Note from the Editor: This is an article in a series called "Wethersfield Heroes," where our students work to highlight and honor those in our community going above and beyond amidst the tumultuous year. If you know someone that you would like to nominate as a Wethersfield Hero, please contact Mr. Martin at email@example.com.
by: Samara Irizzary and Shanelle Lewis
Social justice promotes equity and balance in many spaces of society, including the Wethersfield community. When talking about social justice in education, we aim for equal distribution of resources and make all individuals feel guarded and secure.
A push for social justice reform can’t be done by a single person, but by a population, which would require the conscious work of everyone in our town.
A member of the community stands out when it comes to these societal issues. Pamela Jones, a first grade educator at Emerson Williams, has been a part of the community for 24 years to realize that there needed to be a demand for change.
Mrs. Jones was asked what made her want to become an advocate for social justice reform and she explained, “When I started teaching 24 years ago, Wethersfield’s racial makeup was far less diverse than it is today. There were far less children/families of color in our schools. The makeup of the staff, the content of the curriculum, and the books on the shelves closely mirrored the children in the classrooms.”
Years after she had made this observation, more children of color were prominent in the Wethersfield community, but the makeup of staff members, the content of the curriculum, as well as the books on the shelves, remained the same.
The learning environment in Wethersfield, as well as the racial climate in our country following the murder of George Floyd, ignited a spark in her to be an advocate for the children and families in the community whose voices are silenced rather than amplified.
Jones took the necessary steps to help marginalized groups that are affected by these factors. She noticed that there was a problem and thought about the impact she could make by long term changes in the space she works in on a daily basis.
“I did small things in my classroom to make everyone feel loved, respected and included. Some examples of these changes include purchasing multicultural books and other diverse resources, celebrating the diversity of the children in my class by inviting their families in to teach children about the clothes, food, language, dance, etc. of their cultures,” she said.
Her work as an educator for the younger generation also involved incorporating the diverse history of people of color. She wrote a musical about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. which was later shared with her students. They then performed the musical for their parents and the entire student body.
Furthermore, Mrs. Jones is also a member of the newly formed Courageous Conversation Committee at Emerson Williams as well as the Steering Committee for the townwide Social Justice Coalition, both committees that help make change within the community.
“Every person in the community is important. Every voice should be heard. Every opinion should be considered. Every person should be seen. Every culture should be celebrated. Every race should be respected. When a community marginalized groups of people intentionally or unintentionally by not respecting, hearing, or understanding them, it sends a clear message that they are not welcomed or wanted there.”
Social justice means the people of color in Wethersfield, and anywhere really, would have an equal social, political and economic status to their white counterparts. Because of our town's overwhelmingly white history, we fall behind more diverse towns when it comes to addressing these issues. However, Mrs. Jones believes that the community is taking a gigantic step in the right direction to make social justice and inequity a priority in all spaces involving marginalized and/or ostracized groups.
Pamela Jones is an outstanding member and educator of the community for her astounding efforts for social justice reform. She highlights what it means to be an advocate in support for change in a large environment that lacks inequity. She continues to create safe space for children of color and helps amplify their voice through education and cultural learning.
Whilst Pamela has been making great efforts for change, others can also advocate for social justice in the community.
She responded to this idea with, “When you see something, say something! If you see someone being treated unfairly, do not just stand idly by watching. Speak up. If you don’t know what to say, saying something is better than remaining silent. Another thing that can be done is to talk to people who are different than you. Listen to their stories. Believe their truths. Try to seek understanding. Finally, educate themselves. Read books on social justice. Watch documentaries. Research the topic.”
These are just a few ways to better improve how we can amplify the voices of people of color.
“In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘When you know better, you do better.’”
Written, edited, and produced by Wethersfield High School students, covering all news and events.