TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest Begins

TEAM Westport’s 2023 Teen Diversity Essay Contest prompt is very timely.

The 10th annual event focuses on “The Dialogue Challenge: Effective Engagement on Race, Ethnicity, Religion and LGBTQIA+.”

Here is the prompt:

Team Westport’s mission is to make Westport a more welcoming community with regard to race, religion, ethnicity, and LGBTQIA+.  In order to achieve its mission, one of TEAM Westport’s goals has been to promote opportunities for people to come together in dialogue to better understand each other’s experiences, decrease bias, and learn what we have in common. Meaningful dialogue depends on a good faith effort to set aside preconceived beliefs or what we think we know about other people.

In 1,000 words or less, reflect on your own interactions with people who have different racial, ethnic, religious, and/or LGBTQIA+ identities and/or perspectives. What kinds of conversations were particularly helpful in prompting you to rethink your beliefs or opinions, perhaps causing you to change your mind or enabling you to better understand others’ points of view? Based on these experiences, what specific actions would you suggest that individuals, schools, and/or town entities in Westport take to promote good-faith dialogue, reduce bias, and foster understanding?

Al students attending high school in Westport — or who live here, and attend high school elsewhere or are home-schooled — are invited to enter.

Subject to the volume and caliber of entries received, at the discretion of the judges, up to 3 cash prizes will be awarded. First prize is $1,000; second place is $750; third is $500.

Click here for contest entry rules online. The deadline is February 28. Winners will be announced April 18, at a ceremony at the Westport Library (co-sponsor of the contest).

“With the controversy and misinformation surrounding dialogues on diversity, equity and inclusion from national to local levels, there is nothing more important than what works for effective connection and genuine understanding,” says TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, Jr.

“Now at the advent of our first decade of the Teen Diversity Essay Contest, TEAM Westport welcomes the opportunity for Westport youth to weigh in on this critical question.”

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker adds, “I encourage the youth of our town to participate in discussions and programs that will enhance their experience in Westport, and ultimately, in the world beyond. I am confident that through their words, they will demonstrate that Westport is a community that welcomes conversation.”

 “The Westport Library has made a fundamental commitment to creating and supporting inclusive communities, spaces, collections, and programs,” notes director Bill Harmer. “The annual TEAM Westport essay contest supports and extends our obligation to social justice, and ensuring a culture where all people are welcomed, valued and encouraged to succeed.”

51 responses to “TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest Begins

  1. Clark Thiemann

    Would love to see a version of this contest for all town residents. While I’ve found our high school students amongst the most thoughtful on these topics, I’d like to hear about how to have good conversations with people of different backgrounds and generations that might help break through walls.

  2. Much better than previous topics which were slanted to promote the ideological preferences of Mr Bailey and his merry gang of neo-segregationists.

    • Janine Scotti

      Janet, I did not know that term neo-segregationists. When I looked it up I found this article. Can you explain your comment more? Is this what you meant?

      • Thanks Janine. I used the term in the broad sense to characterize the DEI movement championed by TEAM. This is a movement which aggressively rejects equality and colorblindness and instead of de-emphasizing our racial and cultural differences (in the spirit of integration and national harmony) seeks to intensify them. The DEI movement seeks to impose a hyper-racialized and hyper-critical “lens” to American society and exacerbate divisions, especially by demonizing what it perceives as “white supremacist culture” (which includes the concept of racial equality itself but really refers to universally embraced liberal values). I think in a general sense, neo-segregationism can refer to the deliberate tribalization of our children into various identity groups and victim/oppressor binaries. In more specific contexts, it refers to members of the DEI movement who want to separate children of color or LGBTQIA++ children physically within schools or into different schools. An academic discussion of neo-segregationism can be found here.

        • Morgan Patrick

          I think there is a difference between “intensifying” racial and cultural differences and productively calling attention to them. In your view, is there a way to address systemic oppression without it becoming a “tribalizing” process? Or is any attempt at grappling with racial and cultural differences a regression to segregation? I would trust that teachers (and students, for that matter) would understand that understanding how we’re different isn’t inherently a segregating force. Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood your position here! Sometimes my read of the anti-DEI perspective is that it misunderstands the value of seeing color and difference, which would actually be an equalizing force, right?

          • Morgan, Americans have always embraced our pluralistic society, certainly before Ibram Kendi entered the scene. The smear against DEI critics, which you gently articulated, is that they don’t want to acknowledge these differences- sometimes it is even alleged they don’t want to acknowledge slavery… It is great to acknowledge and “affirm” our different backgrounds – I see that as diversity and inclusion. Where DEI goes south is the E – which introduces this oppressor/victim mentality and the full progressive political agenda. Rather than treating kids as kids, while respecting their differences, we are making racial/cultural/sexual identity the defining characteristic of any child (and doing away what may be our most important national virtue- our celebration of individualism). We are further imposing very specific (and in my view, invalid) concepts of social justice on the kids – theories about privilege and systemic oppression. I would say one of the most toxic elements of the DEI movement is that we not only put excessive emphasis on group identity (and in so doing erase the formation of individuality- who are you beyond the genetic traits and cultural habits you obtained from your parents?), we make value judgments about these often competing identity groups. “Whiteness” and heterosexuality are positioned as evil and destructive, while being a person of color or having non-traditional sexuality elevates a child into some kind of exalted status. This is where the DEI movement goes too far and embodies a political ideology and agenda that many of us find deeply deeply wrong and bad for our children and our country. Equity is not about respecting and appreciating our differences- it is about rectifying differences in wealth, power and influence, usually on racial lines. This is where it becomes tribal and toxic- resources are allocated based on race, not individual merit. Our society is turned into a battlefield with villains and “allies.” It’s the exact opposite of the logic of the American system, a system that transcends humanity’s tendency to degenerate into tribalism and violent factionalism. Critics of DEI see the destructive agenda that sits at the foundation- beneath all the manipulative tear jerking rhetoric. And many fair minded people who aren’t invested in this debate fall for the baseless claims of racism and bigotry that folks like Mr Bailey hurl against critics of DEI who expose their very toxic, very radical, very anti-American agenda. Hope this helps

            • Janine Scotti

              Janet, My book club of all white women over 70 just read Caste by Wilkerson. Have you read that? Would you? We were enlightened, and know how much work we need do to daily as white people.

              • Yes, of course, yet another book from the woke industrial complex commanding whites to self-flagellate while at the same time giving them a false sense of superiority by telling them they are privileged… Treat people with respect and dignity. Demand that others treat you the same way. That is the only “work” any of you gals need to do. But if you want a book suggestion, try Woke Racism by the Black linguistics professor at Columbia John McWhorter. That should set you ladies straight.

            • Stephanie Frankel

              Do you have children in the Westport school system? Have you actually been to a Team Westport meeting? Do you think there could possibly be a backlash and response to Trumpism racism that he unleashed? Or do we just sit back and take the bigotry and abuse he, his sycophants ( now his party) hurled at this entire nation and set us backass backwards in time and progress ( little progresa)?

            • Stephanie Franklel

              Janet, how do you think Donald Trump contributed to a non- racist, equal, and inclusive society and country? Would there have been backlash from that? Dis hw move us forwards or backwards in progress from civil rights?

  3. Janine Scotti

    Clark I just sent a text to my friends in town who are involved in TEAM and DEI, I would love to reflect, and also read what other people have to say. If one did not have much to say it might reveal gaps in personal growth that could be pursued. Maybe the library to hold a space where they could be viewed and read with an evening discussion.

  4. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Great dialogue!!! I would respectfully suggest that an “opportunity for growth” that could be pursued by TEAM Westport would be for students involved in this key, altruistic initiative desiring skill development toward a career in business/finance. As an “applied essay” each student participant would conduct a “DEI audit” of their parents’ stock/investment portfolios to ensure they align with TEAM Westport espoused values. I’m sure the leadership teams in town government and education would gladly volunteer their own portfolios for “self-assessment by the Team Westport team. Perhaps the Westport business leaders, particularly those involved in hedge fund investing might like to participate as well. Let’s make this a “total Westport full court press.”

  5. Katerina Kireyeva

    Perhaps TEAM Westport has to write an essay where they reflect on their inability to promote diverse views as well as to hear people who do not necessarily agree with racialised and sexualised approach which TEAM measures everything with.
    I’ve heard a member of TEAM Westport had a meltdown during the last meeting and verbally attacked local residents who dared to rightfully criticize TEAM.
    This is while completely disregarding personal attacks, false accusations, defamatory statements and even threats made against speakers at BOE meetings solely for our disagreement with inappropriate and radical proposals and changes affecting our children.
    I personally complained to TEAM about such attacks and demands that we leave Westport. Yet, I’ve heard nothing back.
    If this is the kind of “diversity” TEAM stands for then no, thank you.

    • Katerina, your information is of the non-mis variety. Ramin Ganeshram does double duty as an appointed member of TEAM and as Executive Director of the Westport Museum. She went on an elaborate rant and, I think it is fair to say, even accused Dan Woog of complicity in white supremacy (I’m paraphrasing but it was that bad). To his credit, Harold Bailey mildly distanced himself from her comments. But she clearly has forfeited any legitimate claim to either of her positions in our town. She exemplifies the worst of TEAM Westport but at least doesn’t hide her true feelings and contemptuous disposition (the others do a better job toning it down and pretending they are “civil” for the benefit of Westport’s largely moderate population). It was a true PR disaster for TEAM!

      • Thanks, Janet. What she accused me of (though not by name — “a local blogger”) — was “using hate and racial rhetoric to get clicks.”

        • Caroline Brouwer

          Well you do form and push your own agenda.

          • …care to elaborate? I am very interested in the agenda Dan pushes…

            • Caroline Brouwer

              Whatever gains praise really. Directly disagreeing or correcting him is the kiss of death.

              • Not at all. Perhaps you are projecting Ramin’s behavior. Everyday, multiple stories and photos are written and shared, in a nonpartisan manner.

                I am still waiting on an example

                • Caroline Brouwer

                  How do you explain people who have donated only then to have their non-conforming comments deleted?

                  • The only comments deleted are those that are libelous, or that were submitted using fake names or contact info. For example, this one is being posted under a fake name too. There is no “Caroline Brouwer” who is a legit reader.

                • Caroline Brouwer

                  Just out of curiosity— are you his alter ego?

                  • This is no Bruce Wayne and Batman, “Caroline.” What you have failed to do, is point out Dan pushing any form of propaganda or agenda.

                    I would not say all comments are deleted except those that are vitriol, inaccurate and heinous. Jay Walshon’s comments stay up and they are beyond inaccurate, personal, and heinous. Two weeks ago, he called out an individual with fake facts, but if you go to the tape of the meeting, it tells a different story!

                    There is no alter ego or agenda. If any agenda, it’s to report on the history and people of this town and what they have offered or discovered in this world.

                    I only lived here for eight years. I loved it. I miss it. And hope to return some day.

    • Katerina Kireyeva

      Stephanie Frankel, you are the one who unleashed threats, lies and vitriol against dozens of other parents and their children. You are the the one who told them to move out. You are the one who tries to arrange meeting speakers at BOE meetings that you hate so much on the streets. What for?!
      You are the one who confronted a father of four in a district at the last BOE meeting at the library and tried to stir a scandal there during a conversation with BOE too.
      And btw, most of those that you attacked are either minorities, immigrants or both.
      And yet you want to shut their mouths with public insults and threats.
      That’s why you were kicked out of Back Porch and that’s why you have been reported to the police.
      Leave people alone already!

      • Stephanie Frankel

        Katerina, what threat did I make? Your friend on back porch threatened a high school student physically! I said Inwouls tell the proper authorities! Please explain to all!
        Tried to stir a controversy! We’re you there? How so?

      • Stephanie Frankel

        What was I reported to the police for? Telling a woman who threatened a high school student physically that I would report her? Telling someone they were brainwashed by conspiracy theories?
        The Westport police called me and literally laughed at the woman who called them and went into the department to report me for nothing! He literally was laughing about her and the situation to me! He told her to learn how to block people on Facebook! Lol!

  6. Cole Patterson

    Let’s provide all the TEAM Westport essay participants a signed copy of, “06880: Pick of Pics”! Is there a black and white version available Dan?

  7. Edward Bonham

    I think TEAM needs to rethink their leadership and whom they associate with — especially that personally attack people in public forum because they do not believe the same beliefs as them, have a different opinion, a credible asset to the town, written factual amazing historically accurate books, and do not engage in uncivil discourse to slander individuals.

    A recent meeting, attacking the local blogger, who has NEVER omitted hate or racial rhetoric to get clicks, I find funny, when that person, a “ historian,” is constantly bullying others by playing victim and using guilt, turning the historic preserved bedroom replicated from 19th century tapestry and fabrics, now an office. Furthermore, I feel the leadership at TEAM, is not inclusive and understanding, although there are people appointed to serve with a different opinion. Had they not been appointed, them applying would never be rendered a fair decision to serve and the application removed.

    Meanwhile, the chair of TEAM has served well beyond their two 4 year terms. It’s redundant that the attack also continued by chastising Mr. Bill Harmer. While I do not agree with their take on the Library Mural, but once again, to inject personal beliefs and politics into an issue, only adds fuel to the fire. This is extremely dangerous and hurts the credibility of those.

    So much for being an inclusive group. I think it would be best in Mr. Harold Bailey’s interests, to reprimand and remove Ramin Ganeshram for her uncalled and egregious slanderous, unprovoked and nasty comments. Furthermore, I would like to see another person of TEAM to lead. After all, it’s a democracy! This is not Westport like.

    Hate has no home here…right? I practice this with my children and now grand children and look forward to the essay finalist.

  8. Ironic, no?, that a day after the post on Jay Norris’ starting a “community in Westport for people of color”, we read a blog about the TEAM Westport essay contest regarding what folks have done to “promote opportunities to come together in dialog…”
    Isn’t the Norris thingy the diametric opposite of what the TEAM essay contest wishes to uncover…I would think all students entering the contest should start by pointing out that, perhaps, the “community in Westport for people of color” sends the wrong message to them that want folks to come together in dialog…just sayin’

  9. Stephanie Frankel

    I am colorblind. Westport is half black. We have no racism, bigotry, anti- Asian hate, anti-semitism, homophobia or xenophobia in America. Trump loved the first black, I mean white, president of the United States of America and showed respect for him. He gave him a huge birthday present to celebrate his birth. Trump created unity and brought us all together under peace, love, and happiness. He praised being kind and to treat each other with respect. He judged all on the content of their character. What a country he unleashed. Kind, equal, just, free to be you and me! No need for that dirty Marxist Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We are already diverse, equal, and included because of colorblind Trump! Make America Great again y’all! Now stop thinking we need to teach kids about racism or diversity! Geesh. Westport is half white.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. It feels better and you won’t go blind.

      • Stephanie Frankel

        Yep. Donald Trump repeat offender and running for presidency a THIRD time!!!
        Is Donald Trump the leader of the Republican Party still?
        Are we supposed to just forgive and forget Trump and Trumpism?
        Is Donald Trump colorblind?

        • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

          Trump loves TDS and the TDS afflicted. It’s what keeps him in business. You could try moving on. Is Biden the best you got? Evidently so. Four MORE YEARS!!! It’s the chant that originated with Nixon.

  10. Stephanie Frankel

    The birther movement against the first black president of the United States of America was reason enough to get DEI into EVERY school system across America! Birtherism won in 2016 and they got THEIR country of bigots back! Now we must combat it in every school in this nation. It was a cancer that spread far and wide.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      The birther movement. That ended well didn’t it. Elected to two terms and three retirement mansions later and where are we? Not bad for systemic racism victimhood.

      • Stephanie Frankel

        Do you even know what the birther movement is or was? White supremacists led by Donald J Trump said the first black president of the United States of America was not American or allowed to be president! That is racism right there from the very beginning. So you are mad that Barak Obama is rich and made money like EVERY other white president in US history?! Says a lot about you: white past presidents can be rich, but not the black one! Of course not!

      • Stephanie Frankel

        Are you saying Obama BENEFITTED from Trump’s Birther racism? Wow! Just wow!

  11. Stephanie Frankel

    Let me get this straight: you said that Trump takes joy in the result of his divisiveness and attacks on: black people, Jews, LGBTQ and women? Really? Wow, what a lovely human being to learn kindness and acceptance from! Perhaps that is the very reason why we need DEI in our schools! Anyone who takes joy in and feeds off of hurting people is sick and not a leader.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Stephanie, Trump is really living rent free in your head. There are many like you but keep in mind he was a one termer. As to the former President ‘44 and his retirement fortune(s), I voted for him twice, enjoyed his tenure and wish him well. My point was that the strange birther thing that is still so troubling to you wasn’t much of a restraint on his overall trajectory both pre and post his political career so my question for you is: Why the obsessiveness? Please try to get some rest. I’m sorry to have provoked you.

      • Stephanie Frankel

        Do you think the Birther movement is just troubling to me? Do you think Trump’s bigotry only affects me?

      • It’s very demeaning to tell anyone to “try to get some rest”. Unless, of course, they have COVID.

  12. Stephanie Frankel

    First of all, Trump is running for president for a third time and is leader of the Republican Party still, no? Are you disputing that by saying I have a “derrangement” syndrome bc I talk about him and what he did?
    Second, do you think the Trump Birther movement only had a effect on Obama himself? You do realize that the bigoted Birther movement had an affect on Americans themselves. This is not just about Trump and Obama. It is much more far reaching.
    Your gaslighting does not work on me by the way. Trump did what he did and said what he said for a reason. There are repercussions to that, which is fighting back against the racism he unleashed.
    The Birther movement was not just a one and done thing of the past. It had far reaching results.
    I am well rested and awake, thanks for the concern!
    I am part of the DEI team because of Trump. Call me derranged buddy!

  13. This thread is now closed to previous commenters. If you have already commented here: You’ve had your say. You’ve made your points. Thank you.

  14. This thread is now closed to comments. I am very disappointed that my previous request was not respected.