Guest Post by Brianna Buford | DukeEngage Boston
Whenever I previously thought about the ethics of service, I usually only did so in the context of international travel without realizing the extreme culture and history differences that exist within the United States, my own country. Just how more damage than progress can occur during international service trips if the people who partake are not conscious of the existing culture, the same is possible with domestic service trips. Therefore, as an outsider, I knew more than anything that I needed to approach this internship as a learning experience, rather than with the mindset of me going in to help.
As someone who is very passionate about issues in education and the overwhelming problem of education inequality in this country, it is important for me to know that in order to “serve” within this sphere, I first and foremost need to listen and learn.
For my DukeEngage Boston internship, I have had the opportunity to work for and with 826 Boston, a nonprofit organization that provides writing-tutoring for students and empowers them to tell their stories through published books. 826 Boston is located in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a predominantly Black and Brown neighborhood within the city of Boston. Through many conversations with my supervisor and observations during my time working with students in schools during the first two weeks, I slowly began to realize why Boston, to this day, is known for being one of the most segregated cities in the United States. This extreme segregation translates to pretty much every aspect of people’s lives including the public transportation system, upon which many rely, with the best and nicest train lines serving the whitest areas and populations in Boston. With this examination of the current status of the city came, an equally important need for an examination of Boston’s history of racial inequality and the ways this transformed their education system. As a result of this newfound knowledge, I understood more about the way the Boston Public School system is structured and some of the issues currently facing its students, teachers, and parents.
Due to the work I have done with this organization, I am able to appreciate the city of Boston in a way I do not think would have been possible had I been placed at a different non-profit. Boston is a beautiful city with a complicated history concerning race and education that I needed to absorb while working here and engaging with the community. So, through this, I have come to the conclusion that I am here in Boston to soak up all the information and stories that I can, realizing that the city is giving me much more than I could ever give back to it. As someone who is very passionate about issues in education and the overwhelming problem of education inequality in this country, it is important for me to know that in order to “serve” within this sphere, I first and foremost need to listen and learn.