A Message from Vinny Dotoli

A Message from Vinny Dotoli

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Dear HA Community,

I walk through the park before the sun has fully risen. I return to my sleeping children, secure in their beds. We are safe at the start of a new day. But you know this because I am White.  

My constructed race, along with my economic status, gender, and sexual orientation position me with freedom to do almost anything and fear almost nothing, while this video that my pastor shared on Sunday is a powerful reminder of how the institutions that guarantee my freedom are the same ones that murder and terrorize my fellow citizens. It's a video that is actually narrow in the monumental scope of racism in our country. It speaks not a word to the disproportionate effects of and inappropriate responses to the current pandemic and the many other ways racism is systemically ingrained in our society. And, it was made before Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were brutally killed in the last few weeks.  

The video ends, and then...

This crisis disproportionately affects people of color, but I start by recognizing my responsibility to be part of the solution. I must use my privilege to see and name racism and other forms of discrimination, to rally and vote for anti-racist policies, and to parent my own kids as best I can. I also recognize my faults in this work and continue to try to improve.  

For Harlem Academy, our team remains resolute in building a school that provides equity of opportunity for promising youth. We affirm the identity of our students and serve as a place that celebrates their diversity in all its forms including their Blackness. We will continue our work as an anti-racist organization and do everything we can to ensure that Harlem Academy students graduate with the tools for the realization of their own goals and to push with us and on us for a more just society.  

More specific to our institutional response, our students' mental health is our top priority. I want to start by echoing science teacher Dr. James's community meeting message from Friday that it's critical that students (and alumni) have healthy opportunities to connect. In addition, members of our team: Ms. Diouf (equity and inclusion and graduate advising), Ms. Baber (counseling), and Ms. April (mindfulness and meditation) will continue direct work with individuals and groups, as well as support for teachers and staff. Some intentional space for processing has already been made for middle school students, and we will continue to share resources for all students and their families in the coming weeks.

And, just as we ask students and alumni to stay connected with each other, we ask the same of parents, team members, and everyone who considers themselves part of the larger Harlem Academy community.   

I am available for follow-up as needed and hope you take care in these challenging times and always.


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