The mission of REAL is to support and strengthen our school community by developing an intentionally anti-racist culture.

The overarching goals of REAL are to promote learning and dialogue within the Northampton public school community about the origins and functioning of systemic racism; integrate anti-racist perspectives into district culture, curriculum, and district and school activities; and build the knowledge and self-reflection required to work together to interrupt and dismantle racism in our society and our schools. We aim to teach our children how to do this alongside us now and in the future.

Members of REAL include teachers, staff, students, and family members across the district who are invited to meet at a member’s home for an hour and a half twice a month. Participation is flexible; some members haven’t been to a meeting, while others are regular attendees.

The work of REAL began in 2017 thanks to generous funding from the Northampton Education Foundation. To date, the work has involved collecting stories from folks in the district, including REAL members, about experiences of race and racism in the Northampton public schools. Sharing our experiences helps us better understand one another and the landscape. It informs us about the work that is needed to create a school district that is anti-racist in practice and has genuine acceptance, respect, and love for all people as a recognizable part of its identity. We believe we can get there.

Our efforts have also included consulting on the district’s new code of conduct. REAL member and national leader in juvenile justice reform Annie Salsich attends and occasionally co-facilitates Code of Conduct Task Force meetings, offering guidance focused specifically on the district’s potential adoption of a restorative justice approach to resolving conflict—and REAL’s recommendations have been heard and will be incorporated. In year three of our work, REAL will continue to offer guidance and expertise as the district refines the new code with community input.

Additionally, we have commissioned a diverse book list and consulted on a spin-off grant. We’ve cultivated relationships with the Students of Color Alliance (SOCA) at the middle school and high school; and now, in our third year, we’re partnering with SOCA on shared goals, with the high school group a primary collaborator in our story collection effort. We’re also collaborating with Joseph Krupczynski, an architect and designer with expertise in public exhibition/installations that inspire community conversations around identity. Joseph is working with REAL and SOCA, along with other interested students, to build an exhibition drawing from the stories we continue to collect, with the intention to help guide school community conversations around race and racism.