Chi-Hi Grads Create Change, One Story at a Time
social media-based social justice organization shares anonymous stories of discrimination, harassment in the Chippewa Valley
author & photographer by Rebecca Mennecke |
Creating change starts with sharing stories, and that’s the mission of a new social justice organization, Cultivative Coalition.
The organization is formed and founded by four recent Chippewa Falls Senior High School grads – Hazel Behling, Casaiya Keyser, Isabelle Spooner, and Tyana Loiselle – who aim to take their experiences of discrimination and harassment in Chippewa Falls and create opportunities for others to share their own experiences, through an anonymous submission form.
And the response has been overwhelming.
It's very much a culture of... 'what happens here, stays here.'"
“I often get called a savage, pocahontas, sacajawea, and redskin,” shared one person anonymously. “You aren’t born with racism, you learn it and excuse it.”
“I am catcalled, stalked on social media by boys, and harassed,” shared another. “I have been threatened to be raped or beaten … they just brush it off.”
“It broke my heart,” wrote another.
IT STARTS WITH ACCOUNTABILITY. THAT'S WHY WE TELL THESE STORIES.
“It’s hard on us to read a lot of these stories because nothing that we do can make that experience go away for that person or make that hurt go away,” said Behling, now a student at UW-Madison, “but I feel like our organization can hopefully work toward preventing it from happening to (others).”
Last June, in response to the murder of George Floyd, leaders of the org sent a petition to officials at Chi-Hi, urging the district to “show support for its Students of Color,” and have “complete transparency and accountability for both staff and students when addressing racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and sexism” as well as “incorporate more diverse and accurate history” and “be actively anti-racist.” The petition gathered over 100 signatures, including faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
YOU ARE MUCH STRONGER TOGETHER.
“It starts with accountability,” Loiselle said. “That’s why we tell all these stories.”
The organization has since expanded to be a social media-based educational and fundraising effort, which the founders hope will educate local folks who are stuck in what they call “The Chippewa Mindset.”
“It’s very much a culture of … ‘What happens here stays here,’ and they don’t take kindly to change,” Keyser said.
People aren't learning cultural humility.
“These things cannot be brushed over because it creates this atmosphere where people aren’t learning cultural humility,” Behling said, “and so they are therefore using derogatory terms and slang terms and they don’t see the harmful repercussions that those terms have.”
The organization seeks to be validating, sharing in mutual experiences and educating themselves – and others – on how to do better. “You are much stronger together,” Spooner said.
And, perhaps most importantly, they hope to encourage young people to speak up about their experiences and work to create change. However, Behling noted, “it’s like having another full-time job and not being paid for it.”
For more information on Cultivative Coalition, or to share your own experiences, visit facebook.com/cultivativecoalition.