Black Alumni Alliance
SAVE THE DATE!
Join fellow alumni and community members on May 20 and 21, 2023 for the Black Alumni Alliance Weekend! Formerly the Black Alumni Alliance Summit, this event will take place in person over two days, following the annual Black Student Union Production on the evening of May 19. Events will include panel discussions, keynote speakers, social opportunities, and more. More information, including a full schedule and registration, coming soon!
Director of Alumni Engagement
On March 11-13, 2021 generations of alumni reconnected, networked, and explored topics meaningful to the Black alumni community in the 2nd Black Alumni Alliance Summit. Over the course of three days, conversations covered a range of topics, including care of self and community during a pandemic; the role of art and music in today’s social justice movements; and how Black students and alumni navigate space and create community, at Sidwell Friends and beyond. Each discussion illuminated new facets of Black alumni’s experiences and fostered new bonds of friendship within the alumni community.
The Black Alumni Alliance Summit Planning Committee is pleased to share these sessions with the wider Sidwell Friends community.
Keynote: A Conversation with Kim R. Ford ’99, President and CEO of Martha’s Table
During a lively and candid conversation with Lory Ivey Alexander ’97 and Nasser Muhammad ’05, Kim R. Ford ’99 offers reflections on her experiences as a Black woman in leadership, the difficult decisions she has made to navigate this tumultuous year, and the unique challenges her organization has faced in offering direct services to vulnerable populations in DC throughout the pandemic.
“Our entire mission is to stand alongside the communities: to support strong children, strong families, and strong communities,” Ford said, reflecting on how Martha’s Table took decisive action at the beginning of the pandemic. “If not us, who? And if not now, when? This is the time that you have to step up. You have to be bold. You have to have courage. I was terrified every day. Every day. But who else was going to give—not food, but hope?”
In Their Shoes: A conversation with the first Black Alumni
“In the 60s, Washington was essentially a de facto segregated city. And I had to shuttle between two worlds: a Black world and white world,” George Cohen ’69 said, explaining how he traversed these worlds through two bus routes that brought him each day from his neighborhood on S Street to Sidwell Friends.
In this panel moderated by Andrew Smith-Herman ’06, Cohen, Dorothy Davis ’71, George Ferguson ‘67, Cheryl Doddy Howard ’67, Gregory Jackson ’69, Jeffery Mazique ’70 share memories and reflections about being some of the first Black students to attend and graduate from Sidwell Friends during a transformational period for DC and this nation.
The Pandemic: Alumni in Health
Jeffrey Mazique '70, Jocelyn McClain Hazlewood '77, Phillip Proctor '77, Natasha Bonhomme '01, Amanda Castel '91, Robia Smith-Herman '07, Kai Parker '98, and current Director of Health Services at Sidwell Friends Jasmin Whitfield discussed what the past year looked like for Black physicians, counselors, and health care workers—and what the COVID-19 pandemic suggests about the future of healthcare. Neville Waters '75 moderated the talk, which touched on the sudden shift to telemedicine, how the pandemic illustrated and exacerbated racial inequities in access to healthcare, and how these caregivers took care of themselves.
“It took seeing the cracks in the system being exposed through COVID for people to realize ‘oh, the Black community is really unhealthy—what’s that about?’” said Bonhomme, the founder and CEO of Expecting Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing information to new and expecting families. “Those of us who have worked in it and lived in it are saying ‘you’re just now noticing that?’ It shows all the work that needs to take place, and that people need to start having really honest conversations.”
Soul of the Struggle: Music and the Movement
Neville Waters ’75 moderates a wide-ranging discussion between Jamel Mims ’04, John Daise ’05, Jason Edwards ’04, and Alyson Cambridge ’97 about their work in various music industries, the roles of of Black artists and Black music, and how 2020, particularly the Black Lives Matter protests and COVID, has affected their careers going forward.
“We’re at a moment now to look at the large problems in the world, and music and culture can help us get there,” said Mims. “People called this summer the ‘racial reckoning of America, and that was on top of a pandemic and on top of a facist insurrection. In dealing with all of that, artists’ feet are being held to the fire in a way they haven’t before, and we’ll have to continue that.”
What’s Next: Life after Sidwell Friends (for students and young alumni)
Whether discussing the value of attending Sidwell Friends alumni events without your friends, taking advantage of Let Your Life Speak days to initiate relationships with alumni, or assembling collegiate networks, LinDon Harris ’16, Lia Johnson ’18, Akinyi Ochieng ’11, and Andrew Smith-Herman ’06 reiterate the central theme of this panel: making connections. In a wide-ranging conversation with moderator Hayes Davis (Upper School faculty), these young alumni share tips with current students and recent graduates about how to build on Sidwell Friends experiences and maintain relationships in college and beyond.
“What I really learned by transitioning to college and still having the values that I did, still caring about the things I did—Black uplift and liberation—is that there are a lot of different forms that activism can take,” Harris said. “It can take the form of mentorship and just supporting people in their own career endeavors. It can take the form of advocating for people that might not have as much as you. It can take the form of being politically active at your school or participating in a divestiture campaign at your university.”
Self-Care in 2021
How do you appropriately care for your own physical, mental, and emotional well-being during a year like 2020, even as your personal and professional personas call on you to care for others? In a panel moderated by Lory Ivey Alexander ’97, Dominique Spencer ‘97, Karin Wilkinson ’77, and Courtney Peterson (SFS Chief People Officer) discuss how they rediscovered their focus and clarity of purpose, guided others through crises, and created new roadmaps for community connections—all while learning how to hold space for themselves.
“You have to really ground yourself in knowing what you’re doing and why you are doing it,” Spencer said. “It’s not just about putting other people first. The only way to be able to be there for people is to be there for yourself, and the pandemic drove that home in a way that I had never experienced before. And in fact, it freed me to do more for people because I felt better about doing for myself.”