Scholars for Social Justice
The Scholars for Social Justice (SSJ) Program is made up of 11th and 12th grade scholars from the Buffalo Public Schools. Every year, each high school is invited to choose two scholar representatives for its school. These scholars participate in the District's Disproportionality Workshop Sessions, SSJ-specific training, and their schools' CLRI Teams. Scholars engage in literature on anti-racism and discuss tenets of youth social justice advocacy. Scholars work together to discuss, debate and reflect on the following essential question: What does it mean to learn, live, and love as a young person in Buffalo?
The Scholars for Social Justice are currently embarking on another exciting year as they hone their leadership and social justice advocacy skills. Featured experiences so far have included: participation in the district's Disproportionality Trainings, holding a scholar leadership role on their school's CLRI action team, an immersive Villa Maria college experience, and involvement in a distinguished scholar panel.
A Spotlight on Distinguished Scholars' Responses from the Distinguished Scholars Panel, held on November 3, 2022:
“The racial healing circle allowed me to share a part of me that I usually don’t share with others. It gave me a sense of relief after that healing circle. I feel like we should have them more often, because I feel better after getting it all off my chest.”
“I wrote a lot about this in my college acceptance essay—the importance of having a safe community. Coping with [these traumatic experiences] by participating in things like this, like Scholars for Social justice. We are sharing with our teachers and other people in our community the different things students need to succeed in the future, as well as those who come after us, because eventually we will be leading this country. It’s important to start these conversations now, and it will get easier.”
“All students need a space to let go and explain how they’re feeling. Behind closed doors, everybody is fighting their own battles.”
During the 2021-2022 school year, the scholars for social justice worked with Dr. Angel Acosta, an expert in facilitating restorative conversations around inequality and healing, to become facilitators of their own healing-centered mindfulness circles. Through raising their voices around social justice issues impacting today’s youth, they were able to bring multiple perspectives and strategic solutions to hot-button topics. Their insight, compassion, and fearlessness around stating what truly matters provides us with hope that through collective action and acknowledging and celebrating our differences, the world will be a better place. To conclude their hard work throughout the year, the scholars led a breakout session at the annual Urban Forum on March 15, 2022. During this session, the scholars engaged participants in healing-centered mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, and the alignment of music to healing.
A Sampling of Hopes and Dreams from the Scholars for Social Justice of 2021-2022:
“I hope that we get to a point where people of all races have equal opportunities and access to resources, whether they are financial, educational, or community resources.”
– Brooklyn Bullock, School 156
“In society there's this hyper masculinization of black people overall, creating extreme hyper masculinization of black men—which holds them to a much higher standard. I just dream that society would hold white men and black men to an equitable standard.”
– Amaya Sonubi, School 195
“I hope that kids are able to find a sense of belonging in the education system, and feel comfortable in schools.”
– Jayda Cooper, School 212
“Bring racial equality to crimes committed.”
– Brooklyn Hunley, School 212
“My hope is for peace.”
– Salma Elhag, School 366
In 2020-2021, the Scholars for Social Justice continued to work with Dr. Jevon Hunter from Buffalo State College to engage in courageous dialogues around social justice advocacy and activities to cultivate their own genius and greatness. They began by reading the book, Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, to ground them in their work, as well as take an in-depth look at the definitions of racism and anti-racism and their impact upon Buffalo teens, with a special focus on the essential question: What does it mean to learn, live, and love as a young person in Buffalo? Using their own experiences and experiences they have witnessed as a starting point for courageous dialogues, scholars discussed such themes as racism: past and present, microaggressions, and uplift suasion. The Scholars for Social Justice also analyzed how social media can lead to social activism and considered language that can be used to inspire and create social change.
Below is a sampling of their responses to the question: "How can Buffalo teens work to challenge racism and other forms of oppression in Buffalo?"
"Educate themselves and others on what antiracist ideals look like; protest; if you see racism, call it out; don't be performative and say you're antiracist when you only do it because it 'makes you look good' on Instagram; etc."
- Amaya Sonubi, School 195
"Right now, we can work through spreading awareness of the problem first through social media. For example, hashtags, sharing stories, and even videos. We can correct ourselves to make sure we're doing the right thing and also start with our family and surroundings. Also try to get it incorporated through lessons in our schools can be a way."
- Azhane Bridges, School 304
"Make social media platforms and spread the word, visit schools to have discussions with other teens."
- Jaden Coronado, School 192
During the inaugural year of the 2019-2020 Scholars for Social Justice Program, the scholars engaged in a collaborative action research project with the support of Dr. Jevon Hunter, a professor at Buffalo State College. The scholars began by choosing an issue that impacts them and their fellow peers. They then researched the problem and gathered data through interviews and surveys, to brainstorm a list of possible solutions and strategies. To culminate their extensive work, the scholars presented their action research projects at the District's annual Urban Forum on March 10, 2020.