Meet Arisleidy Fuchu! A founding member of our East Harlem Scholars Academy High School, Fuchu manages its Restorative Justice Program — which puts the school’s philosophy of “Love. Liberate. Heal” into practice. The concept of restorative justice may be new to some, so Fuchu breaks it down in the final installment of our Latinx Heritage Month blog series:
“Restorative justice invites everyone to develop a shared understanding of both the root causes and the effects of a conflict. It seeks to address the needs of those who have been harmed, while encouraging those who have caused harm to take responsibility,” she explains. While schools traditionally have handled “bad” behavior with some type of punishment, “restorative justice emphasizes the capacity of all people for healing, growth, and transformation through accountability, self-determination, and interconnection.”
Fuchu says her identity as an Afro-Dominican woman informs her work. “I grew up often hearing the word ‘no,’ with very few ‘yeses.’ My accent was too thick for debate class in 4th grade. Since Spanish was my first language, it was assumed I could not produce an essay on par with my peers. But I had parents who advocated and fought for me and my siblings to be treated with respect. They taught me the power of ‘yes’ without making apologies for who I am.”
And this is exactly what she wants for her students. “I want our scholars to know the power of ‘yes,’ of being loved for who they are. The power of forgiveness, compassion, humility, strength. The power of visibility and knowledge, to stand in their truth and light.”
Fuchu’s goal is to create a space where students feel heard and respected. “I think it is important to remember that these are kids and they will make mistakes. The idea is to always have a reset — a new beginning where they are not judged by their past, but by how they choose to show up.” If Love. Liberate. Heal is at the core of our anti-racism framework, she notes, it is up to the school leadership to demonstrate what this looks, feels and sounds like.
It is in doing so, says Fuchu, that we can challenge the status quo. “We cannot educate from a place of mediocrity,” she says. “We have to believe that our scholars deserve more because of their humanity. No one has the right to take that from them.” If education is our liberating tool, she says, “then it is the way to uphold, uplift and love the people they choose to be.”
For her, this parallels the significance of Latinx Heritage Month. “It is a celebration of my heritage, my people, our struggle. It is a recognition of the historical triumphs and obstacles we have overcome as people. … It is a celebration of the beauty, the complexity — an honoring of nuestra gente y cultural.”
She adds, “I was raised with a deep pride in my culture and my people. In Latinx culture there is a song for everything — we are people who love and thrive through the rhythm of our music. There is nothing like mami’s sazon to make me happy. I bring to work my love of music, my warmth, my laughter, my deep sense of social justice — all to ensure that our scholars are respected and loved.”