150 attend Wye River talk on race relations
CENTREVILLE — On April 6, Wye River Upper School hosted a presentation by Daryl Davis — author, musician, speaker and race relations expert. The presentation was made possible through a generous grant from Tom and Cathy Hill.
With more than 150 people in attendance, Davis shared his life’s journey and how he came to write a book about the Ku Klux Klan, Klan-Destine Relationships. Audience members included Wye River Upper School students and faculty, community leaders, members of various religious organizations, and other friends of the school.
As a 10-year-old Boy Scout, Davis remembers bottles being thrown at him during a parade in the ‘60s. He recalled thinking to himself, “Wow. Some people really hate the Boy Scouts.” It wasn’t until later that he understood the bottles were only being thrown at him, the only black child in the troop. This event sparked a question in Davis’ mind that became the driving force to his life’s work — “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?”
Davis has been on a quest to understand racism. Though it was not his intent, he has since become a leader and an agent of change in the United States. He has taken an unconventional approach to understanding racist behavior through the evolution of his relationship with several prominent KKK members. Unarmed and alone, Davis repeatedly risked his life as he interacted with the Klan. Through years of work and patience, he changed the hearts and attitudes of several long-time KKK leaders and members, prompting several of them to eventually give Davis their robes and hoods in a sign of peace.
Davis is the recipient of the Washington Ethical Society Bridge Builder Award and the highly prestigious American Ethical Union’s ElliotBlack Award, among others. He is the executive director/ curator and founder of The National Ku Klux Klan Museum and the Klan We Talk forum.
The Davis presentation came a few weeks before Wye River Upper School students and staff took a “2016 Peace and Resolution Tour” through the deep south. The students and staff visited Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, Ala., as part of their academic studies. The group traveled to major historical sites connected to the American Civil Rights movement of the 20th Century. This is the culminating, cross-curricular trip was even more meaningful because the students had heard Daryl Davis’s story.
Wye River Upper School students and Executive Director Chrissy Aull give guest speaker Daryl Davis, left, a gift in thanks for his presentation.