Does creating diverse, multicultural movies have to come at the expense of a blockbuster success? Not according to Kevin Feige (P. ‘27, P. ‘31), who has led Marvel Studios as president since 2007. In fact, Kevin, the keynote speaker for the 2023 Wildwood Multicultural Symposium, credits Marvel’s inclusive storytelling and characters as the driving force behind the franchise’s global popularity.
“In moviemaking, the goal is always for a movie to be enough of a success that you’re able to make another, and the way you do that is by both entertaining and inspiring the audience,” Kevin told Wildwood School middle and upper students. “I always knew that the key to keep making movies that people respond to is to make sure that they are all as unique as possible, and that means showcasing different types of heroes, and different types of filmmakers.”
With that powerful message on the importance of diversity, the Wildwood Multicultural Symposium made its return to Wildwood this spring. Themed “RE”—as in REvitalize, REnew, REbuild, RElaunch, REactivate, REturn, REcover, and REmember, this beloved program included more than 30 workshops and activities related to Wildwood’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) mission for middle and upper students and faculty.
The Multicultural Symposium at Wildwood was launched in 2005 by former Director of Equity and Inclusion Rasheda Carroll (P. ‘31) as a day-long event for middle and upper school students that focused on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability through a series of workshops and guest speakers. The program was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic and relaunched this year under the leadership of Director of Equity and Inclusion Karen Dye.
“The Multicultural Symposium is a time for us to learn about ourselves, our peers, and our world,” Karen said. “It’s especially critical given the unprecedented levels of misunderstanding and divisiveness in modern society.”
Karen hopes the Symposium represents a model of how people can work together, especially as we continue to come out of a pandemic that exacerbated some of this divisiveness.
“After years of being apart, I am so happy that we were able to ‘RE’-connect with one another as a community this year,” Karen added.
The opportunity to “REconnect” is also what inspired student leaders Lulya A. ‘24 and Hanami W. ‘24 to help bring the program to life. Working with a committee of student, parent/guardian, and faculty/staff volunteers, the team reached out to secure speakers, plan the day’s events, and promote the event throughout the school.
“The Multicultural Symposium is a chance for us to come together as allies and supporters of each other to collaborate and change for the greater good,” Lulya and Hanami said. “As a part of the Upper School Student of Color Affinity Group leadership team, we were thrilled to take on this challenge, bring the Wildwood community together in person, and embrace our differences.”
Following a round-table discussion with Kevin, moderated by Head of School Landis Green and Javon D. ‘23 and Rowan F. ‘25, Wildwood middle and upper students headed off to their choice of nearly three dozen different workshops, on topics ranging from DEIB in emerging ChatGPT technology and rethinking disability and intersectionality, to mindfulness exercises and breakdancing. Each student had the ability to attend two different workshops before coming together for a final ceremony featuring performances by vocalist Cydni Shepard, spoken word artist Brooke Benson, and Wildwood students and faculty. The event concluded with community time and an assortment of cultural snacks, coordinated by parent, student, faculty, and Parent Multicultural Collaborative (PMC) volunteers
“From its inception, the Symposium has provided students—and all of us, really—with a sense of the range of ways that people can be involved in advancing DEIB work,” said Landis, “and this year’s was no exception. From Kevin Feige talking about the intersection of doing good and doing well during the opening session, stressing the importance of including diverse perspectives in film and media, to the incredible range of workshop hosts, the Symposium always provides those gathered with a sense of how many points of entry there are for any of us who want to lead or participate in positive change.”
- Spring 2023