truth school happenings

Lots has been happening in the Truth School. With classes all over CT River Valley (ok, not everywhere but in Springfield, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield) it’s hard to keep track of it all!

In brief: Sacred Music: A Journey to Freedom led by Dr. Ruth Bass Green was offered at Lathrop in Northampton and moved one participant with the possibility of forgetting yourself and just joining and singing. Positive Change through Education housed at Jackson street school and co-led by Gwen Agna and Thomas Chang helped participants refine techniques for approaching inequity issues with children, the fine art of show kids things and asking them what they notice. Social Activism for Senior Citizens housed up in Greenfield at the Franklin Co-op space on 170 Main street inspired the simple reflection in one participant, “in part, I need to learn how to be in community, just be able to be with folk.

After attending the Circle Practice to Build Strength and Trust class led by Tasondra Jardine at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke (what an unexpected place for a Circle Practice class!) one participant is motivated to get involved in restorative justice movements; Norma Akamatsu and Gail Perlman’s Infighting on the Left: A Structured Dialogue class reminded one participant “of how important storytelling is in breaking down barriers. Also, a better understanding of why ‘point-counterpoint’ doesn’t work, which was helpful.” And then last but not least, Pamela Marsh William’s class on leading volunteers accomplished its goal: one participant said, “I think I can recruit and nurture volunteers more effectively!Cheers to that.

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teach with the truth school – spring 2020 catalog process begins

We are starting to put our Spring 2020 Catalog together!

Yes, it is October, but Spring will be here very soon.

Classes in our Spring 2020 semester will again be led by all trainers of color, or by bi-racial pairs. It runs from mid-February through mid-May

Do you have something to teach? Something that will help people advocate, organize and build movements for social change?

A full overview of the guidelines for Truth School trainers and classes is provided here.

Proposals must be submitted online by November 1, 2019.

Fall 2019 preview

We are implementing a new registration system for the Fall 2019 semester to hopefully improve the registration process. Some of the benefits of the new system are that participants have the ability to see all the classes you are registered for in one place, and you can also cancel your registration for a class if you need. Our first class of the semester is up. Be an early adopter and give the registration process a try with our first class of the semester!

From the Director – March News

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From the Director – March 2019

The Sojourner Truth School for Social Change

Leadership is now in year three.  Since we had the inspiration for the School (January 2017) and opened (May 2017), we have run six cycles of classes (that includes the Spring cycle we are now in).  In total, since opening, we have offered 278 class sessions and we have now trained literally thousands of activists in five cities, across three counties.

In our current catalogue, Spring 2019, 43% of the 53 class sessions are taught or co-taught by trainers of color.  But we realized we are not satisfied with that number.  We want to reach for a higher goal.  So I am happy to announce that the Truth School Steering Committee and I will be creating a Fall Catalogue (September, October, November, December 2019) in which every single class will be taught or co-taught by a person of color.

We believe it is time to take this step and I am very glad we have made this decision.  So trainers of color….if you are reading this….let us hear from you.  We would welcome your proposals to teach through the Truth School.  And white people, we want to hear from you also—but to teach through the Truth School, you need to be part of a biracial pair.  We will not be offering any classes taught by white people alone or in pairs.  Every class in the Fall will have a trainer of color leading.

We hope to hear from you, we welcome your proposals.  Here is a link to the form on our website. Thank you for your good work creating change, strengthening social movements, and engaging in the democratic process.  Thank you for all your good efforts.  The world needs you!  Shine on!

Sending each one of you my best,

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.”