Deerfield Voices is a student group dedicated to encouraging productive dialogue about social issues affecting both Deerfield and the nation as a whole. The group was established in November 2017 by Kishor Bhardawaj ’19, Bailey Cheetham ’19, Erin DeMarco ’18, Jada Howard ’19, and Cam Taylor ’19.
The group’s mission statement reads, “Deerfield Voices is founded on the principles of the desire to provide a safe space to express students’ opinions, share voices of the community, spark open and honest dialogue, and obtain solutions regarding emphasis on the future development of the Deerfield community.”
Deerfield Voices was created in response to an open letter from a recent alumna to the community posted on Facebook last November about institutionalized racism at Deerfield.
Bailey Cheetham ’19 specified, “The post triggered a lot of emotions and thoughts, but most of the confrontations between students were happening over social media. We wanted to create a space that would be a healthy environment where we could talk face-to-face about the issues that [the post] raised.”
Jada Howard ’19 added that Deerfield Voices seeks to allow students to talk freely without the pressure of adults, stating, “We wanted for students to talk amongst themselves without the restrictions or looming shadow of adults controlling the conversation.”
Although the Facebook letter focused on institutionalized racism specifically, Deerfield Voices has since expanded to encourage students to speak out in response to any issue that they feel is worth sharing.
Howard explained, “We told people who came to our first meeting in November to write down a few topics they wanted to talk about, and we realized that there were a lot of other important issues outside of institutionalized racism that students felt strongly about.”
Addressing the Deerfield community, Cheetham emphasized the importance of continually discussing the issues uncovered through Deerfield Voices. She further stated, “We need people to spread awareness to people they live and talk with, even if those people don’t necessarily attend the Deerfield Voices meetings. Growing relationships and meeting people who you don’t initially gravitate to is essential in improving our community.”
Howard additionally pointed out how students must take full advantage of attending a school with such a diverse student body, specifying, “It’s already such a privilege to come to Deerfield. You may never get the opportunity to meet people from cultures as diverse as those of Deerfield students. You can only benefit from taking the risk.”
Taylor also spoke about the solution that Deerfield Voices strives toward. He clarified, “Instead of just talking about issues, we’re also really trying to make Deerfield Voices a platform that we as a community can use to start finding solutions to the on-campus problems that are negatively affecting students here.”
Reflecting on her own personal motivation and hope for the future with Deerfield Voices, Howard said, “The amount of support and gratitude we received from the community after the first meeting was overwhelming. The ultimate outcome was so much better than our expectations, and it really affirmed that I was doing something that our school continues to need.”