Category Archives: Library

And Now … “06880: The Podcast”

Westport is full of interesting people. Every day since 2009, I’ve told their stories in “06880.”

But hey, this is 2021. It’s time to spread my wings. Let’s add some audio and video to those stories!

Thanks to a partnership with the Westport Library — and their state-of-the-art Verso Studios — today we launch “06880: The Podcast.”

Every other Monday, we’ll release a new casual conversation with one of the many people who make this such an intriguing town. We’ll talk about what got (and kept) them here; what they love (and don’t like) about this place; what they do, how they do it, and what it all means here and in the world.

My first guest is Tom Scarice. Nine months into his gig as superintendent of schools, he chats candidly, passionately (and with humor) about his decision to sign on in the middle of a pandemic; his goals for the district; students and staff today, and how education will change in the future.

I’ll post a new podcast every other Monday, at noon. It will be available simultaneously on the Westport Library website.

Watch or listen at your leisure. Enjoy “06880: The Podcast” — the newest way in which “Westport meets the world.”

Roundup: Pizza, Pequot Library, Parkway …

=====================================================

The Westport Farmers’ Market opens next month. But if you thought you were following them on Facebook, you might have missed the news.

During the winter, the WFM page was hacked. They lost over 8,000 followers — and the chance to inform them about news, vendors, special events and more.

They created a new Facebook page, and are rebuilding their following. But many people don’t realize they’re no longer “friends” with the WFM.

A generous supporter offered a “matching” Facebook challenge. If they reach 1,000 followers, the supporter will make donate $1,000 for WFM programs.

So, whether you think you follow the Farmers’ Market on Facebook or not, click here, then click the “Like” button. Then share that post with friends and family.

=======================================================

Speaking of farms and food, here’s a way to keep ’em down on the farm: Pizza.

On Tuesdays starting May 4 (4 to 7 p.m.), “Tony Pizza Napolitano” will make 16-inch wood-fired cheese pizzas live at the Wakeman Town Farm oven.

Tony lives in Weston, and the pizzas he makes at The Grange are an 0688e legend. He uses “only top-quality local, organic ingredients — and love.” Click here for a rave review from Stephanie Webster’s CTBites.

Go to Facebook. Find “Tony Pizza Napolitano,” click “like” and follow the page. The weekly menu is posted every Monday morning. To order, send Tony a private message for a time slot. Once it’s confirmed, pick it up the next day at the Cross Highway farm..

It’s a perfect dinner — particularly if you’re already at Wakeman Field picking up the kids.

Tony Pizza Napolitano

=======================================================

I don’t know whether the long-running Merritt Parkway project is done.

But — after a couple of years at least — all the construction equipment is gone from the Exit 41 parking lot.

It doesn’t look great. But it sure looks a lot better than it did.

=======================================================

The Westport Library is seeking candidates for its Board of Trustees. Of particular interest: people with expertise in finance, fundraising and development for non-profits; knowledge and understanding of current trends in digital media and information technology, or a background in municipal government and/or not-for-profit law.

Trustees serve 4-yeare terms. Click here for more information.Interested candidates should email a resume and letter of interest to rpowell@westportlibrary.org. The deadline is April 23.

=======================================================

Speaking of libraries: The Pequot’s great John James Audubon “Birds of America” exhibit is on display through May 2.

What’s the Westport hook (besides the fact that many “06880” residents love the historic Southport institution)?

The exhibit — and the many Pequot collections — are now safe for (hopefully) another 125 years.

A $1.5 million project to rehabilitate the endangered terra cotta roof was steered by 2 trustees, both from Westport.

Coke Anne Murchison Wilcox — member of a famed Texas family — majored in architecture at Princeton, then studied at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture. She worked for several architects, including Philip Johnson. In the early 1990s Wilcox purchased The Maidstone Arms in East Hampton. She and her husband, Jarvis Wilcox, have 3 adult children.

Charlotte Rogan spent 25 years as a writer before her first novel was published in 2012. The Lifeboat was included on The Huffington Post’s 2015 list of “21 books from the last 5 years that every woman should read,” and has been translated into 26 languages. Her second novel, Now and Again, continued to explore issues of morality and justice. Rogan attended Greens Farms Academy when it was an all-girl’s school, studied architecture at Princeton University, and worked for a large construction firm before turning to writing.

The Pequot Library. with its famed roof.

=======================================================

And finally … in honor of Tony Pizza Napolitano (above):

Roundup: Remarkable Movies, Levitt Grass, Bald Eagle …

=================================================

It’s April break for the Westport schools. And “official” opening week for the Remarkable Theater.

The Imperial Avenue parking lot lineup is a great one.

Today (Tuesday, April 13, 7:30 p.m.): “Minari.” Nominated for 6 Oscars this year, including Best Picture. A Korean-American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream.

Prior to the movie, a documentary short featuring Westport’s Asian-American rally organizers will be shown. It’s produced by 4th Row Films, in association with the Remarkable Theater.

In it, local residents share their experiences growing up, their journey to Westport. and how they’re raising awareness of rising Asian hate by forming a group (they’re on Instagram: @AAPIWestport or email: AAPIWestport@gmail.com).

Official opening night is Friday, April 16 (7:30 p.m.): “The Goonies.” In this 1985 adventure comedy, a bunch of kids trying to save their homes from foreclosure embark on a treasure hunt adventure.

Saturday, April 17 (7:45 p.m.): “Mamma Mia!” ABBA stars in the best sing-along movie ever made.

Wednesday, April 21: “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.” One-time local residents Paul Newman and Robert Redford star in this 1969 classic.

The night includes 4 short non-fiction documentary films before the feature:

  • Gatsby in Westport“: Deej Webb helps convince you that Westport is the town that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.”
  • “Paul Shows Bob the New Playhouse”: A scene from the upcoming documentary about the Westport Country Playhouse.
  • “A Townie Breakfast Sandwich”: A tour of Westport’s breakfast sandwiches, including Calise’s, Village Bagels and Coffee An’.
  • “Westport This Used to Be”: featuring Jill Gault and Antonio Antonelli.

Click here for tickets. Not all shows may be available yet. The Imperial Avenue lot opens an hour before showtime, for tailgating.

A couple of local guys starred in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

=======================================================

The Levitt Pavilion is planning for a summer season — and for at least one bit of housekeeping.

The Conservation Department has approved a request for turf installation near the stage, to replace existing grass (which sometimes turns to mud).

They’ll also install a drainage system to manage runoff in the lower area of amphitheater.

One of the great things about a Levitt performance is dancing in front of the stage. Now we won’t have to worry about “dirty dancing.”

Get on up and dance to the music!

=====================================================

Last March, Bank of America closed its 3 Westport branches.

Today, customers received letters saying that the one at 980 Post Road East — next to the drive-thru Starbucks — will be closed permanent.

The letter said that the downtown branch — next to Design Within Reach — is “still here for you.”

Great! Except that, a few days ago, it was still closed.

No word either on the fate of the branch near the Southport line.

The Bank of America branch at 980 Post Road East is permanently closed.

=======================================================

Starting May 2, children younger than 2 years old are welcome back to the Westport Library. A press release says, “We gladly welcome them to borrow books, audiobooks, CDs, and magazines.” I’m guessing most of that borrowing will be done for them, by somewhat older people.

The Westport Library welcomes children under 2 soon. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

=======================================================

Andrew Colabella snapped a great photo of a Sherwood Mill Pond bald eagle yesterday.

And he provides the back story: It took a position in this tree from 3 egrets. He had just swooped down on one, which had a fish in its talons.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

=======================================================

And finally … in honor of “Butch Cassidy” at the Remarkable Theater:

 

Roundup: Outdoors, Suffragists, DMX …

=====================================================

Spring is in the air. And there’s no better place to smell it — and enjoy the outdoors — than Wakeman Town Farm.

Westport’s sustainable jewel is back open. Visiting hours begin today (Saturday, April 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), including the popular Meet the Farmer program.

Everyone 13 and older is welcome for a walk around the gardens and grounds. (All COVID rules are in effect.) For more information, click here.

Wakeman Town Farm is open once again.

======================================================

Speaking of the environment: The Parks and Recreation Department sponsors “Clean Up Westport Day” on Saturday, April 24.

Over 50 local organizations and groups will help. Individuals and families can show up at the Parks Advisory Committee’s sites — Riverside and Grace Salmon Parks — or any street or public space.

Formal groups should call Parks & Rec (203-341-5091) before April 16, to let them know the time and location of their cleanup efforts. After the event, the town will collect bagged garbage and debris from each site.

Free trash bags are available outside the Parks & Rec office (opposite the Longshore golf course pro shop) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on April 16 b8:30am and 4:30pm. Bags are limited to 6 per organization, and must be requested by April 15.

Cleaning up Grace Salmon Park.

=======================================================

“Westport’s Suffragists — Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders: The 19th Amendment Turns 100” was the Westport Library’s best exhibit that no one visited.

Well, hardly anyone. It opened last year just days before COVID shut the town down.

But the Connecticut League of History Organizations knows about it. And they’ve awarded the Library an Award of Merit for it.

The awards committee was impressed with “how the exhibit fit nicely into a larger series of public programs and showcased the lives of local women in their fight for suffrage.”

Fortunately, the exhibit is online (click here). It explores the careers and political triumphs of suffragists who made Westport home. It also honors over 50 Westport women — many forgotten — who left their parlors for the streets, to fight for voting rights.

======================================================

The Remarkable Theater drive-in is back in action. Last year , the Imperial Avenue lot also served as the stage for the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s Supper & Soul Series. Next month, they return there.

Dark Desert Eagles — an Eagles tribute band — have been booked for Friday and Saturday nights, May 14 and 15. The Chamber urges attendees to get takeout from local restaurants and markets, and bring it to the concert.

Tickets for each show are $150 per car (5 person maximum). They go on sale this Monday, April 12 (10 a.m.). Click here to order.

Dark Desert Eagles

=====================================================

Yesterday’s Roundup highlighted the mattress recycling program at Earthplace on May 8 (8:30 to 11:30 a.m.).

Not everyone has a mattress to get rid of. But you should still head to Earthplace that day.

Particularly if you’d like free compost. Bring a bucket, and Sustainable Westport will fill it. It’s open to all Westport residents, as a thank-you for making the food scrap recycling program such a success.

Sustainable Westport is collecting nearly 10 tons of food scraps a month from the transfer station (a free service for residents), and from the 2 licensed food scrap haulers (a paid curbside service). Over 500 Westport families are composting in some form.

Intrigued, but don’t know how to begin? Volunteers will sell food scrap recycling starter kits (with a countertop pail, compostable gags and 6-gallon transportation container) during the May 8 Earthplace event. (They’re free for income-eligible folks).

If you’re not into mattress recycling or food scraps — come anyway. It’s a family-friendly outing, with guided trail tours and animal feeding.

PS: Bring natural corks, used magic markers, mascara wands and batteries for recycling.

For more information click here, or email admin@sustainablewestport.org.

=======================================================

Mark your calendar for these Sherwood Island State Park events. They’re presented by the Friends of Sherwood Island. That’s what friends are for!

Early Bird Earth Day (Saturday, April 17, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.): Kites and model airplanes; disc golf; information tables and more.

How to Grow Raspberries & Blueberries (April 18, 2 to 4 p.m., Nature Center). Mini-lesson — and 6 plants will be given away.

One Tree Planted Grant (April 23 and 24): 125 native trees and shrubs will be planted these days. Help is needed! Email michelemsorensen@gmail.com

Growing Potatoes (May 9, 2 to 4 p.m., Nature Center). Bring a potato with eyes to plant.

Plant corn, beans and squash (May 30, 2 to 4 p.m., Nature Center). Take home free seeds!

Connecticut Trails Day (June 5, all day). Kayak and walking tours, hikes.

=======================================================

Judith Katz has just 2 words for this magnolia tree in her backyard at Harvest Commons: “At last!”

(Photo/Judith Katz)

=======================================================

Long-time Westporter Sarah Kennedy takes after her great-aunt: Henrietta Cholmeley-Jones, a noted artist and supervisor of Westport’s WPA art project.

During the COVID lockdown, Sarah painted this acrylic of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

“They are inspirations to me,” Sarah says. “Anyone who keeps smiling and doing their duty at their age, I admire.”

After the news of Prince Philip’s death yesterday, at 99, she shares her work with the “06880” community.

 

=======================================================

And finally … DMX — described by the New York Times as a “snarling yet soulful rapper … who had a string of No. 1 albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s but whose personal struggles eventually rivaled his lyrical prowess,” died yesterday in White Plains. He was 50.

Roundup: Vaccines, Teacher Of The Year, Mattress Recycling, Jeff Immelt …

=================================================

Yesterday’s 4th Westport Public Schools’ vaccine clinic was another success.

Hundreds of educators — along with their colleagues in Weston and Easton — have now received their 2nd COVID dose.

Yesterday’s event in the Staples High School fieldhouse was an “all in the family” affair. In the photo below, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice receives his injection from Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Technician Ben Frimmer.

Frimmer’s name may sound familiar. That’s because his day job is theater teacher and drama director at Coleytown Middle School.

(Photo/John Bayers)

======================================================

Speaking of education: Eric Lawrence is the Connecticut PTA Outstanding Elementary School Teacher of the Year. The 18-year veteran is a technology instructor. Right now he also teaches 4th grade distance learning.

Yesterday, his Saugatuck Elementary School community came together to celebrate.

A parent said: “Mr. Lawrence, you have always been a truly outstanding teacher here at Saugatuck. But as we all know when we face really difficult times, the absolute best can come out in people.

“Many of us thought we could never express how much SSN (Saugatuck Seal News) meant to us from the early days of the shutdown through this year, but we hope we can express it now. The response to your nomination for this honor was overwhelming.”

She then presented him with a binder filled with letters from colleagues, parents, and leaders in the Cub Scout community, where his leadership also made a great impact.

Mr. Lawrence will be honored at a virtual celebration May 5.

Celebrating Eric Lawrence.

=======================================================

You know that old mattress or box spring you’ve always meant to get rid of?

Now — well, on Saturday, May 8 (8:30 to 11 a.m.) — you can.

Earthplace hosts a free mattress recycling drop-off event. It’s sponsored by the Mattress Recycling Council, and they know what they’re doing. Each year they recycle more than 190,000 mattresses  — and that’s in Connecticut.

They’re not only diverted from the waste stream. They’re used to make other products, from carpet padding and insulation to filters and mulch.

Can’t transport your mattress to Earthplace on May 8? Boy Scout Troop 36 offers free same-day pickup. Spots are limited; click here to sign up.

If you miss this event, you can bring your mattress or box spring to Park City Green in Bridgeport, a non-profit that recycles mattresses. Call for hours of operation and drop-off instructions: 203-212-3860 or 203-209-6915.

======================================================

Want to chat with Jeff Immelt?

GE’s former CEO talks virtually on Thursday, April 22 (7 p.m.) about his 16 years at the helm. The Westport Library program is hosted by Westporter Steve Parrish.

Immelt’s first day on the job was September 10, 2001 — 24 hours before 9/11. His new book Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company details his proudest moments — and missteps — at the helm of the global giant.

Click here to register.

Jeff Immelt

=======================================================

The Westport Country Playhouse internship program began in 1946. Four years later, 19-year-old Stephen Sondheim spent the summer at the already-famous stage.

The program — now named for longtime Playhouse benefactor Joanne Woodward — continues this summer.

Interns will join the development, education and marketing teams, from June 7 to August 13. They’ll work directly with Playhouse staff, gain practical skills, and hear guest speakers including visiting designers and artists, commercial producers and more.

With a virtual season, the internships are also virtual this year. There are limited in-person requirements, based on department needs.

Application deadline is April 21. Click here for more information.

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

======================================================

The Westport Weston Family YMCA has added over 150 live classes a week, and hundreds more on demand. They include cardio, endurance, strength, bodywork, dance, mind/body, seniors, adaptive, kids and family.

They’re all virtual of course — but available through a collaboration with 29 Y’s across Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts.

You must be a YMCA member, of course. For details on the “Y Wellness 24/7” program, click here.

======================================================

Congratulations to Staples High School basketball co-captain Nicole Holmes. The senior was one of only 4 FCIAC players — and 10 overall — named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State team, in the “LL” (extra large schools division).

Holmes helped lead the Wreckers to a sparkling 13-3 record this winter.

Nicole Holmes (Photo courtesy of The Ruden Report)

===================================================

Today’s gorgeous nature shot: a cardinal, courtesy of Karen Weingarten:

(Photo/Karen Weingarten)

====================================================

And finally … on this day in 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. That was the effective end of the Civil War, though skirmishes continued for several weeks.

TEAM Westport Teen Essay Winners: “Black Lives Matter”

Black lives matter.

They matter in Westport. And they matter to Staples High School students.

That’s evident from the responses to this year’s TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Contest.

The 8th annual event — open to all students attending high school here, or who live in Westport and go to school elsewhere — focused on the broad yet controversial movement that gained strength and power last summer, following the deaths of unarmed Black Americans.

The prompt from TEAM Westport — our town’s multicultural organization — was:

The statement “Black Lives Matter” has become politicized in our country.  In 1000 words or fewer, describe your own understanding of the statement.  Consider why conversations about race are often so emotionally charged. Given that reality, what suggestions do you have for building both equity and equality in our schools, community and country?

Nearly 2 dozen students submitted essays. The winners were announced last night. A small group attended the ceremony at the Westport Library, which co-sponsored the contest. Many others watched via Zoom.

Nearly 2 dozen students submitted essays.

TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest finalists (from left): Curtis Sullivan, Maxwell Tanksley, Jaden Mello.

Maxwell Tanksley won 1st prize — and $1,000 — for his essay, titled “Words of Power.” The Staples High junior writes powerfully about his experiences — and emotions — as a Black teenager growing up today. He recognizes too the emotions of his white friends, in his deeply personal essay.

Second place, and $750, went to Staples freshman Curtis Sullivan. In “Black Lives Can Matter More. Here’s How,” he takes a somewhat contrarian view, arguing that both the “Black Lives Matter” name and the lack of clear leaders led to misinterpretation, and allowed detractors to tarnish its message.

Placing 3rd, with a prize of $500, was Jaden Mello. The Staples sophomore’s essay — “The Responsibility of a Nation” — looks at the BLM movement from the perspective of a white student, eager to understand and help.

TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, Essay Committee chair Susan Ellis, chief judge Dr. Judith Hamer and Library executive director Bill Harmer all spoke about the importance of the contest, and hearing young voices.

But the evening began to those young voices themselves. The 3 winners delivered their excellent essays with poise and passion.

Each looked at the subject through a different lens. Taken together, they offer an important look at a complex issue — one that 3 Westport teens are not afraid to tackle.

You can read — and reflect on — their essays below. (To read the winners of all 8 TEAM Westport essay contests, click here.)

MAXWELL TANKSLEY: “WORDS OF POWER”

Does your life matter? For many in Westport, this question borders on absurd.

How could my life not matter? For us people of color, however, this question has become more pressing, and the answer has become more disturbing.

For me, the answer to that simple question comes from the deepest depths of history and identity and it emerges not as a fully formed manifesto or
speech, but as a strong bundle of emotions.

My life matters. I decided on that one pretty quickly. I’ve also decided that would be the end of it—if I were white. There is not a doubt in my mind that my life matters to me. I recognize my own worth, I recognize my own ability.

I believe, for those same reasons, that my life matters to God and the universe.

But does my life matter to society? To put it bluntly, do I
matter as much to society as a white man?

No.

My life, black lives, simply matter less to the society we live in than those of our white counterparts, and we see it every day. We see it in Trayvon Martin, shot dead in the street. We see it in George Floyd, whose pleas and cries were met with stone-cold silence.

We see it in incarceration rates, with black Americans—only 12% of the population—making up 33% of the prison population. We see it in the courts, where our killers go free. We see it in jobs that won’t
hire us and laws that target us. We even see it in our friends, who say: “He wouldn’t have been shot if he weren’t resisting” or “You’ll definitely get into that school, you’re black”.

This vast dichotomy between what our lives ought to be worth and what they are worth is why the statement “Black Lives Matter” means so much to me. It fills that gap and expresses—contrary to society—that my life matters.

When I say the words “Black Lives Matter,” I feel many things. I feel pride in my black heritage. I feel awe at the tenacity of my ancestors, who suffered for being black. I feel enraged that I will be judged not by the content of my character, but by the color of my skin. All these latent feelings—characteristic of the black experience in America—explode cathartically when I think of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

Maxwell Tanksley

Of course, as my interpretations of Black Lives Matter are colored by my experiences, so too are those of others. I remember playing video games with a group of friends when the topic of recent Black Lives Matter protests came up.

One of them began to casually rant about how “black lives matter [are] criminals.” Agitated, I remarked that I had an inherent interest in Black
Lives Matter, and he flew into a tirade that gave me a slight chuckle.

He raved on about the sins of Black Lives Matter for nearly 10 minutes until another friend pulled him into a private call to deliver a nugget of information.

See, he had not known I was black — we had never met in person, so he assumed that I, like everyone else in the group, was white.

In a shocking twist, his demeanor changed. Somehow, the mere presence of someone with dark skin had caused his arguments to morph into backpedaling at such speed I began to fear for his health.

His and my reaction both were indicative of two different understandings of the phrase Black Lives Matter produced from 2 different worldviews from 2 different worlds. He understood it to be the rallying cry of self-victimizing criminals, using the wrongs of a distant past to create unjustified chaos. He saw groups of rioters marching down the main street, with police cars burning in the background. My rallying cry of empowerment was his siren song of destruction, both connected by strong emotional convictions.

Our discussions around race are often emotional because we have so many emotional memories relating to race, memories that we use to form our opinions about the matter. A child who was mercilessly bullied for coming from the poor side of town and one who felt that they unfairly lost their spot on a sports team to a child of a different complexion will have different outlooks on race in the future, and both will react emotionally when it is discussed.

Because my past experiences with race were emotional, my view of race is an emotional one. I react emotionally when the topic is brought up, I am emotional in my support for Black Lives Matter, and I am emotional in denouncing systemic racism.

On the other hand, my friend was equally emotional in his denunciation of Black Lives Matter. The emotions involved with discussions of race can be a problem, but they are also the solution. These emotions can cause feelings to be hurt and friendships to be broken, but they can also be the key to finding common ground.

When my friend learned I was black, he immediately began to consider how his words affected me. He and I had both felt the same emotions at points in our lives and he — if only subconsciously — began to empathize with me and understand why I felt the way I did.

Needless to say, not all issues of race will be solved with a magical cure of understanding and empathy. Reality isn’t a children’s cartoon. However, honest, open-minded discussions of race are the best step we can take towards promoting equity and equality in our society. By having these emotional conversations about race and by using these emotions to promote empathy instead of using them to fuel conflict, we can create a bridge to connect people with disparate experiences.

By having these conversations, we will encourage effective interracial
communication, and we will use empathy to create a better environment for people of all races.

======================================================

CURTIS SULLIVAN: “BLACK LIVES CAN MATTER MORE. HERE’S HOW”

ln the 1950s and 1960s, African-Americans protested unjust laws, which eventually helped frame the Civil Rights Act. But racial discrimination remains embedded in society, even
half a century later.

On May 25,2020, at the height of the worst pandemic the world had seen in over 100 years, tragedy struck the streets of MinnEapolis. George Floyd, an African-American man, was apprehended by police forces afTer unknowingly using a counterfeit $20 bill in a convenience store. He found himself with a knee on his neck, pinned by a police officer while he gasped, “l can’t breathe” — a phrase that became a symbol for the movement that ensued.

After 9 long minutes, he died. The coming weeks saw mass protests around the country, demanding an end to police violence and racial discrimination, calling for racial equality through laws and police reform, and raising awareness of implicit discrimination.

The movement, dubbed Black Lives Matter, was anything but novel. But the
added strain of the COVID-l9 pandemic, plus additional instances of the lack of police restraint when dealing with Blacks only fueled the flames of racial unrest.

There is no doubt that Black Lives Matter will be one of the most important movements of our time. While powerful and necessary, the BLM movement has some critical weaknesses that have been startlingly overlooked. These include: failure to communicate the movement’s message and purpose, and a lack of proper leadership to maintain relevance. Left unaddressed, these weaknesses
undermine the movement’s call to reform.

A clear and easy-to-understand message is critical to any effective communications, but particularly to a social movement. Suffragists argued for the right to vote, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about a dream that all Americans were equal.

“Black Lives Matter” is a catchy phrase that left too much room for interpretation or confusion by too many. Some people who are
opposed to the BLM movement felt that Black Lives Matter silences anyone who isn’t Black. They believe that the movement is saying only Black lives matter, and suggests that non-Black lives don’t matter.

As such, oppositionists have responded to the BLM movement with their own,
dubbed “All Lives Matter.” This tried to convey the message that every life matters, including non-Black lives. All Lives Matter misses the point that Blacks have seen systemic oppression since the founding of this country. ln their efforts to remind BLM dissenters about the importance of Black lives, the protesters stoked fears in some non-Blacks, albeit unfounded, that Black lives might matter more than non-Black lives.

A simple fix might be changing the slogan to “Black Lives Matter, Too,” or “Black Lives Also Matter.” This change clarifies the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement, while disallowing oppositionists from claiming that their life might not also *matter.”

Curtis Sullivan

Undermining the call to reform, the Black Lives Matter movement failed to be clear about their purpose. During the initial phase of the movement, protests helped spawn rioting and violence. However, most of the rioters were not actual BLM protesters. Instead, opportunists were hiding behind the name and the momentum to initiate their own rampages and push political agendas.

Oppositionists were quick to accuse the BLM movement as supporting anarchy, distracting them from the movement’s intentions to improve racial equality.

These fears of anarchy were echoed by then-President Trump, who used the violence as an escape hatch, to get out of addressing racism as the crisis and the root of the movement. Several times Trump denied the existence of systemic racism in the US. Rather, he pushed a message of “Law and Order,” suggesting that the BLM movement was only demonstrating lawlessness, and ignoring the peaceful side of the movement.

Why were policy makers so focused on the “violent side” of the movement, instead of the original call to actisn? Because when riots first broke out, people within the BLM movement, who were calling for social justice reform, failed to denounce the riots. The movement’s message was not clear that it was advocating for police reform. Certain members of the movement even supported the riots and their violence. This distracted the public, and drew policy makers’ attention away from reform, and towards suppressing riots’

Most importantly, the BLM movement lacks key figures that the public can identify as its rightful leaders. During the civil rights movement, leaders were the public face of the movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr-, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X were able to vocalize the vision, and keep people engaged in the fight for the end of racial segregation.

This also culminated in the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended racial segregation in the US.

Every effective movement has some form of leadership representation to help
communicate the message of the movement. A person for the public to listen to, and for policy makers to meet with for negotiation and courses of action. Leaders can denounce violence in the name of the movement, and keep a public audience focused on the initial call.

Many will say that the BLM movement shouldn’t have leadership, as it is more focused on Black voices coming together against injustice, but leadership is important to maintain relevance in the movement.

One modern example is the Global Climate Strike of September 2019, spearheaded by Greta Thunberg. This movement caused people around the world to protest, encouraging world leaders to take action against climate change. Similar concrete leadership can help the BLM movement, and effectively convey an impactful message.

The BLM movement will be remembered for centuries to come. The call for social justice reform has left a lasting impact on society. However, without a clearer message, and strong leadership, the BLM movement will face significant obstacles in effecting major reform.

With these changes, I am hopeful it will be able to fight for a safe and harmonious future for all and for generations to come.

======================================================

JADEN MELLO: “THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A NATION”

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijan McClain. Names most of us recognize.

But have you heard of Rayshard Brooks? Atatiana Jefferson? Botham Jean?

Somehow, so many victims of racially charged violence go unrecognized. Though we didn’t treat them as such, all these black lives mattered. Despite the simple, honorable roots of “Black Lives Matter,” it has been twisted into a politically charged statement due to white people’s threatened reaction to the movement,
caused by lack of awareness.

In our current political environment, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has been twisted into a complex, controversial phrase. But its origins are simple, and meant to acknowledge the oppression of people of color. It is a reminder to our world that black voices need to be heard and are worth listening to just as much as anyone else’s.

It simply means that black lives matter as much as white lives. All lives can’t matter until black lives matter, so this phrase, this movement, is simply putting the focus onto a group of people that are not being treated as if they matter.

Many turn against this movement, screaming “All Lives Matter” in response. But this is a knee-jerk, defensive reaction. Often the people who feel so threatened by the BLM movement are accustomed to feeling a level of comfort in this world that has been built for them.

However, these people must understand that “Black Lives Matter” does not mean that black lives are superior. Despite centuries of protests, people of color are still oppressed and silenced. Our nation’s system is still pitted against them. Like Malcolm X said amidst the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, “Black people are fed up with the dilly dallying, pussyfooting, compromising approach that we’ve been using toward getting our freedom. We want freedom
now.”

People of color have been denied their rights for centuries, and thus it is inevitable that they have become more and more impatient. They are tired of being told to wait for justice, respect, safety, and freedom, and with this frustration boiling for centuries, emotions have begun to overflow and surge through our nation.

Despite calls for change, people of color are still harmed, yet we expect them not to fight back. Malcolm X said that he believed it was a “crime” for anyone who was being abused to allow themselves to continue to be victimized without defending themselves.

The author Ta-Nehisi Coates said that “You do not give your body to the billy clubs of Birmingham sheriffs […] We must never submit ourselves […] to defiling and plunder.”

Jaden Mello

Despite their peaceful attempts to fight for equality, black people are still violently punished for these actions, constantly forced to accept abuse. Black people should not have to put themselves in harm’s way to fight for justice.

But it is also a crime to stand by and watch someone else be abused without defending them. White people must recognize that they have led privileged lives, and thus need to be willing to sacrifice parts of themselves in order to
defend their fellow black citizens.

As a white person, I will never be able to understand this pain and suffering, and the frustration that must come with it. However, I do understand that we cannot leave people of color to defend themselves from “defiling and plunder.” We must take part as equals in their fight, act as shields to protect them in their virtuous fight.

We must stand with them, for it is our responsibility to not force them to defend themselves and their rights alone.

In order to be allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, white people must yearn to be educated. We must not take over the movement, but simply listen and empathize so that we can better understand the oppression people of color are forced to endure as best we can. Only by doing this can we strive to become better, more useful teammates of those who have been oppressed.

Like Malcolm X said, “On the American racial level, we had to approach the black man’s struggle against the white man’s racism as a human problem.” None of us are innocent, none of us should be comfortable watching these events unfold without doing anything about it. Thus, like Malcolm X believed, we are all responsible to spread awareness and education.

The greater understanding people have of our nation’s history of oppressing people of color, of what has created this sense of entrapment and desperation, the more they will be able to sympathize with this movement, and hopefully eventually support and be a part of it.

Only by each person working to educate themselves and those around them, will Black Lives Matter be able to become de-politized, which will in turn enable people to be more open minded.

Only by doing this, will the movement be able to achieve its greatest and most influential potential in our communities and our nation.

From left: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Jaden Mello, Curtis Sullivan, Maxwell Tanksley, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, Westport Library executive director Bill Harmer. (All photos/Dan Woog)

 

Roundup: Sunrise Service, Town Farm, Ospreys …

==============================================

Last year’s Easter Sunrise Service at Compo Beach was canceled by COVID.

This morning, it was once again on. The return was welcomed by Westporters — and the Easter Bunny.

(Photo/Rick Benson)

=======================================================

Wakeman Town Farm’s partnership with Homefront Farmers continues to bear fruit.

If you buy a gift card through @payitfwrd.co to start or maintain a home garden, all proceeds go to WTF’s educational program that teaches youngsters how to grow their own food.

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other holidays are around the corner. The gift of a home garden will definitely reap benefits. Click here for more information.


===================================================

Speaking of nature: Here’s an osprey update from the indefatigable Carolyn Doan.

“Our lovely osprey couple has been making their nest near Fresh Mart a little more comfortable. They’ve resorted to using what looks like a knit hat or glove. The female has taken matters into her own talons, and is getting sticks herself.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)

=======================================================

During the pandemic, families have spent more time than ever. For some, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect. For others, it’s caused tension.

Dr. Bob Selverstone — a much-admired Westport psychologist in private practice for over 40 years, former Staples High School educator and counselor, and noted TV and radio guest — recently taped a session for the Westport Library.

It’s called “Making Marriage Even Better.” He should know: Bob and his high school sweetheart, Harriett, have been married for nearly 60 years!

Click below to listen and learn.

=======================================================

Congratulations, Westport Water Rat 13/14 girls relay team. On Friday they broke the state record in the 200 freestyle relay. They blazed to a 1:36.73 finish. Well done, girls!

New state record holders (from left): Kate Murray, Ella Gussen, Ayaan Olasewere and Annam Olsawawere. Coach (not pictured) is Ellen Johnston.

=======================================================

And finally … Happy Easter!

Roundup: Itzhak Perlman, AE Hotchner, Aztec Two-Step, Easter Lilies …

===================================================

Itzhak Perlman is a violin virtuoso. On May 13, he adds “virtual” to that list.

The 16-time Grammy Award winner — and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree — is the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” guest.

Though he won’t appear in person, up to 100 people will be safely spaced in the Trefz Forum to watch Perlman on the state-of-the-art screen. Everyone else with a ticket will watch on devices.

Those tickets — both “live” and online — are available now (click here).

“Booked for the Evening” is the Library’s signature fundraising event.  Previous notables include Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Mitchell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Barry Levinson, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario, Ron Chernow, Alan Alda, Justin Paul, and Frederic Chiu.

Itzhak Perlman

=======================================================

It got lost in all yesterday’s excitement over April Fool’s Day. But as of April 1, dogs are not permitted on Compo Beach.

Specifically, from now through September 30 “animals are prohibited at the beaches either in or out of vehicles, except when going to and from boats at Ned Dimes Marina (but those dogs must be leashed).

“Beaches are defined to include the water adjacent to the property, the sand areas adjacent to the water, the parking areas, grass areas, playing areas and roads. Dogs are permitted in vehicles entering into the Soundview parking lot weekdays any time, and weekends and holidays prior to 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Dogs must be on leash.

Sorry, guys. Gotta wait till October! (Photo/Dan Johnson)

=======================================================

The ceremony honoring TEAM Westport’s Teen Diversity Essay Contest winners is one of the underrated highlights of each year. Three students read their own words, addressing difficult questions with wisdom, honesty and power.

This year’s event will be held via. It’s this Monday (April 5, 6 p.m.), and — as in years past — is well worth watching.

The prompt was: “The statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ has become politicized in our country. In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your own understanding of the statement. Consider why conversations about race are often so emotionally charged. Given that reality, what suggestions do you have for building both equity and equality in our schools, community and country?”

We may be inspired — or sobered — by what Westport teenagers have to say. We certainly will gain an understanding of what the next generation is thinking.

Click here to register. Click here to read the top essays from past years.

=======================================================

Westport EMS, Westport Weston Health District personnel, school nurses, the Fire Department and CERT all joined in yesterday, at the Westport Public Schools’ 3rd COVID vaccine clinic.

Over 500 school district employees from Westport, Weston and Easton received their 2nd doses yesterday. Another 500 will get their 2nd vaccine next week.

Huge thanks to all who helped make it the process smooth, efficient — even enjoyable!

A small part of the big fieldhouse, during the first clinic.

=======================================================

#14 Hillandale Road looks different today.

The longtime home of A.E. Hotchner, author and friend of Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman — built in 1928, and originally part of a 40-acre estate — has been torn down.

Hotchner died in 2020, at 102. The property will be the site of 4 homes, on 1-acre plots. The new subdivision will be called Authors Way.

A.E. Hotchner’s house, yesterday. (Photo courtesy of Rick Benson)

=======================================================

Aztec Two-Step 2.0 — featuring Westporters Rex Fowler and Dodie Pettit — performs their Simon & Garfunkel songbook show for the first time as a 5-piece band on Friday, April 23 (8 p.m., Bijou Theatre, Bridgeport, 8 p.m.).

It’s a benefit for WPKN-FM. The show will also be livestreamed in HD and 360º Virtual Reality.

Tickets start at $5. Anyone purchasing by April 19 gets  a free VR headset, for the fully immersive experience. Click here for tickets to the live Bijou (masked and socially distanced) show. Click here for virtual tickets.

BONUS TRACKS: Aztec Two-Step 2.0 will follow the Simon & Garfunkel songbook with a 30-minute set of original material, starting around 10 p.m.

Click below for a video montage to “I Ain’t Dead Yet,” one of Dodie’s 3 original country-blues songs featured in a 5-song EP being releasing to radio soon.

======================================================

Dianne Saunders writes:

My beautiful 1-year-old cat died recently from acute kidney failure, just days after he ingested part of a lily from a bouquet someone sent me for my birthday.

If only I had known how toxic these plants are! Easter lilies are particularly toxic.

Within a couple of days of even one sip of the water that lilies are in, or a nibble on a leaf or a brush against the pollen, a cat will go into irreversible kidney failure.

With Easter coming, “06880 readers should be aware of the danger that lilies pose to cats.

Dianne Saunders’ cat Sammy, with lilies.

=======================================================

And finally … Marvin Gaye was born on this day in 1939. The multi-talented Motown artist was shot to death by his father one day short of his 45th birthday, on April 1, 1984.

Library Partners With Major Recording Artist

The Westport Library’s Transformation Project turned a great building into an amazing one.

The Forum, new stage, upgraded MakerSpace and welcoming café drew most of the attention.

But the Verso recording studios — with state-of-the-art recording equipment and spectacular post-production technology — is one of the revamped library’s most impressive features.

Part of the Westport Library’s Verso Studios.

And it’s about to get more impressive.

A major — and I do mean “major” — recording artist has just signed a contract to use the studio for an upcoming album.

“It doesn’t get bigger or more exciting than this,” says Library executive director Bill Harmer. “Trust me. This is huge.”

I am not allowed to use his name in the body of this story (apparently, to avoid it being picked up by search engines). But here are a couple of clues:

  • He lives in Weston.
  • In the 1960s, he could not “get no satisfaction.”
  • Yet he did have some “sympathy for the devil.”
  • And though “wild horses” couldn’t drag me away to write his name here, I am allowed to link to it. Click here to see.

TEAM Westport Plans Asian-American Program Tonight

TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural commission — says:

TEAM Westport and the partnership of the Interfaith Council, Westport Library and Westport Country Playhouse extend our staunchest solidarity with and heartfelt embrace of our town’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

That solidarity and embrace are matched only by the depth of our outrage over the rising tide of AAPI racism and violence, capped by the unspeakable murders in Atlanta last week. Both the first selectman and superintendent of schools have issued statements for the town and school system.

Our work over the past few years has been focused on dismantling the centuries-old legacies of layered racism and supremacy which have led us to this current circumstance. As such, our involvement with both the advent of the Equity Study mentioned by the superintendent, and the ongoing antiracism conversations mentioned by the first selectman, make it clear that this should be a time for focused reflection with our AAPI community.

Please join us for these upcoming events today (Wednesday, March 24) and next Wednesday (March 31). We will hold space for our AAPI friends and community members for times of sharing and exploration regarding racism and its impact on each of us here in Westport and nationwide.

  • Wednesday, March 24, 7 p.m:  Community Focus on Anti-AAPI  Racism (Virtual Event):
    • Forum hosted by:
      • Harold Bailey (Chair, TEAM Westport)
      • Alison Patton (Pastor, Saugatuck Congregational Church)
      • Jenny Nelson (Director of education and community Engagement, Westport Country Playhouse)
      • Bernicestine McLeod Bailey (TEAM Westport)
    • Join the discussion for solidarity and reflection on the rising tide of AAPI racism and violence. All are welcome.
    • Learn more and register through The Westport Library:
      https://westportlibrary.org/event/me-and-white-supremacy-the-challenge-continues/
    • [Note: The originally planned 4 sessions on “Me and White Supremacy”: The Challenge Continues have been postponed to (April 7 and 21, and May 5 and 19)].
  • Wednesday, March 31, 7 p.m. (Virtual Event):
    • TEAM Westport Schools Work Group. Join us for our next Schools Workgroup meeting. We will continue our discussion of white supremacy culture and how it shows up in our community, focusing on the recent tragedies against AAPI and Anti-Asian hate. All are welcome.
    • This is a Zoom meeting through the Westport Library: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84428376997?pwd=WlZOaks3a2JKZHEwMUZrd1RuVTR5UT09
    • Meeting ID: 844 2837 6997; Passcode: 048473,