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Let’s proclaim 2020-21 the ‘Year of Inclusion’

Northwood School officials have tapped into something brilliant with their theme for the 2020-21 school year, and we think the Adirondack region — possibly the entire state — should join them.

The theme is “Fighting Inequality. Embracing Inclusion.” 

Now that racial injustice and inequality is a daily conversation in American households — and certainly in the Tri-Lakes due to racist graffiti recently found in Saranac Lake — this is a perfect opportunity to fight inequality and embrace inclusion. Not just racially, but with respect to religion, the LGBTQ community and other segments of our society that regularly deal with prejudice and lead to exclusion.

Northwood announced the theme in a statement on July 11, just days after Adirondack Diversity Initiative Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise she was moving out of Saranac Lake because she hadn’t felt safe living there as a Black person since the graffiti was found on June 26. She also pointed to a lack of response from local officials to the graffiti, as well as a threat to Black Lives Matter protestors in June. 

As part of Northwood’s theme, school meetings will have speakers to address topics of race and culture. Conversations will be held in the classrooms and be built into the curriculum. And the Innovation Hub on Main Street will host a series of public lectures and workshops to address this issue within the broader community. 

We’d like to see the region be inspired by the school’s work and build upon it. This should be a broader conversation. Towns, villages, school districts, counties — the state — should all declare the 2020-21 school year the “Year of Inclusion,” using it as a jumping board to be more inclusive in the future.

Let’s start in the classroom and spread out into all aspects of society through art shows, music festivals, films, storytelling, lectures, literature, etc. Let’s make legislative change in government, from the local to the state level. Let’s make real change in everyday life where inclusion is an issue.

And let’s do it uniformly, not hodgepodge. Central organizations, such as the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, could help guide us so we get it right.

Let’s explore inclusion and learn how we can all become better people. Let’s make people feel safe who currently do not feel safe.

Thank you, Northwood, for being a community leader at this pivotal time in our history. It is noteworthy that in its earlier years the school had a close relationship with the Lake Placid Club, which notoriously practiced racist and anti-Semitic policies. Facing truths about our history with such ugly topics and moving forward with inclusion — locally, statewide and nationally — is exactly what our society needs right now.