Anti-Racism Organizing in the Suburbs (AROS)
Anti-Racism Organizing in the Suburbs (AROS) is a project of Community Change Inc (CCI). This project is rooted in the critical mass of suburban people who want to take collective action to dismantle white supremacy. The project’s goal is to help white people in the suburbs take action to dismantle white supremacy and participate in the larger struggle for collective liberation.
The initial AROS project was a joint collaboration with Winchester Multicultural Network. The objective was to co-host a convening to create a “network” to coordinate actions, activities and develop an infrastructure that supports racial justice work in that region.
On April 28th, 2018 over a hundred people from predominantly white suburban communities North of Boston participated in the first convening of groups doing anti-racism organizing work in the suburbs (AROS) at Melrose First United Methodist Church on Saturday, April 28th. The goals of the gathering were to create greater capacity for movement building, improve alignment for joint campaigns, and strengthen shared resources for effecting systemic change in suburban communities. Organized by local residents committed to doing antiracist work and staff by Community Change, Inc. and the Winchester Multicultural Network (WMCN), the day’s events included a keynote by the well-known organizer and author George Lakey and workshops on a variety of topics highlighting systemic racism and inequity.
George Lakey challenged the crowd to think critically about how to leverage the current political polarization in our country as a positive force for change, reminding everyone that “to bend iron, the blacksmith must first make it volatile.” He emphasized the need for sustained campaigns that include both economic and racial justice to create long-lasting generational change. Local organizers included Claudia Fox Tree leading a workshop on eliminating harmful Native American stereotypes, Atara Rich-Shea, Director of Operations with the Mass Bail Fund, and organizer Martin Henson from Black Lives Matter Boston sharing how to support the current Deeper Than Water campaign demanding the immediate provision of clean, safe, free, healthy water to prisoners affected by contaminated water. Other topics covered included: affordable housing, white people’s role in challenging white supremacy, street outreach in white communities, and building successful local campaigns.
In August-October 2020, AROS, in collaboration with the Network for Social Justice, offered a 6 part virtual series for suburban activists. The program addressed core definitions and concepts of anti-racism, exploration of whiteness and white supremacy, communication skills, social movement theory, power mapping, and action planning. The program was so popular that two successful cohorts were offered, including almost 50 people committed to working for racial justice in their communities