Last month, Sol was honored to cover another moving Education Anew: Shifting Justice (EASJ2018) convening, sponsored by two clients, Andrus Family Fund and Communities for Just Schools Fund. The event brought together organizers, advocates and youth who have dedicated their lives to creating safe and supportive schools, closing youth jails and prisons, ending the criminalization of and violence against young people of color, and transforming education and youth justice systems.
After covering the convening for the first time in 2016, it has quickly become one of our favorite events. A particular highlight this year was expanding our coverage to Instagram and inviting participants to share reflections through a handmade video booth. Check out their awesome responses here.
For more takeaways, see the blog recap here.
Below, the Sol team shares our reflections from the event.
What was the most powerful part of the convening for you?
Mary: To see it all come together so beautifully. I had the privilege of being a part of the planning of EASJ2018. Every aspect of the event was planned with intention, from the morning rituals with priests and prayers to the evenings with an open mic and dancing.
In late July, our videographer, Greg, and I travelled to Puerto Rico with AFF and CJSF to plan for the event and capture footage for a pre-convening video. We were invited to dinner with all of the women in Puerto Rico coming together for the convening, whether they were joining a panel, providing a venue for the learning tours or bringing their healing art to attendees.
The dinner was seriously magical – the energy, the intention, the power of this amazing collective of women (ALL WOMEN) sharing the stories of their work in Puerto Rico — it’s a night I’ll never forget.
Jennifer: There were so many powerful moments during EASJ2018, it’s hard to choose one. Overall, I will say that face-to-face conversations were the ones that hit home for me.
For example, I had the opportunity to visit the home studio of Afro-Puerto Rican artist, Samuel Lind, as part of a community tour and had so many hilarious, inspiring one-on-one conversations with attendees and the artist himself. Lind is a character and so personable. We connected through our shared Caribbean heritage and his love of Cuba. He gifted me one of his prints, which is sitting on my nightstand, waiting to be framed.
I also connected with a young woman from Miami (which is where I’m from) who impressed me with a wisdom well beyond her years. And, there was some playful banter over my (very colorful) shoes on the bus ride back to the hotel.
Marius: Puerto Rico is a colony, and unfortunately, in many ways, the island represents the harsh imperialism and colonialism practiced by the continental U.S. However, the Boricuas in Puerto Rico and the community and culture are rooted in resilience and a willingness to push forward, particularly post-Maria.
Something that sticks with me from EASJ2018 is a refusal to accept this notion of “natural disaster.” There are no natural disasters in the United States. There are natural occurrences that negatively affect communities when the government refuses to address the turmoil in infrastructure, economy, and health for a group of affected people. Unfortunately, this lack of care and attention after incidents like Hurricane Maria disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities the most. Knowing this has helped me to reinterpret my understanding of systems, policies, and concepts that affect my community the most.
Jake: As I get older — not that I’m particularly old — something that I’ve begun to notice more is the accomplishments of people younger than me. As I power through my quarter-life crisis, I think that I’ve accomplished a fair bit, and then I’ll listen to a Lorde album and remember that she’s four years younger than me and has won multiple Grammys. For me, the most powerful thing at Education Anew was listening to all of the amazing youth who have accomplished so much, and also overcome so much adversity to get where they are.
Greg: The overwhelming sense of community and positive energy. Everyone there had the intention of making the world a better place, but not just for themselves – for everyone. To have that many people dedicated to stopping injustice in the world was refreshing in the face of the political climate in our country.
What was your favorite part of covering the convening?
Mary: By the end of the convening, I had formally interviewed more than a dozen people. Every single person I spoke with had such a powerful story to tell. The raw emotion was undeniable. I got teary-eyed more times than I can count (y’all know that I love a good cry). It was honor to meet all of these amazing people, hear about their lived experiences and the groundbreaking work they do.
Jennifer: The most unique aspect about covering this particular convening is that it took place in Puerto Rico—a place that is near and dear to my heart. This is the land of my honeymoon, proposal, best friend’s wedding and where my brother-in-law kicked off his singing career (not kidding). Even though I was on the island for business this time, I was still able to immerse myself in the culture—through music, speaking Spanish and the food (see Jake’s comments for more on that deliciousness). I’m so glad that my colleagues who had never previously visited were able to experience it, too.
Marius: Going on the hip-hop tour and learning about the history of radio and music in Puerto Rico from DJs and musicians.
Somehow I got wrangled into chaperoning the trip. Since I wasn’t tied to my phone posting to the conference’s Instagram (@educationanew), I held important, candid conversations. All the while, Spanglish hip-hop playing in the background. I cherished every moment!
Jake: My favorite part of most trips — and probably life in general — is food, and our trip to Puerto Rico for Education Anew was no exception. Even before we got there I was excited about mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish made with fried, mashed plantains, meat and broth. We had incredible ceviche, snapper, and sangria, and the coffee was out of this world. Even the drip coffee in carafes outside the plenaries every morning was phenomenal.
Greg: The connections I made and knowledge gained from just being there. Hearing and communicating with the people on the ground who are making a difference was grounding for me, and to know there are resources out there that I can look into to help my community makes me feel empowered and that I can make a difference.
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