More than 200 people crammed into a meeting room at Smith College to listen to Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum speak at the May 4 opening ceremony of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership. The new school provides in-person training opportunities in activism in five cities throughout Western Massachusetts.
“We need the Sojourner Truth School to lift us out of the deep funk that many of us have felt since the election of 2016,” said Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College and author of several bestselling books on the psychology of racism. “Ordinary people can get this started and make an impact.”
Since the Trump election, there has been an outpouring of interest in engaging with politics and social movements—and a hunger to learn new skills. The Truth School is one of a number of schools cropping up recently to train people to become activists in social change movements.
The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian co-founded the school and said the idea was to create a “school that teaches movement building skills—a ‘pop-up’ school that teaches useful skills to those seeking to resist Trump’s authoritarianism.” She said she hopes the school will “help us cling to democracy during the Trump years.”
The notion for the school emerged after Ayvazian attended a pop-up artist’s event in an empty store space. “I imagined an impermanent school, popping up around the valley.”
Ayvazian said that the initial response to her idea was overwhelmingly positive. People have offered free spaces for the school, she said, and now the Truth School is popping up in artist studios, library halls, and community meeting rooms at religious congregations.