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You're invited to Burgundy's Kwanzaa celebration!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why were our founders thinking about integration even as they were taking their first steps to establish Burgundy Farm Country Day School in 1946? To answer this, we must consider one of the central principles of the progressive educational philosophy at the heart of their endeavor and which guides us today. This was the idea that children learn by doing, through actual hands-on, real life experiences. To paraphrase Eric Severeid, one of our founders, "We integrated that little school for all our children who, after all, will be living in a world that does not belong only to them." They understood that to only (or even primarily) “teach” about “others” was not enough and definitely not aligned with progressive educational philosophy. And so, before desegregation laws were passed, Burgundy quietly moved to integrate our little school by first hiring an African American teacher and then enrolling African American students. Today, we continue to believe that the best learning occurs in the actual experiences our students, and indeed our community as a whole, have with each other. It is why we invite all families/students to share their cultural traditions in experiential and authentic formats whenever possible.

More than 20 years ago, the Parents of African American Students (PAAS) here at Burgundy began sponsoring a Kwanzaa celebration during the winter break. It began as a way to help their own children connect and have an experiential and positive process learning together about and honoring certain African traditions brought here by ancestors, many of whom were slaves. That was the origin of Kwanzaa. It is not a religion, nor does it compete with any religion. It is a celebration that makes concrete African traditions that have influenced both African American culture and American culture at large.

Shortly after beginning their Kwanzaa celebration, PAAS opened it up to the entire Burgundy community. Slowly non-African American families began attending. Last year we had our largest group; 50 very diverse families attended, especially impressive considering it was held on an actual night of Kwanzaa, which fell on the day after Christmas.

Below is an excerpt of a commentary sent to me by one of the family members who attended last year:  

You know what's really cool? Seeing your daughter center stage sharing one of the seven key principles of Kwanzaa! Especially when it is not part of our root heritage. The invitation for her to share was made that much more special because our little girl is only just now starting to read. But have no fear for there were two other little friends (also of different backgrounds) standing beside her and a wonderful PAAS/parent ready to guide them. This moment sums up pretty much the core of why our family "chose Burgundy" as our home school, even though our actual home is clear across town. A point that our family / friends continue to remind us of when they scratch their heads over our reasons for choosing BFCDS above all other schools. It's like telling someone about the concept of "true love" . . . "If you had ever experienced it, then you would know." You would then understand how Burgundy:

        - was built on diversity but evolves through unity;
        - is a sanctuary of different cultures integrated through shared experiences;
        - focuses not on ability but rather on potential;
        - recognizes your uniqueness by helping you find your voice;
        - holds us accountable to each other through community;
        - was established to promote the tradition of opportunity;
        - our home-away-from-home for our hopes and ideals.

Last year's invitation to the PAAS/Kwanzaa celebration was not the first we received, but was the one we were first able to attend. Our participation left us with memories that will forever make us more aware of all the invites that we have missed in times past and those yet to come. A reminder of how Burgundy reaches out to all of us in different ways and at different times as well as the possibilities that we forgo when we choose not to respond to what is not within our immediate frame of reference/background.

The Burgundy Farm Country Day School PAAS Kwanzaa celebration this year will be held in the Logan Loft on December 26th at 5 PM. There will be food and fun activities for kids including some developed by one of our own 2/3 classes that studied Kwanzaa. If you are in town and looking for something different to do over the winter break… JOIN US!!