BRAVE bridges the gap between activist groups

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GRAPHIC BY LIA FOX

Since its founding, BRAVE has been able to unify the different efforts of local activist groups.

While countless activist groups in Brookline have been formed to combat different racial issues persistent in the community, only recently has one been established to unite them all.

Brookline Racial Activists Valuing Equality (BRAVE) was planned by two seniors, Rohan Narasimhan and Rowan Roudebush, in February of 2020 and started to meet at the end of 2020. The group focuses on breaking the barrier between activist groups at the school and helps them work together to combat racism in Brookline.

Each meeting of BRAVE has representatives from the student body, parents, teachers, and administration in Brookline. The goal of the group is to ensure that all perspectives are considered while addressing issues that impact the town and school community.

Narasimhan said the course called Racial Awareness Seminar he took in his sophomore year helped inspire him to create the group alongside Roudebush.

“I took the class and it was just such an enjoyment for me; I felt motivated to enter the classroom and learn. It opened my eyes to understand what’s not equitable in our town, in the United States, and in the world,” Narasimhan said.

METCO Coordinator and teacher of African-American Studies, Malcolm Cawthorne, is an active member of the group and said the work is something that Brookline needs. He said he had been thinking for a long time that it would be good for the town to have a centralized group where activists can come together and collaborate.

“There’s a lot of activism in Brookline, and they’re all super specific and targeted. Because of that, it’s hard to see the overlap unless somebody else points it to you. And because they are all specific it is hard to actually get access to someone who can say, ‘Hey, you two are actually working on really similar causes. You should work together,’” Cawthorne said.

Senior Lilia Burtonpatel is a member of the group and serves as a representative from the Asian Pacific American Club (APAC). She talks to BRAVE about what APAC is doing and helps mesh together both groups’ social justice projects so they are able to reach more people.

“​​What we’ve done so far, and what we plan to do through working with BRAVE, is be able to tell everyone what we’re working on. One of the major things APAC is working on currently is trying to change the curriculum to be more inclusive, specifically related to AAPI history and representation. Being able to be in BRAVE and being able to tell people in the school administration what we’re working on is really helpful,” Burtonpatel said.

Narasimhan said one of the best aspects of BRAVE is their large group meetings where they collaborate to work on and unify these projects.

“We discuss the plans we have and have a community update. That’s when it is good to have representatives from each group to share what that group is doing. It really helps to get a sense of the activism as a town. So instead of having to hear from multiple people, you have one big network,” Narasimhan said.

Currently, BRAVE is also working with Students Fighting Institutionalized Racism (SAIR) to look at course leveling and examine the racial disparities related to it. Cawthorne said that the work that BRAVE is doing in conjunction with SAIR will positively impact the community.

“We’ve created some systems that have real flaws, and I think one of the best things is we’ve also developed some things to try and combat these systems. What would changing the courses mean? I don’t have an answer for that. I think is pursuing a good idea worth exploring,” Cawthorne said.

Burtonpatel said that her favorite aspect about BRAVE is the opportunity it provides to bring people involved in the activist world together, as one person or group can only enact so much change by themself.

“It’s really hard to make change even if you have so many pockets of people who really care and are really making a difference in many different communities when they’re doing it separately,” Burtonpatel said. “But if you’re actually able to connect those people and then connect those activists with people that are part of the town and people that are part of the administration, that’s when you actually get to have a more streamline connection of having change.”

As for the end goal, Narasimhan said BRAVE aims to make the Public Schools of Brookline more equitable and close the opportunity gap for people of color. So far, he said that having the opportunity for everyone to meet has inspired him the most.

“Our first meeting was all on Zoom. But it was a full Zoom box with 25 people. When I think about the amount of important people and each one’s diverse perspective, it’s amazing,” Narasimhan said. “Each person carries so much weight from whichever specific field they are in. The fact that we’ve met together and just being able to be in a group with all those people is probably the most inspiring thing for me.”