We had a recent Zoom chat with Mayfield’s new Director for Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Amber Gravely. She sat below a bright red sign which read “JOY” in all caps. “My sister got it for me years ago,” she laughed and explained, “Joy is my middle name!”
Amber received her B.A. from Loyola Marymount University, her M.A. from University of Southern California and pursued her Ed.D from University of Southern California (Doctor of Educational Leadership, Education Psychology). With expansive experiences in Justice, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and sectors, Amber has been employed as an educational consultant at Pasadena Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, Western Christian School. She has worked as an instructor/DEI Lead at schools like Barnhart and Buckley, and a trainer at the Positive Coaching Alliance. In the course of the conversation, Amber expressed her keen enthusiasm to be joining the Mayfield community. And it was clear that “joy” is not just part of her name, but part of her approach to her work as well…
1. What brought you to do work in Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
My father was Catholic, my mother Baptist. My preschool was in a temple. I went to summer camps at Westminster and St. Elizabeth churches, and Sunday school at Altadena Baptist Church. I feel like I was very lucky in my formative years to grow up in Altadena and have very diverse experiences and be welcomed into homes and different communities and different churches. I'm very interested and curious, and really appreciate being able to help people embrace their own culture and values. I think there's a beauty in that, just seeing the difference, and being able to bridge that—sharing your commonality as well as honoring the beauty.
I've always been interested in understanding my own experience. I attended independent schools in Pasadena, and I've had different experiences in different environments. I am a product of Pasadena independent schools and specifically know that attending an all-girl school from, 6-8th grade was formative in my positive identity development and self-confidence. Through my JDEI work both locally and nationally, I understand the growth challenges and opportunities that are presented to independent school administrators and I am eager to share my education, experience and expertise with the Mayfield Senior School Community.
2. You mentioned being exposed to several religious ideologies at a young age. Do you think religion can help infuse or inform JDEI work?
Absolutely! You look at the forefront of a lot of change that has happened in the world, in the forefront of justice? It has been driven by various religious movements, like the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought people from different religious backgrounds to come together to support the cause. It's inherent in being able to have a higher belief in both understanding your spirituality as well as your humanity, and how you connect those.
There is a particular chapter in John Powell’s book “Racing to Justice” which connects suffering and spirituality, and the concept that this “pursuit of justice” has always been a thread through all of spirituality. There is an understanding of those who are suffering and trying to honor them and bring them to their full selves, through divinity and humanity. Religious communities really can highlight the suffering in the world and also bring people together.
3. Is there something you wished people knew about JDEI work?
It's really important you understand from a place of our shared humanity, and being of service. It is about connecting values and humanity. You can communicate around this work without blame or shame. We know how to honor the golden rule: to do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves. There is also a Platinum Rule: do unto others as they would have you do onto them. Just seeing outside yourself a bit.
4. You have so much expertise, at a local and national level. Why did you decide to seek a position at Mayfield?
There are a lot of opportunities now in these last few years in this (JDEI) area. As far as the timing, with the pandemic, I was really seeking to be in community and in schools and have more of that in-person connection. I was looking at different school communities for the last couple years for this role. Pasadena is my home, and I'm very familiar with this area. I respect the level of education and commitment at Mayfield. And in the job description, I was happy to see that I would be able to connect with the whole community in this position.
You have a program called Loaves and Fishes. That service component is wanting to ensure you're considering all humanity and everyone has their basic needs met. I'd say there are many ways in which JDEI can thread through experiences like that. The beauty of Mayfield is that JDEI is a part of the core foundation upon which the school is built. I appreciate the articulation of, understanding of, and definition of Social Justice in the Holy Child Schools’ motto, “Actions not Words.”
5. What do you think you might hope to accomplish in your time at Mayfield?
I want to acknowledge the JDEI work that people have already done at the school, and build on that. I'm really excited to have those connections with the faculty and—at the strategic planning level—looking forward to seeing the vision and how to match with everything that has already taken place. I love teaching and facilitating. Sitting in being in the space of helping everyone connect with where they're at. For me, that is my big joy!