After George Floyd, 46, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on camera, Arianna Chetram, 20, knew what she needed to do to fight for equality.
She founded PWR N NOISE in early June to inspire change in small communities, including her hometown of Oyster Bay. The non-for-profit organization, which Chetram is the president of, works to promote equal opportunity in education.
“After George Floyd was killed, I saw this shift; everyone was listening,” Chetram said. “I thought now is the chance while everyone is resonating to start something in Long Island.”
Chetram, a student at Pace University, has long volunteered for causes she believes in. She said she became focused on education when she was researching existing issues on the Island. According to ERASE Racism NY, despite an increase of Long Island student diversity, school segregation is on the rise. More Black and Hispanic students attend segregated schools than 12 years ago, the organization said.
“A lot of kids start off in school and it’s just this huge divide that no one really talks about; it’s like this elephant in the room,” Chetram, an Oyster Bay High School graduate, said. “I just thought that it would be an opportunity to talk about this now with everyone listening.”
With an organization that is less than two months old, Chetram, on behalf of PWR N NOISE, has been attending almost weekly Black Lives Matter rallies outside Oyster Bay Town Hall with her family.
The rallies have been an opportunity for many, including local activist Hope Taglich, 21, to speak about their observations and experiences of inequality.
Arianna’s father, Ravin Chetram, is vice president of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce and a Black Lives Matter activist. Arianna’s family and other local activists and friends have helped her spray-paint the PWR N NOISE logo, which depicts a fist holding a microphone, onto T-shirts.
Chetram said it’s a comfort to have family and fellow residents with the same moral code and passion for change.
“I’m proud of her. I’ve been helping her with little things, but she’s been doing a lot on her own,” Ravin said. “My son helps her, my wife prints stuff, but that’s all her.”
Arianna has discussed the state of education on Long Island with parents, teachers and school officials across different communities to provide more opportunities for young people.
“Arianna is a strong, determined young woman whose efforts to raise consciousness and awareness of social injustice during these challenging times is a source of pride and admiration,” Dr. Laura Seinfeld, the Oyster Bay–East Norwich School District superintendent, said. “We have seen her blossom into a strong leader with passion and conviction, and her work to provide equal opportunities for all children is a shining example of making a difference that all her peers should emulate.”
She said she hopes to meet with OBEN district officials to pitch a student organization that would raise money for scholarships for students of color and the LGBTQIA+ community. She also hopes to raise money to bring in authors and business people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community to speak to the students.
“We’re obviously not trying to leave anyone out, as some people may see it as, but rather give more opportunities to these kids to continue their dreams like everyone else,” Chetram said.
She also wants to work with the school district’s English Language Arts and History Department, she said, to bring more inclusive education to the district. PWR N NOISE would bring in lists and ideas for course requirements to the OBEN Board of Education to include books from authors of color and the LGTBQIA+ community and to prevent history that is taught from being watered down or misrepresented.
The Chetrams, along with other local families, believe the culture and the curriculum of the district, at times, portrays people of color in a negative light. And Arianna, with PWR N NOISE, is hoping to change that.
“It was terrible how I was raised to kind of hate myself in a way, hate my family in a way,” Chetram said. “My friends were taught the same thing. Once everyone left and went to college and started actually learning about some things and their culture’s heritage, it helped so much. I felt like I found people that wanted me to be me.”