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Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges was invited to give a talk as part of NYU Steinhardt’s Black History Month programming. MMFS Upper School Head Music Teacher Peter Tinaglia is currently completing a PhD in Music Education at NYU, and had the good fortune to attend.
Ms. Bridges shared her story of being the first Black child to integrate her Louisiana elementary school in 1960. “Hearing the story of the Civil Rights Movement directly from Ms. Bridges created for me a unique resonance that, I believe, only comes from direct, lived experience.”
But Ms. Bridges also spoke about her life now. Peter said that it was an incredibly moving experience, not only to hear Ms. Bridges speak about the Civil Rights Movement, but also getting to hear about current life, on a personal level. ”I felt so honored to attend the event and be in the presence of living history. I was absolutely floored to be in that meeting with her.”
Peter’s dissertation focuses on inclusion and intersectionality in music education, and race is one of the social identities that he is studying, along with disability, gender, and sexuality. With this and MMFS’s ongoing anti-racism work in mind, Peter felt it was essential that he attend this talk. “It’s my role to show up and listen to the experiences of people of color, to hear what they have to say,” says Peter.
Peter is still processing how the event might influence his work. He feels strongly that individual oral histories provide invaluable insight, and he plans to incorporate ideas from Ms. Bridges’ talk to introduce concepts to his students. “My work as a human was moved by her resilience.”
One particular story that stood out to Peter was about Ms. Bridges’ teacher Mrs. Henry, who looked out for her. “Mrs. Henry made her feel loved and safe,” says Peter. “A teacher has this power.”
Peter feels that attending this talk, as well as other recent events such as the Muslims in Brooklyn curriculum workshop co-led by fellow MMFS faculty member Alex Tronolone and the “How to Be an Anti-Racist School” webinar led by Professor Ibram X. Kendi, has positively informed his conversations with students. “Showing up and doing the work and then talking about it: It’s important as a white man teaching to show them that this is what I am doing. My kids, in a way, hold me accountable.”