Sasha Ronaghi ‘20 may have just graduated from Sage Hill, but her education is not stopping there. She is the founder of The Anti-Racism Education Project, a virtual “book club” in which participants analyze anti-blackness through books, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and other media formats.
She posted on her Instagram story on May 31 asking if anyone wanted to join.
“I posted because I learn best from discussions and wanted to keep myself accountable to continuously educating myself. I only expected 15 responses, but 350 people signed up in less than 5 days,” Ronaghi said.
As of June 16, the ARE Project has more than 450 participants and 100 organizers from over 37 states and 16 countries.
“I believe there are a few reasons for our rapid growth: My generation’s recent push to educate ourselves on anti-blackness, the initial hesitation to protest due to COVID-19, and our increasing familiarity with virtual meetups after a quarter of online classes,” she said.
When the group first began, Ronaghi said she didn’t have a blueprint for what would happen next, but a participant survey helped determine things like meeting logistics and communication strategies.
“Our main goal is to make continuously educating ourselves feasible through approachable content. Since our club is global and the teaching of race differs by location, we don’t assume anyone’s knowledge of anti-blackness while selecting content,” Ronaghi said.
Each month, the club picks one theme and will choose a book, TV show episode, movie, podcast episode, article, and collection of poems centered around that theme.
“The majority of our content is produced by Black creators in an effort to amplify Black voices. If the work isn’t produced by a Black creator, we acknowledge it in our reflection and discussion questions,” Ronaghi said. “We also guarantee the content is accessible to people of all socio-economic levels by crowd-sourcing our resources (i.e. sharing Netflix accounts, library cards, college databases).”
The club even has a team that translates the content into other languages if a language barrier arises or a particular piece of media isn’t in English.
“We have four discussion-based ‘book club’ meetings a month, each at different times to accommodate all of our time zones (it is impossible for everybody to reasonably be awake at once, even by teenager standards),” Ronaghi said.
In addition to the book club meetings, the club has open discussions and speaker events, where they focus on topics outside the monthly theme to introduce new concepts and examine racism in their own lives.
Upcoming speakers include Hannah Flores, a 17-year-old Black Lives Matter activist and viral poet; Dr. Courtney Cogburn, an associate professor at Columbia University who studies the intersection of health and racism; Dr. Frank Wilderson, a professor at UC Irvine who first wrote about Afro-pessimism and has been a long-time worldwide civil rights activist; and Stevie Dub, a LA-transplant music artist who is starting anti-racism conversations in his predominantly white hometown.
With this project, Ronaghi said she has three main goals. One is for participants to continue educating themselves on anti-blackness, even after the headlines move on.
“It is a non-Black person’s duty to learn about the injustices the Black community face, considering the plethora of available resources. We also do not aim to educate those who do not want to be. Instead, I hope we give young people who want to learn the tools they need to step up in conversations and spread awareness in their communities,” she said.
Second, the group wants to amplify Black voices.
“Our speakers are all Black people who are advocating for change in different ways, from healthcare to poetry,” she said. “Our social media spotlights small Black creatives who aren’t typically featured elsewhere.”
Lastly, the group wants to become a platform for teenagers who want to take action, but aren’t sure how to do it or where to start.
“Our project is a testament to the power of social media and our generation’s willingness to learn and fight for positive change,” she said.