Student Diversity Leadership Conference affirms the power of love for Quinn Luong ‘22

Quinn Luong ’22 – Nachikethan Srinivasan ’21

Six Upper School students, faculty, and staff attended the concurrent Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and the People of Color Conference (POCC) virtually from December 1-4, 2020.

    More than 7,000 educators and 2,100 students gathered for the four-day conference that provided a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. Haverford has sent a delegation since 2006.

     I was in awe of the overwhelming amount of acceptance and love SDLC brought. Through my family groups made up of 25 students from schools nationwide, I developed meaningful friendships with the people who cared to listen to my story and views. I still can’t fully comprehend such an accepting atmosphere with amazing people—something that I feel our school sometimes lacks. No matter how you identified, there was a place for you at SDLC. This warm and loving community made me more confident in how we can have open conversations where we delve deeper into our personal identities.

Quinn Luong ’22 – Russell Yoh ’24

     Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, my family group developed cross-cultural communication skills, designed effective strategies for social justice practice to combat oppression, and learned the foundations of allyship and networking principles. One of the things that struck me most was learning about the cycle of oppression and how it perpetuates within independent schools. Through recognizing the predominantly white community at Haverford, I recognized how the community has detrimentally affected my internalized views of being Asian. This cycle of oppression has started with me: internalized oppression. Personally, I have been affected by white fragility and pressured to capitulate and assimilate to “white America” and lose more of my Asian attributes that were deemed uncool and unpopular. I have always been insecure about the size of my eyes and the color of my skin, which is something I am still learning to embrace. Once I was able to dismantle my own internalized oppression, I finally felt free.

     One of the crucial parts of breaking away from this vicious cycle is facilitating an environment in which we can empower people of color. Although there aren’t many Asians who openly express their struggles at Haverford, SDLC has first introduced me to more Asian students in one affinity group than I have ever seen in my life. This group taught me that I’m not alone with my experiences, as Asians have tried to escape harmful presumptions by assimilating within a white-washed culture. The most meaningful element of these sessions was understanding that love ties together solving our personal identity issues and empowering the people around us.     

     Often, a toxic Haverford culture downplays diversity, equity, and inclusion work. This culture discourages any type of discussion and holds people back from embracing their identities. I was not proud to be Asian within Haverford, but I’m slowly working on loving and embracing myself. It is hard to believe that I have been embraced with more love at SDLC those four days than in my experience at Haverford. 

Often, a toxic Haverford culture downplays diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

     A prime example of my being able to amplify my voice for once was at the talent show at one of our nightly social events at SDLC. It was a euphoric moment to have so many of my friends supporting me; it was one of the best experiences of my life. My spoken word poem, “American Born Chinese,” was a moving experience for me to perform in front of 2,100 people. I’m still in awe of the number of people who messaged me, saying that I inspired them through my poem and how they planned to use it in their own affinity groups. I finally felt confident, like I had discovered my own voice. 

     I am currently thinking of how different it would be if I performed my poem at Haverford. I think I would be even more nervous because I worry about what my peers would think of me—another prime example of the toxicity of school culture. I feel our community is reluctant to discuss diversity or other racial problems. Many students have an apathetic attitude toward DEI issues because they believe they do not apply to them. 

     I was a bit reluctant to return to Haverford after SDLC. The minute I felt finally empowered and accepted within SDLC, I had to return home only to feel powerless in the student culture. Still, I plan to take the knowledge and empowerment I took away from SDLC and use it to change our school culture. Despite the lack of enthusiasm towards DEI work, I hope that I can help others like me cultivate and embrace their own identities. We must start there to help empower others. Thus, we can finally escape the vicious cycle of oppression and toxicity. 

We must keep sharing kindness with one another unconditionally.

     I used to be so afraid of what people thought of me. SDLC has allowed me to embrace my flaws and to finally feel accepted. To finally feel like I fit in and accept myself for who I am is truly something I thought I would never feel. All of this positivity and happiness is truly something that is so rare. 

     We must keep sharing kindness with one another unconditionally.

Author: Quinn Luong '22

Quinn Luong has contributed to The Index since 2019. He currently serves as News Editor, and he has also written features and campus opinions. Quinn won the Pennsylvania School Press Association (PSPA) Philadelphia-area Student Journalism Competition for Newspaper News Story Writing and will compete for the state title in the Spring of 2020. His article "Teachers prepare for Virtue Villagers" earned a Silver Key from the Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing competition. Outside of The Index, Quinn is a member of the Diversity Alliance, the Pan-Asian Alliance, debate and speech, and Model UN. His favorite classes are English, Spanish, and Chinese.