Blazing the Trails of Equity and Justice

The Trailblazer program at Berkshire

Leo Yang ’22

On the free Monday, September 27 when most of the Berkshire students were enjoying sleep-ins and relaxation, a group of Trailblazers left for the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA for their retreat. 

The Trailblazer program is a newly established peer-mentorship program for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students at Berkshire. Led by Ms. Akilah Edgerton and Mr. John Speer of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the retreat was designed to help new students of color navigate through the predominantly white boarding school community. This year, the program consists of ten new students and eleven returning students.

The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge is a historic facility that traces its origins back to the colonial era. Located in a predominately white town, it was intentionally picked by the Trailblazers as they learn to address the issue of race in mainly white communities. On Monday, the group gathered in the Townsend meeting room and enjoyed a traditional continental breakfast before they engaged in some activities.

Starting off the agenda, the Trailblazers played the Great Dalmuti, a game that involves the players of different “castes” who try to raise their ranks through dealing cards. In addition to entertaining the group and creating a relaxing atmosphere, the game reflects several social circumstances in real life, including the rich’s unfair advantage, exploitative and disproportional taxation, and the rigid social hierarchy. Following the game, the group spent around half an hour debriefing and exchanging their thoughts about the game.

After that, the conversation became more serious as Mr. Speer took the stage and presented a video that illustrates systemic discrimination through a race analogy. In the video, the white male runner was given numerous advantages like a moving walkwayt built by generational wealth, while black runners were constantly impeded by obstacles such as slavery and wealth gaps. The video opened up a deep conversation among the Trailblazers as they broke down the roles their race played in their daily lives and led to discussions of how they could support one another as part of the BIPOC community. Finally, the Trailblazers ended their retreat with a brief walk around the town of Stockbridge before heading back to campus. 

It was an eye-opening experience that truly bonded the students together. According to Kyron Stevenson ’24, the Trailblazer program “gives a lot of advantages to incoming students of color.”

That being said, the program, still at its experimental stage, is still looking for the best way to support its students. Moreover, just simply mentoring students of color certainly will not fully address the program of systemic racism, so the group will continue to work more on presenting their experiences and having discussions with the rest of the community.

Nonetheless, the program is off to a wonderful start, with all its members learning tremendously from the retreat and other conversations. Aiming to meet regularly for the rest of the year, the Trailblazers have a lot of potential to play a substantial role in creating a more just and inclusive community here at Berkshire.