AMHERST, Mass. – The UMass Amherst College of Education has launched the Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research (CRJ). Placing Black and Brown youth at the center of racial and educational justice across all disciplines in education, CRJ was founded originally as an initiative by assistant professor of social justice education Jamila Lyiscott and assistant professor of teacher education and school improvement Keisha Green in 2019.
Today, the center brings together faculty, youth, educators and community partners around the burgeoning racial healing collective, global justice programming in Ghana and serves as the home of the highly regarded Equity & Excellence in Education journal.
During the period of the initiative, Lyiscott and Green received a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant to provide a study abroad experience in Ghana for 12 Black female educators from both local school districts and districts throughout the nation. In addition, the initiative partnered with local schools and communities around youth participatory action research and professional development, and sponsored the Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies and Teaching for Black Lives workshop series for educators, which culminated in an interactive keynote event featuring Dyan Watson and Wayne Au, two editors of the book, “Teaching for Black Lives.”
“The Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research reflects our mission as a college and university and we are so proud to announce its official launch. CRJ engages in important work to support racial justice in schools and communities, work which is vital to our success as a democratic society,” says Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin, dean of the College of Education.
With its new status as a center housed at the College of Education, CRJ will continue research and social action that contribute to intersectional liberation and tangible change across five areas of interlocking influence: racial equity, youth leadership, critical teacher education, fugitivity, and community engagement. CRJ is designed as a sacred space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and offers professional development, programs, scholarship, media, events and models for systemic change in education.
“Building a center in this America is essential. Racial justice is disrupting business as usual in order to amplify the voices, ways of being, and full humanity of BIPOC throughout our institutions, communities and the world,” says Green. “In a climate of anti-Blackness and racial violence, this kind of research agenda is especially critical now, as the academy needs to do more to address systemic, institutional, and interpersonal racism to better students' lives in and out of schools.”
“It’s time to abolish our educational systems as we know it and fight toward an education rooted in anti-racism and liberation for all!” adds Lyiscott. Both Lyiscott and Green look forward to a launch event, “Black at the Center,” to come in April 2021.
The UMass Amherst College of Education values diversity, community engagement, collaborative innovation, and social justice while preparing leaders who will improve education through their professional practice and research both locally and globally.