World-renowned blues musician and activist Daryl Davis, who has to date convinced over 200 people to leave the KKK, visited our school. Davis believes there are five basic tenats that help foster civil conversation and affect change.
"No matter how far I travel or how different someone might seem, I always conclude that everyone is a human being who wants to be loved, respected, heard, and treated fairly, and wants the best for their family,” says Davis. “There is power in dialogue. You don't have to agree with someone but you have to at least respect their right to express their views.”
His work to foster respect and understanding through civil discourse inspired one of our Upper School students, Addison Heimann `24.
“One of the best aspects of this event is that it was all student-led,” says Rob Zimmerman `98, head of school. “Addison did all the work to make the event happen. From an idea he had in a history class, he researched speakers, arranged for Mr. Davis’s visit, and raised money to bring him to campus. We are proud of his leadership.”
He goes into more detail about his work in his book, "Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man's Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan." Davis, who typically gives 70-80 speeches a year, also has a Ted Talk during which he talks through his experiences befriending Klansmen and attending KKK rallies on his journey to understanding perspectives so different from his own.
“I was simply the impetus for change; they made the change happen themselves. We cannot let our country tolerate hate - it doesn't belong in any century let alone the 21st," continues Davis during his presentation to Upper School students. "We need to cancel our cancel culture; we’re living in Space Age times so why are we using Stone Age minds? We each have a choice about the direction our country takes – one in which we sit back and watch what it becomes or one in which we stand up and make it become. I can't answer that for you, but I want to stand up because life is great without hate."
Davis challenged the audience to “walk across the cafeteria,” explaining that many people, regardless of age, tend to gravitate toward who and what is familiar in the cafeteria, often sitting with people who look or think alike. “Once or twice a week, I encourage you to walk across the cafeteria and sit with someone else and I guarantee you will learn a thing or two. Engaging with others is how we break down barriers.”
Click here for more pictures from his visit, along with a video of his jaw-dropping piano performance, which makes it easy to see how he played with the likes of Chuck Berry and was friends with people like Elvis Presley.