference
Jessy Molina and Jay Golon facilitated a workshop for the White Privilege Conference on April 8. They shared how they have navigated the impact of white supremacy on their personal and professional relationships with many missteps, but ultimately in ways that created more equity and justice. Jay and Jessy shared concrete strategies with participants to support them to reflect on their own internalized white supremacy, leverage unearned advantage and overcome unearned disadvantage, and center partnership and humanity.
Westover School in CT Hosts First Conference
“At our first conference, Climate of Belonging: Challenging our Past to Reimagine our Future, each school will decide their next actions, but we hope the day will be one to inspire what those actions might be, through an incredible keynote speech from Dr. Bettina Love and conversations with other conference participants.”
Mary Taylor-Lewis, Westover’s Chief Strategic Inclusion Officer 
Pollyanna Workshop at NYSAIS 
Jessy Molina presented Creating an Anti-Bias & Anti-Racist Classroom: Interrupting Microaggressions on April 12 to a large and engaged group of faculty and administrators. Participants learned what microaggressions are, how they show up in the classroom, and what they can do to interrupt microaggressions in order to create a more welcoming and inclusive classroom culture.


20 May 2021 - The Weight of Wearing Two Masks: 
Asian-Americans, Coronavirus, and the responsibility behind an Asian face: A Workshop with Justine Ang Fonte
In honor of APA Heritage Month, this workshop will examine this type of oppression through a social-emotional lens and celebrate the liberation of Asian narratives. Attendees will be able to reflect on their own body image and the society that influences it. For many Asian-Americans during the pandemic, wearing a face mask meant putting on protective gear that, ironically, would offer us no protection from “The Chinese Virus" and "Kung Flu.” The Halo Effect has never worked in our favor. It is the cognitive bias suggesting that what is beautiful is good and is also referred to as the physical attractiveness stereotype. Beauty isn’t about taste but geopolitics, and there is a history of defining beauty and therefore attractiveness, familiarity, and trustworthiness that's centered on whiteness. Racism in America solidified this by recruiting some of us to join them by calling Asians like Justine, the model minority. 
NEW DATES: Showing Up and Standing Up: A 5-Part Journey Towards Antiracism for White Families
with Pollyanna Facilitators Jay Golon and Jessy Molina
As we come to the end of the 5-part series with the first cohort, one participant wrote to say, "Pollyanna’s workshop helped me to think more deeply about systemic racism in our society and how we can all be agents of change.”
1 September 2021, 7PM ET, “I don’t really see race...” - Examining White Identity
6 October 2021, 7PM ET, “I’m the least racist person…” - Unpacking White Privilege and Powe
3 November 2021, 7PM ET, “I don’t want to say the wrong thing…” -  Navigating Conversations about Race
1 December 2021, 7PM ET, “I feel like I don’t know how to help...” - What Does it Mean to be an Ally and Accomplice?
5 January 2022, 7PM ET, “I just want to do the right thing...“ - Committing to an Antiracist Life
Please click here to register for the second cohort of this 5-Part Series.
Upcoming Virtual School Conferences
May 1, 2021: The Wheeler School in Rhode Island will host its second Pollyanna Conference.
May 8, 2021: The Dalton School in New York will host its eleventh Pollyanna Conference.
May 15, 2021: Ravenscroft School in North Carolina will host its first Pollyanna Conference
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Pollyanna works with academic and other institutions to achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Through its unique conference models, discussion platforms, and racial literacy curricula, Pollyanna increases cultural competence.
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