The tradition of folk schools is one of empowering individuals through education in a tolerant and supportive community. This tradition compels us to speak out against racism. We value and support individual development as caring members of the community, and we cannot stay silent in the face of violence that is disproportionately leveraged by police and the legal system against Black and Indigenous People of Color across the United States and here in interior Alaska. We stand in solidarity with those demanding justice, and with those seeking societal change to redress the harms that systemic racism causes.
We commit to critically examining our own organization and how we do things, to better understand the ways we have failed to defy systemic racism in our own organization, and to find ways to be more active in defying and dismantling racism in our community. We know that actions are much more important than words, and we will add concrete and measurable goals to our strategic planning and annual reporting to hold ourselves accountable for turning words into actions that matter.
We acknowledge the irony of trying to achieve these goals while operating from a location named “Pioneer Park” located on the ancestral and unceded traditional territories of the lower Tanana Dene Peoples and the Dena’ina Peoples.
The Folk School is just one of many that have grown out of a 200 year old tradition to provide alternative learning opportunities through popular education, in which folk schools develop organically out of the needs of the community and the demands of life as it is. Folk schools were originally started as a way for people who weren’t privileged enough to be educated to have opportunities to obtain skills, put their hands to use, and strengthen their communities. All too often modern folk schools are the province of privilege and there are unmet needs in our community we should be meeting and “life as it is” demands more of us. We are looking at our classes, at our board, at our history, and at our structure to find ways to be more inclusive and to respond to the wants and needs of the community in Interior Alaska.
What we’ve done, what we plan to do
Moving to a location in central Fairbanks from the Goldstream Valley was one of the first steps we took to make our programming accessible to more of our community. This location allows us to be more easily reached by foot, bike, bus, or car, and gives us the opportunity to be reached by school field trips. Through generous donations, we have established a robust scholarship fund, and have been able to offer scholarship funds for classes lasting from a couple hours to a couple of weeks.
We know we need to do more.
- Critically assess how systemic racism manifests within our organization and commit to addressing inequality through our programming.
- Partner with community organizations that represent the diversity of our community to develop new programming.
- Actively seek to diversify our instructor pool, board of directors and staff.
- Seek funding that allows us to offer more programs to school groups at no cost to schools or students.
- Continue to build up and distribute our scholarship fund and actively advertise it to populations that would benefit from it.
We welcome input from our community on how we can improve. If you have comments, ideas or want to get involved, please contact us.