“Racial Justice is working in solidarity with each other to create change, growth and equity. It is listening and sharing and using what we learn to dismantle all systems of oppression.” – Lily Besaw, SRJA Student
The Summer Racial Justice Academy was created in the summer of 2021 as a way to build capacity for youth leadership at the Burlington School District. 51 middle and high school students attended the academy for 5 weeks June 28th-July 29th with the primary goals of Social Justice Education, Youth-Adult Partnership, youth organizing and training youth to be Restorative Practices Circle keepers.
“Something I got out of the experience was connecting with people, conversations we had, coming out of this program with a better understanding of race, how I can make a positive impact and how I can set an example.” – SRJA Student
“Students have a lot more to worry about than what the school thinks. Some students have more to worry about than others, usually non-white. We have to worry about racism on top of homework.” – Yacin Nour, SRJA Student
The Racial Justice Academy explored weekly themes of identity and community, rage and oppression, joy and love and activism and abolitionism. Student tasks included journal writing, facilitating Restorative Circle discussions, serving as consultants in discussions with school leaders, hosting guest artists and organizers from the community and field trips.
Restorative Practices is a tool to strengthen relationships and build community connections. At the SRJA students used Circle Practice as a way to share commonalities and differences and to relate to each other by sharing stories in a safe and vulnerable space. The circles at SRJA became an affinity space where students with shared identities as people of the global majority could relate to each other in a supportive and healing way.
” I felt that everyone in the room is connected in a way. When we were in circle we were using the talking piece. I agreed with a lot of stuff like how as it gets closer to you the more you forget what you wanted to say and get butterflies.” – Binti Hussein, SRJA Student
Capstone Projects: Students chose to focus on education, visual art, performance art, documentation, or youth organizing and were guided in their projects by capstone mentors. A final capstone project presentation allowed students to host an art show, share slam poetry and engage in a conversation with youth organizers.
Visual Art with Juniper Creative Arts
Performance Art with Khadija Bangoura and Balkisa Omar
“An ah-ha moment I had was when I realized that we are all thinking the same thing. We all want to make a difference even if it is the little change in the classroom. Something that stands out to me is that everyone supports each other and I know that we don’t know each other well but we still know how to respect each other and that is really great.” – Nadia Sylla, SRJA Student
Documentation: A team of students documented the process through videography, photography, and student interviews.
Youth Organizing: Students worked with BSD alumni, YPAR staff and SRJA faculty to create a list of recommendations on topics ranging from teacher accountability, student discipline practices, parental outreach, the student handbook and more. At the final capstone project presentation the youth organizers engaged in a discussion with BSD leaders.
Read the SRJA Recommendations from Youth Organizers
Education SRJA students designed educational materials for use by students and staff and walked over to SOAR, the elementary summer school program to read aloud and lead younger students in activities about race and racial identity.
Special Guests: Visual Art with Juniper Creative Arts, Storytelling with Ferene Paris Meyer from All Heart Inspirations, Wellness with School Counselor Melissa Hathaway, Performance Arts with Khadija Bangoura, Youth Organizing with Lizzy Clements/EMS YPAR and Eli Pine, a conversation with Tom (Superintendent Flanagan), a conversation with new BHS Administration Team, Alyssa Chen and Wafic Four of the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont
Seven Days Article: At new summer academy Burlington students of color share stories and learn leadership skills