Story Project

“Hearing a story is an opportunity for you, the listener, to show up more fully in your humanity because what you do with it makes you an agent of change.”
—Piper Anderson, Mass Story Lab

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
—Muriel Rukeyser, The Speed of Darkness

The REAL Talk “Story Project” exhibit launched at JFK Middle School the evening of May 1, 2023!

The event opened with music by the Amherst Area Gospel Choir and the JFKeys.


Followed by student-led tours of the thirteen “REAL Resistance” posters…

Screenshot 2023-05-02 at 9.07.17 PM

And time to read and reflect on stories shared by NPS students and educators and others from our school communities…


Attendees also took in the gorgeous student art!


REAL is deeply grateful to the students, staff, educators, artists, administrators, donors, caregivers, and everyone else who made this project and exhibit possible. Additionally, we appreciated so much the presence of all who were able to make it to the May 1 launch.

And now, we hope you will…

—Check out all of the stories shared with REAL over the years.

—Explore the REAL Resistance posters.

—Put the REAL Talk Discussion Guide to use.

Share your own story! We welcome stories from anyone and everyone with a connection to Northampton Public Schools.

—Follow us on social media for ways you can keep the REAL Talk going and continue to take action toward an anti-racist school district!



In 2017, REAL began soliciting NPS community members’ stories about their experiences of race, racism, and anti-racism in our district. This was done with the knowledge that sharing our experiences can help us understand each other and the landscape. It can clue us into what is needed if we’re to build a school district that is anti-racist in practice. A district that has genuine acceptance, respect, and love for all people as a recognizable part of its identity.

In the years since, a lot has emerged in stories shared with us by students, educators, and parents/caregivers: hope, resistance, solidarity. Hurt, fear, anxiety. Gratitude. Disappointment. Surprise.

When the pandemic began and schools went remote in March 2020, we pressed pause on our work toward a physical exhibit of the “Story Project.” In January 2021 we decided to use a private Instagram account to house the stories, which are paired with associated themes.*

Work on a physical exhibit started back up in 2022. REAL collaborated with a multi-racial advisory team of JFK educators, students, and administrators, as well as a UMass professor/designer, on an exhibit inspired by themes of the collected stories and emphasizing visioning and action toward positive change. Check out our Q&A resource and a December 2022 article in The Reminder for more information.

On privacy and confidentiality

Note that REAL has regular conversations about privacy and confidentiality with regard to this work, and all stories in the exhibit are shared without names attached and with express permission of the submitters. We encourage story sharers to anonymize specifics, and we do our best to obscure any potentially identifying details.

That said, we know that most all of these stories could reveal things, as that possibility comes with the territory. Should you recognize yourself or others, it’s worth exploring what may be at the root of any resulting feelings (e.g., anxiety, defensiveness). We also acknowledge the chance that a story sharer judged a given incident unfairly—this happens, of course. Dialogue about any number of the stories featured, then, could include conversation about why the speaker might have interpreted events the way they did, how similar incidents are commonplace in schools, and how we can respond when we witness something related.

*After receiving the first 30 stories, the REAL coordinating committee grouped them into broad categories, or themes. Next, students from the JFK Students of Color Alliance (SOCA) read each story, weighed in on the themes, and identified sub-themes. They submitted (and categorized) additional stories as well and had the opportunity to add their own themes.

Breakdown of themes:

Educational Challenges (e.g., lack of diverse curriculum and staff, racial disparities in student discipline)

Race & Identity (e.g., racial stereotyping, downplaying racism)

Lack of Understanding (e.g., denial, good intentions gone awry, social justice rhetoric without action)

Emotional Response (e.g., fear, “not safe,” silence, regrets)

Whiteness (e.g., white supremacy, white fragility, behaviors and beliefs of white people as the norm)

The Future (e.g., representation, inclusion, freedom, hope)

Hurt & Exclusion (e.g., invisibility, racial bullying, microaggressions)

Actions & Strategies (e.g., brave leadership, brave teaching, not being silent, more training)