MLK Day Forum asks how racial climate change is changing Gloucester

Dr Brian Saltsman

In what will be its sixth annual observance of Martin Luther King Day, the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation will look through the lens of America’s radically changing racial climate to examine Gloucester’s own changing racial climate.

The forum — “The Racial Climate in Gloucester: What Lies Ahead” — is free, but due to COVID-19 concerns, it will be hosted on Zoom on Monday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m.

Three local organizations — the recently formed Gloucester Racial Justice Team, The North Shore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Diversity and Equity Committee of the Gloucester 400th Anniversary celebration — will share their observations with visiting guest speaker Dr. Brian Saltsman.

Saltsman, an accomplished academic, is director of student diversity and inclusion and interim chief diversity officer at Alfred University in New York. A self-described “enthusiastic scholar-practitioner, mentor” he is a leading proponent of “allyship” — a solidarity movement which, simply put, “teaches” its followers how to be allies of each other. For those who are racially, ethnically or economically marginalized. it is a lifelong process and commitment to racial equality.

Gloucester — a city of 30,000 residents, 93.61% of whom are white, while just 1.66% are African-American — would seem on the face of it to have few if any racial issues. But the Gloucester Racial Justice Team questioned that this past year, as the city’s quickly changing racial landscape has come to include a small — almost 8% — but growing percentage of diverse ethnicities.

The Gloucester Racial Justice Team will share the results of its comprehensive online survey with participants at the forum.

“We understand that racism is deeply embedded in the American culture, and Gloucester is part of that culture,” team chair Michea McCaffrey told the Times in an earlier interview.

McCaffrey, who with team member and spokesman Gaily Seavey were instrumental in conceiving and implementing the survey, will share insights gleaned from it. Seavey, a Harvard Divinity School educated parish minister, describes the team’s mission as “dismantling white patriarchal supremacy, healing, and empowering one another to transform who we are together.”

Also on the agenda, a leader of The North Shore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) discuss its North Shore activities, which recently focused on racism issues at Danvers High School which, among other things, saw its wrestling team suspended for a fight sparked by “hateful” language.

Finally, presenting from the Diversity and Equity Committee of the Gloucester 400th Anniversary celebration, participants will hear narrative stories that accurately depict racial and ethnic relationships since European settlement began displacing the native, indigenous Pennacook-Abenaki peoples, including local slave ownership and maritime commerce.

Registration for a Zoom look to access the forum, which runs until 4 p.m., can be made at www.gloucestermeetinghouse.org.

Joann MacKenzie may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or jomackenzie@gloucestertimes.com.

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