In This Issue:
- From the Director
- Annual Report
- May Classes
- What Participants are Saying
- Andrea’s Gazette Column: Weeping for Denali
From the Director
I have mentioned and praised the Truth School Leadership Team in several eNewsletters in the past but my admiration and gratitude for each one of them never gets old. Julie Kurose, Amihan Matias, Renee Moss, and Shelley Zimbalist are beyond a Dream Team to work with. They are steady, capable, creative, hard-working and now the five of us have become more than close colleagues, we are close friends. They are a joy to work with and the Truth School could not function without them! That is not an exaggeration.
As a Team, we cover for one another. Even though each one of us has a discrete job description and specific areas of responsibility, we also pitch in and help one another with the overall work load. And so when an invitation arrived from the Unitarian Society of Amherst (Massachusetts) requesting a speaker from the Truth School to present an update about the work of the School during their Sunday worship service in early April, we checked in to see who was available to attend the in-person service and talk about our history and classes. Renee stepped forward, attended the service, and shared news about the TS, to much acclaim! The congregation very much appreciated her comments and the UU of Amherst has decided to become a “Faith Partner” with the School, which means they are choosing to financially support the School and promote our classes among UU members and the wider community.
We welcome the Unitarian Society of Amherst as a Faith Partner and are thrilled with their decision and grateful for their generosity. Their financial and moral support are welcome and needed. And we thank Renee for presenting information about the Truth School to the congregation and spreading the good word about our fine work, many successes, and ongoing movement-building classes.
Renee’s presentation is below, in full! We thought you would want to read what she said about you, about us, and about the continuing work of our scrappy and quite wonderful Truth School!
In the struggle with you, and with love,
SOJOURNER TRUTH SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE LEADERSHIP
Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst – April 2, 2023
Good morning. I want to thank you so much and express our gratitude for your decision to make the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership (fondly known as the Truth School) the recipient of your offering today. We will be proud to list you as one of our Faith partners.
Let me give you a bit of background about the Truth School. Rev. Andrea Ayvazian (who some of you may know) has been an activist all of her life, on the front lines advocating for racial equity, social justice, and peace. In 2016, she retired from her position as the minister of the Haydenville Congregational Church, ready to slow down a bit and begin to think about what the next chapter would be. Then, much to her shock, Trump became president. She longed to have her church back so she could have a platform from which to organize and guide people through this next frightful chapter of life in America. But lo and behold, another minister had already been hired! She knew she needed to do something to address the despair she was feeling. So, in January of 2017, on a train ride home from visiting her son in Austin Texas, it came to her – the vision of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership, and by May the first catalogue was born.
The Truth School does one thing and we do it well. We provide FREE movement building classes. All of our classes are taught by BIPOC trainers or bi-racial pairs. Classes are mostly one-time stand-alones, and a few are series classes with more than one session, which give the opportunity to go deeper. We’re a little School with a low budget. We pay our trainers and our class hosts. Most of our leadership team work as volunteers or receive small stipends.
Up until COVID we provided classes in donated spaces throughout the Valley – in Greenfield, Northampton, Easthampton, Holyoke and Springfield. All of our trainers were from the Valley as were our participants. The Truth School was breaking down silos – folks from Springfield were sitting with folks from Greenfield. Climate activists were learning new skills in a room with racial justice activists. The Truth School was chugging along and doing very well.
Then along came COVID and we were forced to move all of our classes to Zoom. And much to our surprise, what a silver lining that was! We now have class participants and trainers from all over the world. We have expanded our reach and have, in turn, been greatly enriched by the participants from all over the world who can now be part of our Truth School family.
• We have classes that provide information such as about racism in America, climate change, reproductive justice, the Middle East, Reparations, etc.
• We have classes that provide skills such as creating podcasts, using social media, writing press releases, fundraising, etc.
• We have classes that are more anecdotal and personal – where trainers tell their stories or participate in a dialogue.
• We have classes that provide tools for and encourage self-care which is so deeply important for “active activists.”
Some of our classes are pretty basic and some go deep and assume a basic knowledge of the topic. All of our classes are taught by creative, competent, skilled teachers who are the backbone of the Truth School.
Since 2017 we have
• offered 500 classes,
• had 5,508 participants from 39 states and 17 countries
• had 235 trainers, of whom 123 are BIPOC
And just to give you a sense of the breadth of classes – Here are some titles from our last 2 catalogues:
• Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving
• Being an Ally, Not a Savoir
• Micro-Aggressions – Death by a Thousand Cuts
• Reproductive Justice 101: How We Liberate Abortion
• From Here to Equality: Exploring the Case for Reparations
• Multiracial and Interfaith Families
• Calling In the Callout Culture
• Points on Producing Podcasts
• Delving Deep into the Intersections of Race and Class
• Movement Building and the Arts
• Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine
I could go on and on, but I think I should stop here and ask you if you have any questions or comments.
Once again, thank you so much for inviting the Truth School here today. And I look forward to seeing you at our classes.
Our 2022 Annual Report is now available. Click HERE to view it.
Thank you for this courtesy.
Thursday, May 4, 2023, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Take a Walk in Sojourner Truth’s Shoes
Wendy Sinton, Carlie Tartakov, and Diane Liebert
Saturday, May 6, 2023, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Rain date: Sunday, May 7, 2023, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Peace Inc.: The Commodification of Peace
Tuesday, May 9, 2023, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Going Beyond the Mirror:
Expanding Your Universe With Literature
Tiffany Jewell and Gwen Agna
Thursday, May 11, 2023, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
White Supremacy, Sanctions, And Violating Sovereignty
Saturday, May 13, 2023, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
From Here to Equality: Exploring the Case for Reparations
Tuesday, May 16, 2023, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Delving Deeper into the Intersections of Race and Class
Jennifer Ladd and David Ragland
Thursday, May 18, 2023, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Creative Youth Development: Youth Voice, Community-Building, Social Justice, and the Arts
Julie Lichtenberg, James Arana and Invited Guests
Sunday, May 21, 2023, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
What Participants are Saying
Columnist Andrea Ayvazian: Weeping for Denali
I remember the stomach-churning jitters I felt on the flight from Seattle to Anchorage. And that was before I had laid eyes on the big mountain — before I saw how it dominated the landscape both vertically and horizontally, before I had stared down into a slim ice-blue crevasse on the glacier. It was June 1983, and I was making a long-anticipated, rather epic trip to Alaska to join an expedition of 16 men and three women to climb Mount McKinley (as it was known then, now Denali).