Category Archives: Politics

[UPDATE — CORRECT VERSION] Westport Women On The Move

I posted the wrong version of this story earlier today — and omitted photos. The correct date of the march is next Sunday — March 26. Here is the version with photos. My apologies!

It seems like decades. But it’s only been a few weeks since the beginning of the Trump administration.

That’s when Darcy Hicks was getting tired of her worldly concerns being confined to Facebook feeds.

She knew a few others. Soon, 10 friends assembled in her Westport home, to write postcards to politicans.

That grew to a group of 40 Westporters. All said the same thing: How can we be more active?

A couple of days later, “06880”‘s Friday Flashback highlighted Kathie Motes Bennewitz’s story about the Equal Franchise League. Way back in 1913, women demanded suffrage — and marched — right here in Westport.

As Darcy’s postcard group grew into (yes) a Facebook page — DefenDemocracy of CT — a few members reacted with nostalgia. As they met in kitchens, they shared stories of their own pasts as activists, and the role of Westport and Connecticut in activism.

Lauren Soloff, Lisa Bowman and Darcy Hicks, all actively engaged.

Lauren Soloff Malowitz — Darcy’s neighbor when she moved back here 23 years ago — had marched for women’s right to choose. Lisa Bowman — who drove to Pennsylvania with Darcy 8 years ago, to knock on doors during Barack Obama’s first presidential run — had grown up marching with her parents, against nuclear weapons.

Nita Prasad had been very active as a Berkeley student. She helped shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge after the Rodney King verdict, and raised funds for Oxfam.

Darcy Hicks (front right) demanded that Smith College divest from South Africa — and made the cover of this Newsweek campus publication.

As a student herself, Darcy helped take over the Smith College administration building, until trustees divested from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The women are still active, in a variety of ways.

Nita — a professor of world history at Quinnipiac University — helps mobilize students and faculty in support of the national popular vote project.

After a long career in broadcasting, Lisa has been a fundraiser for the Democratic State Central Committee and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Lauren, a lawyer, fundraises for Homes With Hope. Darcy teaches children in Bridgeport and New Haven in Visual Literacy, an arts and language skills program she developed at Yale.

Darcy’s group wondered what their own kids — and others — who are so addicted to social media were learning about activism and social engagement. They decided that if a group of Westport women could march in 1913 — despite what must have been formidable obstacles — then they could do the same.

So on Sunday, March 26, a “CT on the Move March to Defend Democracy — One Small State, One Big Voice” march is set for downtown Westport. It begins at noon at Jesup Green, and ends at Veterans Green. Senator Chris Murphy is the keynote speaker.

“The idea is to celebrate Westport’s history of fighting for change,” Darcy says.

“Westport has often lived up to Connecticut’s ‘Constitution State’ nickname. From our revolutionary history to the examples we set advocating for abolition, women’s rights, civil rights and more, we are a community that does not stay quiet when we want change.”

This is more than a political rally, Darcy explains. “Really, it’s a reminder to all of us that we are part of a very special community — one that is fortunate, but that cares for those who aren’t. That is patriotism.”

Since first publicizing the march, Darcy’s group has joined with many others, new and established: Indivisible, Love in Action, 203 Action, Pantsuit Nation CT, the Westport Democratic Town Committee, and Staples High School’s Young Democrats and Social Activism clubs.

Darcy and her band of once-and-future activists are excited to be back in action.

They’re even more excited that younger folks — like Staples senior Lulu Stracher — are joining them.

“This is one generation showing a younger one that real change needs to happen outside of social media,” Darcy says.

“Engagement lives on. We look forward to passing the torch!”

(For more information, click here or email darcyhicksdtt@gmail.com)

Lauren Soloff at a Planned Parenthood rally, back in the day. She’s third from the left (not counting President Reagan), standing next to Vice President Bush.

[UPDATE — CORRECT VERSION] Westport Women On The Move

I posted the wrong version of this story earlier today — and omitted photos. The correct date of the march is next Sunday — March 26. Here is the version with photos. My apologies!

It seems like decades. But it’s only been a few weeks since the beginning of the Trump administration.

That’s when Darcy Hicks was getting tired of her worldly concerns being confined to Facebook feeds.

She knew a few others. Soon, 10 friends assembled in her Westport home, to write postcards to politicans.

That grew to a group of 40 Westporters. All said the same thing: How can we be more active?

A couple of days later, “06880”‘s Friday Flashback highlighted Kathie Motes Bennewitz’s story about the Equal Franchise League. Way back in 1913, women demanded suffrage — and marched — right here in Westport.

As Darcy’s postcard group grew into (yes) a Facebook page — DefenDemocracy of CT — a few members reacted with nostalgia. As they met in kitchens, they shared stories of their own pasts as activists, and the role of Westport and Connecticut in activism.

Lauren Soloff, Lisa Bowman and Darcy Hicks, all actively engaged.

Lauren Soloff Malowitz — Darcy’s neighbor when she moved back here 23 years ago — had marched for women’s right to choose. Lisa Bowman — who drove to Pennsylvania with Darcy 8 years ago, to knock on doors during Barack Obama’s first presidential run — had grown up marching with her parents, against nuclear weapons.

Nita Prasad had been very active as a Berkeley student. She helped shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge after the Rodney King verdict, and raised funds for Oxfam.

Darcy Hicks (front right) demanded that Smith College divest from South Africa — and made the cover of this Newsweek campus publication.

As a student herself, Darcy helped take over the Smith College administration building, until trustees divested from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The women are still active, in a variety of ways.

Nita — a professor of world history at Quinnipiac University — helps mobilize students and faculty in support of the national popular vote project.

After a long career in broadcasting, Lisa has been a fundraiser for the Democratic State Central Committee and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Lauren, a lawyer, fundraises for Homes With Hope. Darcy teaches children in Bridgeport and New Haven in Visual Literacy, an arts and language skills program she developed at Yale.

Darcy’s group wondered what their own kids — and others — who are so addicted to social media were learning about activism and social engagement. They decided that if a group of Westport women could march in 1913 — despite what must have been formidable obstacles — then they could do the same.

So on Sunday, March 26, a “CT on the Move March to Defend Democracy — One Small State, One Big Voice” march is set for downtown Westport. It begins at noon at Jesup Green, and ends at Veterans Green. Senator Chris Murphy is the keynote speaker.

“The idea is to celebrate Westport’s history of fighting for change,” Darcy says.

“Westport has often lived up to Connecticut’s ‘Constitution State’ nickname. From our revolutionary history to the examples we set advocating for abolition, women’s rights, civil rights and more, we are a community that does not stay quiet when we want change.”

This is more than a political rally, Darcy explains. “Really, it’s a reminder to all of us that we are part of a very special community — one that is fortunate, but that cares for those who aren’t. That is patriotism.”

Since first publicizing the march, Darcy’s group has joined with many others, new and established: Indivisible, Love in Action, 203 Action, Pantsuit Nation CT, the Westport Democratic Town Committee, and Staples High School’s Young Democrats and Social Activism clubs.

Darcy and her band of once-and-future activists are excited to be back in action.

They’re even more excited that younger folks — like Staples senior Lulu Stracher — are joining them.

“This is one generation showing a younger one that real change needs to happen outside of social media,” Darcy says.

“Engagement lives on. We look forward to passing the torch!”

(For more information, click here or email darcyhicksdtt@gmail.com)

Lauren Soloff at a Planned Parenthood rally, back in the day. She’s third from the left (not counting President Reagan), standing next to Vice President Bush.

Building Bridges, From Staples To Syria

Kion Bruno’s mother — eye surgeon Dr.  Aryan Shayegani — is a 1st-generation Iranian American.

Neighbors on their road here in Westport include a 1st-generation Palestinian neurosurgeon, a Pakistani man, and a family that hosted Iraqi refugees.

“They’re all pillars of society,” Kion says. “And they’re all Middle Eastern.”

Kion Bruno

At Staples High School — where the 11th grader is a varsity tennis player, and founder of the squash team — he hears occasional terrorist “jokes.”

“With the current presidential administration, there’s been a definite increase in xenophobia,” Kion says. “We need to bridge the gap.”

He’s doing his part. Along with several others, Kion started a Building Bridges club at Staples. Already they’ve brought in a few speakers: Iranian American women, to talk about their lives in Iran (very similar to the US, Kion says); Palestinian neurosurgeon Dr. Khalid Abbed, who grew up very poor and whose son now goes to Staples, and Tarek Alasil, a Syrian refugee training to be an ophthalmologist.

The group also arranged a Skype call with teenagers in Iran.

Now they’re reaching out to audiences beyond Staples. On Saturday, April 1 (3 p.m., Staples auditorium), Building Bridges will sponsor a screening of “Salam Neighbor.”

It’s directed by Greens Farms Academy graduates Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, who lived in a Syrian refugee camp. The film provides an intimate look at that horrific humanitarian crisis.

Congressman Jim Himes will be featured in the panel discussion that follows the screening, along with First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Other panelists include a Syrian refugee, being hosted in Westport; Ali Majeed, an Iraqi refugee who was hosted here and is now training to be a dentist; Claudia Connor, president and CEO of the International Institute of Connecticut resettlement program; John McGeehan of Westport Interfaith Refugee Settlement, and Megan Laney, a Westport native studying in Syria who was evacuated when the war began.

Senator Chris Murphy is sending a personalized video.

The suggested donation is $10. All proceeds benefit local and international refugee agencies and charities.

“Our community has the choice to stand by passively,” Kion says. “Or we can unite, and act to make a difference.”

He and his organization of teenagers have already built a bridge to the Middle East. Now the rest of us must cross it.

 

#45: View From The Therapist’s Couch

Donald Trump promised to put Americans back to work again.

He’s already got one profession working overtime.

Therapists.

A psychoanalyst who lives in Westport, and practices here and in another city, emailed “06880.” Speaking anonymously — I’ll call him or her “T,” because of confidentiality — the therapist said that even before the election, patients were expressing anxiety.

One woman had a panic attack on election night. At 1 a.m., she texted T.

“It reached a fever pitch right afterward,” T says. “Then it abated. It kicked up again after the Muslim ban.”

The therapist said that patients with trauma issues in their past find it hard to regulate emotions. In times of uncertainty — when the world seems unpredictable — agitation increases.

People across the political spectrum feel anxious, says T. The nation’s polarization causes concern for everyone. Trump supporters can feel angry and threatened, especially in this part of the country.

"So how did this election make you feel?"

“So how did this election make you feel?”

Patients are not always conscious that they’re reacting to the political climate. Some say they find themselves more tense at work, or angry with their partners. “They just think there’s something in the air,” T says.

These are tough times for therapists as well. “We have our own strong emotions,” T observes. “We have to distinguish between our histories, and our patients’. We’re constantly checking in on ourselves.”

Sounds like therapists need therapists. So there is indeed plenty of work for all!

A Neo-Nazi Story, In Westport

A police car sat outside The Conservative Synagogue of Westport. A police officer stood inside the front door.

Those are signs of the times. Near-daily bomb threats have rattled Jewish Community Centers and Anti-Defamation League offices around the country.

But the only threat last night was to disrupt stereotypes and assumptions.

A full house heard Frank Meeink talk about his life.

Frank Meeink’s book cover shows a swastika tattooed on his neck.

At 13 years old, the Philadelphia native was a skinhead. By 18 he was roaming the country as a neo-Nazi recruiter. He hosted a TV show called “The Reich.”

In prison — convicted of kidnapping and beating a member of a rival skinhead gang — he befriended men he once hated. Slowly, his world view — and life — changed.

Today the 41-year-old is a noted speaker, author and founder of Harmony Through Hockey (he’s also a youth coach). He travels the country talking about tolerance, diversity and mutual understanding, in race, politics and throughout society.

Meeink — who has been featured in a film with Desmond Tutu, appeared in a music video with country singer Jamey Johnson and been interviewed by Katie Couric — was part of the inspiration for the movie “American History X.”

His talk last night was riveting. It was also preaching to the choir. I doubt anyone came to the synagogue hoping to have his or her neo-Nazi views reinforced.

But Meeink’s message of openness, and his story of how hatred can be turned to love, was powerful and inspiring. It was also eye-opening to hear his raw words spoken inside a temple, before an audience that included men in yarmulkes.

Frank Meeink speaking last night at The Conservative Synagogue.

Last night’s event was the culmination in a long day. Earlier, Meeink spent 2 hours with the sophomore and junior classes at Staples High School. They listened raptly as he discussed “The Truth About Hate.” After Meeink spoke, a number of students talked in an open mic session about their experiences with bullying — as bullies, victims and bystanders — and pledged to work toward greater acceptance for all.

Meeink later met with members of the Westport Police Department.

When he was 15 years old, Meeink tattooed a swastika on his neck. Two decades later, a resurgence of hatred sweeps our nation.

The police presence at The Conservative Synagogue last night served as a grim reminder of that. But Frank Meeink’s strong words — delivered to various Westport audiences all day long — overpowered every image of fear.

(Frank Meeink’s appearance last night was sponsored by The Conservative Synagogue, the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut, TEAM Westport, Hadassah, the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy and the Westport Inn.)

 

Paying It Forward For Refugees

Last week, “06880” told the story of Josh Kangere, a refugee from the Republic of Congo who has found work at Sugar & Olives — and the beginnings of a new life in America.

Today there’s another hopeful tale, of another Congolese immigrant here.

Three years ago, a man named David was granted refugee status. He came to Bridgeport, found work in Milford, and established himself. Last week — thanks to the International Institute of Connecticut — he was reunited with his wife Anathalie.

He also got to hold his son Christian for the first time. When David left Africa, the boy had not yet been born.

The Nestor family of Weston heard David’s story from Sue Ingall, a fellow Westonite who sets up refugee houses with volunteers from 4 area churches: Christ & Holy Trinity and the Unitarian Church, both in Westport; Norfield Congregational in Weston, and Greenfield Hill Congregational in Fairfield.

They were touched, and wanted to do something special. So Samantha, Mike, Finn and Gavin gathered furniture and children’s toys, and headed to Bridgeport on Saturday morning to meet the family.

David and Anathalie with the Nestor family.

It was a special day for everyone. Saturday was the birthday of Samantha’s grandmother Fay, after whom their son Finn is named. A refugee herself, she escaped the Russian pogroms nearly 100 years ago, with her mother and sisters.

Fay, like Christian, was separated from her father for years. She and the rest of her family journeyed to New York, where eventually they were all reunited.

They were the only members of their family to escape from Russia. Their cousins, uncles and extended family were all murdered by the Nazis.

Despite the mass executions, abductions, mutilations and rapes that are almost daily occurrences in Congo, David’s and Anathalie’s faces are filled with gratitude and hope.

And the Nestors were happy to connect their own family’s story with David’s.

(This Sunday [March 12, 3 p.m., Bessemer Center, Bridgeport] IICONN will hold a Rally for Unity and Resilience to Stand with Refugees and Immigrants. Speakers include Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy. Click here for information on the Facebook page.)

Finding Hope, In Sugar & Olives

In 2010, Josh Kangere fled the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo. He spent  the next 7 years in Kenya.

It took nearly all that time to be vetted as a refugee for admittance to the United States. When he finally got clearance, it was almost too late.

Josh arrived in New York moments before President Trump suspended the American refugee resettlement program. Still, he underwent hours of intense questioning before being allowed in.

international-institute-of-connecticutWith the help of the International Institute of Connecticut, and local volunteers — including many from Westport — he now lives in a Bridgeport apartment, with 3 other refugees. He pays $350 a month.

One of Josh’s first priorities —  along with learning better English, and adapting to a very different country — was finding a job. In Congo, he’d worked as a hospital nurse. Much of his work involved documenting rape cases for legal prosecution.

He did not have the language skills or accreditation to work in the medical field here. (His main languages are Swahili and French; his English is workable.)

Josh had just started his job search when the Wall Street Journal published a story about him.

Jennifer saw it. A longtime Westporter, she’d been looking for cleaning and dish-washing help at Sugar & Olives, the restaurant/bar/cooking school/event space just over the Norwalk line.

She hired him immediately.

Josh Kangere, at work.

Josh Kangere, at work.

Josh takes the bus from Bridgeport. It’s a long, unfamiliar trek, to do work that is below his skills, but he is happy to be there.

“I cannot be a man without a job,” he says. “Any job. I am ready to work.”

Jennifer — who feeds Josh dinner in part so he can save money, in part to introduce him to American food — knows she may be criticized for hiring someone who had been in this country for just a few days, instead of a local resident.

“Do you know how hard it is to find someone who cares about a job like this, and is willing to work hard?” she asks. “This is like looking for a nanny. The fit has to be right. If you don’t have a fire under your feet, you don’t belong in a restaurant. I need someone who isn’t just in this for the paycheck.”

Jennifer has welcomed Josh into the Sugar & Olives family — and her own. Her son August Laska — a Staples grad — has studied Swahili at Middlebury College. They’ve chatted a bit by phone. (Josh is also fluent in French.)

Jennifer Balin and Chris Grimm. He has helped welcome Josh Kangere to Sugar & Olives as a fellow employee.

Jennifer Balin and Chris Grimm. He has helped welcome Josh Kangere to Sugar & Olives as a fellow employee.

Jennifer believes that “the beauty of America is giving everyone an equal chance at success — and that includes immigrants. We can only learn from each other. Keeping our borders open and safe is a positive thing.”

“I’m blessed,” says Josh, who hopes to return some day to the medical field.

He says Jennifer has “a love I’ve never seen. To help people she does not know, that is special.”

Everywhere in this area, he adds, “I meet good people. They want to help me. I’m so happy with everything.

“I hope with the grace of God, in the future my life will be good. God bless the American people.”

Staples Students: “We The People”

Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, “I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.” Do you agree or disagree with Justice Holmes? Why?

That’s a tough question. It takes a ton of work just to understand what Holmes said — let alone figure out what you think, then devise arguments for or against it.

It’s especially hard for a teenager. But this question — and 17 others like it — have inspired an entire Staples High School class, for months.

And at the end of April, they head to Washington to argue those 18 questions, in a national competition that’s a proving ground for future leaders of the free world.

In just their 3rd year of existence, students in Suzanne Kammerman’s “We the People” Advanced Placement Government course finished 2nd in a statewide contest. That qualified them for the DC event.

Suzanne Kammerman (2nd row, far right) and her AP Government "We the People" class, after finishing 2nd in the statewide competition last December.

Suzanne Kammerman (2nd row, far right) and her AP Government “We the People” class, after finishing 2nd in the statewide competition last December.

More than 20 years ago, as a student at Shelton High, Kammerman herself participated in “We the People.” It was so powerful, she helped introduce the course to Staples. Though the high school offers 9 sections of AP Government, this is the only one that includes the contest component.

It’s an added commitment — students spend hours outside of class forming teams, researching questions, developing answers, then arguing them in front of judges who are professors and constitutional experts — but students who are passionate about government embrace it. They compete in “We the People” in addition to their other coursework — which includes preparing for the regular AP exam.

According to Milton Friedman, “The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the ‘rules of the game’ and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on.” To what extent, if any, are Friedman’s ideas seen in the development of capitalism in western civilization?

There are 6 units of questions, on topics like “Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System” and “What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the 21st Century?”

we-the-people-logoWorking in groups of 3 or 4, students explore 3 questions each, in astonishing depth. Using critical analysis skills, they respond in writing to all 3 questions. They then respond to judges’ questions — without notes.

“I’m amazed at how much these kids have to know,” Kammerman — who meets with them on weekends, at the library and Barnes & Noble — says.

“And they really look at the Constitution with genuine civic dialogue. They’re not hyper-partisan. They all have points of view about politics, but they push them aside. It’s very impressive.”

In a speech to his fellow Virginians in 1775 Patrick Henry noted, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.” What lessons from history and experiences led the colonists to develop and structure their legislatures and their relationships to their executives and judiciaries the way they did in their new state constitutions?

Suzanne Kammerman (Photo/Madeline Hardy for Inklings)

Suzanne Kammerman (Photo/Madeline Hardy for Inklings)

At the qualifying competition in December, held at Central Connecticut State University, questions were asked about 4th Amendment issues like privacy and search and seizure, in the context of schools. Judges were so impressed with the Staples students’ responses that they continued talking, long after the 6-minute timer went off.

Right now, the class is preparing for the national contest. They’re excited at the chance to participate in mock congressional hearings, and see the sights in Washington. Kammerman has also arranged a meeting with Senator Chris Murphy.

But besides studying for some very tough questions, the “We the People” class has another task. The cost of the trip — including transportation and hotels — is nearly $30,000.

They received a very generous $15,000 donation from the law firm of Koskoff Koskoff and Bieder. But they need more.

If you’d like to help the next generation of leaders, contact Kammerman (skammerman@westport.k12.ct.us) or Staples principal James D’Amico (jdamico@westport.k12.ct.us).

What do you think Thomas Jefferson meant when he included the right to the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence instead of the more commonly used “right to property”? Where might the concept have come from?

The Constitution

The Constitution

Westport Activist Wants All Connecticut Votes To Count

As a zoology major Nicole Klein learned that when sea turtles hatch, they instinctively turn to the horizon. That leads them straight to the ocean.

In the aftermath of November’s election, she felt similarly impelled. But it was not until Christmas — when she had a chance to take a break from her very demanding full-time job — that she understood exactly what she had to do.

So she served notice to her employer, McKinsey. Today she devotes herself full time to grassroots political activism.

nicole-klein-head-shot

Nicole Klein

Klein loved McKinsey. The consulting firm encourages personal growth into new areas of the company, and she’d taken full advantage. After 17 years, Klein had worked her way up to global event manager.

But — like those sea turtles — Klein followed her destiny.

She’d been involved in political campaigns from 1992 to 2004. In 2008 she fell in love. “I didn’t care about anything else,” she laughs.

Klein got married, had a child, moved to Westport. In the run-up to this year’s election — as she worked hard for Hillary Clinton — she wanted her 6-year-old son to see what involvement looked like. She brought him to her phone bank shifts.

In the weeks after the election — but before her resignation from McKinsey — Klein grew more active.

She attended Westport Democratic Town Committee meetings. She volunteered as a bus captain for the Women’s March on Washington.

Klein calls that event “one of the 5 best days of my life. It was so powerful to see everyone come together peacefully. It wasn’t a protest — it was a unifying moment.”

Nicole Klein (left) enjoys the Women's March on Washington.

Nicole Klein (left) enjoys the Women’s March on Washington.

Now Klein is putting her event planning talents to work on another project. It’s an informational session on changing the way Connecticut casts its electoral votes for president.

Set for this Thursday (March 2, 7 p.m.) in the Westport Country Playhouse barn, the “State of Voting: CT Debates a New Way to Elect the President” panel includes New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg. It’s part of a move to have our state join 11 others whose legislatures have agreed to let its electors vote for the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The idea is that all votes cast nationwide for president will count equally — without abolishing the Electoral College. Under the current method, voters in Connecticut — and other almost-certain blue or red states — are easily ignored.

Of nearly 400 events during the 2016 general election, 94% were held in just 12 battleground states. Only 1 was held in the Constitution State.

equalize-the-vote-ct-logoOrganizers of National Popular Vote CT — including Westporters John Hartwell and Rozanne Gates — call the concept one of fairness. Citizens of every state should have their vote weighed equally, they say.

The project’s leaders also point to surveys that show 3/4 of Connecticut’s voters — including a majority of Republicans — believe the candidate who gets the most votes in the country should become president.

Thursday’s event is non-partisan, Klein says. “We want people to hear the issues, and make up their own minds.”

She hopes for a large turnout at the Playhouse. And when that’s done, she’ll turn her attention to the next activity.

“Not one day goes by that I regret resigning,” Klein says. Every day she feels more excited about being part of the democratic — with a small “d” — process.

In her own way, she’s making sure America stays great.

(“The State of Voting: CT Debates a New Way to Elect the President” — at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 in the Westport Country Playhouse barn — is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westport and National Popular Vote CT. The event is free, but seats must be reserved. Click here, email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org, or call 203-227-4177. Video of the event will be available on Facebook Live at NationalPopularVoteCT, and afterward on www.npvct.com)

TEAM Westport Essay Contest Adds Anonymity Option

TEAM Westport’s 4th annual essay contest — on the topic of white privilege — has grabbed international attention. Coverage on CNN, in the New York Times, The Guardian and on alt-right websites caused some high school students (and their parents) to wonder what might happen if they go public with their writing.

Realizing the importance of expressing one’s views — but also the reality of privacy — organizers are offering the option of anonymity.

When the 3 winning essays are announced on April 3 at the Westport Library,  students who chose private acknowledgement of their accomplishment will have their essays read by contest judges. Those who chose public acknowledgement can read their essays themselves. All winning essays will be published — without names, for those who wish to remain anonymous.

The 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay -- and published under the pseudonym "Publius."

The 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay — and published under the pseudonym “Publius.”

“The national and international coverage surrounding this year’s TEAM Westport teen diversity essay contest has provoked verbal and written harassment of some committee members, and Town of Westport employees and personnel,” sponsors said in a press release.

“The majority of this type of correspondence appears to have originated from out of town and, generally, from out of state. There is concern, however, that this increased coverage may have made potential contestants reticent to submit an essay for fear of similar harassment. Because the well-being of young people in the community is a priority, the essay sponsors have determined that the option of anonymity is appropriate.”

The deadline for submission is Monday (February 27). The contest is open to all students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who reside in Westport and attend school elsewhere. Click here for the application.

TEAM-Westport-logo2