BLACK AT WOODWARD
A Special Publication
SIMI AWUJO ’21
PAGE 6
1
A Special Publication
An Introduction Rodney Harrison
Black History at Woodward
BLACK AT WOODWARD
A Special Publication
A Note on This Issue This publication was produced by Woodward Academy’s Marketing & Communications Office. While
Woodward staff oversaw the production, that work consisted only of creating a platform for the voices you will hear from over
the following pages. The contributors were asked to write openly and honestly about their experiences of racism at Woodward
and beyond, and about their hopes for Woodward moving forward. Their contributions were not censored in any way, and all
contributors had final approval on their pieces before the issue was published.
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06
26
11
38
16
40
30
33
20
46
Included throughout this publication are excerpts of comments
submitted through an online portal, allowing members of the
Woodward community to share incidents of racism, either
anonymously or by name. Those whose names are included
were contacted to request approval to reproduce their
comments.
Anger/Hope Simi Awujo ’21
Black Girl Lorielle Georgetown ’21
The N-Word Ban Grace Ross ’21
One Voice Nathaniel Johnson ’12
The Wound
Maya Packer ’22 and Will Packer
Make it Right Vicki Palmer
A Place of Their Own Lorri Hewett
Honor Differences Errington Truesdell ’21
A Dishonor Anonymous
The Work Ahead President Stuart Gulley
Photographs A portrait collage for this issue was created by
Gabby Bates ’22 as a special project. Her artist’s statement
can be seen on page 15.
Illustrations Artwork for this issue was contributed by
Gabby Larmond ’21. These pieces were created by them to
explore queerness, gender, and the natural world. Their artist’s
statement can be seen on page 29.
BLACK AT WOODWARD2
On May 25, a police ocer in
Minneapolis put his knee on the
neck of a handcued Black man for
more than eight minutes. As the
man begged for his life, the ocer
refused to relent. Soon, that man—
George Floyd—was dead.
In the days that followed, videos
of Floyd’s death raced around the
world and sparked a reckoning with
racism that was felt everywhere.
While Floyd was the catalyst for
this reckoning, his was far from the
only Black life cut tragically short
even just this year. Breonna Taylor.
Ahmaud Arbery. Rayshard Brooks.
The names go on and on.
I'm so tired of the stereotypes
that follow Black and brown people.
Every day, we have to sit back and
watch our people be killed for simply
being non-white. As a Black parent
of four kids, I have to worry about
whether my kids will even make it
home. My wife and I had to have
candid conversations with our kids
about how to conduct themselves
once they leave our home and how
to deal with certain situations if
confronted by law enforcement.
Every time I watch the video
of George Floyd or imagine what
Breonna Taylor was going through
at the time of her brutal and
senseless murder—and what so
many of our Black men, women,
and children have to face daily,
fighting to simply stay alive—I’m
deeply saddened and angry.
I'm tired of the system that is
supposed to protect us continuing
to view us as “less than.” Black
lives matter not just when we are
scoring touchdowns or making
athletic plays on the field or court.
We matter every day.
Being a former professional
football player, I am extremely
proud of our Black athletes using
Black at
Woodward,
an Introduction
RODNEY HARRISON
A screenshot of the Black at Woodward Instagram account, created
to share anonymous accounts of racism at Woodward.
3
A Special Publication
their platform and resources and
sacrificing their careers despite
the resistance from certain owners
to bring awareness and encourage
change. However, we can’t do this by
ourselves. We need everyone to join
in the fight against racial injustice.
The Black Lives Matter movement
continues to play out in mass
protests, but it also created a sense
that, for those who have silently
suered the pain of racism, now
is the moment to speak. To come
forward. To be silent no longer.
In Atlanta, one way that this came
about was through the creation
of a series of Instagram accounts
relating the anonymous experiences
with racism of Black people at the
citys private schools. The Black at
Woodward account first posted on
June 15, with this submission from a
Class of 2020 alum:
“Once I wore long cornrows to
school and one of my white friends
told me I looked like I escaped from
prison. I never wore cornrows again.
For those of us who are part of the
Woodward community, we watched
with shock and a great deal of pain
as more posts followed. Hundreds of
them. And as the school opened up a
form for people to share their stories
directly with school leaders, even
more came in.
Woodward Academy is an
institution that has a majority of non-
white students—my children among
them. It is a place that proclaims
diversity as a strength in its mission
statement. Woodward reflects the
diversity of Atlanta, which is why my
wife and I decided to invest in the
school with our children's education.
But it's also a place that allowed racist
sentiment to inflame without enough
accountability.
For many, I think that these past
months have served as an awakening.
While you may have thought that
racism was a relic of the past—that
we had flipped the page on that
chapter of history—it in fact is very
much alive and present. Of course, if
you are Black, you knew this already.
Woodward’s failures have left
behind a trail of damage—people
who were made to feel less than
human on account of the color
of their skin, and who feel that
Woodward as an institution did too
little to protect them.
In this publication, you will read
the stories of some of those people
who were hurt and made to feel less
than. And you also will read visions
and hopes for a path forward in the
never-ending work against bigotry
and cruelty. It is our hope that this lets
all those who have been harmed know
that they are heard and recognized.
We also hope that it will serve as a
starting point for a conversation about
what can come next.
For those of you reading this who
are white, I challenge you. If you
truly are interested in joining the
fight, you cannot sit back and do
nothing. Ask questions. Challenge
your beliefs. Protest. Stand with us to
fight this system. Use the resources
that have been aorded to you by a
system of discrimination that has
wronged Black and brown people
for hundreds of years. I encourage
everyone, let your voice be heard.
Know that we have a lot of people
behind the scenes, myself included,
working to make this school a better
place for all.
The ball is in Woodward’s
court. Now is the chance to learn
how committed the Academy is
to accountability and respect
something this Academy has failed
to show in the past. President
Stuart Gulley is a good man, and I
will continue to support him and
his eorts to make this institution
the standard for racial equality,
transparency, and accountability.
As I look back at Woodward’s
history, I see the undeniable truth
that it was formed as an all male, all
white Academy, and that it existed
in that form until the late 1960s. For
nearly 70 years, neither I nor my
children would’ve been welcome
here. That is in our DNA. But I
also know that Woodward was the
first of Atlanta’s private schools to
integrate—something the leaders
chose to do willingly.
Because, ultimately, Woodward
is about responsibility and respect.
It is about learning to do your best,
and to do so in the service of making
the world a better place. To not just
learn, but to grow as a person. That
vision goes all the way back to Col.
John Charles Woodward and the
school’s founding. That, above all, is
the Woodward Way.
We don’t need to forge a new
identity. We just lost our way. And
now, we have our call to action. Its
time to get back on the right path.
Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control.
Rodney Harrison is a current parent
of Woodward students and a member
of the Academy’s Governing Board.
As an NFL player, Harrison was an
All-Pro performer with the San Diego
Chargers and New England Patriots,
winning two Super Bowl rings.
Currently, he serves as an NFL TV
analyst for NBC.
BLACK AT WOODWARD4
5
The first time my
son experienced
racism was at
Woodward. The
staff at Woodward
North handled
it appropriately.
I felt they were
genuinely saddened
by it. I do think
more could be done
to improve bullying
and behavior.
ANONYMOUS ALUMNUS AND PARENT
A Special Publication
BLACK AT WOODWARD6
‘Definitely
Anger,
but a Lot
of Hope’
SIMI AWUJO ’21
I remember watching the video of Ahmaud Arbery being killed, and then George Floyd. I was
just very upset. I didn’t understand. We were already in a very troubled time, and then there
were these Black people’s bodies piling up. It started on social media. People posting things.
I started posting things.
Simi Awujo taking part in a Black Lives
Matter protest over the summer.
BLACK AT WOODWARD8
My friends and I started talking, and we
decided we should make posters and go to a
protest. Even with coronavirus spreading, I
thought it was worth it.
Mainly this was Woodward friends. I have
two friends who live within 10 minutes. We
were the only ones hanging out with
each other. We heard that members
of Woodward’s Class of 2020 were
planning to protest together.
My parents were very supportive.
My dad was supportive, but he’s a
doctor working with coronavirus
patients. He made me use a lot of
caution. Still, he cared more about
the movement than that potential
risk. They thought it was good that
I was part of a movement in our
generation that mimicked one in the
past, that I was using my voice to be
an advocate for change.
It was June 4. We had painted
six posters. Three of us went with
one of my friend’s fathers. We kept
our masks on the whole time even
though it was so hot. We marched for
four hours till it got dark. We didn’t
want to stay out until it got crazy,
with the city imposing curfews.
We started at Centennial Park, where we
met with Woodward friends. We all marched
to Ponce de Leon Avenue, chanting and holding
up posters. We were posting on Snapchat and
Instagram along the way so people could see
this was a big deal. I remember going through
the BeltLine. We passed people who would look
at us and seem judgmental. But it didn’t matter.
It was a movement.
I didn’t even know where we were, just
moving through Atlanta, and then we ended up
back at Centennial Park. We talked to people
we’d never met about everything going on,
their experiences. We talked to other people
from Woodward. It was good to see so many
people out, no matter their race, supporting
the movement. There was definitely anger, but
there was a lot of hope.
Because of the coronavirus, we didn’t
protest again. We were trapped in our homes,
and we were taking to social media to interact,
and so much information was coming out. It
helped everyone learn about these terrible things happening to
Black people. I was learning more, and I just didn’t understand
how people could truly hurt someone like that. Take away
someone’s life so simply.
How can you not support a movement that just says Black
people’s lives matter? How can you dismiss it by saying that all
lives matter? No one said
all lives didn’t matter. The
issue is that Black people
are being killed.
It also was frustrating
because there were people
I knew who didn’t post
anything to support the
movement.
There were people
posting hurtful things,
things about Black on
Black crime statistics, as
if that changes the fact
that police are killing
Black people. But then
there were people of all
races at Woodward who
would go on group chats
and say that they couldn’t
understand what Black
students are experiencing,
but they would express
their support. They know they don’t have to deal with this
problem, but they stand with the movement.
When the Black at Woodward posts started to appear, I was
honestly very surprised, which is weird. I’ve been at Woodward
since kindergarten. I’ve probably experienced stu when I was
younger that I brushed o as normal.
One thing I remember, I have a Black friend who hung out with
white girls, and everyone called her an Oreo. And we all thought it
was a joke, and looking back on it, that was probably the beginning
of us separating races. What it is to act white and to act Black. Really,
we’re all just people. We were young and thought it was funny, but
we were dierentiating and driving a wedge.
At Woodward, I’m part of the Black Student Union, and I try
to educate people who say something ignorant. I’ve been signing
petitions and sharing things on Instagram stories. Making sure
everyone is registered to vote who is old enough, to exercise their
rights as American citizens.
What have I learned through this? Never be afraid to speak your
mind about what you think is morally right, just because others
around you aren’t doing it. If something around you seems wrong,
you should speak up and make a change. Never be quiet about the
things you believe in.
9
We are humbled and honored to
be enrolled in an institution that
is unafraid of acknowledging that
some of us have been exposed to the
horrors of racism merely by being
born in a different skin. Our family
supports the Black Lives Matter
movement. Non-violent awareness is
critical. Histories of all walks of life
keep us all on our toes, engaged, and
able to work together to dismantle
the tragedy of Black slavery and
oppression in America. We dont
believe that this means all lives dont
matter. But some of our lives are
under a constant state of threat by
merely being brown and walking out
of our front door.
ANONYMOUS PARENT
10
Woodward students self-segregate
by race. Because my child is mixed
race, she is often left in the middle
and faces racism from both sides.
When she started at Woodward,
she attempted to become friends
with white students—they wanted
nothing to do with her. She became
friends with a group of Black
students. My child is friends with a
white student who is largely rejected
by my daughter’s Black friends.
When I asked her if she thought they
were not open to this other student
because she is white, she thought
about it, reected, and then said,
“Yes, race is definitely a factor.” I
was impressed with her honesty but
saddened by the answer.
ANONYMOUS PARENT
11
T
his summer, Black students from around the nation
spoke out against instances of racism and mistreatment
they faced at educational institutions. Woodward
students were no exception to this fact; they, too,
courageously shared their personal experiences on an anonymous
Black at Woodward Instagram account.
In response to these stories, the administration implemented
new policies in order to grow the No Place for Hate campaign
and help students of color feel safer and more welcome at school.
Our president, Dr. Stuart Gulley, announced one of these new
implementations: banning the use of the n-word.
“The task force is developing a hate speech policy [page 12],
which we will share with you in greater detail once we have
finalized our work on it,” Gulley said. “However, one part of the
policy that we already have finalized is that the use of the n-word
will be permanently banned on campus, by any and all students,
regardless of race.
The n-word is a racial slur that
derives from the Spanish word for
black, but later became a derogatory
term used to marginalize and
dehumanize people of African
descent within America.
Although the use of hate speech
has been a topic of discussion through
school-wide panels and Black Student
Union discussions, there still has
been consistent use of the word by a
number of students on campus.
“Between the Black at Woodward
Instagram account and the Google
Form that we set up where people
could communicate directly to us
and anonymously, we received more
than 600 communications,” Gulley
said. “The vast majority of those
communications were complaints,
mostly about the use of the n-word
by students with each other, and the
perception that we knew about it,
and didn’t do anything about it.
The policy sparked conversation
among students and teachers, one
being Elizabeth Burbridge, social
studies and multicultural, ethnic,
and diversity studies teacher.
“I think if we are talking from
a point of view that school is a
professional space where we
shouldn’t be using profanity, and
that the n-word is counted, even
when used by Black people, that
makes sense,” Burbridge said.
“However, I think by acting like the
use of the n-word by white people
and Black people is the same, that’s
where it’s problematic.
Lorielle Georgetown ’21,
marketing director of the Black
Student Union (BSU), feels that the
n-word ban is a step in the right
direction.
“I think that the choice to use
the n-word is totally up to Black
The
N-Word
Ban
GRACE ROSS ’21
A Special Publication
BLACK AT WOODWARD12
Woodward’s
Hate Speech Policy
Racist or Inappropriate Language:
We are committed to providing an environment
that is free of discrimination or harassment of
any kind, whether based on gender, sex, age, race,
color, religion, national origin, disability, or any
other identity marker, as well as ideologies or
political views. We do not tolerate any actions,
words, jokes, notes, emails, social media, or videos
of a demeaning nature, regardless of intent.
Students oending the policy are subject to
the school disciplinary system and will receive
detention hours. Repeat oenders may be referred
to the Discipline Board for increased consequences
including the potential for dismissal.
Hate Speech:
At Woodward Academy, hate speech is defined
as abusive or threatening speech or writing that
encourages violence toward a person or group,
especially on the basis of their race, religion, or
sexual orientation.
Under this policy, Woodward will apply the
following “Two Strike” procedure:
First Oense:
parental notification
detention hours
Saturday training on racism & diversity
Second Oense:
Referral to Discipline Board
A student should report hate speech by another
student to the Dean of Students, Assistant
Principal, or Principal and must provide
documentation for the charge.
A student should report hate speech by
a faculty member to the Principal and must
provide documentation for the charge.
Woodward reserves the right, in its sole
discretion, to proceed directly to a Discipline
Board referral if the First Oense is deemed to be
particularly egregious or harmful in the judgment
of the Administration.
students and individuals. However, I believe that certain
institutions should have the right to make decisions about
what they want their students to represent,” Georgetown
said. “I think that it was a good decision because the
lines become so gray when we talk about use of the
n-word, and who can and can’t use it. I think deciding
that all students can’t use it is a reasonable thing to do
considering the situation we are in right now.
Grace Mitchell ’21, operations manager for the Black
Student Union, has concerns about the new policy, though.
“I understand why they are banning the n-word, but it is
not right for [the] administration to say that this one group
can’t use this word when there is so much history behind
it, especially in the Black community,” Mitchell said.
The task force is not simply banning the word, however;
they also have plans to educate students and faculty on the
history behind the hate speech and its implications.
“It is not just a matter of saying, ‘You can’t use this
word,’” Gulley said. “There will be an eort to address
the history of the word, why it is so hurtful, and why we
feel its important it’s not being used.
Another way of becoming more educated on current
issues, according to Georgetown, is for students of
all races, religions, and genders to attend BSU and
Intersectional Feminism Club meetings.
“Woodward’s [diversity] is a perfect way to get
exposure. You can either use this experience negatively
or you can use it positively,” Georgetown said. “Using
it positively would be becoming enlightened about the
issues that Black students, Muslim students, women [and
more] face on campus.
Beyond the hate speech policy, the task force is
taking other steps in response to the feedback they
received over the summer. One of these steps is the new
whistleblower policy.
“[The] whistleblower policy is [so] faculty and
students can go and anonymously report any instance of
racism, discrimination, hate, or bullying that they believe
they have experienced or witnessed,” Gulley said.
All in all, it is important that non-Black students,
faculty, and administrators understand that there is
simply no excuse for using such crude, racist terminology.
“White people can’t say the n-word. It’s okay to tell
white people they can’t say the n-word,” Burbridge said.
“Thats okay.
Grace Ross is a senior at Woodward. This article
originally appeared in The Butterknife, the student
newsletter.
13
A Special Publication
15
I’ve created this piece made from
portraits of Woodward Academy Upper
School students so that the conversation
of what Black students experience at
predominantly white private schools
can be shared through art. I want
to inspire young Black students at
Woodward to see themselves as enough
and valued because they are enough
and should always be enough, and never
belittled into thinking that they are not.
My piece comes from asking myself
what my experiences have been like at
Woodward as a Black female student,
and what I can do to reach out of my
areas of comfort. I used alternative
processes to create my piece. I normally
would have taken portraits and mounted
them onto a piece of paper and called it
a day. But I wanted to use an alternative
process because it challenged me to
do something I was unfamiliar with
doing. To overcome my shyness, I
photographed students I know and
didn’t know—so that I could gain
confidence in being professional when
taking pictures. Each of the students
were photographed with their masks on
because of the pandemic. I wanted to
ensure the safety of the students even if
it was not an ideal choice for me, since I
was taking portraits.
“You Are
Enough”
GABBY BATES ’22
Top Row (left to right):
Oliviah Matthews ’24, Corey Fuller ’22,
Haley Fuller ’21, Robert Thomas ’21.
Bottom Row (left to right):
Vashti Hobson ’22, Wes Craig ’23,
Nico Coleman ’24, River Hanson ’23,
Laine McDaniel ’23.
BLACK AT WOODWARD16
THE
WOUND
THAT
MUST
BE
HEALED
WILL PACKER & MAYA PACKER ’22
17
A Special Publication
Maya Packer is a junior at Woodward and is the president of her class and co-chair of the Black Student Union. Her
father, Will Packer, is a producer of dozens of films (including Straight Outta Compton, Stomp the Yard, and Ride
Along) that have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide at the box oce. This is a conversation they had about race
and racism in this tumultuous year, about the Black at Woodward movement, and about the path forward, both for
Woodward and the nation.
Will Packer: As you know, I went to a predominantly
white school. Mine had even fewer African-American
students than Woodward has. One of the things that
is consistent about being a minority in these spaces:
You’re constantly trying to look for validation, trying to
feel heard, feel seen, feel important. If the system is not
going out of its way to make sure you feel heard and seen,
sometimes it can unintentionally do things that make you
feel suppressed.
I was someone who always fought through that. I
fought through that in my involvement in the school, in
extra-curricular activities. I ultimately participated in
student government and became student body president,
I played athletics, and I was at the top of my class. But I
felt the need to do that. Number one, it was instilled in
me by my parents, but number two, because I was one of
the few African-Americans both in the school and in my
AP and Honors classes as well as student government.
I felt the need to not only make my presence felt, but to
represent. Represent for folks that looked like me who
didn’t have a voice in those spaces. So I was driven to do
that. I don’t know if you feel the same need.
Maya Packer: Going o of that idea of getting involved
and using that to fight the suppression, I do think that
I’m in a lot of spaces of leadership: class president, co-
chair of Black Student Union, I write for The Blade, and
I have good relationships with the administration and a
lot of faculty members. So as a result, I’ve kind of become
the “special Black girl,” and I notice the way that I’m
treated isn’t the same as my other Black female friends
who aren’t necessarily in the same positions as me. I
notice that they get more of the stereotypes of ghetto,
loud, and rambunctious. They get more disciplinary
action taken against them. I’m not saying that I don’t
still experience that side of Woodward, but it feels like,
“You’re special, you’re dierent, you’re not like ‘those’
Black people.
From what you’ve told me from your experience in
high school, it sounds kind of similar. I know that you
had really good relationships with your classmates and
your teachers, even though some of them might’ve been
racist. But they liked you because you were charismatic,
outgoing, and funny. I think the idea of tokenism goes
beyond even just Woodward using pictures of Black
people to promote diversity on the website, and goes
even further into lifting up certain Black people while
forgetting about all the other Black people and then
calling it equity, calling it diversity, calling it equal when
its not the same experience for all Black students.
Will: Woodward is really this microcosm of America,
of our society, right? Systems of power cede nothing
without demand. So, when you’re in power, you’re
always trying to preserve the power that you have. One
of the ways to do that is to make it seem like you’re being
equitable and fair to minority groups when you’re really
not. To say, “We will let in a select amount of folks from
the minority group.” Right now we’re talking about Black
people, but this applies to Latinos, this applies to LGBTQ
folks, this applies to anybody in a disenfranchised group.
You let a few through, you let a few have success, you
let a few be representative of that larger group, and then
you can say, “See, we don’t have a racial problem, look at
Maya Packer, look at Will Packer.
But the reality is that there would be a lot more
Maya Packers and Will Packers if more opportunities
were there, and were the playing field totally equal and
fair. The thing that systems have to recognize is that
Woodward will be a better institution—a world-class
institution that can compete with anybody, anywhere—if
it is more diverse at every level, from the administration
BLACK AT WOODWARD18
to student leadership to sta. If it is more diverse, it will
be better because you will have a diversity of thought
and perspectives, and you will be able to compete at the
highest level. You show me any entity that has one type
of person, one way of thinking, and I will tell you it is a
flawed entity that will be beaten by one that has multiple
ways of thinking and multiple perspectives.
Maya: From the perspective of being one of the only
Black people at your high school, do you look at
Woodward and say, “This is great, look at all these Black
people, look at the positions that Black people are in in
this school,” and think I have it great compared to what
you went through?
Will: I think you have it better. I wouldn’t say you have
it great. I look at Woodward and say, “Woodward is far
more progressive than St. Pete High School,” where I
went. But that doesn’t mean that Woodward can’t do
better. You can always do better, and you should be
striving to do better, especially when it comes to social
justice and racial inequality. Malcolm X has a great quote,
it goes: “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and
pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all
the way out, that’s not progress. The progress is healing
the wound that the blow made. They haven’t pulled the
knife out; they won’t even admit that it’s there.
We’re in a society that, certainly before 2020, did
not want to admit that there was even a knife, and in
some aspects, still don’t want to admit it. But with all
the cataclysmic events that happened this year, there’s
no question that Woodward, Hollywood—where I
work—the White House, state governments, police
departments, nobody can act as if we don’t have a
problem in this country. This country was built on
inequality. The fact that you and I are even having
this conversation to be published to the Woodward
community at large is a positive thing because the
majority of the people who will read this do not look
like me and you. And they probably wouldn’t get this
perspective were it not for someone at Woodward
intentionally saying, “Let’s allow these voices to be
amplified because we haven’t done enough of that.
Thats a good thing. That matters.
Maya: Yeah, I definitely applaud their eorts and I think
its very important work that they’re doing. The moment
that we’re in right now, it’s unacceptable to not be doing
something to be more diverse, be more anti-racist, be
more inclusive. So, being on the board of the Black
Student Union, I’ve seen firsthand what the Anti-Racism
Task Force is doing, and what the administration has
been up to, and their attempts to fix the broken system at
Woodward. But also, from a student perspective, I think
we’ve gotten a little sedentary. I think the racial tensions
have kind of died down, and I haven’t really seen any
new changes from Woodward happening. Hopefully
thats just because they’re happening behind the scenes,
and its slow work. I’m looking forward to seeing the
actual long-term eects of this turnover that they’re
doing right now.
Now, I have a question for you: Did you decide to go
to a historically Black university because you were tired
of being the only Black person in your Honors classes, or
because you were tired of being the only Black person in
a predominantly white institution?
Will: No, I didn’t. I honestly looked at an HBCU and
didn’t think it was competitive enough. I thought that I
needed to be going to an Ivy, because I had Ivy League
credentials. I had the grades and the test scores to get
into an Ivy, and that’s where I planned to go. Every high
school in my hometown had a similar racial makeup,
so I didn’t know any dierent. Even though my parents
exposed me to HBCUs, it wasn’t an environment that I
felt like I could thrive in.
Ultimately, I went to Florida A&M because there was
someone who was forward thinking at the university
who said, “We’re going to get the highest achieving
African-American high school students in the country,
and we’re going to go after them,” in the same way that
D1 athletic powers go after athletes. The top National
Achievement scholars were going to Harvard. The
top scoring Black students on the SAT were going to
Harvard. FAMU, where I ultimately went to school,
made a big push and got money from the corporate
community to oer merit-based scholarships to high
achieving African-Americans, and I got one of those. It
was the best decision ever.
See, I was like you. I was one of few high achieving
Black kids in my school, so I actually used that to my
advantage because I had everybody’s attention. That was
something my parents encouraged. They said, “You’ve
got everybody’s attention, you stand out dierently than
the other kids in your class, so take advantage of that.
And I did. I’m somebody who thrives in that kind of
environment, and I never gave that attention up. Well,
when I went to FAMU, I was with a whole school of
high-achieving Black folks, and I had to do something
else to stand out. See, I could impress white people who
underestimated me. That was easy. My whole life, I had
been exceeding the expectations of white people who
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were shocked at what I could do, and I used that to my
advantage. When I got to an HBCU, no such advantage
could be taken there.
Maya: That makes me wonder, you know, all the white
teachers who give me high praise, is it because they’re
underestimating me, or is it really warranted? And as my
Dad, you’re gonna say, “Its really warranted,” but that
just made me think.
Will: Well, I think you’re high achieving, but that doesn’t
mean that other people see it from the same perspective.
Look, you want teachers who will push you. You want
teachers who will value you, but push you to be the best
you can be. I don’t know the answer to that question. If
they haven’t come across high-achieving Black students,
they may not expect as much from you. That’s not right,
they shouldn’t be that way, but thats just a human thing,
not a teacher thing. We gotta make it so that the Mayas
and Wills are no longer such a minority and such a rarity.
Thats the reality, because there’s somebody out there
who’s way smarter than you, way more adept than you,
will work harder than you, and the same for me, but who
hasn’t had the same opportunities. We gotta get them
into the conversation.
How do you feel that Woodward does in terms of race
relations amongst the students?
Maya: I think that the reform of the system is easier
for the administration to do than the reform of their
students. They have control over their teachers, their
curriculum, all of that, but when it comes down to
the mindsets of individual students, they can’t really
control that, and they can’t really control the households
and environments that these kids are being raised
in. So, I think that even though Woodward is putting
forth change within their system, I don’t know that
its reaching students in a way that would change a
potentially racist student’s perspective on race.
A lot of the students in my class who have said some
controversial statements and opinions when it comes to
race—they’ve been in the Woodward environment their
whole life. So, if they get in on the ground floor to instill
their values of diversity, inclusion, and equity while the
kids are still young and continue it through high school,
then I think that they have a fighting chance to change
the environment. But as of right now, for kids my age,
its kind of too late. There definitely can be reform and
change, but realistically, people are set in their ways.
Even if Woodward cracks down on their tolerance of
those students and their actions, it’s still there. We’re still
enduring it outside of school and on social media.
Will: Yes, but Woodward has a big responsibility to its
students. Its about the culture created there, and it’s about
starting it very early. Sure, you can’t control what’s going
on in someone’s house, but you can control an environment
that allows racist and dangerous perspectives and
thoughts to fester. And the school has a responsibility to
make this, A: a safe environment for everybody, and B: an
environment that teaches everybody what being anti-racist
means. A lot of times you have a system and a school like
Woodward, and they don’t even realize that they’re helping
to foster some of these dangerous ideologies by simply not
cracking down on them, by not calling them out.
So much of the challenge when it comes to social justice
is the fact that we don’t want to admit that a lot has been
done wrong. People don’t want to admit that, because they
want to hide from the blame. Nobody wants to get the
blame, nobody wants to say that this country or this school
has failed on certain levels. The reality is that it has. The
sooner you can admit it and call it out, the better you’ll be
for it. We gotta stop running from our past. To your point
about the individual students, you’re 100 percent right.
However, there’s a huge responsibility on the school to
make sure that the culture of the school is one that is truly
inclusive and progressive. It starts from the very top, it’s led
“The thing that systems have to recognize is that
Woodward will be a better institution—a world-class
institution that can compete with anybody, anywhere—
if it is more diverse at every level...”
BLACK AT WOODWARD20
by example and what you see
in the administration, and the
faculty, and the sta, and in the
culture that is allowed there.
Maya: I don’t think that I’ll
see a substantial change in
the Woodward culture within
my next two years here, but
I’m excited to be able to look
back, in the future, and see
how the next generation
benefits from the current
movement that Woodward is
participating in.
Will: I think thats well said,
Maya. There’s a lot of work
yet to be done. However, the
fact that we’re having this
conversation that’s being
amplified by Woodward, the
fact that you’re in the position
that you’re in and are able to
give voice to students that
otherwise wouldn’t have it,
the student population and
demographics of Woodward
are more diverse now than
they were 10, 15, 20 years ago,
are all positive things. Positive
indications that we’re trending
in the right direction.
There is still a ton of
work left, and Woodward
is no dierent than many of
the institutions around this
country. What we need are
allies. Allies that don’t look
like you and me. Its not your
problem to fix. It’s the people
who are in power and who are
benefitting from the system.
It’s their burden to fix it. And
we need allies who are in
the system and benefit from
the system to say this is not
okay and we can do better.
Woodward has a long way to
go, but I am emboldened by
the trends that I see that are
moving in the right direction.
A Dishonor Not
to be Truthful
About Racism
ANONYMOUS, CLASS OF 2010
I
was deeply disturbed and disheartened to see current students,
alumni, and former sta members share their accounts of blatant
racism on the Black at Woodward Instagram page. Frankly
speaking, the fact that these occurrences are not atypical and
span across decades can be described only as a crisis, and it highlights
the racial injustices that are a part of the culture at Woodward
Academy. This has to end today. By not expelling students and firing
sta who inflict racist aggressions against their peers, the Academy is
complicit in racism, period. This is intolerable and insuerable.
There are multiple accounts of students being called the n-word
or suering from racial microaggressions from students and sta
members alike. There are various accounts from current students that
detail racist attacks with no justice or repercussions, despite escalating
these issues to administration. Schools should be safe from emotional,
spiritual, and physical violence. I personally have suered from similar
microaggressions and have other Black and POC classmates who have
stories to tell.
Initially, seeing people share their stories on the Instagram page
did not shock me; but what came as a surprise later was the sudden
influx of many traumatic memories of my time at Woodward that I
had suppressed.
As a student, I remember vividly reading The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn and other literary works strewn with the n-word.
When asked to read aloud in class, my white classmates saw no
21
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issue in saying this slur, oftentimes not corrected by teachers. On Obama’s
Inauguration Day, a teacher came to class dressed all in black, stating that she
was in mourning. I had a white classmate who wore a Confederate belt buckle
and told me that his family probably owned mine as slaves. I had a teacher call
our class (white, Black, and POC) “cotton-pickin’, finger-lickin’ somethings”
during moments of frustration.
When I revisited these memories, my initial thought was, why didn’t I speak
up or tell my parents? I started to have overwhelming feelings of shame and
guilt, but I had to quickly tell myself—and I hope all those in the same situation
can understand—the responsibility isn’t on the victim, but the aggressor. It is
not my responsibility as a Black woman to tell racists that they are racist.
It is unacceptable for a classmate to be allowed to wear belt buckles with
the Confederate flag. It is unacceptable for a teacher to refer to anyone as
cotton pickin’ and finger lickin’. It is unacceptable for a teacher to refer to the
inauguration of the first Black president as something to be mourned.
It is harmful and reckless for English teachers not to explain why the use
of the n-word is a vicious racial slur and is wrong. If students are required to
read books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for class, there needs to
be mandatory reading by Black authors explaining the true meaning behind
this racial slur and its harmful legacy in the United States. And the slur
should not be tolerated to be read aloud or used, to start.
There are countless classics by Black authors that hold equal or higher
literary power that were not covered during my time at Woodward in any
English class, and I believe that needs to be changed immediately. These
books should be included in the regular curriculum and not just as a
highlight and glossed over during Black History Month. (Suggested reading
list included at right.)
Additionally, Black history should be included in the regular curriculum.
It is not enough to educate students on the Civil Rights era as a gloss over
of the 1960s, or to touch on slavery as written in the history books. Because,
as educated and aware people, we know that history books are written by
revisionists who downplay how deeply rooted racism is in this country. My
parents were alive during the Jim Crow era; my grandparents are alive to tell
me stories of segregation and racism. We are not removed from these realities.
It is a dishonor not to be truthful about racism.
President Gulley stated that 54 percent of students are people of color,
and 34 percent of sta members are people of color, but I would like to see
the numbers of Black students and sta members increase. There needs to
be a scholarship fund for Black students specifically as a way to increase
educational opportunity in the Black community. This scholarship fund
should include tuition and fees, books, uniforms, and transportation.
Woodward Academy has a tremendous endowment and countless donors
who should have no issue into contributing to said fund. Should Woodward
receive pushback, reconsider accepting donations from these individuals in
an eort to stand in solidarity with your Black community. I have seen the
children of rich white parents and donors get away with things that Black and
POC students could never, and that culture must end. If the Academy cannot
put their money where their mouth is, it must reevaluate if it is actually a No
Place for Hate school.
Book
Recommendations
Native Son by Richard Wright
White Fragility: Why it’s So
Hard for White People
to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist
Discovers Her Superpower
by Brittney Cooper
White Tears/Brown Scars:
How White Feminism
Betrays Women of Color
by Ruby Hamad
Why Are All the Black
Kids Sitting Together in
the Cafeteria?: And Other
Conversations
About Race by Beverly Daniel
Tatum, Ph.D.
Death in a Promised Land:
The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921
by Scott Ellsworth
In Search of Our Mothers’
Gardens: Womanist Prose
by Alice Walker
The New Jim Crow:
Mass Incarceration in
the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Breath, Eyes, Memory
by Edwidge Danticat
I look forward to the results of
the assessment of the curriculum,
revision of the student handbook,
and changes to be made following
the listening sessions. I believe
alumni are entitled to that
information so that we can create
change and hold the administration
accountable moving forward.
Enough is enough.
22
OVERT AND COVERT RACISM
WAS BAKED INTO THE
CULTURE AT WOODWARD
AND WAS REINFORCED BY
THE FACULTY WHO ALLOWED
THIS PERVASIVE RACISM TO
EXIST. ALTHOUGH THERE
WERE SOME GREAT TEACHERS
WHO PUSHED ME IN MY OWN
THINKING AND HELPED
ME EXCEL ACADEMICALLY,
THERE WERE ALSO A
NUMBER OF TEACHERS WHO
DISCOURAGED ME AND MADE
ME SECOND GUESS MYSELF.
ANONYMOUS ALUMNUS
23
A Special Publication
BLACK AT WOODWARD24
Black History
at Woodward
I
n 1900, when Georgia Military Academy
opened its doors, the first 30 students
were homogenous—they were white, and
they were male. This eectively remained the
case for the following decades (some students
came from Cuba in the 1920s and 1930s) In the
transition from GMA to Woodward Academy,
the school began admitting girls in the mid
1960s and then admitted its first Black students
in 1971. Woodward was the first Atlanta private
school to integrate, but that fact does nothing to
diminish the exclusion of the previous 70 years.
1900
Georgia Military Academy is Founded
19 74
First Board Member
William (Bill) Allison is the
first Black person named to
Woodward’s
Governing Board.
1975
First Teacher
Marva Massey joins the Lower
School as a PE teacher, becoming
Woodward’s first Black faculty
member. Two years later, Helen
Spears joins the sta as a media
reading teacher.
1983
First Senior Class President
Darrin Finney ’83 is named
the first Black senior class
president.
25
A Special Publication
* Homecoming King records are incomplete,
making it impossible to say for certain who
the first Black Homecoming King was.
GMA Becomes
Woodward Academy
1988
First Valedictorian
Tamara Jones ’88 becomes
Woodward’s first Black
valedictorian. She now serves
on the Governing Board.
1973
1971
1990
First Homecoming Queen*
Valaurie Bridges Lee ’90 is
voted Woodward’s first Black
Homecoming Queen. She now
serves on the Black Alumni
Association’s Advisory Board.
1993
First Student Government
Association President
Torrance Mosley ’94 is
elected the first Black
president of the Student
Government Association.
1967
Woodward Integrates
During the 1971-1972 school year,
four Black students enroll:
Darlene Douglas ’73, Melodie
Ricks ’73, Clarence Davis ’74,
and Robert Ricks.
First Graduates
Darlene Douglas and
Melodie Ricks become
the first Black students to
graduate from Woodward.
BLACK AT WOODWARD26
‘I Have Never Taken
a Class Taught by
a Black Teacher
LORIELLE GEORGETOWN ’21
27
A Special Publication
Black girl, non-Black classroom;
Black girl feels unheard and unseen.
Black girl, silent while her classmates assume;
Black girl, angry as she feels like another number in the machine.
Black women everywhere are under immense pressure to stay
strong amidst police shootings and harsh criminal sentencing. In a
world where the targeting of Black people is on national television
and social media, I look forward to the remodeling of institutions
worldwide, especially as Black women everywhere are making
history politically and economically.
As the nation continues to grow and become more inclusive,
I look to Woodward Academy to serve as a microcosm of this
growth. While Woodward has one of the most ethnically diverse
campuses in Atlanta, my experience as a Black girl has not been
everything I hoped it would be. As outspoken as I am, I have
developed a state of silence. The emotional trauma and distress of
debating non-Black people about topics like armative action and
cultural appropriation are too much to bear.
Unfortunately, my intellectual understanding of Black issues
does not come from the Woodward classroom. While the
Woodward curriculum does include works by Black authors, these
pieces of literature are a small fraction of the required readings.
During my time at Woodward, I have read three books and a
handful of pieces of civil rights poetry written by Black authors.
The standard argument against my perspective is that authors
like Shakespeare wrote “classics” that students must study. While I
understand this argument, it supports a white-washed perspective
of literature that I just cannot arm. On the whole, I look forward
to the results of the comprehensive curriculum review by the Anti-
Racism Task Force.
Another negatively transformative factor in my educational
growth has been the lack of demographic diversity in Woodward’s
faculty. During my time at Woodward, I have never taken a class
taught by a Black teacher. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity
to seek connections with Woodward’s Black faculty through the
various clubs and organizations on campus.
Through the Black Student Union and Legal Studies Club, I
have observed presentations by successful Black adults in multiple
fields. As I graduate in the spring, I hope that these clubs continue
to introduce students to thriving Black adults.
Despite the reality of the
past, Woodward’s willingness
to grow is inspiring. While I did
not find the Black at Woodward
Instagram posts surprising, I did
find joy in the administration’s
response. I have attended multiple
independent schools in Atlanta, but
none compare to the Woodward
Academy community.
We are a wave of energy, school-
spirit, and diversity. Not only do our
students love their classes, but they
love their cocurricular activities.
Our administration realizes that
Woodward has work to do. As
policies become more inclusive
and the administration becomes
more understanding, I hope for an
atmosphere that does not focus on
social division, but rather positively
embraces diversity.
With persistence, Woodward will
be a community where students,
especially in the Black community,
feel safe and loved.
This growth is possible. As clubs
and organizations like the Black
Student Union host dialogue with
principals and deans more often,
I encourage students to continue
to reach out to our administration.
I hope student leaders will stay
involved in the transformation
of the Woodward community.
This continued connection and
commitment to inclusion and
transparency will help Woodward
go from being the most diverse
school in Atlanta to priding itself on
being the most inclusive.
BLACK AT WOODWARD28
29
A Special Publication
GABBY LARMOND ’21
I am an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. My work
centers around the exploration of queerness, gender, and the natural
world, with emphasis on color and mark making. Through my art, I wish
to understand myself and the world around me whilst projecting my own
experiences onto a physical form.
My artwork takes a critical view of social, political, and cultural issues
through self-reflection and portraiture across various mediums—the most
recent being acrylic paints and gouache. The subject matter of each body of
work lends itself to various materials and the forms including painting, film
photography, drawing, and mixed media and often manifest into a variety of
self portraits.
With influences as diverse as John Dugdale and Richard Avedon, new
insights are created from both explicit and implicit discourse. My works are
characterized by the use of bright colors and playful juxtaposition. With
a strong interest in portraiture, I often create work that depicts a variety
of narratives, often serving as a commentary on society and pop culture in
reference to social issues such as LGBTQ rights, climate change, and gender
identity.
Each piece begins as an idea, plays into a carefully crafted concept,
and is executed in the medium that serves the concept best. The results
are deconstructed to the extent that meaning is shifted and possible
interpretation becomes multifaceted, allowing viewers to project their own
unique interpretations onto each piece.
Gabby Larmond has participated in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards,
winning a Gold Key in the Southeast region in 2016 and 2017, and has been
recognized in the 2020 Atlanta Celebrates Photography Exhibition. In 2019, they
graduated from the Oxbow School’s 41st semester.
“Starchild”
BLACK AT WOODWARD30
A Place
to Feel
Connected
and Supported
LORRI HEWETT
A Special Publication
31
F
or many years, Woodward Academy held the position that anity
groups were potentially divisive, and that they would not be allowed
in our Upper School. Several teachers and students over the years
attempted to create a Black anity group, but the request was
always refused. This is the story of how the Unity Club, an informal, unspoken
organization started by students, became our Black Student Union in 2016.
One day back in September of 2016, a few of my students asked me if they
could meet in my room during a lunch period and talk about issues of concern
for them. I knew them all; I had taught them the previous year. What they all
had in common was they were African-American, and my room was a place
where they felt safe to be themselves and speak openly about their concerns.
I grew up in an all-white community, and I’ve always been sensitive to the
isolation students feel when they are the only person of color in a class. I
wanted to make sure my students, even in our wonderfully diverse community,
felt connected and supported.
The next time we met, I had about 18 African-American students in my room
during lunch. We talked that day about how nice it was to talk in a group where
they didn’t have to explain their perspectives as people of color. They could just
be themselves. I can’t remember the subject of that first meeting. I just recall
the sense of comfort the students felt. I want all of my students, no matter their
background, to feel comfortable in my room. Even so, I was so happy that I
could give these students this space.
The next meeting I ordered pizza, and we had about 25 kids—mostly 11th
and 12th graders. This time, they had a lively discussion about how Black
boys and girls perceive each other. They talked about how negative social
stereotypes aect dating relationships, and how dicult it can be to navigate
those relationships. I mainly listened, as did a pair of new-to-Woodward twins
whom I had invited so that they could meet other Black students. It was great
to listen to kids talk about issues that mattered to them—intra-racial issues that
they didn’t typically get to discuss at school.
We had outgrown my classroom by meeting number four. We met in A240
for our lunch meeting two weeks later. I was happy to see that the word had
gotten around. More younger students were there. This time, students wanted
to talk about microaggressions they had experienced here at Woodward. One
by one, students stood up and talked about experiences with peers, even faculty,
where a well- (or sometimes not-so-well-) intentioned statement went wrong.
After each student spoke, I saw how they responded to each other—with nods,
yesses, and “I dealt with that, too!”s. But it wasn’t a complaining session.
BLACK AT WOODWARD32
Leila Sampson ’17 (currently a student at
Spelman), who had been named the president
of the group by her peers, asked students
how they can respond to these comments
in a positive way. I found her attitude really
admirable. Instead of getting angry, students
encouraged each other to be proactive.
I grew up knowing that I was a “pioneer” of
sorts; often, I was the only African-American
person my peers, neighbors, and teachers knew.
It was an undue burden, but I chose to be a
positive representative of Black culture. It was
tough. I often resented being called on in class
(during Black History Month, usually) to be the
spokesperson for “Black experience” or “the
African-American perspective.” Our students of
color at Woodward have more of a community
than I had, but they remain pioneers—they
are often judged by the actions of others, just
because of their skin color. This burden is
more easily borne with the understanding and
fellowship of others. I’m glad I can help spare
my students some of the loneliness and isolation
I felt at their age. That’s why I’m so passionate
about sponsoring this group, and why I’ve tried
to be as helpful to the students as I can be.
The following meeting occurred on the day
after the 2016 election: Several students came
to my room and cried in my arms. I cried, too.
After all, I shared their fears. We had planned
to discuss colorism in the Black community
that day, and we continued with our plans. But
we also gave students a chance to discuss their
feelings about the election in company. I think
the students left the meeting feeling, if not
better, then more resolved. I know I did.
We had an ocial club by then. We saw
40-60 students at our meetings, and we had
students who had stepped forward to be
leaders. We had a leadership meeting later in
the month for the students to think about what
they wanted this group to be. What role could
this group play in the Woodward community?
To get ideas from the perspective of a sponsor,
I began inviting other faculty members to sit
in on our meetings and give me their insights.
I got so much positive feedback from my peers
here at Woodward, from fellow teachers at the
annual NAIS People of Color Conference, and
from fellow teachers at independent schools in
Atlanta. I also heard from parents of our group
members, thanking me for facilitating this
group for their children.
Our club could become ocial, and the
hard work the students had put into creating
the club could be celebrated publicly. The
Unity Club became the BSU, the Black Student
Union, which is still thriving today. Our
students plan educational and social events for
their peers and create programming for the
Upper School during Black History Month.
We have had panels discussing the n-word
and its eects, discussions about attending
HBCUs vs primarily white institutions for
college, Freestyle Fridays, potluck luncheons,
Black history trivia games, guest speakers,
presentations on systemic racism, and even
make-up seminars for a variety of skin tones.
This is a group where students can make
new friends and join together with the comfort
of knowing that they have shared experiences
that don’t need explanation. The BSU has
become a force of goodwill on this campus,
and we have become one of the largest active
student organizations.
This summer, I worked with our new
leadership, Maya Packer ’22 and Alexis Rogers
’21, who wanted to address the Black at
Woodward Instagram posts. While the pandemic
has certainly aected our ability to meet in
person, the club continues in full force this year.
We have held a listening session with the Upper
School principals and deans so that students
could discuss some of the concerns that came
up on the Instagram page, and I was gratified
to see the enthusiasm that our Upper School
leadership showed in supporting our students.
This club is very special to me. It gladdens
my heart to see students come together with
their peers in a way that I wasn’t able to when I
was in high school. I appreciate that I work at a
school where the leadership is willing to adapt
to change, and to give support to students with
diverse backgrounds. This work is ongoing, but
I feel confident that Woodward is doing its part
to build a more inclusive community.
Lorri Hewett is an English teacher in the Upper
School at Woodward. She holds a BA from Emory
University and an MFA from the University of
Iowa. She is the author of several novels, including
Dancer, about a Black ballet dancer.
33
A Special Publication
Respect
and Honor
Dierences
ERRINGTON TRUESDELL ’21
W
oodward Academy is the only school I have known. I
entered Woodward North at age 4 and made the transition
to Main Campus for seventh grade. I recall my time at
Woodward North being carefree, nurturing, and inclusive.
It was academically competitive, but I thrived in every way.
I was definitely a minority at North, since the total number of Black male
students in any grade could be counted on one hand. Nevertheless, I felt
extremely comfortable and appreciated as an individual. I was awarded the
highest honor at North—the Woodward Way Award—given to one member
of the sixth grade class who embodies “all things Woodward.
I don’t recall any direct experience with racism at North, but I suspect
that racism is dicult to discern at such a young age. If it existed, it
definitely took a backseat to our optimism and innocence.
My Middle School and Upper School years have not personally been
marked by racially motivated situations, but my family was forced to deal
with a specific incident when my sister, who graduated from Woodward in
2018, was in eighth grade. I was a fifth-grader at the time.
34 BLACK AT WOODWARD
It involved racially explicit internet
postings by some of her white male
classmates. The postings were brought
to my parents’ attention by the parents
of my sister’s classmate, who also was
a close friend—this was a white family
disturbed by the images that were
circulating amongst students. Eventually,
the images were brought to the attention
of the teachers and the administration at
the highest level. I have a vague memory
of this time and incident. My parents
limited my exposure because of the
potentially negative impact on me.
It was extremely upsetting to my
sister and my parents, who considered
withdrawing us from Woodward because
of the incident. The issue was resolved
to the satisfaction of my parents, and
my sister did complete her education
at Woodward without any other issues.
She felt very comfortable and supported
during and after the incident.
My final years in high school have
seen an escalation in the attention to
racial tensions. These issues clearly have
been a problem in the past but are being
brought to attention by the proliferation
of social media and the collective voices
of people who can no longer ignore the
impact of racial disparities on access to
opportunities.
When I first saw the Black at
Woodward Instagram posts, I was
genuinely surprised by some of the
comments shared. I was blind to what
was actually going on behind the
scenes on campus. I felt insecure in
the environment, even though I wasn’t
personally aected.
Then I thought about what had
happened with my sister. It had been so
close to me but so unrecognized by me
personally. The number of reports was
unbelievable.
I really did not know what to think
as I watched the news of George Floyd,
Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks—
Black men whose final moments we all
witnessed, and who weren’t given the
benefit of the doubt. In two of the cases,
the death was caused by law enforcement.
I have mixed emotions about the
relationship between African-Americans
and law enforcement because my father
is a career law enforcement ocer.
I know for sure that my dad as a law
enforcement ocer can be trusted, and yet
I see what everyone else saw in the George
Floyd case. It’s clear that law enforcement
does include humans who can’t be trusted
100 percent of the time.
As a result, there has been a
proliferation of protests ranging from
peaceful, powerful, and productive to
chaotic and destructive that negatively
impact the communities that can least
aord such destruction.
I attended two demonstrations in
Atlanta. It was extremely powerful to
see so many individuals gathered with
one goal in mind. They were there
to shed light on police brutality and
injustice. I stood there hoping that the
peaceful protests would bring attention
and spark change in the community for
those who so desperately needed it. That
will require a conscious eort from all
members of the community.
This should become a focus of our
school community. Woodward has some
work to do in light of the release of the
Black at Woodward posts. However, I
feel if the proper steps are taken toward
starting a dialogue and educating the
student body on these topics, then we can
use these posts as a lesson and hopefully
bounce back as a more welcoming,
cohesive community.
Woodward Academy does a great job
of supporting diversity in a very inclusive
way. I hope it will build on that to help its
students go out into the world respecting
and honoring dierences.
35
A Special Publication
FREQUENTLY IN
CONVERSATIONS WITH
OTHER PARENTS AND SOME
FACULTY, A DISCUSSION
ERUPTS AROUND “THE
CHANGES” THAT HAVE
OCCURRED AT WA AND
HOW PERHAPS CERTAIN
SOLUTIONS COULD SLOW
OR REVERSE THEM. YOU
REALIZE THEY ARE TALKING
ABOUT THE INFLUX OF
MINORITIES (MOSTLY
BLACK STUDENTS). ... THEY
WANT UPPER-MIDDLE
INCOME “GOOD BLACKS,”
NOT THE LOWER-MIDDLE
INCOME “BAD BLACKS.” IT
PERMEATES INTO HOW THE
STUDENTS INTERACT AND
TALK ABOUT EACH OTHER.
ANONYMOUS PARENT
36 BLACK AT WOODWARD
I did a social
experiment with
one of my white
friends and we
both did one
thing out of dress
code the same
day. The teacher
let her slide but
gave me, the
Black student,
a uniform
violation. Then
my friend made
hers more
noticeable and
still no violation.
ANONYMOUS STUDENT
37
A Special Publication
38
WHEN
MANY
VOICES
BECOME
ONE
BLACK AT WOODWARD
NATHANIEL JOHNSON ’12
39
A Special Publication
I
have always had great pride about growing up in Atlanta
and attending Woodward. I’ve cherished the experiences
and relationships I gained growing up in the city that, as
Mayor Ivan Allen said in the 1960s, is “too busy to hate.
This summer, after reading the stories on the Black at
Woodward Instagram page, I reassessed my experience as a
Black man attending a predominantly wealthy, white institution.
It was heartbreaking to see that current Black and brown
students are still dealing with the microaggressions and blatant
racism that we experienced. Yet, its also empowering to see these
young adults turning their voices and stories into a movement.
Their movement inspired people to make a dierence, and it is
a testament to the character and drive of todays Black and brown
Woodward students. They aren’t settling for the status quo.
I was amazed when I heard about the Black Student Union at
Woodward and was envious, I have to admit. Our classes hadn’t
tried to start one before. Today’s students are dierent in the
sense that they know they have power when they come together.
During this period of upheaval, I started talking with Kendall
Roney ’12 and Morgan McKinnon ’12 about creating a Black
Alumni Association. We felt that this was the first step necessary
for us to be an active part of the change we want to see. I believe it
is our responsibility as Black alumni to support the students and
recent graduates.
We asked ourselves what it would have been like if we had
a Black alumnus as a mentor. And what about a database of
Black professionals who attended Woodward? How much of a
dierence would it have made during our time at the Academy?
With a Black alumni network, opportunities for Black
students and recent graduates for internships, mentoring,
resources, career shadowing, and networking would build
lifelong relationships and success. As we have seen from the
current students, collectiveness can spark immediate change.
If Woodward’s Black community can come together, that is
an incredible, vastly talented group that can make a massive
impact at Woodward, across Atlanta, and in the world at large.
This summer, I learned a great deal about how much
dierence we can make in the world when we collectively use
our voice and have an actionable plan. Witnessing the Black
students and recent alums’ passion while leading this movement
has made me even more proud and thankful for attending
Woodward Academy.
The Black
Alumni
Association
Mission
The Woodward Academy
Black Alumni Association
highlights excellence among
its members and creates
a community that works
together to empower students
and alumni, cultivate lasting
connections, strengthen the
Woodward community, and
provide the space for scholars
and professionals to connect
and deepen relationships
beyond the Academy.
Vision
As the Woodward Academy
Black Alumni Association, we
strive to provide networking
opportunities, social events,
and philanthropic support
to the school. We connect
alumni to current students
with shared experiences in
order to provide mentorship
that will equip them with
the necessary skills to
navigate through their time
at the Academy and beyond
graduation. Together we will
strengthen the Woodward
community through advocacy
and mobilization that will
foster greater educational
opportunities and resources
for Black students, school
organizations, and faculty.
For more information,
email blackalumni@
woodward.edu.
BLACK AT WOODWARD40
I
n order for you to appreciate my Woodward story, I need to take you
back in time for just a moment. When I was growing up, I had no clue
we were poor. My family was rich in love and support and kindness and
caring. And the “village” that raised me left not a single doubt in my
mind that I was loved.
But the experience that really set the course of my young life happened
when I was in fifth grade. It was the first year of desegregation, and I had
to move from my all-Black school—where I excelled even with hand-me-
down books and second-rate facilities—to an all-white school. Before I
moved to the new school, my teacher, Mrs. Bryant, pulled me to the side
and said, “Now you will be going to school with white kids, and I want you
to understand something very clearly. No matter what anybody tries to
make you believe, never forget you are just as smart as any of them. There is
nothing you can’t achieve with hard work and applying yourself.” I’ve carried
her words with me ever since.
I went on to graduate as valedictorian from my high school and from there
I got my BA and MBA. I began my professional career in 1976, and I retired as
executive vice president, finance at Coca-Cola Enterprises in 2009. During the
entirety of my 30-plus year career, I never once had a boss who looked like me
in race or in gender. And so, as you might surmise, I have lived a little bit of this
thing called diversity.
‘The
Responsibility
to Make
it Right
BY VICKI PALMER
41
A Special Publication
My daughter, Alex Roman ’07, started at
Woodward in fifth grade. I chose Woodward
because of its reputation for educating the whole
child and for diversity. So, imagine my surprise when we
showed up for the first gathering of new parents to meet
the faculty and administration, and there were exactly two
Black people. One was the chaplain and the other was the
Lower School counselor. I was literally speechless.
When Alex was in sixth grade, the president of
Woodward approached me about joining the Governing
Board. I told him I would consider it, but he needed to
understand I would be bringing a platform with me. I
went on to explain that my daughter could not attend
a school where she wouldn’t have teachers who looked
like her. Thinking back to my own fifth grade experience,
I fully understood the value of Black teachers in
the development of my Black child. I deliberately
surrounded her with role models who looked like she
did. Her pediatrician was Black, her dentist was Black,
her pastor was Black, all because I wanted my child to
understand clearly that there was nothing in this world
she could not achieve as a Black woman. The president
said he understood and that they were committed to
change. And things did change, for a while.
I’m proud to say that Alex herself played a role in
creating change while she was a student. When she was
in ninth grade, she came home ranting and raving about
the fact that Woodward did not do anything to honor
Black History Month. I let her finish and then said,
“There are two kinds of people in this world, those who
complain and those who choose to do something about
it. You need to decide which type you want to be.
We never discussed it again until I learned she had
gone to the administration with a plan for a Black
History moment daily for the month of February with
students of various ethnicities participating. It was very
well received. Later, she wanted to start a Black student
group but was told that groups for individual ethnicities
were not allowed. So she started the multicultural group,
Five Points, in the Upper School, for which she won the
Princeton Prize in Race Relations.
And yet, despite all the work of those years, I find
myself more than 20 years later hearing the very same
concerns. That Woodward, still, is not doing enough to
create an equitable environment.
And so, when I was first asked to chair the Anti-Racism
Task Force, I had real reservations. I had already paid
so many dues, fought so many fights, and tried hard
to make a dierence during my career. When I was
treasurer at Coca-Cola Enterprises, we were one of the
first corporations to hire a Black money manager for
our pension program—actually, we didn’t just hire one,
we hired three. On Wall Street, we completed the first
ever bond deal in this country that was led by a Black
investment firm, a $300 million transaction. I used my
seat at the table to make a dierence for our employees
and to make sure we had diverse representation at all
levels of the company.
I know what racism feels like, and I understand
the responsibility to make it right. I truly felt the
pain expressed on the Black at Woodward Instagram
account, and I knew it was going to take a lot of time
Woodward Student
Body Demographics
White 42.9%
Black 31.6%
Asian/Pacific 11.7%
Hispanic 2.2%
Native American 0.2%
Multiracial 7.7%
Not Provided 3.6%
BLACK AT WOODWARD42
and hard, tough work to make meaningful
change. I also was very clear that before I
could make a decision, I had to have two
serious conversations. One with President
Gulley and another with Bobby Bowers ’74,
our Governing Board chair. I asked them both
if they were truly 100 percent committed to
making the necessary changes, wherever this
work took us. After those conversations, I was
convinced of their personal commitment and
their genuine level of shock and dismay with
the hundreds of stories from alumni, and even
more sadly, from current students.
Many have asked, how could the Academy’s
leaders not have known that such racist
behavior still took place? Of course, leaders
knew of what we thought were isolated
issues over the years, but just like every major
corporation and educational institution in this
country, they had never heard so many voices
speaking so loudly and clearly, at the same
time—many for the very first time. The scope
of the problem was never so clearly defined,
and so unavoidable. And so, I agreed to serve
as chair.
For the past four months, Woodward’s
Anti-Racism Task Force has been hard at work
tackling perhaps one of the toughest issues in
America: the pandemic of racism. The term
Anti-Racism” denotes the act of change. I am
more than hopeful for our Academy because
we have the kind of courageous leadership
that is willing to make such needed changes in
order to end systemic racism wherever it may
existovert or unintentional.
I am proud to be part of the solution at
Woodward Academy. It is my hope and my
prayer that all of you will join us to do your
part to make Woodward an example for
independent schools around the country to
emulate. With your help, we can put an end
to any injustices for every member of the
Woodward community.
Vicki Palmer is a retired executive vice president
at Coca-Cola and president of The Palmer Group,
a consulting firm. She is the chair of Woodward’s
Anti-Racism Task Force and a member of the
Woodward Governing Board.
Diversity,
Equity
& Inclusion
Woodward has engaged in ongoing
work in Diversity, Equity, and
Inclusion, led for the past several
years by Marcia Prewitt Spiller, the
senior vice president for academic
and student life. While Woodward
is the most diverse private school
in Atlanta, more work is needed to
create a school environment where
discrimination or hatred of any kind
is not tolerated.
It is the school’s sincere belief
that we can only be eective when
our entire community—parents,
students, alumni, faculty, sta, and
administration—works together to
put an end to such injustices. Our
commitment to the Woodward
community moving forward is to
provide ongoing progress updates
and transparency about our approach
to the important work ahead.
The Anti-Racism Task Force will
post updates about its work in the
Woodward magazine and on the DEI
page on the Woodward website at
woodward.edu/dei.
The page includes information
on hate speech, academic leveling,
diversity training, curriculum
review, and financial support.
43
A Special Publication
“The Great Escape”
GABBY LARMOND ’21
Discipline
students
for racist
remarks and
comments.
We also need
mandatory
assemblies so
that people
of color can
share their
experiences.
We get one
every year
about drugs
and alcohol
and dating,
but why
not about
racism?
KENNEDY ROGERS ’23
44
45
The racism that I have seen at
Woodward has spanned three
decades. I have experienced
everything from overt racism
to implicit bias to countless
microaggressions. I have had to
guide my own children during their
time at Woodward through the
same types of experiences of racist
comments from peers and their
families, ignorant, ill-informed
comments from faculty, disparities
of discipline and responses.
ANONYMOUS ALUMNUS AND PARENT
46
‘What is
at Stake
is Our
Humanity’
F. STUART GULLEY
47
M
uch of what you’ve just read in this publication—and many more
accounts of racist incidents at Woodward—came to light over a period
of a few months this spring and summer. I and the other leaders of the
Academy watched as these stories piled up, an ever growing list. And as
we read, we grieved.
The stories are horrifying. They would have been painful to read, even if I’d had no
personal connection to them. But it was all the worse because these stories happened
here. Many of them happened under my watch, these incidents of microaggressions,
bullying, and outright racism.
I knew, of course, of isolated instances. It is part of being a large community,
comprising thousands of individuals, that there will be problems. The sheer volume
posted online and shared directly with us, though, put the lie to this conception
of scattered, unrelated incidents. We have prided ourselves on being a place that
practices a deep respect for dierence. What these accounts made me understand is
that our culture is neither as deep nor as respectful as I thought.
It is doubly painful for our community that people have felt unheard or ignored
when they have reported racist behavior. We know that we haven’t done enough to
create real, consistent accountability. And, thus, we have been one more organization
that created a system that holds back people of color.
BLACK AT WOODWARD48
All told, there were hundreds of
accounts of racism shared with us.
For those who bravely shared their
stories and those who created a
platform for sharing, I want to thank
you for your courage in speaking
out, in holding us to account, and
expecting of us that we do better.
To those who have reached out, to
those who posted their experiences
anonymously, and to those who
continue to suer silently, I oer
my apology. We have not been the
institution that we claimed to be. You
have the right to be appreciated for
who you are.
To those of you who feel this is
an overreaction, or the insertion of
politics into our education, while I
understand those concerns I most
vehemently disagree with such a
characterization. What is at stake
is our humanity. Every person
at Woodward, whatever your
demographic, has a right to feel
valued and appreciated as you are.
This doesn’t mean we all always will
agree, but it does mean we aord
respect and consideration. And this
clearly has not been the case. And
it particularly has not been the case
for our Black community.
I cannot change the past. I
cannot undo the damage that has
been done. What I want to make
clear now is that I and the rest of
Woodward’s leaders are committed
to changing the future, the culture
and values—especially for those
members of our community who
are Black. The focus on racism
cannot be ignored; it calls us as an
institution to address it.
The eort began over the summer, through meetings with
senior sta and our Governing Board, initially leading to the
creation of the Anti-Racism Task Force. This body is made up of a
diverse array of our community and includes parents, alumni, and
students. Through this group, we are laser-focused on examining
policy, curriculum, and behaviors. Already, some changes have
been implemented, but much more is to come.
I was a history major in college, and in tackling this work,
I firmly believe that we have to look back at our history. This
includes our founding as an all-male, all-white military academy
and the following decades in which it remained that way. It
includes the history of racist behavior captured in the preceding
pages. We must understand how we erred so that we may repair as
much damage as we can, and so that we can chart a better path into
the future.
We are committed to putting into place policies, programs, and
practices to ensure that this is a community where everyone has a
chance to grow and be treated equally.
I ask two final things of every member of our community:
First, if you see something dehumanizing or hateful happen,
or if something happens to you, don’t bear it silently. We have put
into place mechanisms of accountability. Please notify a principal
or other school leader. Allow us to re-earn your trust that acts of
racism will be met with repercussions.
Second, I ask for your patience. This is not as easy as saying a
phrase or passing a policy or even passing a law. We always are
going to be in a struggle, a battle that is harder for some than
others, particularly those who are Black and brown. Nothing we
can do will immediately solve all concerns. The only things we can
do are to learn, to be committed to making long-term change, and
to constantly evaluate.
I doubt we’ll ever say racism no longer exists. But we can reach
a day when we will say racism is no longer tolerated.
F. Stuart Gulley has served as the president of Woodward Academy
since 2009. President Gulley came to Woodward Academy from
LaGrange College, where he served as president for 13 years.
Woodward Academy
1662 Rugby Avenue
College Park, GA 30337