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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.

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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.

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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)

 

“Un-Scavenger Hunt” Promises Fun For All

Westport’s 1st-ever “Un-Scavenger Hunt” may be the coolest, most fun fundraiser ever.

And I’m not just saying that because I helped write the clues.

Here’s the deal: On Saturday, April 24, you and your team will click on the free “Goosechase” app.

You’ll see tons of clues, covering Westport trivia, history, art, pop culture and more.

You answer by posting photos, videos, texts and GPS check-ins on the app. Bonus points are given for creativity, ingenuity and humor (costumes, props, songs, pets … you get the idea).

For example, if one of the clues directs you to the Compo Beach cannons, how cleverly can you pose there? It’s a great way to get to know Westport.

One of the clues may be about the Compo Beach cannons. Can you top this photo? (Photo/Stephen Axthelm)

Are there prizes? Of course! Among the best: a pair of sunset cruises; a private tour and wine-and-cheese reception at Dragone Classic Motorcars with George Dragone; Broadway tickets and more.

There are separate prizes for students in grade 12 and below (including cash). And a special prize for the organization that registers the most teams.

The Un-Scavenger Hunt raises funds for CLASP. For nearly 40 years they’ve  provided care, support and inspiration to adults with autism and developmental disabilities.

You can join the hunt any time, all day on Saturday, April 24. It’s not a race!

Click here for tickets. Click here for the Goosechase app. You can practice on it too, until the event goes live.

 

Roundup: Vaccine, Beach, Tennis …

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Over 100 pharmacies will soon be administering COVID vaccines — and one of them is in Westport.

That’s Achorn Pharmacy, in the Playhouse Square shopping center.

Governor Ned Lamont’s office said the sites will open over “the next several days.”

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Lifeguards won’t be back at Compo Beach until Memorial Day. But right before Easter Weekend, crews were hard at work getting Compo Beach ready for the season.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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For over 20 years, Joseph Oyebog has taught tennis all over Westport.

The former Cameroon Davis Cup player retains strong ties to his homeland. In 1999 he founded the Oyebog Tennis Academy. Westporters have been strong supporters of the project, which provides Cameroonian children with coaching, education and life values.

John McEnroe is a supporter too. He called his friend Yannick Noah. After the French star visited OTA in February, a video went viral.

But money is tight. The annual fundraiser at Intensity was canceled by COVID — for the second straight year.

Board members — many of whom live in Westport — are searching for a corporate sponsor, as well as donations of any amount. Click here to help.

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Up on Weston’s Kellogg Hill, Jolantha looks forward to Easter.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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And finally … on this day in 1964, Beatlemania had taken over America. The lads from Liverpool had the top 5 — five! — songs on Billboard’s Top 100. From #1 on down: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”

But that’s not all. The Beatles had 7 — seven! — other songs on the list: “I Saw Her Standing There” (#31), “From Me to You” (#41), “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (#46), “All My Loving” (#58), “You Can’t Do That” (#65), “Roll Over Beethoven” (#68) and “Thank You Girl” (#79).

Take that, Harry Styles!

Stations Of The Cross Honors Racial Justice

A few dozen Westporters celebrated Good Friday yesterday through a marking of the Stations of the Cross. The walk was a call to dismantle racism, and pursue racial justice.

“Give us eyes to see how the past has shaped the complex present,” said Rev. John Betit of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Participants stopped at several sites related to Black history in Westport. Christ & Holy Trinity, Saugatuck Congregational Church and the Westport Museum of History & Culture collaborated for the event.

After an initial prayer in the Christ & Holy Trinity courtyard, the group headed to the entrance of the church parking lot on Elm Street.

Rev. John Betis, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church: the first Station of the Cross. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

They looked across at Bedford Square. In the 1940s, it was the back of a boarding house — accessible through an alley at 22 1/2 Main Street (later the entrance to Bobby Q’s) — that was the hub of a thriving Black community.

By 1949 though, it was considered a slum. The town would not grant permits for improvements. In December, residents asked the RTM to be considered for the affordable housing being built at Hales Court. They were denied.

In January 1950 — 8 days after a newspaper wondered what would happen if a fire broke out there — that is exactly what happened. Unable to obtain housing anywhere else in town, the Black community scattered — and disappeared forever.

Heading to the next Station of the Cross. (Photo courtesy of Christ & Holy Trinity Church)

The next station was the site of the former Ebenezer Coley general store, at the Main Street entrance to Parker Harding Plaza. The original outline of that saltbox building remains; it’s the former Remarkable Book Shop and (later) Talbots.

The river came up to the back of the store. Enslaved people loaded grain grown at the Coley farm onto ships bound for New York. There it was loaded onto larger ships, which sailed to the West Indies where it fed other enslaved Blacks.

The group then walked a few steps to the Museum of History & Culture. Ebenezer Coley’s son Michael owned the home at the corner of Avery Place and Myrtle Avenue. He managed the Coley store, and oversaw the enslaved people.

Bricks bear the names of over 240 enslaved and 20 free people of color, part of the parish of Greens Farms Congregational Church. They appear in the church log book as births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Owners brought their enslaved people into church for services, though they — and freemen — had to stand in the balcony above the sanctuary.

Bricks at the Westport Museum of History & Culture honor more than 200 Black men, women and children from the 18th and 19th centuries. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A short walk up Evergreen Avenue brought the group to the Saugatuck Church cemetery. Cyrus Brown — who, like many others affecte by racism and legal bias, went from being a landowner and farmer to a servant of the Gorham family — is buried there.

Brown’s relationship with the Gorhams was evidently strong. He is buried in the family’s plot, with a high quality headstone of his own.

A stop at Evergreen Cemetery. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

After that final station, worshipers walked through the woods to the Saugatuck Church property. The labyrinth on the lawn provided space and time for  final Good Friday reflections.

Walking through the woods, to Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A final stop at Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

(Historical background provided by the Westport Museum for History & Culture.)

Roundup: Longshore Inn, Outdoor Dining, Ospreys …

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The new operators of the Longshore Inn have big plans.

This afternoon (Wednesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m.), Charles Mallory — CEO of Greenwich Hospitality Group, which runs the very successful Delamar Hotels — joins Dave Briggs on Instagram Live to reveal what’s ahead.

Listen — and respond in real time — via @WestportMagazine. You can send questions on Instagram ahead of time too: @DaveBriggsTV.

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The Westport Transit District recently replaced its previous fixed route system with Wheels2U Westport service, an on-demand, door-to-train station group shuttle service.

As part of the changeover, posters advertising the 50-year-old fixed route service at the Saugatuck train station were replaced with new ones highlighting the advantages of Wheels2U.

The Westport Transit District donated one of those now-historic fixed route posters to the Westport Museum for History & Culture yesterday. for its collection.

With Metro-North ridership beginning to pick up again, Wheels2U provides a convenient, reliable, and inexpensive way to get to and from the Westport and Greens Farms train stations. It serves a larger portion of Westport and meets more trains than the prior fixed route service.

Riders can order a ride using the Wheels2U phone app, be picked up at their door and then dropped off at the station platform at any time between 5:45 and 9:45  a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m. Reverse commuters can take the shuttle from the train station to their jobs almost anywhere in Westport for less than other alternatives.

Future plans for the WTD include getting more employees to their jobs, shoppers to stores, and seniors to the Senior Center.

For Wheels2U Westport’s service area, fares and other information, click here.  For information about Westport Transit’s door-to-door services for the elderly and people with a disability, click here.

Westport Transit District director Peter Gold presents Westport Museum of History & Culture collections director Nicole Carpenter with a now-historic Westport Transit District poster.

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Yesterday, the State Senate unanimously approved legislation to extend outdoor dining in Connecticut through March 31, 2022.

Local zoning or planning officials still have the final power to permit or expand outdoor dining. The law minimizes paperwork like site surveys or traffic studies, in order to expedite the process.

Earlier this month, Westport’s Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to extend outdoor dining here until further notice.

Outdoor dining on Church Lane last year.

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The ospreys are back — and not just at Fresh Market.

Chris Swan spotted one pair of the magnificent raptors at the nesting platform on Sherwood Mill Pond. He saw another on the saltmarsh at the end of Beachside Common, behind the Nature Center at Sherwood Island State Park. Welcome home to those two happy couples!

A Fresh Market — not Sherwood Island — osprey. (Photo.Carolyn Doan)

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Patagonia is holding a food drive for Homes with Hope. Bring non-perishable goods like canned chicken, tuna, salmon and soup, mayonnaise, peanut butter and jelly, cereal and pasta source to the downtown store.

They also sell “Patagonia Provisions” — items that can be bought, then given away. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Taylor Whiteside (Whitey) Bailey, a Wesport native and member of a prominent Westport family, died March 18 in Escondido, California of natural causes. He was 88 years old.

He was the 5th child of Franklin and Mary Alice Bailey. His mother was well known here as the assistant to Miss Irene Comer at her dancing school, held in the second floor ballroom of the Westport YMCA. His father was the stepson of Arthur Dare Whiteside, a founder and president of Dun & Bradstreet, and one of the early developers of the Sylvan Road and Nash’s Pond areas of Westport.

Bailey’s brother and sisters included Mary Bailey Beck, Ann Bailey Hall, Franklin Bailey, Jr. and Dare Bailey Wells, all deceased. Joan Whiteside was his step-sister.

Bailey attended Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High School, and was a 1950 graduate of Staples High School. He was a competitive swimmer at Longshore Country Club and a lifeguard at Compo Beach.

He joined the U.S. Marines after high school, and served overseas from 1950-53 during the Korean War. While stationed with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, he was chosen to be the jeep driver in the movie “Retreat, Hell.”

Bailey and his first wife, Allison Norris Bailey, moved to California from Westport in the late 1950s. The former sales manager of Pace Arrow motor home company, he spent the last 25 years of his life in Fallbrook, California.

Allison Norris Bailey and Mr. Bailey’s second wife, Jan Bailey, are deceased.
He is survived by twin sons Kim W. Bailey and Timothy Norris Bailey, both of Westport; Will Mason Bailey of Maui, and 3 grandchildren.

Taylor Whiteside Bailey

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Sure, you can have all the apps and video games you want. But there’s nothing like flying a good old-fashioned kite.

The good news: Tomorrow will be windy. The bad news: It may rain.

Amy Schneider spotted this colorful kite yesterday, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … happy 336th birthday, to Johann Sebastian Bach!

Roundup: Autism Awareness, Burying Hill Rocks …

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To honor Autism Awareness Month, Westport Police officers bought special commemorative badges. They’ll wear them on their uniforms throughout April.

The blue badge prominently features the puzzle piece logo — the symbol of autism awareness. A portion of the badge’s purchase price will be donated to Autism Speaks.

Westport Police officers show off their autism badges.

In addition, Fleet Auto Supply donated autism logos for the doors of all police cars.

During Autism Awareness Month, the Police Department reminds Westporters about the town’s Disability Registry. A combined effort of the Westport Disability Commission, Human Services and the Police, the confidential registry provides essential information to assist police and other emergency workers to address the needs of residents of all abilities. Click here for signup information.

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Westport’s rockiest beach is getting some love.

Two machines were hard at work yesterday and today, at Burying Hill Beach.

One ran rocks through a sifter.

Another smoothed the sand.

(Photos/Art Schoeller)

It’s not as difficult as freeing a 220,000-ton ship from the Suez Canal.

But it’s close.

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Concerned how much longer the bull market will run? Worried what’s next?

Y’s Women’s Investment Group has a few slots for new members. The club has analyzed the market for more than 20 years — and achieved better results than some famous prognosticators. For more information, email dynamicr@icloud.com.

Y’s Women membership is $45 a year. To learn more, click here. For the latest newsletter, click here.

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Betty Stolpen Weiner writes: “I recently moved back to the area (Weston), and wanted to share a nice Westport experience.

“I needed a large and very heavy table moved to my basement. I saw on Facebook that the Staples High School wrestling team moves furniture in exchange for a donation for the team.

“Sal Augeri sent his son Nick over with some friends to help. I was so impressed with how polite, responsible and helpful the boys were! It was a nice reminder of why I chose to move back to the area.”

If you’ve got moving (or other physical labor) needs, email salaugeri@me.com or terrybrannigan5@gmail.com.

Among the wrestlers’ jobs: moving a chicken coop. (This was before the pandemic, which is why they’re not wearing masks.)

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Samantha Lavy and Jennifer Strom — aka the JSRC Group of therapists — has opened a Westport office, at 26 Imperial Avenue. They’ll continue their Stamford practice too.

“We support couples, families, teens, and individuals as we all move through these challenging times and beyond,” they say. “We also continue our work advising families navigating the particular complexities and family dynamics which often occur in the context of family business and wealth.”

For more information call 203-212-8383, or email hello@jsrcgroup.com

Samantha Lavy (left) and Jennifer Strom.

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A worried “06880” reader writes:

“I was on my way to the transfer station, when a lady behind me took a picture of my minivan. I thought, oh boy, I bet with the wind, a trash bag fell out of the can on my cargo hitch.

“I got the station. Sure enough, one bag was missing.

“I drove the same route back, and found it. I picked it up and drove home.

“I am writing just in case a picture of my super-cool white minivan with an awesome cargo hitch gets carrying a couple of trash cans gets to you.

“I thought the lady who took a picture of my minivan would post it on social media and send it to you. I thought I would have to sell the super-cool minivan to avoid being identified and embarrass my children forever.

“I swear I pick up after my dog and park my car using one spot. Nevertheless, the fact that someone had a picture of my car was a very strong incentive to trace down the fly-away-trash bag.”

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And finally … tons o’ musical birthdays today, with a variety of genres. We salute:

Jay Traynor, the original “Jay” of Jay & the Americans (replaced later by Jay Black); born in 1943, died in 2014, age 71.

Eric Clapton: 76 years old today.

MC Hammer: 59 years old.

Tracy Chapman: 57 years old.

Celine Dion: 53 years old.

Norah Jones: 42 years old.

Roundup: Express Train, I-95, Passover …

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Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Let’s pause and remember all who served — including Westport’s own Jay Dirnberger.

Jay Dirnberger

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After New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson’s great game Saturday night, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had an unusual way of comparing Williamson to an express train:

“It’s not just an Amtrak, it’s the Acela. it doesn’t stop in Westport, it just goes straight to New York City.” (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

This express train does not stop in Westport.

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Westport Book Shop is a smash.

That’s not just my opinion. The Jesup Road used book store — which also sells vinyl, CDs, DVDs and audio books — is so successful, it’s expanding its hours.

They’re now open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. They’re closed Mondays.

They’re open 24/7 online, too: www.westportbooksales.org.

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How is the I-95/Beachside Avenue bridge replacement project going?

Brandon Malin’s drone offers this unique view:

(Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

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COVID knocked out every in-person Seder last year.

This Passover, some Westport families gathered in small groups. Others celebrated virtually.

Below, David Ader joins the Yormark Seder. Pippa Bell Ader notes: “In the interest of saving paper, this year we read from the Haggadah via the second computer, on the right.”

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Easter is Sunday. Which means there are only a few days left to get your Easter basket.

Savvy + Grace has great ones. You can head to the popular Main Street store and pick what you want.

Or email savvyandgracewestport@gmail.com. Include your name, phone number, and the age, likes and interests of the recipient. Annette Norton and her staff will put baskets together, and call for your review.

Not sure? Check out some pre-made baskets online (click here).

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International Mother Earth Day is coming soon. To celebrate, the United Nations Association’s Southwest Connecticut Chapter is running a Student Creativity Contest.

They’re looking for ways to promote the UN’s sustainable development goals, legal protections for nature, and efforts to preserve biodiversity.

Submissions in any form are welcome: posters, flyers, stickers, postcards, videos, tweets, web pages, poems, songs, social media posts, whatever.

Cash prizes are awarded: $300 for 1st place, $150 for 2nd, $75 for 3rd, $25 for 4th through 10th place.

The deadline is April 16. Email a JPG, PDF, PowerPoint, MP3, MP4 or hyperlink to unaswct@gmail.com. For more information, click here.

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Speaking of Earth Day: Last fall , Melissa Ceriale and her Prospect Road neighbors participated in Debra Kandrak’s daffodil planting project.

The results are gorgeous. And they’ll pop up every spring too!

Daffodils on Prospect Road. (Photo/Melissa Ceriale)

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And finally … on this day in 1871, Queen Victoria opened London’s Royal Albert Hall.

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,

Randy Herbertson Has Plans For The Downtown Plan

Better parking. Enhanced river access. Tech upgrades, including vibrant WiFi.

Those are some of the initiatives planned for downtown.

Now all Randy Herbertson has to do is implement them.

He’s not alone, of course. The revitalization of Main Street, Jesup Green and environs is a huge task, with public and private partnerships and investments.

But as the new chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, it’s Herbertson’s job to see it all through.

Randy Herbertson

He’s hardly parachuting in. He and his wife Deborah have been here since 1998. But although they chose this town in part for its cultural offerings, for more than their first decade Herbertson was “that guy who saw Westport only in the dark.”

He owned a marketing and design firm in New York. She commuted too. It was only after he sold his business and opened The Visual Brand on Church Lane — and Deborah became creative director at Terrain — that he got involved in local affairs.

He went big. David Waldman encouraged him to join the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He sat on the town website steering committee and the Westport Library board.

And Herbertson joined the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

The “plan” is the town’s Master Plan. Developed 7 years ago, it is now “a bit outdated,” Herbertson admits. But it’s a start.

The new chair hopes to prioritize the plan’s 4 or 5 major initiatives, by cost and complexity.

One key issue: Reimagining parking. First up, Herbertson says, is the Baldwin lot off Elm Street. That’s the easiest

Parker Harding Plaza is more complex. It involves rethinking green space, and the lot’s relationship to the Saugatuck River.

A slender ribbon of green separates the Saugatuck River from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Amy Berkin)

Jesup Green is the most complex. The ultimate vision, Herbertson says, is to flip the current parking with the adjacent green space. That would emphasize and maximize river access, while adding perhaps a playground or skating rink.

The greening of downtown, including technology upgrades, could solarize much of the area. A stronger WiFI network would enhance music capabilities.

Herbertson’s committee will also figure out how to create “more stop-and-pause places. People want room to move freely outside, then stop and dwell.”

The DPIC head points to the COVID-induced closing of Church Lane as successful. It led to increased dining and shopping, Herbertson says. Now he wants to build on that success.

Another issue: the best way to manage services like trash pickup and recycling.

“A good downtown is the heart and soul of a community,” Herbertson says. “It’s great to see that ours is becoming that again.” New businesses — restaurants, book stores and more — are opening up. Some are start-ups; others have relocated from elsewhere in town.

Among the new businesses downtown: Capuli restaurant.

During his time as president, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association reinvigorated the Fine Arts Festival. They added special events for different populations — a fashion show, beer fest and more — and advocated for enhanced public/private partnerships. Cables were buried; sidewalks and curbs added.

Herbertson calls his roles with the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee and Downtown Merchants Association “synergistic.” The DPIC is an advisory body, he notes; the town controls all rules and regulations.

But, he notes, “everything the DPIC touches is something the WDMA is involved in.”

He also sees synergy with other initiatives in town — for example, the revitalization of Saugatuck.

“COVID taught us the importance of the retail community, as part of our town as a whole,” he says. “Whatever happens in one place affects the rest.”

So what does Herbertson’s idea downtown look like?

“Highly walkable,” he says.”Real strong integration of natural resources, especially the waterfront. Every space filled with a selection of things that are unique an good for the town, where people can stop and pause.

“And something for all ages.”

Downtown Westport. (Photo/John Videler for VIdeler Photography)

Neighbors Helping Neighbors: What We All Can Do

Earlier this month, several Westporters grew worried about a neighbor.

In his 90s, he lived alone. Several people would cook, and leave bags of food at his door. Two bags had not been retrieved; his mail was still in the box, and the carrier was worried.

Recently, a neighbor had seen bruises on his face. But when anyone knocked, he’d yell from behind a chained door, “COVID! COVID! Go away!”

Yhe Westport Police, EMS and Department of Human Services were called. Sadly, he had died.

A neighbor emailed me: “My heart breaks for the old man, by himself, perhaps ill and/or with failing memory, and so terrified of COVID he refused contact with concerned neighbors, who he knew also brought him food.”

Could they have done more? she wondered.

I asked Human Services director Elaine Daignault. She says:

“Neighbors are often the first line of support for individuals who live alone. That’s why it is so vital for Westporters to get to know their neighbors. Human Services frequently receives calls from concerned neighbors of elderly and disabled residents.

Elaine Daignault, director of Westport’s Department of Human Services

“Every scenario is different. A DHS social worker is always available to listen to concerns, and work collaboratively with neighbors and emergency responders to determine the best way to support the individual in question.

The strong partnership between first responders and Human Services ensures a collective approach to supporting seniors’ health and well-being in various situations.

“If the individual is in imminent danger, residents are encouraged to call 911. If DHS receives the call, we contact the police immediately for a welfare check.

“If warranted, EMS will transport the individual to the hospital for medical emergencies. In this scenario, Police, Fire and EMS will refer the household to Human Services for follow-up, as needed. We also work with hospital social workers to help with discharge planning.

“Concurrently, a call to Human Services initiates a trained social worker’s response to directly contact the individual to assess their needs and create a plan to help.

“Some people are more open to discuss their needs than others. Some people choose to decline assistance altogether. If they are not amenable to sharing, we will identify a family member or friend to offer assistance where needed.

“If we cannot make contact or progress, Human Services works collaboratively with first responders and the Westport Weston Health District to schedule an in-home safety assessment.

“If we cannot find a responsible family member to assist, or the individual is resistant, the team may refer the case to CT Protective Services for the Elderly.  The state then becomes the lead agency, and town partners serve as local resources to ensure that the resident receives appropriate supports.

“Here are some ways for neighborhoods to look after the elderly in their communities:

  • Exchange phone numbers and ask for a loved one’s contact information, just in case.
  • Check in with them regularly, or set up a  simple check-in. For example, offer to do their grocery shopping or bring them their mail. Request that the senior provides a regular “signal” to their neighbors, like opening and closing a specific blind each day, to avoid concerned neighbors making unnecessary calls for welfare checks.
  • Consider encouraging them to register for a Human Services program, or participate in the Westport Center for Senior Activities.
  • DHS has several call programs to provide additional support and welfare checks for registered residents. Anyone wishing to receive a friendly call from a community volunteer (Hello, Neighbor), a welfare check during emergencies (Emergency Registry), or to register special circumstances through our Voluntary Registry for People with Disabilities can contact DHS through the links above, call 203-341-1050, or email or humansrv@westportct.gov.
  • Seniors and people with disabilities may be eligible to receive home delivered meals. This provides an additional layer of support, because volunteers personally deliver meals to recipients weekly.

“It sounds like the neighbors did the right thing by calling the Police Department and Human Services. Together, we will follow up on the calls and do our best to address concerns directly.

“Note that we cannot share personal information or circumstances without the individual’s expressed consent, which can be frustrating to the person making the initial call.

“In a non-emergency situation, anyone can call Human Services at 203-341-1050 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or contact the Police non-emergency line at 341-6000 any time. The Police Department will always bring necessary backup, including Fire and EMS.

“If someone notices a pattern of suspicious activity, or has a concern about abuse or neglect, they can contact both numbers above or make a direct report to the Connecticut Department of Social Services Protective Services For The Elderly central intake line at 888-385- 4225. For after-hour reports, call 211.”