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Race Talk with Two Parents: Stephanie Walker

Stephanie Walker
The Parent Association sat down with two parents to talk about race. This interview was with Stephanie Walker,
mother of Jovanni ’30 & Joseph IV (Age 2.5).
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. 
I am originally from Los Angeles, but I found my way to Nashville by way of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. I have been living in Nashville for the last 11 years. I am a Neonatologist—recently retired from clinical practice from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I work from home as a Managing Director with Beautycounter, a clean beauty brand. I am also a pastor’s wife. My husband, Joseph Walker III, is a senior pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville. We have two amazing children, Jovanni, who is eight years old and in the third grade at Ensworth, and Joseph IV who is 2.5 years old. 
 
You are participating in the pilot launch of Race Talk. Tell us about it and your experience in the group. 
This has turned out to be a fantastic class that has brought together a diverse group of individuals, with very different experiences and perspectives, and puts them in a safe space that allows them to have difficult, sometimes uncomfortable conversations around race, stereotypes, inclusions/exclusions. The class has given me an opportunity to gain insight into other people’s experiences and upbringings that are quite different than my own and has forced me to be extremely introspective in terms of my own beliefs, values, and perspective. Speaking in terms of not only WHAT I believe, but just as importantly, WHY I believe it. Where did those thoughts or beliefs come from; what experiences cultivated or reinforced those thoughts over time? I have gained a better, almost granular awareness of how society, inclusive of schools, teachers, parents, families, and our respective work environments, impacts us, as well as our children/families. It has led me to think about my responsibility as a parent in being even more deliberate about the conversations I have with my own children to combat many of the stereotypes and misinformation that are frequently disseminated in society about themselves and others, but also, my responsibility as a parent to be more proactive in filling the gaps with information and real conversations grounded in accuracy and solid values.
 
Do you have hopes of what will come out of it—for the parents involved, and/or the community as a whole?
I really hope that this class serves as a spark that ignites greater community-wide conversations and engagement. It has clearly demonstrated that we are capable of having difficult, yet civil conversations, and that it is actually okay to not have all the answers, yet have the desire to learn not just as young people, but also as adults and parents. It shows that as a community, we CAN create a safe space to have these conversations with the ultimate goal of improving our entire Ensworth community and beyond—creating a healthy, nurturing, and productive environment for all. 
 
How do you see the PA helping to promote this moving forward in regards to our mission to “Build Our Community?”
I think the PA can help by not allowing the conversation to die down. Yes, we are all aware of the social unrest that took place over the summer, but not allowing these types of conversations to simply be event-stimulated is critical to progress. Helping our community as a whole continue to make these conversations part of our everyday language such that they are no longer felt to be taboo. Instead, when it becomes part of the everyday conversation, dialogue flows freely in both directions, creating greater sharing, understanding, and ultimately empathy that over time helps cultivate an environment that truly and authentically puts the focus on community, and on the WE as opposed to on the ME. How can we be our brother’s keepers? How can we make sure that we’re lifting as we climb? How can we make sure that we are really being inclusive and that no child is left behind?
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