What is the Stolen Joy Project?
Our public school system is rooted in white supremacy and institutionalized racism. This project is an opportunity for people of color to tell their stories of a time when their joy was stolen by the oppressive hand of an educational system designed to oppress. To support this project, click the pictures on the left or follow @stolenjoyproject on instagram for the most recent stories and consider donating.
If you have a story to tell, email us at email@example.com.
I was in 10th grade on the basketball team; one of three Black JV players on the team. Some of my teammates were in the locker room before practice one day talking about my ability to play basketball and how I had “too much attitude.” They only ever said that about the Black girls on the team. I went to the proper higher up, and they did nothing in regard to the situation. I quit the team and stopped pursuing my basketball dreams.
I remember the first time I knew school wasn’t for me. I was little, like first or second grade, and my friend and I decided just to walk out of school and go home. We climbed trees on the playground for a little while, and then we just left. No one came after us. No one said anything. That’s when I realized they probably didn’t want us there in the first place.
I didn’t even really have a school to go to after the 8th grade. I was in and out of institutions so often that people just stopped enrolling me in school, and eventually I got my GED in jail when I was 16. When I came out, everyone I knew was still in school, so I tried to register so I had something to do. They said that wasn’t allowed, and before I knew it, I was locked up again. I guess it’s always seemed like I belonged more here than in school, and so here I am. Still.
I would bring it back early years, not even knowing it personally but listening to the stories my parents told me. It was kindergarten and fourth grade; those teachers weren’t feeling me and my learning style. In kindergarten, my parents were faced with the challenge of whether I should have been tested or not because they said I was a “complicated thinker”. My teacher said that I was going slower than most kids, especially in reading and that she was seeing things that gave her this idea of me needing to be tested. My parents were very skeptical based on how special ed. was being operated historically
As a graduate student, when I went to Michigan State I was starting a family and working on my PhD. I remember during the first semester I gave birth. During the second semester, I had written this paper and it was not that great and there was one of my white male professors who I had a conversation with essentially was very blunt as basically asked me how I had got here, as in how I got to the point of obtaining my PhD, challenging my ability to write. Without knowing this was like a kindergarten and fourth grade moment all over again. There’s a way that someone can deliver this idea that you are worthless or incapable and in that moment I needed to rework what had been said because there’s a part of me that began to believe it.
In middle school, a white kid was banging on the table distracting me. I asked him politely to stop. He continued making noise. I called him a “dumbass” and he said “shut up nigger.” It made me feel awful.
Coming Soon… The Stolen Joy Movie
Along with our efforts to share and amplify the experiences of students of color through our formal instagram @stolenjoyproject, we are creating a film that reenacts stories of stolen joy. Featuring local actors, the film will recount painful experiences of feeling unwelcome, isolated, and pushed out of public school because of larger oppressive, racist systems.
While this is only a trailer, we hope that the entire film will become an educational resource to any interested schools. If you have a story to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.