Tag Archives: Black History Month

Saugatuck Church Opens Black History Art Show

The Saugatuck Congregational Church mission statement includes a commitment to “welcome all people.”

Those are not just words.

The downtown congregation hosts a wide range of 12-step programs. Last year they sponsored a show of immigrant art.

In 2018, Saugatuck accepted an invitation from the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport to pair with a predominantly African American church. The goal was mutual learning about the impact of racism in our culture and communities.

Small groups from Saugatuck and St. Matthew Baptist Church met several times. A Westport participant said he was amazed to learn what he had not been aware of.

Saugatuck’s Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton and St. Matthew’s Rev. Aaron Best remain in touch. Their congregations will continue to connect.

St. Matthew Baptist Church

Dan Long participated in the exchange. An artist and member of Saugatuck’s arts committee, he helped organize last year’s “Art Beyond Borders” show, featuring works by Latin American immigrants.

The opening — with art, music and poetry — drew a very diverse crowd.

Dan wanted to organize more shows at his church, honoring diversity and fighting racism.

He died suddenly in June. His wife Priscilla and arts team members have taken up the cause.

A special exhibit — “Celebrating Color in Black History Month” — opens this Friday (February 21, 6 to 8 p.m., Hoskins Hall). Six area artists of color — Jeffrey Nelson, Amir Hines, Clyde Theophilus McLaughlin, Shanna Melton, Michael Brinkley and Lesley Koenig — will share their work.

Some of the work in the Saugatuck Congregational Church art show.

The show ends March 10. But Saugatuck Church’s commitment to multi-culturalism, and against racism, continues.

In May Rev. Donique McIntosh — minister for racial justice for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ — will be a guest preacher.

(“Art Beyond Borders” is open to the public, whenever the Saugatuck Congregational Church is open. Call first — 203-227-1261.)

Friday Flashback #77

February is Black History Month.

It’s a time to celebrate the many contributions and accomplishments of African Americans — and to reflect on our country’s often tortured relationship with race.

It’s a time to think about how Americans treat every person in our country.

And it’s a time to look back at how we did so in the past.

Alert “06880” reader — and amateur historian — Mary Palmieri Gai made an astonishing find recently. The Town Crier of December 15, 1949 ran this photo:

The caption reads:

For the first time in Westport history, a Negro attended one of this community’s town meetings. The group was especially interested in the debate on public housing.

It’s amazing — and embarrassing — to see what qualified as “news” nearly 70 years ago.

It’s also probably quite wrong.

Among Westport’s most historic homes is 108 Cross Highway. Built in 1805, it’s one of a few dwellings in town documented as being built by “a free black.”

Henry Munroe, a farmer, bought the land from John Burr in 1802. Munroe’s descendants were members of Green’s Farms Church.

Black families lived here throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. Some were servants and housekeepers. But others — like Munroe — were farmers, shopkeepers and businessmen, with a vested interest in town.

I can’t believe that 1949 was the first time a “Negro” attended a town meeting.

And I’m surprised that the Town Crier did not even dignify him with a name.

Which is one more reason why Black History Month remains vitally important today, for all of us.