Jaanaki Radhakrishnan

2021 - MICHIGAN

Jaanaki Radhakrishnan is a junior at Bloomfield Hills High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where she serves as head of the district's Student Equity Council. After transferring to BHHS as a sophomore, Jaanaki observed a need for significant improvement in the district's racial climate. With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, Jaanaki banded together with fellow students to demand her district implement change. They authored an anti-racism resolution which was adopted by the board of education. Jaanaki then co-founded SEC to promote equity and justice in the district. The council has facilitated racial justice discussions and training for staff and the school community; created equity-based teaching guides; planned the district's Black History Month programming; and presented at the national Kevin's Song Conference on the importance of equity in education. Future plans involve expanding community programming; creating a staff anti-racism training program; prioritizing racial justice and equity in primary education; and revising the district's racial harassment policy while introducing a restorative justice-based response plan. Next year Jaanaki will lead an independent study to institutionalize and expand the council. While SEC’s work has been extremely well-received by the community, beyond its direct impact, the council serves as a vital refuge for students of color in a predominantly white district. Outside of Bloomfield, Jaanaki is an active community organizer in the Detroit area. She is a member of Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan through which she has led a number of racial justice initiatives. She co-organized several BLM protests and a mural initiative, and works to combat environmental racism with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. She continues her education justice work by volunteering as a literacy coach for ESL students and acting as an advocate for school abolition. Jaanaki views her activism not only as service, but also a tool of survival. She maintains that the organizing world has given her infinitely more than she has given it, and is eternally grateful to her partners in this work and the communities that built and support her.