On the night of March 16, a man opened fire in three Atlanta-area massage businesses. Among eight victims shot dead were six women of Asian descent. On the night of March 17, the Hotchkiss community gathered for a Community Conversation open to all students, faculty and staff. More than 400 people participated in the virtual event.
Yassine Talhaoui, director of diversity & inclusion (D&I), opened the event. “It saddens me that we are not gathering for celebratory reasons,” he said. “Instead, in light of the staggering and disturbing rise in hate crimes targeting the Pan Asian communities, we have invited you to this safe space to connect, offer support, and share. I would like to reiterate and express our deep concern for ongoing acts of violence and racism perpetrated against Asians and Asian Americans across the U.S. and around the globe. We as a school and family are committed to creating a truly equitable and inclusive community in which every member -- students, faculty, staff, spouses, and their children -- feels safe, seen, and supported.”
Head of School Craig Bradley addressed attendees by echoing remarks he made during an All School meeting on March 1. Bradley noted that the killings in Atlanta were not a one-off event. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of violence perpetrated against Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. have increased dramatically.
“I am concerned about the sense of well-being among Asians and Asian Americans, and with reason,” he said, going on to assure Asian-identifying members of the Hotchkiss community that their safety is paramount.
Following his comments, Renée Marcellus, assistant director of D&I, and Kristen Lazarus from the counseling office, reminded students of resources available to them including spaces for ongoing discussion and access to counseling services. A moment of silence was observed for all victims of the Atlanta shootings. Thereafter, attendees were offered the opportunity to share their thoughts. By the conclusion of the event, dozens of attendees had spoken with deep emotion, conviction, and eloquence.
Community Conversations provide a safe space in which students, faculty, and staff engage in meaningful dialogue about sensitive topics such as religion and religious identity, racial ethnicity, sexual orientation, and privilege. The conversations are part of the School's commitment to enhancing learning, growing empathy, and creating an environment in which students feel safe, seen, and supported, even when openly expressing challenging ideas and emotions.
At the conclusion of Wednesday night’s discussion, community members identifying as Pan Asian were invited to a continuing affinity group gathering. A follow-up event for all students, faculty and staff is planned for next week.