The Eastern Mennonite University Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) instructor behind a restorative justice pilot program for Richmond Public Schools (RPS) has led an “epic” life, says a July 2018 Richmond Magazine article.
Ram Bhagat is “a truth seeker and truth teller, forever trying to set the record straight,” Harry Kollatz Jr. writes in “A Guru for RPS?”
In those two roles – of truth seeker and truth teller – Bhagat has brought a collaborative spirit to EMU. He’s enrolled in the restorative justice in education graduate certificate program, but also has been an influential contributor to several of the university’s programs, bringing a unique synthesis of restorative justice, education, mindfulness and yoga practice, and racial trauma healing.
Bhagat provided keynote addresses and workshops at EMU’s 2018 SPI Community Day and this summer’s annual Restorative Justice in Education Academy for teachers, administrators and school staff, speaking about racial healing, leading guided meditation and drumming. [Scroll down to view a video of Bhagat and his son, Shyamuu, drumming with participants at SPI Community Day.]
Now the retired science teacher is developing a program to promote restorative education and intra-racial healing in Richmond Public Schools. The two-year initiative is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Initiative through Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities.
Called “Massive Resilience” – a recoining of the phrase used for the anti-integration “Massive Resistance” laws enacted in Virginia in the 1950s following the Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision – the initiative “is designed to provide students with powerful tools for self-awareness, stress resilience and self-healing,” Bhagat said.
Bhagat, who was named the 2016 Peacemaker of the Year by the Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC), told WCVE last fall that it will “require a massive effort … to counteract the effects of trauma and racially and economically segregated schools,” he said.
Drumming is frequently integral to Bhagat’s approach. In the early 1990s he co-founded Drums No Guns, which uses rhythm to build healing community.
“It doesn’t matter whether I’m at an underperforming school in Southeast D.C., or a gifted and talented school, or a Governor’s School, or Yale University or the streets of Richmond, or the streets of New Haven, Connecticut, D.C. or New York,” he told WCVE, “the drum has always been able to bring people together in a way that opens up the door to utilize restorative practices and trauma-informed practices and conflict resolution.”
An international conflict resolution trainer for RPEC, Bhagat has also provided vision and leadership to programs such as the Richmond Youth Peace Project, The Conciliation Project, Emotional Emancipation Circles, Healing and Rebuilding our Communities, and others.