Southeastern Conference on Race and Leadership

in Independent Schools.

June 25-27, 2021

Ensworth School

Nashville, TN

We're on for 2021, and we're

excited to see you all again!

“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.

NEW FOR 2021:


Practice What You Teach: An Interactive PD Experience for Independent School Educators & Leaders


This day-long community-building conference re-imagines educator professional development for independent schools. This year we will (carefully) reconnect in person on the Ensworth School Campus, decompress after a challenging year and revitalize our souls and teaching and leadership practices with a focus on equity, antiracism, inclusion and community.

On Saturday, June 26, you'll join colleagues from all over the Southeast, in-person, in sessions designed and led by fellow educators. The cost is $200 per participant, and you can see speakers and register below.

Questions? Reach out to David Whitfield (whitfieldd@ensworth.com) or Judy Osborne (jdyosborne@gmail.com).


Battle Ground Academy (Franklin, TN)
Baylor School (Chattanooga, TN)
Ensworth School (Nashville, TN)
Evangelical Christian School (Cordova, TN)
Franklin Road Academy (Nashville, TN)

Holy Innocents' Episcopal School  (Atlanta, GA)
Hutchison School (Memphis, TN)
Lipscomb Academy (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)
Providence Christian Academy (Murfreesboro, TN)
St. Andrews--Sewanee School (Sewanee, TN)
University School of Nashville (Nashville, TN)
Walker School (Marietta, GA)

Westminster Schools (Atlanta, GA)

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter 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.

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



Aram Ferdowsi

By the age of five, Aram Jazab Ferdowsi lived in three continents.  She immigrated to America in 1963, soon to learn about the Civil Rights movement and what it meant to be an immigrant kid at Nashville elementary schools.  The experience had lasting effects.  She completed her high school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and attended Vanderbilt University, where she became Family Nurse Practitioner.  Her heart drew her to the subject of one human family and in 1992 was part of a team that helped develop and offer a two-year diversity training program to the Nashville Metropolitan Police Force.  She has served on the Interfaith Alliance of Nashville, the Institute for the Healing of Racism, and Clergy and Laity Concerned.  Presently, Aram offers grassroots programs that enable pre-teens and teenagers to explore the commonality of their human experience and how to be of service to each other and their communities.  She lectures on Iran and the DRC at civic organizations, schools, universities, and clubs.  She serves on the Regional Baha’i Council of the Appalachian states, and these words capture her life’s goal: “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” To that end, she is currently writing a book on World Citizenship.

Judy Osborne

Judy Osborne is a DEI Strategist, writer and facilitator with expertise in youth advocacy, educational and equity programming and professional development.  As the former Director of Equity & Inclusion Programs at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, an integral part of her student and faculty engagement work centers on documentary film and popular media as tools for starting meaningful conversations. Her recently published article here in Independent School Magazine explores the challenges and opportunities of DEI leadership roles in schools, along with specific strategies to increase the impact of this important work – now.

Dr. Frederick Gooding
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Frederick W. Gooding, Jr. (PhD, Georgetown University) is an Associate Professor within the Honors College at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. Gooding critically analyzes race within mainstream media, effectively contextualizing problematic patterns based upon their historical roots. As such, Gooding’s best-known work thus far is “You Mean, There’s RACE in My Movie? The Complete Guide to Understanding Race in Mainstream Hollywood,” which has been utilized in high schools and universities nationwide. Also, the co-editor of “Stories from the Front of the Room: How Higher Education Faculty Overcome Challenges and Thrive in the Academy,” Gooding has stayed focused on the practical applications of equity with his 2018 book, “American Dream Deferred” carefully detailing the growth and struggles of black federal workers in the postwar era. His latest work, “Black Oscar” (May 2020), expands his reach into cultural studies by analyzing African American Academy Award winners and how their narratives reflect and reinforce larger American history.

Tawambi Settles

Tawambi Settles, a veteran DEI practitioner, serves as the Associate Dean of Students, and Director of Diversity & Inclusivity at the Baylor School in Chattanooga, TN.


A graduate of Chattanooga’s St. Nicholas Elementary School, and the McCallie School (M.S.and H.S.), Settles has unlimited exposure to independent school culture and hands-on experience with the current ailments plaguing independent school communities--with an emphasis on culture in the deep South.

Settles attributes much of his success to having been raised and educated in an independent school environment. He earned his B.A. in political science from Duke University, where he also excelled in football. Subsequently, he played professional football for various teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, and the Atlanta Falcons, before eventually following the call to education.

Having served in the capacities of teacher, coach, dorm parent, and advisor, it seemed only natural for Settles to accept the invitation extended by his alma mater to spearhead McCallie’s early DEI initiatives. As the “chief advocate” for students of color, Settles found a ministry enabling him to fuse his life experience, passion for youth, and professional knowledge to improve culture and conditions for SOC on independent school campuses. In 2018 Settles moved across town to the Baylor School, where he continues the ministry of advocating for all marginalized students.

Thomas Robinson

Attorney Thomas S. Robinson, III, is an attorney with twenty-five years of experience in the criminal justice system. He is a graduate of Stanford University (Economics and Political Science), and Emory University Law School. He has worked as the Staff Attorney for the Georgia Supreme Court reviewing habeas corpus petitions and as a Senior Assistant District Attorney in the major case division of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Attorney Robinson has also served as a Municipal Court Judge.


In 2020 Attorney Robinson began writing producing short films exploring issues related to the criminal justice system. His first work, Party to A Crime (https://youtu.be/fuc9C7xcLek ) has won an award and been nominated several other times by film festivals. The second short film Welcome Home, UNC, (https://youtu.be/TE8ULOruea0 ) although just released in April, has already been nominated for six short film awards. 


Attorney Robinson is now working on a podcast, "Justice Conversations," to be released summer 2021, which will explore issues of race, crime and poverty.


Attorney Robinson is also the author of two books on the Criminal Justice System.

He can be reached at (404) 285-8367 and thomas@tsr3justice.com.

Brad Perry
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Brad is a ninth-generation resident of Franklin, Tennessee. He got his undergraduate degree in Secondary Education (History) from Tennessee Technological University where he was a three-year starter on the football team. He received his Master’s degree In Modern History at the Reformation Studies Institute at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


Professionally, Brad has been a teacher and coach at the high school and middle school levels and will be entering his twenty-fifth year in education. This fall he will begin his first year at Montgomery Bell Academy as a United States History teacher. In addition, he has taught African American History, using a curriculum that he personally developed, for seventeen years. Brad has been a head boys track coach for nine years and his teams have won seven state championship titles. In addition, he is a two-time winner of the Tennessee State Track and Field Coach of the Year as awarded by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.


Brad also served on the Board of Directors at New Hope Academy in Franklin, a Christian classical school dedicated to the ideals of justice for the poor and an intentionally racially diverse student body. He was the Chairman of the Board in 2011-2012. Brad is also one of the founders of The Public in January of 2019. The Public is an organization that exists to engage the citizens of Franklin in the education, advocacy and active work of anti-racism.

Connie Ni Chiu
And Now Collective Co-Founder
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Deeply committed to equity and justice, Connie holds race, identity, and healing at the center of her work, engaging trust-building, humility, and humor as a practitioner and facilitator. Moving between Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and New York City, Connie has worked at the intersection of social justice and education for over a decade, including the implementation of the NYC Close to Home Initiative that realigned the youth justice and educational systems, as well as launching DEI strategic plans, programs, and vision as the founding Director of Inclusivity and Equity in a Los Angeles area school.

As a lifelong learner, she graduated with a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley to the soundtrack of Critical Race Theory and Ethnic Studies, which (as all good music does) shaped the rest of her personal and professional life). She also holds an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University on policy work. Connie is a lover of stories and storytelling, and her hobbies include second-hand bookstores, creative writing, public transportation, music that moves, nourishing people through food, and courageous conversations. 

Dr. Dena Scott
And Now Collective Co-Founder
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Dena Scott is a licensed clinical psychologist driven to listen, serve, and connect. She was called to the mental health field as a young child and considers her career her heart’s work. From a very young age, she observed that wellness could not be tackled without a sociocultural lens. She also held that success as a mental health professional was defined by the quality of connection far more than prestige of degrees. Her career has taken her on a path that looks at the intersectionality of race, socioeconomic status, and mental health for addressing disparities within the health, justice, and educational systems in the Bay Area, New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.


Dena’s passion for working with others, leadership, and program development has continued to push her into professional spaces that work towards advancing systems. In addition to establishing a private practice, Dena works as a mental health professional at an Atlanta area school, and is an associate facilitator for The Institute for Social Emotional Learning. When she is not engaging in her heart’s work, she can be found listening to anything neosoul, connecting with loved ones, reading an intriguing article, or painting another colorful canvas for her walls. . 



Friday, June 25, 2021

4:00 - 6:00pm        Registration at Ensworth (7401 Highway 100)

6:00 - 6:45pm        Dinner

6:45 - 7:30pm        Welcome and Student Performances

7:30 - 8:15pm        Opening Session

8:15 - 10:00pm      Social on the Lawn

Saturday, June 26, 2021

8:30 - 9:20am        Arrival and Breakfast

9:30 - 10:00am      Introduction to the day

                             Student Performances

10:00 - 10:50am    Plenary Session Speaker: Thomas Robinson

11:00 - 11:50am    Students: Rotation #1

                             Faculty: "Healing and Justice" with Connie Chiu

                             and Dr. Dena Scott (And Now Collective)

11:55 - 12:45pm    Students: Rotation #2

                             Faculty: "Hire up!" with Tawambi Settles           

12:50 -1:45pm       Lunch

1:50 - 2:40pm        Students: Rotation #3

                             Faculty: "Affinity and Community" with

                             Brad Perry

2:45 - 3:35pm        Students: Rotation #4

                             Faculty: "A Critical Look at Critical Race

                             Theory" with Dr. Frederick Gooding

3:40 - 4:50pm        Students: Rec Time

3:45 - 4:30pm        Faculty: "Follow the Sound of my Voice" with

                             Judy Osborne

4:30 - 5:00pm        Faculty: Networking and Small Groups

5:00 - 5:50pm        Dinner

6:00pm                  End of Faculty Conference for non-chaperones

6:00 - 6:50pm        Students: Rotation #5

7:15 - 10:00 pm     Tearing Down the Walls! Party and activities

Sunday, June 27, 2021

8:00 - 9:00am        Arrival and Breakfast

9:00 - 10:00am      Student Talent Show

10:00 - 11:00am    School Meetings

11:00 - 11:20am    Closing Remarks

11:20 - 12:00pm    Lunch and Departure



Each school bringing students and adults pays a flat registration fee of $1500.00; this fee covers registration, lodging, and food costs for all students and chaperones. 

COVID Note: We will be running the conference in accordance with CDC guidelines; this means that we'll have fewer people in each session, participants will be spaced out in the classroom and meeting spaces, and masks will be required for all non-vaccinated participants. 

We strongly encourage all in-person participants who can be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be vaccinated before the conference, as doing so adds an extra layer of safety for all participants.

Register Your School and Pay for Your Students 

Bringing Students?: Chaperone registration Form


Student Participants: Registration Form

Coming without students?

Professional Development Registration Form