April 2021 Newsletter

In This Issue:

From the Leadership Team

Truth School Forecast: Flurries

Hopefully the snow flurries of the winter are about over here in Massachusetts, but at the Truth School we look forward to many more flurriesFlurries of new and old friends who take our classes; flurries of trainers from near and far who want to teach for the School; flurries of class evaluations with important feedback, praise, and suggestions; and flurries of donations that we receive from class participants. In my role on the Truth School Leadership Team as one of the people who reaches out to our donors, I am always so moved by the generosity of people taking the classes, from the $5 to $100+ donations that come in the day after the class. We couldn’t do this work without you and we are all deeply grateful.

Now we are exactly halfway through our Spring session of over 50 incredible and inspiring classes, taught by a flurry of brilliant and talented trainers. We have “Call[ed] in the Call Out Culture” with Loretta Ross, looked at “Community Control Over Police” with Netfa Freeman, focused on “Israel, Palestine and the Changing Middle East” with Sut Jhally and Michael Klare, had a conversation about “Barriers to Reproductive Justice” with Shanique Spalding and Carrie Baker, gained deeper understanding of the “Climate Emergency” with Ernesto Cruz and Marty Nathan, and looked at “Reparations and Reconciliation” with Amihan Matias and Marcia Gomes, and that’s just a tiny glimpse of the big picture! Our classes span so many topics, too numerous to mention here. We strongly urge you to check out the flurry of upcoming classes for the rest of this session – don’t miss these wonderful opportunities!

I am struck by the fact that the Truth School has become a community, an expanding network of people with many shared values, growing and learning together during challenging times that otherwise could be even more isolating. Together we are able to move forward, to learn and grow to nurture our activism, and to work toward greater peace, equity and justice in the world. Bring on the flurries!

With gratitude,
Renee Moss
TS Leadership Team and Board Member

Erin Joy Seibert is a poet, artivist, and licensed social worker of mixed descent. EJ is a trainer for the Truth School and a founding (now former) member of our Board of Directors. EJ’s work is guided by interest in the intersections of collective healing, transformative education, and contemplative practice. This winter, she gave a workshop for the Truth School on Decolonizing Mental Health, focusing on incorporating decolonization into anti-racism practices for mental health care. We recently held a brief interview with EJ about her work, progressive activism, and her perspective on the School.

TS: Your class Decolonizing Mental Health stirred up considerable interest, had a large registration, and was very well attended. How do you explain the surge of interest in the topic of decolonizing mental health?

EJS: Collectively, we are all in the process of waking up and learning to heal the many rifts in our world and on our planet. There are two main things that I believe sparked such interest in the topic right now. (1) The first is increasing public awareness over time: especially since the action at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline a few years ago, more people have become conscious of the issues that have long impacted Indigenous communities here and worldwide. At the same time, as we know, public attention has also been gained with regard to racial violence and the harm that has long been caused by White Supremacy Culture in general. (2) The second thing is that during a time when the pandemic has disconnected our face-to-face relationships, and impacted mental health for many people, Indigenous practices source from a place of relatedness and are grounded in connection to land and each other. I think that both of these things – increased awareness and a hunger for connectedness and wellness that is both individual and communal – are part of what sparked so much interest in the topic.

TS: What, from your background and perspective, are the biggest challenges activists face when we think about moving our progressive agenda forward in 2021?

EJS: One of the biggest challenges I can see is our continued need to be more loving with ourselves and with each other – I don’t mean soft, I mean loving, which can be soft but is sometimes necessarily ferocious. To be kind and strong. To be able to hold complexity, to move from either/or thinking to both/and thinking. To know when to be urgent because survival depends on it, but also when to slow down because survival depends on it. So many times we accidentally cause harm while we are trying to prevent or address harm. Systems of oppression have taught us to split apart from each other, and it is real work to come together and acknowledge where we each need to grow in order to make ourselves and our movements more effective and more in line with one another. It takes a lifetime of unlearning and relearning and we can all get better at being with those processes in ways that hold deep wisdom and care.

TS: As a founding Truth School Board Member – part of the team that shaped the School right from the start – do you see the School changing in the coming years? Any predictions about where the School may be five years from now?

EJS: Absolutely. The school has transformed so many times already, and thank goodness – keeping creative and vibrant and growing with forward motion are so essential. Wrestling with feedback and truths and making needed changes is all part of the work. I don’t know where the school will be in five years, but I can say I very much look forward to finding out!

* April 2021 Classes *

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



The Occupation of the American Mind
with Sut Jhally / April 1 / 6:30-9:00
Invocation to Martin Luther King, Jr.: Contemplating the Heart of the Matter
with Rose Sackey-Milligan / April 4 / 7:00-8:30
The Climate Emergency: Identifying Leverages of Power
with Marty Nathan and Ernesto Cruz / April 8 / 5:00-6:30
Making Science Work for Social Justice
with Western Mass Science for the People / April 10 / 3:00-6:00

Leadership Development, Support, and Guidance for Movement Leaders
Both Seasoned and New

with Tanisha Arena / April 11 / 3:00-5:00

You Are Powerful: Examining Where Individuals and Communities Can
Make a Difference From the Local to the National Level

with Gladys Franco / April 15 / 5:00-7:00

Poetry as Resistance and Healing
with Erin Joy Seibert / April 17 / 2:00-4:00

Cultural Humility and Cross-Cultural Communication:
The Building Blocks of Racial Equity (2-part series)

with Amihan Matias / April 18 and May 2 / 4:00-6:00

Keeping Your Light Bright! A Writing Workshop for a Community with Something to Say
with Sauda Garrett / April 20 / 5:00-7:00

Earth Day: Circle Practice Honoring the Earth
with Tasondra Jardine / April 22 / 4:00-6:00

Can the Powerful Movements to Dismantle White Supremacy and Protect Our Ecosystem Help Us Build the World We Know is Possible?
with Jacqueline Velez, Susan Theberge, and Russ Vernon-Jones / April 24 / 3:30-5:30

Cultivating Cross-Cultural Understanding in Personal and Organizational Settings
with Celia Hilson / April 25 / 3:00-4:30

Unpacking the Man Box: Cross-Gender Dialogue About Masculinity
and Movement-Building

with James Arana and Steven Botkin / April 29 / 5:00-6:30

The Truth School is proud to be a sponsoring partner for the panel discussion


April 7, 2021, 7:00 to 8:30 pm ET

Join experts Rachel Esplin Odell, Tong Zhao, and Zia Mian for this important conversation. This free event will be live-streamed on YouTube and include time for Q&A. Registrants will receive a link to participate live and a recording of the event afterwards.

Visit the event registration page at bit.ly/riskofwar
Back From The Brink Western Mass

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.