News

Standing in Solidarity with March For Our Lives

A week from today millions of people–led by our nation’s youth–will take to the streets in the March For Our Lives, a timely and worthy protest organized by youth against gun violence.

There were two excellent Truth School trainings scheduled for the day of the march: Millennials and Elders Working Together for Social Change, and From Passionate Political Idealism to Concrete Action. We have decided to cancel both classes so that our students and trainers will be free to join the march if they choose.

In addition, we are co-sponsoring our local sibling march, the Pioneer Valley March For Our Lives. Follow that link to Facebook for the details.

Our Director, the Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, has written a reflection on the march in her monthly column for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She writes:

 

Someone told me this story is apocryphal, but I think it is true.

During the Vietnam War, the Rev. A.J. Muste, much loved and admired pacifist, political activist and leader in the anti-war movement, gathered with others day after day in front of the White House, held a candle, and vigiled in silence to protest the war.

One day a reporter walked by and found Rev. Muste there alone, in the dark, in the rain, holding a candle.

“Rev. Muste,” the reporter said to the elderly clergyman, “you know standing out in front of the White House alone in the rain holding a candle will not change the world.”

“Oh no,” Muste replied immediately. “I don’t do this to change the world. I do this so the world won’t change me.”

On March 24, thousands of us will join in the March for Our Lives to try to change the world and so the world won’t change us. According to the Pioneer Valley March For Our Lives website, the march, conceived of and led by students, was planned following the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“In the wake of endless school shootings,” the website states, “students have decided we’ve been numb to the frequent tragedies for too long. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have called for a nationwide day of action to protest the unending gun violence.”

The website goes on, “Student organizers across the Pioneer Valley have answered and come together to make our voices heard! We’ll kick off at Northampton High School and march to City Hall to demand legislative action. The rally at City Hall will feature student speakers and performers, amplifying youth voices.”

I am 66. Old, weary activists like me will march behind young student leaders so the world won’t change us and make us cynical, shrill, resigned and cranky. We will march behind the students grateful every minute for their leadership, outrage, courage, wisdom and creativity. Young people will lead, old people will follow; young people will speak, old people will listen; young people will direct, old people will support.

Since the school shooting in Florida, youthful energy, clarity and leadership have sprung up like spring flowers that suddenly appear in your yard. Almost instantly after the shooting, high school students were expressing their thoughts and feelings passionately, articulately and powerfully to the media, and, most importantly, offering solutions to the problem of gun violence in America.

Interviewed on TV by countless reporters, the high school students — in political T-shirts, ripped jeans, and athletic uniforms — offered a more in-depth analysis of the problem of gun violence and more reasonable solutions than anything that has come from the White House or the (nearly) silent Cabinet.

The students are not backing down, and they refuse to be silenced. “Our trauma isn’t going away, but neither are we,” Leonor Munoz, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said. “We will fight everyday because we have to, because change is the only thing that makes any of this bearable.”

Young leaders are declaring “enough is enough” and demanding “never again!” I not only stand with them, I stand behind them. On March 24, I will happily take my place, with some placard I will create before then, at the back of march, falling into step with the other gray-hairs as we follow the students and take our cue from them.

There are cynics who, whenever a march, rally, or vigil is announced in Northampton dismiss the gathering as unnecessary because this is such a progressive community far from the centers of power. We are told that marching, rallying or vigiling in Northampton does not matter because it is only “preaching to the choir.”

My response to that criticism is that the choir needs rehearsing. Especially now. The choir of aging, tired, and less-than-imaginative movement veterans like me needs rehearsing and the new conductors are all under 20. Movement elders need to listen to the new songs, quicken to a new rhythm, and take our place as one voice among many with new leaders out front.

A new generation of activists is taking their rightful place at the front of the march and us old folks are proud and happy to pass the baton to them. The role for us old folks is to generously fund the new initiatives the young people are creating, listen deeply to them with the ears of our hearts, support them and “stuff envelopes and lick stamps” (as we used to say). That may now be: send emails and show up with your sneakers on.

I will be marching on March 24 because I want to stop gun violence, protect children and all living beings, and because I want to be counted as one of the bodies at the back of the line. I will be cheering, chanting or walking in silence — whatever the capable leaders tell me to do.

I agree with Alfonso Calderon, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior, who, when asked about the march said, “No kid should be afraid to go to school, no kid should be afraid to walk outside, and no kid should have to worry about being shot. Now that’s why I’m marching.”

 

Wisdom, Analysis and Inspiration from Seasoned Organizers – Panel Event (5/18)

Join us for a panel discussion with four experienced, radical activist/organizers! Q&A to follow.

Jo Comerford

National campaign director of MoveOn.org

Netfa Freeman

Events coordinator and analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., and an organizer for Pan-African Community Action

Jennifer Matias

Leadership coach, consultant, and trainer, Dance the Dream Coaching and Consulting for Social Justice and Social Change

Nelson Roman

Executive director of Nueva Esperanza, Holyoke Ward 2 City Councilor, activist and organizer

Accepting Fall Course Proposals Through May 1

Believe it or not, we are already planning our Fall 2018 session! The fall session will run from September through early December. We are currently looking for experienced trainers with a passion for sharing their movement-building skills.

Trainers commit to teaching their classes in one of our many Truth School sites located around the Pioneer Valley, from Greenfield to Springfield. We provide the space, basic supplies and a host to assist on-site. Classes typically run between 90 minutes and 3 hours. Trainers are compensated at a rate of $250 for single classes.

Find more information—and submit your proposal for a Fall 2018 class—on our Course Proposal page!

Be sure to submit before May 1! Any proposals submitted after that date will be considered for the following session.

Join us March 9 for Why I March—Women Activists Speak Out!

Illustration of woman with bullhorn and image credit Jared Rodriguez /Truthout

The Truth School is proud to be a co-sponsor of “Why I March—Women Activists Speak Out,” which will be held March 9 at the Northampton Center for the Arts (33 Hawley St.).

Event organizers are still looking for women activists to speak. We know we have many powerful women activists with strong voices in our Truth School community, but you don’t have to be an experienced speaker to contribute your voice to this event. If you’re interested, sign up to speak!

Details

Date: March 9
Time: 7 PM -10 PM
Location: Northampton Center for the Arts, 33 Hawley St., Northampton
Cost: Sliding scale $0-$15
For more information: https://www.womenspeakup.org/why-i-march.html

Co-sponsors

Cathy McNally of Women Speak Up!, Pioneer Valley Women’s March, Sojourner Truth School for Social Change, BadAss activists, Massachusetts for Equality and Racial justice, and more. (If your organization is interested in co-sponsoring, contact Cathy at cathy@womenspeakup.org.)

Accepting Spring Course Proposals Through January 20

It may be the middle of winter, but we’re already dreaming of spring! Our Spring 2018 session will take place April through June and we’re currently looking for experienced trainers with a passion for sharing their movement-building skills.

Trainers commit to teaching their classes in one of our many Truth School sites located around the Pioneer Valley, from Greenfield to Springfield. We provide the space, basic supplies and a host to assist on-site. Classes typically run between 90 minutes and 3 hours. Trainers are compensated at a rate of $250 for single classes.

Find more information—and submit your proposal for a Spring 2018 class—on our Course Proposal page!

Be sure to submit before January 20! Any proposals submitted after that date will be considered for Fall 2018.

New indexes allow students to find Truth School classes by theme, audience and location

Did you know you can now find Truth School classes by theme, audience and location?

If your New Year’s resolution was to get more involved in politics, you can jump directly to the theme “Civic Engagement” to find classes designed to help you do that. What if you have realized you need to do more self-care? Try any of our classes listed under “Self-care!” You’ll find many more topics to explore on our Themes page.

Are you seeking an opportunity to connect with others with more than a few decades of life experience? You may find what you’re looking for on our Audiences page, under “Seniors.” Millennials and teens can also find classes designed with them in mind on the Audiences page. ¿Hablas español? Mira nuestras clases en Español!

Our Locations page can lead you to a class in your local community—or help you make connections in neighboring towns. (In December, Truth School student Celia Lang wrote about her experience taking classes throughout the Valley—you may find it inspires you!)

(Please send any feedback to communications@truthschool.org. We are always happy to hear from our community!)

Snow cancellation – 1/4/18 Training for Trainers

Due to an expected snow storm, the Training for Trainers on January 4, 2018, has been cancelled.

New and returning trainers should plan to attend one of the two remaining trainings:

Training for Trainers
Saturday, January 6, 10:00 to 11:30 AM
40 Center Street, Northampton, MA
(This is a house on Center Street, next to the bank parking lot, across the street from the Northampton Police Station)

Training for Trainers
Wednesday, January 10, 5:30 to 7 PM
NEW LOCATION: First Churches of Northampton, Lyman Hall, 129 Main Street
(Enter side door of church, on Center Street)

Please RSVP to Dr. Andrea Ayvazian at director@truthschool.org.

Only Five Days Remain to Support Our Leadership Forum for Women of Color

December 31 is the end date of our fundraising campaign for And Still We Rise, a program that supports local women of color leaders. Although we have successfully raised 60% of our goal, we are still $2000 short. Please help us to support the pillars of our communities of color, who are working hard to make our world a better place! Anything you can contribute will make a difference—and all donations are tax-deductible. Please help us to spread the word by sharing our posts on Facebook and Twitter!

Thank you for your support of this vital program!

Teen Peers Increase their Leadership Roles in Climate Lobby Training

by Lilly Lombard
One of the Truth School’s most popular trainings, “Harnessing the Unique Power of Teens to Advance Climate Legislation,” is jumping to a new level this winter as graduates of the previous trainings—flush with experience in delivering statehouse testimonies, leading marches, making public speeches, and arranging meetings with their legislators—step up to mentor a new set of teen climate activists in classes that will be held in January and March.

Teens, including 10 graduates of the Truth School's climate lobby training, led a recent climate march in downtown Northampton.
Teens, including 10 graduates of the Truth School’s climate lobby training, led a recent climate march in downtown Northampton. (Photo courtesy of Rene Theberge.)

At the last teen climate lobby training in October, ten students from West Boylston, MA, (outside of Worcester) traveled with their Social Justice Club to Northampton to take our three-hour class. There, they met five teen climate activists from Northampton, Amherst, and Greenfield and practiced public speaking skills together by video-recording one another making powerful statements about climate action.

This model of peer mentoring was so successful that the teaching role of teens’ who have previously taken the class will expand in the next teen climate lobby training, on January 8. In addition to teaching and practicing powerful public speaking skills, the teen graduates will lead a Q&A as they share their experiences as youth climate lobbyists, legislative interns, rally speakers, and videographers. They will also facilitate break-out groups, in which they will help peers brainstorm and prioritize tangible post-training goals and action steps.

Max Shannon, Madeleine Lombard, and Aislyn Jewett testifying about climate legislation to a packed room at the MA State House.
Max Shannon, Madeleine Lombard, and Aislyn Jewett testifying about climate legislation to a packed room at the MA State House.

Teen trainers in January will include:

  • Aislyn Jewett (sophomore, Northampton High School)
  • Annika Johnson (junior, Williston Northampton School)
  • Madeleine Lombard (junior, Four Rivers Charter Public School)
  • Leif Maynard (junior, Amherst Regional High School)
  • Max Shannon (homeschool student)
  • Cherilyn Strader (junior, Northampton High School)

In addition to the January 8 class offered at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA, we will also offer a teen climate lobby class offered in Greenfield, MA on Sunday, March 25.

Crossing County Lines: Reflections from a Truth School Participant

by Celia Lang

I have attended five Truth School classes since June 2017 and I am moved to share some thoughts and reflections with the wider Truth School “family .”  I was first made aware of the Sojourner Truth School classes through local ally organization emails and Facebook posts. My initial attraction was to learn for myself some new activist and movement-building skills, but Truth School has offered me so much more than that.

As a 30+ year resident of Northampton, I was glad to see class locations south to Springfield and north up through Greenfield.  The simple act of finding my way to class locations in towns that I do not frequently visit challenged my comfort zone, offered new opportunities for me to meet other activists up and down the Pioneer Valley, and to recognize that valuable cross-county dialogue and building individual and organizational allies is happening all over the Valley.

In addition to learning new skills at Truth School, I hope all those involved know the great success there is in people realizing their own personal activism goals by simply getting involved in the classes.  This open, welcoming format encourages everyone on every level to show up, to get clear, and to get active. We are making connections with each other, making plans, and making our voices heard.

In Springfield, I attended Organizing Beyond Silos at the UMass Center.  Even though it’s only 20 minutes from my home, I had not been in downtown Springfield in over a year. The Truth School got me there. I knew no one when I walked in the room, and left feeling inspired by a new crew of Springfield area activists I might not have ever met. Since that first workshop, I have seen these same activists at other community events.  Also in Springfield, I attended Poetry as Resistance & Inspiration at Arise for Social Justice. I had known about Arise for 20 years, but had never stepped into their office until I went to this Truth School class. At both classes, I ended up exchanging email addresses and connecting with others to follow-up on ideas shared.

Up in Greenfield, I attended Rise Up & Speak Out and again found myself in a room with people I might not have ever met if not for Truth School. Over and over, I see how the Truth School offers time and space for individuals to connect, share expertise, and build momentum for many local and global issues in need of champions.

In Northampton, I attended Publish or Perish and Old People! Expressing Our Radical Selves in the Final Third of Life. In all the classes, I appreciated the expertise of the facilitators, and the diversity of their backgrounds. It is great to see academics from the five colleges and clergy from the community, as well as so many others, sharing their expertise. In the introductions around the room in each class, I have been struck by how participants came crossing town lines, age, and experience differences to meet, to share, and to build communication and activism skills.

These classes cannot happen without facilitators willing and able to organize a class, however we all seemed to come with our own expertise, opinions, stories, and struggles to share.  For that opportunity to network with each other, I am grateful to Truth School.

If I had the time I would have attended all 46 of the classes this fall! The class descriptions in the catalogue all looked great. I make a commitment to a small donation for each class I attend and I have become a champion for the organization, promoting the Truth School though my own networks.

There is more work to be done. I am looking forward to the winter cycle of classes and will, in the future, challenge myself to submit a class proposal for consideration, too.

Thanks to everyone for making this happen!


Note from the Truth School: Thank you, Celia! Students like you make our school a wonderful community-building resource!

We love hearing from our students and learning about your experiences in our classes. If you would like to submit a reflection, please email it to communications@truthschool.org.If you post about your experiences on social media and would like to share those with us, please tag us with @truthschoolma on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!