For much of the world, the year 2020 sparked social enlightenment and change inspired by the death of George Floyd and remembrance of many others. While he watched the world's quest for social justice, Nigel Parker '21 found purpose in education.
Last spring, Parker was approached with an opportunity that would change his mindset. Alongside DePaul University student and Park School alum Atira Koikoi, Parker developed a curriculum and is currently teaching a five-week program to middle school students that is focused on the book, Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This young adult nonfiction book explores the racist concepts and foundations ingrained in American society by piecing together the past and present and effectively provoking personal reflection on how racism persists in our nation. The program offers students information and skills needed to think critically about the state of their country and to use their knowledge to make an impact. For the final project, students will collaboratively create an infographic to highlight what they have learned from the book, serving as an opportunity to educate others.
"This has been an amazing experience so far, and I truly believe that I am learning just as much as the students are (both about American history and about myself). I really enjoy the students' perspectives as we discuss difficult topics such as the original philosophies of racism or specific details in our constitution that disproportionately affect Black people. The book covers topics that are not taught in current school curriculums, so a large part of the text is new and discouraging information to the students and to me. I truly believe that knowledge is power, so that is what I am trying to provide for the students. I have referenced many times in class that I want the book and this program to be a tool that the students can use and call back on throughout their lives. Once they fully know and understand the true and harsh history of America, I want to instill a sense of confidence in them that they are worthy of and responsible for greatness."
Parker thanks his involvement with the Baltimore Student Diversity Leadership Conference (BSDLC) for giving him the necessary facilitation skills to try teaching. He began attending BSDLC his freshman year. In 2019, Parker advanced from a participant to a facilitator. He attended several after-school planning meetings with other facilitators to plan the workshops and phases of the conference. Most recently, he served as the Master of Ceremonies.
"With my last year at Gilman and my last BSDLC approaching, I hope to use what I learn and apply what I know to impact Gilman and other Maryland Independent Schools. This is certainly an experience that I will take with me throughout my academic and professional career. I believe that we are all constantly learning and that we all have something to learn from one another. Wherever I go, I will be able to use this experience to build on what I know and offer information to others."
In his free time, Parker hosts a series on Instagram Live called "Candid Conversations" on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. (@nigel.bakari). Weekly, he is joined by a guest live on Instagram and discusses a variety of different social justice topics. The discussions showcase various perspectives through respectful and meaningful conversations aimed at gaining a better understanding of the root of someone else's thoughts. Guests include Zawadi Sankofa (The Bryn Mawr School '22) talking about the value of "Diversity Work," and Editor-In-Chief of the Gilman News, Teddy Conover '21 discussing white privilege and the role of white people in the movement for an antiracist society.
Parker also joined an initiative called Student Activism for Racial Justice to learn how to process and share emotions about the social unrest through an eight-week program called "Projects for Change." At the end of the program, each group will pitch their project to a panel of business activists that looks at a social issue and how to help. After an evaluation, each group will receive seed money to fund their project and make it a reality. Parker’s group is focusing on affecting change in Independent Schools by standardizing a curriculum for how to assess, address, and actively work to dismantle racism.