'An ongoing process': Second gathering held to discuss concerns of racism
CLAREMONT — Community members gathered in Trinity Episcopal Church on Thursday to continue discussions about ways to address violence and racial tensions in the city.
The discussion was a follow-up from a similar gathering held on Sept. 12 in the adjacent Broad Street Park where community members, city officials and local faith leaders met to address concerns about racism following an Aug. 28 incident in which a local youth was injured.
Police press releases confirm that the 8-year-old boy was treated for injuries in the incident involving juveniles. Little else has been officially confirmed, but the allegations that the incident involved a racial bias have circulated through national news media in the weeks following.
The organizer of the Sept. 12 event, Rebecca Mackenzie, also organized the Thursday discussion. After a short introduction, several figures in the city addressed the small crowd sitting in the church.
“This is an ongoing process,” Keene State College Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Dottie Morris said during the event. “It’s something that’s never over. It’s constantly evolving.”
Members of the press were asked not to take photos, video, audio, names or quotes from the main portion of the discussion forum — an hour-long block of time devoted to small group discussions of personal experiences from members of the community.
“Tonight, we will address our own experiences of what it is like to live in Claremont — the challenges and the good things about living here,” Mackenzie said. “We’ll talk about what we would like to see changed and what we value or love about this community.”
Attendees were asked to introduce themselves to their groups and consider a series of questions: What do you need from others to participate fully? What are some of the concerns you have about being part of this conversation? What are two things you are willing to do to make our time productive?
Following the body of the discussion, participants would be asked to share the findings of their small groups on ways to overcome the struggles in Claremont. The press was asked not to take photos or names during this portion of the event either.
Several speakers addressed the gathered audience, however. Mayor Charlene Lovett delivered her remarks to the attendees with the entirety of the City Council standing nearby. Her remarks were delivered during a 15-minute recess from the council meeting happening nearby in which councilors voted to bring resident Abigail Kier onto the council to fill the vacancy by former-Councilor Allen Damren when he accepted a nomination as Assistant Mayor.
“Some of us have never been the target of violence or racism in Claremont, and some of us have,” Lovett said. “If we’re going to be a community in which all people are treated with respect, we must be willing to realize that our own experiences may differ from those of our neighbors. We must be willing to acknowledge these differences and learn from each other.”
Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin, who noted that the schools deal most directly with general student welfare, also spoke during the opening periods of the gathering.
“We’re going forward together knowing that this is not going to be an overnighter,” McGoodwin said. “But Claremont is up for this, and it is demonstrated in the response and where we are headed.”