BFS

Our Mighty and All-Encompassing Light

This letter appears in the summer 2022 issue of The Light, our Brooklyn Friends School magazine. 

Recently, I heard beautiful remarks that focused on the concept of what it means to actively and intentionally create a home. As I listened, I thought of the places that I have called home. All have been home because loved ones have lived there, memories have been created, varied emotions have been experienced, comfort has been manifested, and joy has permeated the walls. As I continued to listen, I marveled at the feeling that arose in me, one that communicated that BFS has been a home created by so many over the years. It has been a home that has been tended to in varied ways, each reflecting differing generational characteristics and historical context, varying identities and belief systems, and yet, this home has been created by many who have all held to a common purpose grounded in Quaker principles. 

Everyone who has been a part of our Brooklyn Friends School community has believed that this is a school that acts purposefully to manifest positivity and socially just solutions to the ills in our world. While realizing our purpose, we take responsibility for the complex history that we have lived within our 154-year-old existence. It is one that has included the following:  

  • Historically profound deepened racism and segregation, which until the 1940’s, prevented people of color from being a part of this now vibrantly diverse school. Karen Edelman, our Director of Institutional Advancement, shared key facts with me. I have learned that a petition was made to the Board of Trustees in 1940 by Head of School, Douglas Grafflin, to integrate. However, he left in 1942, and Warren Cochran, the next head, continued the commitment to integrate and is credited for integrating the school. 1944 marked the first year when applications were accepted from African-American families, and the first African-American student enrolled in 1945. I can only imagine the magnitude of the first steps in our school, one which over the years had to reckon with its past in creating a new future.  
  • A past predominant focus on a gender binary, rather than our present community reflective of a dynamic gender and sexuality spectrum. Our school has focused on professionally developing our colleagues in how to be fully respectful and inclusive of all identities represented in our classrooms, divisions, and departments. Through a thoughtful process of reflection and learning, we have also been minding the ways in which we are collectively responsible for eradicating existing biases.  
  • A school in its long-ago past that was not reflective of the socio-economic spectrum of families and colleagues that is true today, engaging in a need-blind process of tuition assistance that ensures that admissibility is determined first and without a bias created due to possible economic need. In this way, we do all possible to make sure that all families admitted are supported in such a manner that their experience can be a sustainable and complete one. While we still have growth to do this in area, we are steadfastly committed to accessibility. 

With all of these named truths, we also proudly take responsibility in our present for a school that respects the worth and integrity of each individual, honoring the light that is within each person in our community. It is this light, core to our Quaker beliefs and identity, that causes us to work on a daily basis to create a deliberate home. 

In our deliberately-created BFS home, we… 

…carefully navigate the challenges of today and persevere in finding solutions. 

…make space for sensitive conversations, knowing that navigating diverse thoughts and perspectives only makes us stronger as people. 

…materialize joy by centering children and young adults in the decisions that we make each day. 

…prioritize time as colleagues to learn, fellowship, grow, and laugh together. 

…spend comprehensive time considering the needs of our families and their children as a way to respect the choices they’ve made to be here with us. 

…consider our place in our extended community within Brooklyn and beyond, knowing that we have a global civic responsibility to contemplate and act upon the reciprocal nature of socially-just engagement. 

…make uncompromisable the respect of all human beings. 

…ensure that Quakerism is made part of our contemplative and lived reality as a Friends school. 

In our deliberately-created BFS home, our light is mighty and all-encompassing. 

In centering the light that informs our existence and the responsibility that comes with it, I welcome you to our newly-named Magazine, The Light. May this collection of stories narrating the happenings of our BFS world be a constant reminder for us all—alumni and alumni family members, trustees—past and present, current students, families, and colleagues, community partners, and fellow Quaker and other independent school peers, that light can only shine brightly when the proper conditions exist. We are all capable of creating homes that are values-informed, socially just and responsible, loving and joyous, equitable and inclusive spaces that make belonging real, and communities that center what is necessary and worthy of the gifts of childhood. Supported, these gifts, informed by light, will manifest into a world that we can indeed be proud of. 

I am here, right now, proud and ever-committed to the home that we have all had a hand in creating. I welcome you through our light-filled doors—those that will open as you read the pages before you and the literal ones that await you in Downtown Brooklyn. 

Always holding our community in light and love,

Head of School

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