By Eve Nevelos, Editorial Staff ‘24
FLOW Forward (FF) hopes to “bring systemic change and greater attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Franklin Lakes, Oakland, & Wyckoff (FLOW) education systems.” FF works to bring equality- or equity when necessary- to all students and staff regarding race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and all identities.
FLOW Forward emerged on social media (@flow_forward) and on their website (flow-forward.org) in August of 2020. The group has worked to promote equity and equality in the district on Instagram, encouraging their followers to stay up-to-date with Board of Education meetings, express their individuality, voice their opinions, and stand up for their peers over the past 4 months. They have collaborated with RIH clubs and staff members, interviewed students and school leaders, and hosted events alongside current RIH students.
When asked how FF originated, they responded, “One group of IHHS alum were working on theatre reform, a group of Ramapo alumni were working on curriculum reform, and a group of past and current RIH students were working on an initiative that detailed students of colors’ experiences and stories with racism in the district. […] we wanted to formalize our work and create an official organization with a name, mission statement, goals, social media, and more.” Essentially, formerly independent groups working for change banded together into the one singular group now known as FLOW Forward shortly after the Black Lives Matter movement began to pick up traction nationally. This movement impacted the foundation of FF and drove public interest in the group.
Additionally, FLOW Forward claims, “All three groups started because we saw no acknowledgment from our district about systemic racism in our country that seemed to be getting addressed everywhere else in society. As we started speaking up, we began collecting stories and experiences from students of various marginalized identities.” Sometimes, putting a story to a motto is what makes it a movement; FLOW Forward has found this.
They express, “FLOW Forward exists because of the students and FLOW community members who made themselves so vulnerable and shared their stories.” These stories can now be found on FLOW Forward’s Instagram page and website. The stories aim to move members of the community in support of their BIPOC peers. “High school is already difficult enough,” FF remarked, “so when you hear and read about all the additional pressures that come with being a minority student, you have to start speaking up. These stories and experiences have always been here—people just haven’t been listening.”
Though strives toward diversity, equity, and inclusion have been made by the FLOW school districts, students, and staff in support of the FF movement have been demanding better. For example, many alumni, staff, and students are asking for a repeal of the “colorblind” idea- the notion that everybody should be treated equally regardless of race. Being “colorblind” ignores the income gaps, health discrepancies, and cultural differences of students and staff members, creating even more of a gap between white people and people of color. Read more about “colorblindness” on FLOW Forward’s Instagram page and website.
FLOW Forward suggests that “Students in the FLOW district can get involved by checking out, following, and engaging with our social media pages as well as by signing our petition and spreading the word about FLOW Forward!” They also recommend that all students and staff visit the “How We’re Learning” portion of their website to be better-informed community members.