by Jacynth Johnson
According to Trauma Sensitive Schools, “traumatic experiences can impact learning, behavior and relationships at school.” Racism creates long-term psychological and emotional trauma in the lives of youth and adults alike. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, marchers around the world took to the streets to unleash the power of their voices and stand united against racism.
As an educator and Plainfield resident, I felt moved to create a platform and space for students to be heard and empowered, share real stories, bring hope to the Plainfield community, and stand united with North Plainfield and South Plainfield. What impacts the world will eventually impact the community and schools. The A.W.A.R.E Organization was created to Awaken communities With Awareness by building diverse and inclusive Relationships while Educating them about social issues that impact their neighborhood and schools.
On Saturday, July 25, the A.W.A.R.E Organization took to the streets of Plainfield, led by the Plainfield Police Department, and marched with supporters from North Plainfield, South Plainfield, Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Union, and Elizabeth, New Jersey. Steady footsteps moved in harmony as the chants pierced the silent streets:
At the conclusion of the march the crowd gathered at Library Park, with social distancing protocols in place, and students from North Plainfield and Plainfield school districts led the audience in an artistically conscious showcase educating the audience about the history and contributions of African Americans through drumming, song, poetry and dance.
The work of the A.W.A.R.E Organization continues by establishing AWARE Plainfield student groups in middle and high schools and strategizing ways to create racial equity in teaching and learning. AWARE groups will also bring awareness to other social justice concerns that plague the communities of South Plainfield, North Plainfield and Plainfield and work together to protect our children and our community.
The first annual A.W.A.R.Eness March would not have been possible without the dedication and sacrifice of the march committee, contributions and support of NJEA REAL Movement, Plainfield’s Mayor, Adrian O. Mapp, Plainfield Public School’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC), Plainfield Board of Education, Plainfield Education Association (PEA), North Plainfield Education Association (NPEA), and Sigma Community Enrichment Initiative (SCEI). The A.W.A.R.E Organization also thanks local area businesses, educators, parents and community members who donated, supported the cause and marched.
The A.W.A.R.E Organization’s continued goal is to bring together all racial groups from North Plainfield, South Plainfield and Plainfield to increase awareness of injustices and inequities that exist within these communities and schools, in order to partner and strategize ways to address them.
For more information and to connect:
Google Site: bit.ly/awareplainfield
Instagram and Facebook: AWAREPlainfield
Jacynth Johnson is a part-time NJEA professional development consultant and an NJEA REAL Movement member. Formerly a teacher in the Plainfield School District, Johnson is now a middle school supervisor in Montgomery Township School District.
Photo credits: Plainfield Education Association member Joel Plummer and Plainfield Board of Education member Carmencita Pile.