Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I was filled with deep joy and appreciation when I read the article Students Lead Conversation On Race, Diversity, Tolerance in your May 25 edition. Discussing issues of race, diversity and tolerance in an open and caring way allows for healing the wounds caused by race and other forms of discrimination, oppression and exclusion, and develops empathy.
I applaud Max Jasny for organizing such an event. The event does not stand in isolation, but rather on the shoulders and efforts of others that have gone before, such as the work of the Martha’s Vineyard Island Diversity Council.
In August 2007 the council brought to the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair the Human Race Machine, where individuals had an opportunity to see how they might look if they were of a different race. In the spring of 2008, in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center and the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP, the council presented a series of four open community events titled Moving Beyond Race, A Dialogue, which was attended by nearly 100 residents. This was followed by another collaborative effort of the council, Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools and retired professor Marshall Segall (an Island resident) during the summer of 2008. The exhibit, titled All Of Us Are Related Each of Us Is Unique, seeks to inform us that there is no such thing as race and in fact we all share DNA from a woman who lived some 160,000 years ago. Professor Segall was responsible for translating the exhibit from French to English. In November 2008, the Martha’s Vineyard Island Diversity Council held its last Moving Beyond Race, a dialogue event celebrating the election of President Obama, the first person of color to be so honored, and sharing what the election meant to them personally and to America.
Not to be forgotten is the committed work of retired school principal and coach Robert Tankard, who keeps these issues in the forefront of the Island community in his provocative and informative MVTV show Tank Talk. I can’t help but believe these efforts influenced and created the environment for the high school students to make their important contribution.
My congratulations and continued encouragement to the students and the adults who supported them in making this event successful.