The Sacred Heart Greenwich Alumnae Media Network hosted an alumnae panel, "Media for Social Change Panel" on June 16 to explore issues of the media, race and social change in the spirit of Goal Three, “a social awareness which impels to action.” More than 180 alumnae, students, parents, faculty and staff attended the virtual webinar.
Filmmaker Sadé Clacken Joseph '07 reached out to Sacred Heart Greenwich in the wake of the murder of George Floyd to organize a panel of media professionals to address the power of media to impact social change and to offer guidance to what Sacred Heart Greenwich can do to combat racism and support students of color.
Along with Joseph, the Zoom panel featured Intersections founder Olivia Andrews ’20; digital strategist Oanh-Nhi Nguyen ’09; BET Style Director Danielle Prescod ’06; NBC journalist Stephanie Giambruno ’87; and Sesame Workshop Social Impact Manager Cailey Cron ’09. The panel was moderated by Alumnae Board member Ale Knight ’09.
The panel opened with questions from Knight, who facilitated the conversation, and then moved to questions, some that were pre-recorded on video and others that came from the live Zoom audience.
Fifteen years ago, as a teenager in Sacred Heart's Broadcast Journalism program, Joseph first realized the power of storytelling to make a social impact. The first documentary she produced in that class, "I AM", explored heritage and diversity and launched her passion for filmmaking. A decade and a half later, Joseph works full time as a filmmaker and has been recognized by the White House for her work and had a film featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.
When Joseph was a teenager, she loved fantasy literature, especially Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Yet, at some point in high school, she realized, “none of these characters look anything like me.”
The panelists agreed that representation in media, books, curriculum, faculty, students, and people in power is crucial. Andrews echoed Joseph’s experience sharing that when she was younger she didn't see movie or book characters that looked like her.
"Representation is important for social change on screen and in positions of power because it really shows people the nuances, depth, and infinite capabilities of people of color and Black people. It's really important that Black children and everyone in general is exposed to that," Andrews said.
Cron spoke of the importance of embracing risk, vulnerability and discomfort in the process of having honest conversations about equity and inclusion.
"In looking at the curriculum, my suggestion would be that Sacred Heart think not only about what students need to learn about issues of identity and inequity but also what they need to unlearn," Cron said.
Prescod emphasized the importance of updating the history curriculum to represent more diverse voices.
She said, "We have to liberate ourselves from the idea that talking about race and talking about slavery and talking about all of the evils that happened during Reconstruction is impolite."
In addition to more diversity in the curriculum, panelists spoke of the importance of a highly diverse student body, offering scholarships, hiring and keeping faculty of color, and a diverse Board of Trustees.
The panel concluded with responses from Assistant Head of School Dave Olson; Chair of the Board of Trustees Kathleen O’Connor; and incoming Head of School Meg Frazier.
The three spoke about actions the School is taking, including rewriting the diversity statement, creating an Equity and Diversity Committee on the Board of Trustees, faculty and student equity and inclusion training, committing to diverse hiring practices, and being vigilant about diverse representation in the student body. All three emphasized the centrality of this justice work as integral to the mission of Sacred Heart educators.
"Graduating from Sacred Heart and seeing everything that is planned in the future, it's inspiring to see what happens when race is really discussed,” Andrews said, “and not just the general theme of social justice, but when race is really spotlighted and what we do in those conversations and dialogues to fight for social justice."