February 2021 Newsletter

In This Issue:

From the Director

We woke up anxious on January 20. Would there be violence? Would this long-held tenet of our democracy – the “peaceful transfer of power” – be peaceful? Would the outgoing President pull one last awful surprise? But our worst fears were not realized and in fact the awful gray cloud that has hung over all our communities, choked our lungs and haunted our sleep, broke open. Not only did actual sun shine through but fear seemed to lift, sanity seemed to appear and hope, even hope, emerged.

The inauguration of a decent man as President of this wounded country proceeded with moments of grace and glory. The singing poured balm on our souls carved up by rage, the beauty of the ceremony allowed us to exhale, and then there was Amanda Gorman. Twenty-two year old Amanda Gorman, the youngest person ever to read at a presidential inauguration, went to the podium wearing earrings and a ring given to her by Oprah and proceeded to channel the dreams of her ancestors, the words of the prophets, and visions of a world made whole.

As she recited “The Hill We Climb,” Ms. Gorman described herself as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” who can dream of being a president one day, “only to find herself reciting for one.”

Ms. Gorman’s poem and delivery were breathtaking and now serve as the template for the work, our work, that lies ahead.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine.
But this doesn’t mean we’re striving to form a union
that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose,

To compose a country committed
To all cultures, colors, characters,
And conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not
to what stands between us,
But what stands before us.
We close the divide,
Because we know to put 
Our future first, we must first
Put our differences aside.

I am working on memorizing her words, just as I memorized the Books of the Bible and the Beatitudes when in Sunday School, and the Gettysburg Address when in high school. If I can cling to her words – learning the entire poem by heart with its luminescence, grit, and elegance – I might find a new path that is strewn with buds and signs of life.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew,
That even as we hurt, we hoped,
That even as we tired, we tried.

As the Director of our scrappy little movement-building School, I can say that in our own very modest way: this is true. We have grieved and grown, we have hurt and hoped, we have tired and tried.

Now, with voices and visions like Amanda Gorman’s leading the way, we go forward…one tentative step at a time. We go forward into this new chapter with hearts filled with gratitude, and hands ready to grasp hands and hold on.

Ever thankful,

I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to the economic conditions which take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15, 1959, at Yale University

James Arana

Featuring James Arana

James, one of the Truth School’s long-time trainers, appears in the video series Grateful Voices, from The Network for Grateful Living.

When I talk with elation about my gratefulness, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that my life has been easy. I come to my place of gratefulness because I understand pain and loss. ~ James

To read the complete narrative and to watch a short film of James sharing his story, please go to gratefulness.org

Shelley ZimbalistA Note from Shelley Abend Zimbalist, Chair of the Board of Directors


It is with great pride that as you receive this newsletter we will be launching our ninth semester of classes! I hope you will join us in sharing the wisdom of our trainers and all who participate to learn and build community together. In these difficult times we are in, coming together to learn and ponder together is an act of hope, and brings inspiration and information to inform our work in the world.

I recently had the opportunity to drop in on one of the trainer orientations. Wow. I was so struck by the collective wisdom of this fabulous group of trainers and what they will offer. The commitment to gather on the screen and prepare together so things go smoothly was uplifting. Many trainers came even though they have trained for us before. With humor and love our Director, Andrea Ayvazian, led us through the history of the school, the ins and outs of presenting our classes on Zoom, and all aspects of the work it takes to make each and every class happen. We say we are scrappy, and we are, but after sitting in on this training it became even clearer how much work goes into this endeavor. I missed meeting everyone in person, sharing more of our lives and strategies, but was still struck by the stellar group of trainers we have gathered for this next session.

Thanks to all of you who have participated, hosted, donated, and trained with us, we are thriving because of you. I hope you will enjoy exploring the classes offered and please share your thoughts with us as we move forward.

Warm regards,


For complete information on our classes, and to register for a class, visit truthschool.org/events/


Calling In the Call Out Culture
with Loretta J. Ross / February 1, 5:00 – 7:00 PM

Meeting, Organizing, Teaching, Learning, Strategizing, Marching, and
Gathering on ZOOM:
A tech clinic for those who could use a little support
with Marcie Sclove and Tom Chang / February 4, 4:00 – 6:00 PM

Barriers to Reproductive Justice in Western Mass and Beyond
with Shanique Spalding and Carrie Baker / February 5, 4:00 – 5:30 PM

Anti-Racism for Activists
with Cate Woolner and Jade Barker / February 6, 1:00 – 4:00 PM

The Ballot and Community Control Over Police
with Netfa Freeman / February 11, 5:00 – 6:30 PM

Support and Empowerment Gathering for Women of Color, and Those Persons of Color Who Identify as Gender Non-binary
with ivy tillman (ze/zir/zirs) / February 13, 4:00 – 6:00 PM

Poetry: How Pain Becomes Beautiful Power
with Johnie Sanders / February 15, 4:00 – 5:30 PM

The Climate Emergency: Identifying Leverages of Power
with Marty Nathan and Ernesto Cruz / February 18, 5:00 – 6:30 PM

Decolonizing Mental Health:
For Professionals and Others Supporting Activists
with Erin Joy Seibert / February 20, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Cultivating Cross-Cultural Understanding in Personal and Organizational Settings
with Celia O. Hilson / February 21, 3:00 – 4:30 PM

Powerfully Peaceful
with Tem Blessed / February 25, 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Kamala Harris: The New Narrative of Women’s Leadership
with Janine Fondon and Nikai Fondon / February 27, 3:00 – 5:00 PM


Thank you to Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, which will feature the work of the Truth School as part of their display celebrating Black History Month. If you live locally, we hope you will visit the store and check it out!

The Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership

We do one thing. Well.
We teach movement-building skills.
Class after class, week after week, month after month.
We prepare social change leaders to win movement struggles.

Join us.

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