Building Harmonies is a youth-led program started in March 2006 by Tess Domb Sadof and Joshua Wolfsun (both 12 at the time), to provide opportunities for local youth performers, artists and writers to work together to support and organize around social justice issues. Our group’s first project, to raise money for a program in New Orleans called “Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools” (or Rethink) culminated in a benefit concert held on 9/17/2006 at the Amherst Regional Middle School, considerable media attention (both locally and in New Orleans), and many opportunities for educating the community about the power of young people to make a difference. Aside from raising over $11,000 for “Rethink,” Building Harmonies brought together over 30 local youth performers to produce the concert, raise money, and host four young people from the Rethink program in New Orleans to come and speak about their organizing work. Since then, Building Harmonies musicians, singers and dancers have gone on to: speak, perform and lead a workshop at the Northampton Martin Luther King conference in January 2007; perform in a wide variety of settings to raise awareness about social justice issues; and work with Leverett and Amherst schools to raise additional money for Rethink. Several Building Harmonies youth have also traveled to New Orleans to help with rebuilding efforts. In July 2007, Building Harmonies partnered with Journey Camp to host a three-day youth leadership training (called Harmony Camp) in Deerfield from July 2-4 for middle schoolers. Rethink youth from New Orleans were featured guests and youth trainers at the event, which also included an adult youth worker from Africa. To date, Building Harmonies has raised over $14,700.
We are currently focused on a new project, dubbed END (Education, Not Discipline), which is working to end zero tolerance policies and improve the learning environment at the Amherst Regional Middle School. END is supported by a grant from RESIST, Inc., a national progressive foundation located in Somerville, MA.
Building Harmonies is sponsored by Spirit in Action, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all contributions and grants to Building Harmonies are tax deductible. For more information, please see samples of some of our news coverage:
Sturm, Tom, “Students Helping Students to Fix New Orleans Schools,” WireTap,
Posted on September 26, 2006, Printed on October 6, 2006
Shuryan, Heather, “Youth gather together to tackle social problems,” Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton MA), 7/9/2007
Rethinkers Speak at the Building Harmonies Concert, 9/17/2006
City of New Orleans, 9/17/2006
For information about Rethink, go to: http://www.therethinkers.com/