STARR: Students Talking About Race and Racism
At the core of understanding is dialogue and compassion. We believe this is the way forward at NCCJ (North Carolina for Community and Justice). It’s important to us that our programs hold these elements as their foundation. We work with people across different sectors of our community, and recently, thanks to a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy High Point and in partnership with the YWCA-HP, we were able to host our STARR program with High Point students.
STARR stands for Students Talking About Race and Racism. Our staff and volunteers put together this NCCJ program in the summer of 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd and the onset of protests that followed. We held our first High Point STARR program just this past September and spent two days with 24 incredible high school students curious to be involved in these conversations.
Participants attended sessions about the history of race and racism in the United States and how the systems created centuries ago continue to impact our day to day. They discussed privilege and the different ways it manifests in our lives. We held space for self-reflection through various writing exercises to think about our identity and place in this world. We facilitated programs on cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions, and activism, and we even had local historian Phyllis Bridges facilitate a discussion based on her documentary, “A March on an All-American City,” which features interviews from participants in the High Point Sit-Ins in 1960. These two days were intense and packed with information but productive and empowering for both the participants and staff volunteers.
The impact of programs like STARR is not always immediately visible. In the short term, we often notice “light bulbs” going off in the room as students engage in difficult conversations. Over time, we also see the seeds planted by programs like STARR begin to sprout. Many students attending STARR remain involved with NCCJ to continue these conversations and become stronger community leaders.
One of our long-time volunteers often shares this reflection with our students: “Much like a plant, you must take care and water your social justice journey. This journey is neither linear nor easy; it takes time and attention, and if left forgotten, it will begin to dry and wilt, much like a plant does when neglected.”
Our hope with the STARR program is to plant seeds within our community, and as these seeds grow, they begin to spread. Students leave the program empowered and inspired to enact change in their communities, share the new lessons learned, and spread messages of hope. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to start this community of committed students in High Point, and we hope to continue to be a part of their social justice journey as they begin to plant seeds of their own.
Article by Ivan Canada, Executive Director, NCCJ
Photo by NCCJ