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About & Subscribe


Southeastern Conference on Race and Leadership
in Independent Schools.
June 21-23, 2024
Ensworth School
Nashville, TN

“Tearing Down the Walls” is a two-day race and leadership conference for independent school students in the Southeast. The purpose of the conference is to afford students from diverse racial and socio-economic backgrounds the opportunity to become leaders and bridge builders in the arena of race relations. Our vision is for students to return home emboldened to lead.

Questions? Reach out to David Whitfield ( or

Dina Marks (

Participating Schools
We would like to thank all of the schools that have participated in the Tearing Down the Walls conference over the past five years. We look forward to seeing you this summer! 

Battle Ground Academy (Franklin, TN)
Baylor School (Chattanooga, TN)
Ensworth School (Nashville, TN)
Evangelical Christian School (Memphis, TN)
Father Ryan High School (Franklin, TN)
Fort Worth Country Day (Forth Worth, TX)
Harding Academy (Nashville, TN)
Harpeth Hall (Nashville, TN)

Holy Innocents' Episcopal School  (Atlanta, GA)
Hutchison School (Memphis, TN)

Lipscomb University (Nashville, TN)
McCallie School (Chattanooga, TN)
Memphis University School (Memphis, TN)
Metairie Park Country Day (Metairie, LA)
Middle Tennessee Christian School (Murfreesboro, TN)

Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, TN)
Pace Academy (Atlanta, GA)

Pope John Paul II Preparatory School (Nashville, TN)
Providence Christian Academy (Murfreesboro, TN)
St. Andrews--Sewanee School (Sewanee, TN)
St. George's Independent School (Memphis, TN)
St. Mary's Episcopal School (Memphis, TN)
The Galloway School (Atlanta, GA)
The Lovett School (Atlanta, GA)
The Paideia School (Atlanta, GA)
The Walker School (Atlanta, GA)
The Westminster Schools (Atlanta, GA)
Trinity Valley School (Dallas--Fort Worth, TX)

University School of Nashville (Nashville, TN)

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to see pictures from past conferences and to keep up with what our participants are doing to tear down walls in their schools and communities.

  • Facebook
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The Tearing Down the Walls conference is organized in association with the National Center for Race Amity.



Dr. Frederick Gooding
FG - steps photo.jpg

Frederick W. Gooding, Jr. (PhD, Georgetown University) is an Associate History Professor and is the inaugural holder of the Dr. Ronald E. Moore Endowed Professor of the Humanities at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. Featured in national outlets such as "New York Times," "USA Today," and "TIME Magazine," Dr. Gooding is a professor of pop culture who engages audiences on subtle racial patterns "hidden in plain sight."

Dr. Gooding has provided social commentary on CNBC, CBS, and Fox News networks and has reached an international audience with messages of racial healing through the podcast, "Reconcile This!" (

"Dr. G," as he is affectionately known, also serves as the inaugural Chair of TCU's Race & Reconciliation Initiative designed to study TCU's relationship with slavery, racism and the Confederacy (, and is the proud curator of the Green Book historical exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.


Finally, as the proud parent of two and the humble husband of one, Dr. G is grateful for your presence and participation!

Dr. Bonnie E. French

Bonnie E. French is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands.  She specializes in the research and teaching of Critical Race Theory in institutions.  Bonnie earned her doctorate from The Graduate Center of City University of New York.

Bonnie completed the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program training in the summer of 2017 as part of her own professional development in the areas of teaching pedagogy and Mass Incarceration.  Since then, Bonnie has taught GED and college-level courses in county jails and as a volunteer coordinator at ISP in Montclair, NJ.

Before pursuing a career as a Sociologist, Bonnie earned a BA in Music from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA and taught middle school math and music.

Outside of academia, Bonnie was a founding member of Accord Treble Choir based in New York City. Her latest book, Race at Predominantly White Independent Schools: The Space Between Diversity and Equity "investigates the management of “diversity” at predominantly White, independent schools in the northeastern United States. By conducting in-depth interviews with diversity policy developers and implementers within the independent school community, French explores current efforts toward racial equity and the relationship between racial equity and diversity" (

Dr. Rich Milner

H. Richard Milner IV (also known as Rich) is Cornelius Vanderbilt Distinguished Professor of Education and Professor of Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. His research, teaching and policy interests concern urban education, teacher education, African American literature, and the social context of education.  Professor Milner’s research examines practices and policies that support teacher effectiveness in urban schools. 


Professor Milner is President-Elect of the American Educational Research Association, the largest educational research organization in the world. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association.

Professor Milner’s work has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published eight books. His most recent are: The Race Card: Leading the Fight for Truth in America's Schools (Corwin, 2023), Start where you are but don’t stay there: Understanding diversity, opportunity gaps, and teaching in today’s classrooms (Harvard Education Press, 2010 and 2020, Second Edition), Rac(e)ing to class: Confronting poverty and race in schools and classrooms (Harvard Education Press, 2015) and These kids are out of control: Why we must reimagine classroom management for equity (Corwin Press, 2018).  He can be reached at

Jasmin Hopkins

Jasmin Hopkins is the Director of Community Engagement at Harding Academy in Nashville, TN. Below, she reflects on teaching, learning, and supporting teachers and students:


"Throughout my professional career, I have carried a strong passion for the work of diversity, equity and inclusivity. Much like a philosophy of education in which one expresses their academic belief system, I have adapted a personal philosophy of inclusivity. The premise being that at all times, individuals must experience sincere acceptance, opposed to token tolerance. Though I would like to say that I have had this mantra throughout my entire educational career, it wasn’t until I began my administrative work as Dean of Culture that I realized that far too many minority students and faculty felt as if they were being tolerated opposed to accepted. This was something that I vowed to not only address, but change. Fortunately, I was able to lean on my personal life experiences and educational background to create an environment that was joyful and welcoming to everyone within the school community.


I thrive in environments that support individualism and creativity while accomplishing collective work. Finding purpose in what I do is often what motivates me most. Building school culture and consistently identifying methods to improve student achievement and connection are some of my greatest strengths. I have been fortunate enough over the years to have spent a great deal of time at independent schools, primarily through my involvement with summer enrichment programs. It is from this time that I have come to see that there is a sincere effort to cultivate a heartfelt sense of belonging."

Dr. Danielle Stewart

Dr. Danielle Stewart, iChange president and owner, has operated in DEI spaces for over ten years. She committed her doctoral research to understanding the experiences of alumni of color in predominantly white K-12 private schools in order to help her own school learn how to diversify and increase engagement. Through much resistance, she committed to finding the answers through her additional qualitative and quantitative research. She was able to assess why the lack of engagement existed. There were stories of racialized trauma as well as a lack of intentionality that the school had in wanting to engage.


As a result of her research, she independently and externally launched the first Black alumni affinity group for the alumni from this school who shared a common identity of being a Black person from a white school that did not seem to care about them after they graduated. She learned that she would need to create a psychologically safe place and platform for herself and for others who undeniably had love for a school but had also experienced pain and did not feel a sense of belonging from the school. This space was instrumental in her own healing, and she was committed to holding this space until the school would see the value and need to create a space that they would support. Simultaneously, she saw the need to create a similar space for BIPOC educators and leaders from predominantly white institutions nationwide for the same purposes of healing and connecting with others who understood both their love for their students and school and the pain and challenges of the lack of support. She has led this affinity space for over the past 10 years and has launched several others, including a men’s affinity group. She believes that affinity spaces are essential and are circles for self-care that strengthen individuals and the communities that support them. She designed this training into a program in order to share with others the experiences and her expertise in this space in order to support others who would be brave enough to lead and support communities that needed this support most. 

Joanne Brown

Joanne Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she earned a degree in Psychology. She also has a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a member of the State Bar of Georgia. She currently serves as the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Pace Academy. Prior to that, she worked in admissions as an Associate Director of Admissions at Pace and as the Director of Admissions at Heritage Preparatory School. Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and serving on the board of directors for non-profit organizations.



Friday, June 16, 2023

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Sunday, June 18, 2023



Each school bringing students and adults pays a flat registration fee of $2000.00; this fee covers registration, programming, and food costs for all students and chaperones. 

We recommend bringing six to eight students and two to four adults.

The registration fee does not include travel or hotel costs.

School administrators or representatives who are registering the school and paying for the conference.

Students who are attending the conference with their school should fill out this form. No payment is needed, but you do need parent/guardian signatures and insurance information

Faculty and staff who are attending the conference as chaperones should fill out this form; no payment is needed.

Are you coming to the conference without students or without other members of your school? 

Faculty and staff of any school may attend the conference without students at a cost of $450 per person. This includes all programming and meals, and while the bulk of programming takes place on Saturday, June 17, attendees are welcome to attend all three days of the conference.



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