In This Issue:
- From the Director
- March Classes
- Featuring our Trainer – Tanisha Arena
- What Participants are Saying
- Andrea’s Gazette Column: Reparations is a collective responsibility
From the Director
Longing to belong. I had never focused on the concept of “belonging” and the great need to feel a sense of belonging until I read the book BELONGING:THE SCIENCE OF CREATING CONNECTION AND BRIDGING DIVIDES by Stanford University professor Geoffrey L. Cohen. Now, suddenly, I am aware of not just our deep longing to belong, but the actions that establish or strengthen connections, and the acts—sometimes small—that threaten others’ sense of belonging.
In Cohen’s well-researched book filled with compelling stories, the case is made for how our sense of belonging shapes our world view, our interactions with others, our sense of safety, and our behavior in groups. Cohen helps us understand the need to belong through a social psychological lens and explains why this longing is so powerful and motivating.
We are living through enormously painful times with intense divisions along the lines of race, gender, religion and class causing separation, fear, and violence. And the overlay of the pandemic which sent us, for years now, to create cocoons at home in which to live and work only deepened the sense of isolation and, for many, loneliness.
This need to belong brings me to the Truth School. Although I do not want to over-sell the Truth School as the answer to isolation, loneliness, and the we-exist-in-silos feeling, I do want to lift up the School’s ongoing ability to connect people across race, class, gender, religion, and geography. Although we teach on Zoom, there is an unmistakable sense of connection on the screen during our classes and a byproduct of the feeling of connection is hope.
Class participants report feeling encouraged that others, like them, are working for social, political and economic change, often against great odds. The feedback we receive through evaluation forms, emails, and social media reflect people’s gratitude that the School has learned how to foster community—even when folks are in San Diego, Atlanta, Toronto, Cleveland, and Oxford, England.
We often refer to the “extended Truth School family,” and after six years and 400+ classes, we feel like, more than a network, we are a collective of folks working to bring about change and relying on each other to teach, guide, support, and care.
The Truth School is a place where I feel that I belong, and am valued. I know that is easy for me to say…I am the founder and director. But my sense of belonging to the School goes beyond my formal roles and titles. I feel part of a movement, a vast team of worker-bees all pulling together, a multi-layered, beautiful, expansive and extensive “family” of folks connected by values, vision, and action.
Thank you Truth School family for providing a sense of belonging—to me and many others who find encouragement in our classes together, and the energy and renewal to keep on keeping on when the going gets tough.
We are grateful to belong to each other.
With loving appreciation,
Thank you for this courtesy.
Resting to Rise: A Daring to Rest
Wednesday, March 1, 2023, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Microaggressions: Death by a Thousand Cuts
This is a series class.
Participants are expected to attend both sessions.
Thursday, March 2, 2023, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM and
Thursday, March 9, 2023, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Healing Separation from the Inside Out
Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery (TLC)
This is a series class.
Participants are expected to attend both sessions.
Saturday, March 4, 2023, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM and
Saturday, March 18, 2022, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Being An Ally, Not A Savior
Saturday, March 4, 2023, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Open Mind, Open Heart
Saturday, March 11, 2023, 4:00 – 5:30 PM
Homelessness and Affordable Housing Needs in MA: What We Can DO About it
Rose Webster-Smith and Pamela Schwartz
Thursday, March 16, 2023, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
No More Sacrifice Zones:
Building Campaign Organizing Skills
in a Time of Climate Emergency and Injustice
Mireille Beijjani and Susan Theberge
Saturday, March 18, 2023, 4:00 – 5:30 PM
Circle Practice to Mark the Beginning of Spring
Irene “Strong Oak” Lefebvre
Monday, March 20, 2023, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
It’s Time for Reparations
Dr. Amilcar Shabazz and Rabbi Devorah Jacobson
Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
WHAT PARTICIPANTS ARE SAYING
FEATURING OUR TRAINER:
Tell us about the work that you do and why it is important to you.
As the Executive Director of Arise for Social Justice, I see the disparate impacts of policy choices on our community, and I work to lift the veil off of and disrupt the systems and institutions that oppress us. This work is important because without it, in one way or another, and sometimes multiple ways, we are being impacted. White nationalism, anti-Blackness, and racism hurts all of us. We can’t change what we do not see and what we do not name. I name it, challenge it, and disrupt it. Everywhere.
You are an inspirational leader and social justice activist and movement builder. How do you believe we can make our world more just and equitable?
I believe we can make our world more just and equitable by dismantling this culture of white nationalism that fuels dominance and superiority as our value system. History matters and without knowing our history, we are doomed to repeat it. We are doing it right now! We have to take a good hard look at who we are as a country, what we define as leadership, good policy (good for whom?) and how our racism fuels capitalism. If we can’t or won’t be honest about our history and how we got here, how can we have change? Homelessness is a policy choice. Food insecurity is a policy choice. Police brutality is sanctioned and supported by policy choices. The climate crisis reflects policy choices. We put capitalism over everything and it is literally destroying where we live. When we shift from a culture rooted in abusive values, to one of equity and respect, it doesn’t sound so progressive that everyone should have what they need. We cannot self-care our way out of the impacts of systemic and institutional oppression.
Who are the people who have inspired you in your life?
Over the years, those who inspire me has changed. When I was younger, it was more culture icons as opposed to historical ones. I grew up on Oprah and folks either love or hate her, there’s no in the middle. Today, I am inspired by everyday changemakers, past and present as I have learned more about my personal history and the history of this country and the disrupters that came before me. Why did I just learn about Pauli Murray? Their life’s work, firsts, and challenges to the system? My paternal grandparents were an interracial couple in Connecticut in the 50s when anti-miscegenation laws were still on the books. My father was born in 1959, 8 years before Loving v. Virginia. I am inspired by Harriet Tubman, risking her life, and leading enslaved people to freedom. A quote attributed to her, but under debate in its accuracy, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed more if only they knew they were slaves” gives me pause when I think about this work. Internalized oppression is one of the hardest things I see. We don’t need white people to uphold white nationalism. It’s why the ancestors said, ‘all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk’. How many people were left behind because life on the plantation wasn’t so bad, or massa treats me good, I haven’t been beaten or my kids haven’t been sold? If I perceive that I am protected in the system, I will uphold the system, even if it causes my community harm.
Stacey Abrams inspires me. The thinking outside the box activism, guerilla activism, if you will, in seeking to register folks to vote in non-traditional spaces and her tenacity in Georgia politics. Lurie Daniel Favors inspires me daily on Sirius XM Urbanview in her analysis of the law, race, and politics. My kids and grandkids inspire me. I need this world to be better for them and the push for me is, this cannot be what they inherit.
Why do you teach for the Truth School?
I teach for the Truth School because I believe in its mission and vision. I teach because truth telling matters and the classes at the Truth School are about the truth, like Sojourner. True history and the tension it brings, true movement building – transformative and not performative, sitting with true experiences – discomfort doesn’t mean a lack of safety, true healing spaces – we can hold one another…true leaders creating more leaders. I teach for the truth school to inspire and motivate others to use their voices, take up space and speak truth to power. I teach because representation matters and as someone who lives in some of this world’s messiest intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, and class, sitting quiet isn’t an option.
“If you are silent about your pain they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” ~Zora Neale Hurston
Columnist Andrea Ayvazian: Reparations is a collective responsibility
As the city of Northampton moves forward on plans to form a commission to study reparations for African Americans in our community, I have found myself being asked to speak publicly about reparations — first on a well-attended local webinar, then on a local radio station.
Each time, I was asked the same three questions: Why reparations? Why Northampton? Why now?