Week 17 of Sarah in AR

Over the years, I have often heard people say that racism doesn’t exist in the US anymore. I’ve heard them say that Trayvon Martin and so many others were not killed as acts of racism and that Black Americans are being “ungrateful, cry babies”.  I’ve heard them say that protest marches in the streets were too violent and then turn around and say that quietly kneeling during the national anthem is too unpatriotic and dishonoring to our armed forces, all the while holding the Boston Tea Party in the highest esteem. I’ve heard them say that monuments and flags honoring a system of complete oppression and ownership for the black population are fine because it’s our heritage. I’ve heard them say that the media is only presenting the liberal agenda when speaking of Black Lives Matter and that white privilege is a lie. I’ve heard them say, “Well, really All Lives Matter.”

I could talk about each of these statements individually for hours, but instead I would just like to share what I have seen and know to be true.

My friends have been called the N word while in public or walking down the street.

A McDonald’s employee was shocked that my white mom would want to give her white granddaughter a black doll.

A billboard here in Arkansas reads, “Diversity equals white genocide” and then gives the website for a “christian” radio station.

One of my students pointed to a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and said, “This man was great, and he wanted to end segregation, but then he died and it didn’t happen.” Looking past his lack of historical knowledge, this student was merely speaking of his experience because segregation, whether government enforced or due to systemic oppression, is still very much real.

Our robotics team spent this last Saturday in Mountain Home for the state competition and right outside of town was a house flying multiple confederate flags with swastikas in the center. They were then scared to use the restroom where we stopped because the truck outside was flying a confederate flag. I don’t care what you think of the confederate flag and it’s implications today, but no one, especially 7th grade students, should ever have to fear their safety because someone they have never met hates them for nothing they have done and without any knowledge of who they are other than the color of their skin.

And racism doesn’t just exist in rural, less educated America. Someone said to me that surely those things couldn’t happen in Houston–it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world! As if diversity automatically teaches people to love instead of providing them a target for their hate.

Even as I write about this, I don’t pretend that I will ever be able to fully understand what it is like to be a person of color. I won’t. I cannot begin to imagine the daily experience of my black friends. But instead of sitting aside and watching racism prosper, or sitting in my guilt of being a white person in a society that has systemically oppressed persons of color, I will fight to use my privilege to speak up when I can and always point to others who have experienced and therefore know far more than I do.

Racism exists. The killings of persons of color are acts of racist hate. Demanding rights and protection as US citizens does not make people of color ungrateful. Peaceful protest IS patriotic. The confederacy represents a time and a system that saw nothing wrong with the ownership and torture of people of color. I come from a place of privilege because of my skin color, and Black Lives Matter.

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Week 29 of Sarah in AR

During my first months in Helena, I called my parents almost every night and we repeated the same conversation every time. “Why am I here? This is too hard. I can’t do this.” Each time, my parents would respond with encouragement and love, and their message was always the same. “You are there for a reason, Sarah. You might not be able to see it yet, and it’s not going to be easy, but you have to decide if you are going to trust God and His purpose for you or keep pushing against that.”

I’m not going to even pretend that I magically started trusting and let go of my fears and frustrations, but all around me, I see so many moments that point to those conversations.

 

When a student opens up and reveals a part of their identity and trusts you to hold that and love them fully.

When you have hard conversations about loss.

When you try desperately to show someone their worth the way you know God knows and cherishes them.

When a student thanks you for seeing them and believing in them.

When you cry tears of joy hearing them share their utmost dreams and knowing they are strong and capable of accomplishing anything.

When you have the insane privilege of watching them become completely them.

When they realize you worry about them and that’s not such a bad thing.

When you realize how deeply you love a place and people you didn’t know existed a year ago.

 

These show me a purpose far greater than I could have ever hoped for or imagined.

Week 16 of Sarah in AR

One of the many things I have benefited from by working in an education environment is noticing and learning from the many incredible educators all around the world. I recently read about some projects that teachers around the country are fundraising for. One project really intrigued me and I decided to do with some of my students! This teacher was raising money through DonorsChoose to get paint and other supplies so that her students could paint portraits of the dogs at the shelter that need adopting. They then donated these portraits to the Humane Society in their town. Here in Helena, we have a Humane Society, but it is run entirely by some incredibly devoted and hardworking women and is funded solely through donations, so I felt like this would be the perfect project for my students. They each chose which dog they wanted to depict and then chose the style and the medium they would use. It has been such a fun process and we can’t wait to give them to the Humane Society!

 

 

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Week 14 of Sarah in AR

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here in Helena, getting projects done and fundraisers going! We fully funded our DonorsChoose campaign to get supplies for a printmaking project. Printmaking was my favorite class in college and I am so so excited for our students to learn how to carve and print wood blocks. The coolest part about this second nine weeks has been getting to see our students come out of their shells a little bit and really expressing their personalities in their art and community projects. One student in particular is Eukevia. Seeing her artistic abilities and creative style expand has been so fun. Here she is with her latest art piece done in watercolor.

Week 11 of Sarah in AR

For this week’s student profile, I would like to introduce you to Torri! Torri is a junior here at Central High School, and he is in our EAST program. Torri has an infectious energy and always has a smile on his face. His favorite subject is Math, but his dream is to go to culinary school and become a chef. Other than staying busy all the time, Torri loves spending time with his dogs, King and Precious Moo (who his mom named because she’s black and white like a cow)! Yay, Torri, we are so excited to work with you this year!

 

Week 10 of Sarah in AR

Word travels fast in a small town. On Thursday evening, my dad was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke. Living 10 hours away, there was little I could do at the time besides sit, pray, and wait to hear news. I eventually flew home to Houston on Friday to be with my entire family, but over the weekend, I received so many thoughtful notes from the community here in Helena wishing us well and praying for us. My wonderful bosses and co-workers, who are all really more friends, even sent an awesome gift basket with snacks, because who doesn’t always love snacks? All of this really showed me what an incredible group of people live here and that I get to work with day to day!

Week 9 of Sarah in AR

For my second student profile, I want to introduce Danny. Danny is one of my students in the EAST class, and like Adam, he is working on the little free pantry project. Danny plans to attend UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Science) after graduating in order to pursue a career in the medical field. He really loves to get out and walk or run and is part of the Central Track&Field team. For his EAST project, he is most looking forward to seeing the impact it has on the community. Last week was senior dress up day, and Danny really took advantage and put a lit of effort into his wardrobe choice!

 

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