Dr. Ram Bhagat is a longtime educator, arts innovator, and peacebuilder who has been teaching and transforming communities for 35 years. Dr. Bhagat is committed to healing trauma in classrooms, schools, and communities. Ram is an international conflict resolution trainer. He is an expert in culturally responsive circles, specialist in arts integration, certified in restorative justice, trauma awareness & resilience, and yoga & mindfulness.
In the early 90s, Ram co-founded Drums No Guns, a world percussion ensemble to engage youth in “healing community with rhythm.” The Drums No Guns, Foundation continues to work nationally with youth traumatized by gun violence, using drumming, dance, drama and culturally-responsive artfulness practices. Dr. Ram employs yoga & contemplative practices, peacemaking circles, and junk-yard jam percussion workshops to create a sense of balance in diverse learning environments.
Areas of Focus
Dr. Bhagat co-founded the Richmond Youth Peace Project (RYPP) in 2004 following the murders of two local high school students. RYPP, a collaboration between Drums No Guns and Richmond Peace Education Center, encourages young people to learn conflict resolution techniques and express themselves creatively, to reduce the level of violence in central Virginia.
Ram co-founded Drums No Guns to inspire people of all backgrounds to challenge gun violence. His deep commitment to the prevention of gun violence, and to the social emotional health of African American and Latino adolescents, is rooted in the tragic gun death of his younger brother.
“The drum lifts us,” he has said. “The drum connects us; the drum is a powerful force… I use the drum to unite people of all ages, of all races.”
Creativity flourishes in classrooms and after school programs where arts play an essential role. For example, learning the rhythm of chemical bonding through Salsa and Capoeira or interpreting “The Trail of Enslaved Africans” through drumming, dance, drama, and digital storytelling, Arts Integration generates divergent, wholistic, and cooperative thinking. According to Dr. Bhagat, an innovator in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics movement (STEAM) and graduate of the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program, “students are empowered to connect with the essence of their humanity.“
Restorative Justice in education
Structural barriers have replaced more blatant racial obstacles since the Brown v Board of Education decision. However, students of color are still exposed to intensely segregated schools and subjected to disproportional school discipline practices. Restorative Justice in Education focuses on cultivating caring and respectful relationships that support a healthy academic, social, and emotional learning environment. Dr. Bhagat brings a trauma informed approach to restorative justice with a culturally responsive lens, which values, respects, and empathizes with students of all abilities and backgrounds as they strive for equity and excellence in education.
There is an urgent need to address the root causes of trauma in our schools and communities across the nation. When adverse childhood experiences (aces) along with Adverse Cultural Experiences (ACES) are not addressed within the safety of a culturally responsive social emotional learning environment, the effects can be detrimental and re-traumatizing. Dr. Bhagat designs, advocates, and promotes trauma-sensitive restorative practices, as Manager for School Climate and Culture Strategy for Richmond Public Schools.