A group of eighth graders from Burley Middle School in Albemarle County raised $ 500 this year for an organization working to reduce the number of gunfights in Charlottesville.
The students are part of a new club founded by consultant Andrew Davis called the Social Justice Club.
The idea behind the club was initially to give interested students a space to talk about race and other social issues. But after several months of meetings, the children decided to do more than just talk.
“We talked about different issues of race, about stereotypes, about institutional racism and its presence in schools,” said Ingrid Flaherty, one of the four main members of the group. “And finally we started to think about what happens if we stop talking and start doing something. So we talked about what we can do to help the people in the church. That’s how we started our fundraising campaign. “
Before they could get started, the group had to decide where to donate the money they raised.
They wanted to find an organization that would make a difference in a disadvantaged community. They threw around a few ideas, then Davis came across one Article in Charlottesville tomorrow about a new group working to reduce the shootings in the city’s black community.
The article contained the story of a Burley student, Claude Booker Jr., who witnessed an ambush shooting right outside his front door.
“When I saw that you had recorded excerpts from Claud, it seemed perfect,” Davis said to Charlottesville tomorrow.
The group called BUCK Squad, Brothers United, to stop the killing began in January in response to an alarming increase in shootings and murders in the local black community. It is made up of native blacks, mostly men, many of whom were once violent themselves.
These life-changed men are now acting as mediators, working to interrupt conflict in their community before it turns violent.
“One of the things I wanted to highlight with this fundraiser was why it was so valuable because we turned the people in a community into experts in their community as opposed to outside people who went into a community trying to fix something, “said Davis.
The students agreed. They designed posters saying “Everyone is welcome” and offered them for sale to teachers and other people in their school.
They sold quickly.
“When we got the first responses to the Google form, I screamed,” said club member Charlotte Sargent. “I jumped up and down. It was so exciting that we had worked on it for months and could finally do something with it. “
After receiving the students’ donation, the leaders of the BUCK team met with them through Zoom to discuss their group and their work.
“I found it really fascinating that they were literally risking their lives,” said Leen Nouri, who was the club’s first member and who came up with his name. “It’s a charitable cause, they only did this to protect the community. That really got me motivated, you know? “
“Yeah, it was really inspiring,” continued Flaherty. “They said they were the people who had guns in their hands earlier in their lives and that they had returned to the community to try to stop the violence that was happening.”
After the money has been collected and the donation made, all students are now determined to collect donations for a good cause again.
However, whether they do this through the Social Justice Club or some other group is unclear. With the fundraiser closed and the year almost over, the future of the Social Justice Club is in the air. The four senior high school students who regularly attend will all be going to high school next year.
Members are working to recruit younger students to continue their work for the next year. They are also looking at ways to expand the club to other schools in the district.
“I feel like my whole job here is to raise their voices,” said Davis. “So if that’s something you want to do, I’ll work hard to make it happen.”