Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were the names of two unarmed Black men killed by police at the heart of a Black Lives Matter meeting held in Newton in 2016. There, three Newton moms from different races, religions and ethnic backgrounds came together and started to plan.
Amy Behrens, Erica Streit-Kaplan, and Vineeta Vijayaraghavan wanted to find a way to engage families in the work of racial justice.
They looked for curricula to utilize or groups to join, but found that most racial justice programs catered either only to children or only to adults. In the absence of any family-oriented programs, they decided to create something of their own and they called it Families Organizing for Racial Justice, FORJ.
Their hope, that FORJ would unite like-minded families who wanted to improve their community, has been realized and FORJ has become a defining point of connection, antiracist advocacy and learning in Newton.
In 2016, FORJ held the very first meeting and it was clear from the diverse races, religions and backgrounds of the adults and children in attendance, that there was a deep yearning to learn and grow together.
Shortly thereafter, FORJ invited parents attending a Newton Public Schools event called “Talking to Kids About Race: Why and How?” to join a mailing list for future meetings. By the fall of 2017, we launched a formal partnership with NPS funding a School Coordinator to support parent groups throughout the district. Parents became enthusiastic students, learning to navigate the deeply complex racial landscape that exists in our country and in our own backyards and how to be actively anti-racist.
In 2020, the Board of Directors registered FORJ as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit and we are pleased that in the years since its inception, FORJ has evolved into a thriving, city-wide community organization.