Centering BIPOC Voices at Shipley: Q&A with Carlos Casilla
Tell us about your role and experience here at Shipley.
This is my fourth year at Shipley, and I currently serve as the Director of Choirs, PK-12 Performing Arts Department Chair, and Class of 2021 Co-Dean. I also serve on different committees throughout the school.
What are some important aspects of your identity?
I would say that being Dominican and Black are very important aspects of my identity. I am very proud of where I come from and my heritage.
How does the intersection of these identities impact your life / work?
I feel that they impact my daily life. It seems as if I have to be very conscious of every decision I make. Although I am very proud of being a Black/Hispanic/Dominican man, sometimes it can be scary. Not everyone will understand the look that some people might give me when I am in public, speaking Spanish to my parents on the phone, or when I walk into a predominately white establishment and I am seen as an outsider, or like I “don’t belong.” These actions make me consider what establishments I visit and how frequently, as well as where I can freely speak my native language without being looked at for not speaking English. It is hard to choose between “being me” and “being the me that will make other people comfortable.”
What was your experience being Dominican and Black growing up?
Interestingly enough, while growing up, I never thought of being Dominican or Black as an “identity,” because that is just who I was. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, most people look like me. It is a country where there are a lot of cultures and ethnicities mixed into our own. It wasn’t until shortly after I came to the United States that I became self-aware of my identity, because I was constantly asked about it. I also have come to realize that there is a lot more racial divide in my home country than I was aware of growing up.
Any advice for families or educators on how to foster more inclusive and equitable spaces for our children?
Be open to honest conversations. Some conversations will be harder than others, and you might not hear something you like, but it is important to listen to other people’s experiences. It is also very important for teachers to incorporate different cultures and backgrounds in our curricula. When students see themselves represented on the pages they read, the papers they write, and the videos they watch, they will feel confident in who they are, and will feel supported by those around them.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.