Former CNN anchor Dave Briggs interviews his former colleague — current anchor of CNN’s “New Day” — Alisyn Camerota on Instagram Live today (Saturday, October 3) at 5 p.m. The pair of Westporters will talk about their town, and the world. Just search on Instagram for @WestportMagazine.
The “Playhouse at the Drive-In” event just got more remarkable.
As noted yesterday, the Westport Country Playhouse celebrates its 90th season on Saturday, October 17 (5 p.m.) with a a benefit event and screening at the Remarkable Theater drive-in (the Imperial Avenue parking lot).
Yesterday, The Artists Collective of Westport got approval from the Playhouse to hold their Affordable Art Trunk Show that afternoon, at 3.
Over 25 artists will be masked, in (socially distanced) cars — and as much “affordable art” as they can display on easels and tables.
The volume and flow of pedestrian traffic looking at the art will be carefully monitored by Collective volunteers.
The Playhouse and Artists Collective enjoy a great partnership, including meeting and exhibition at the WCP’s Sheffer Barn.
This Monday (October 5, 8:30 a.m.), the Coalition for Westport sponsors a Zoom talk on “subtle racism in Westport.” TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey is the guest.
To register, email email@example.com.
Lindsey Baldwin is a Staples High School senior. She’s an EMT. And she just received kudos from State Senator Will Haskell, for another type of community service.
Last year Lindsey set up donation bins at various pharmacies and dental practices. She collected 2,000 toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss cartridges. She also created a fundraiser on Facebook, and collected $1,430.
In February, Lindsey traveled to Honduras with CapeCARES. The on-profit sends volunteers to remote areas. They provide free medical and dental care.
She brought those 2,000 dental products with her. Many villagers had never had access to toothbrushes. It was an important moment for them — and for Lindsey, who returned to Westport grateful for all she has, and the opportunity to serve.
The 2020 ACE Awards will have a distinctly Westport-Weston look.
The event — the acronym is for Arts & Culture Empowerment, and it’s sponsored by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County — is set for October 22 (5:30 p.m., online). Registration is free.
Westporter Miggs Burroughs earns the Artist honors. Local residents Harold Bailey and Bernicestine McLeod receive the Citizen award.
Burroughs — a native Westporter and Staples High School graduate — has designed hundreds of logos, ads, brochures and websites for commercial and non-profit clients since 1972. His lenticular photos that explore change and transition are displayed at shows and galleries, and in tunnels like Parker Harding Plaza and the Wesetport train station.
A founding member of the Artists Collective of Westport and the first artist-in-residence at the Westport Library, Burroughs actually designed the actual ACE award — which was 3D-printed in the library’s MakerSpace.
Bailey and McLeod — both Brown University graduates and trustees — are committed to civic work and philanthropy. Bailey is a former IBM vice president, who chairs TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural commission. McLeod — president of an IT consulting firm — serves as treasurer.
Harold Bailey and Bernicestine McLeod
Bailey is also a board member of the Westport Country Playhouse, and a founder of Stamford’s 100 Black Men organization.McLeod has served on many boards, including the Westport Library and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
Weston’s Jim Naughton hosts the event. Tony Award winner Joanna Gleason — who works often with Staples Players — will talk about the essential role of music and arts education.
Videos for the virtual event are produced by Westporter Doug Tirola, president of 4th Row Films, and the guiding light behind the Remarkable Theater.
To register for the free event, click here. For more information, including sponsorships, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The title was provocative: “Why is Westport So White? What Can You Do About It?”
The speakers were heartfelt. Their list of examples was long, at a meeting last night that covered topics like long-ago real estate practices, current zoning regulations, and the roles of schools and police.
The event — organized by a group of residents ranging from long-timers to newcomers, as well as TEAM Westport — drew a crowd of about 75 (outdoors and socially distanced) to MoCA Westport. Another 25 or so joined via Zoom.
Black residents spoke of their experiences as a very small minority, in a very white town. In one compelling example, Ifeseyi Gale was confronted by a suspicious family when she pulled into a driveway to pick up an item.
Ifeseyi Gale addresses the crowd at MoCA.
2020 Staples High School graduate Natasha Johnson — now a Wharton student — sent a recorded message that recounted many painful experiences, starting in elementary schools.
Many speakers described their love for the town. For example, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey noted Police Chief Foti Koskinas’ grace and calm, and applauded new Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice’s openness to hearing about what can be done differently and better, in terms of diversity and inclusion.
But they did not shy away from demanding that the town do a better job in race relations.
A white student described a survey, in which recent Staples grads were asked about their preparation for living in a diverse society. Many noted that they had been led to believe the world is color-blind — but it is not.
TEAM Westport sponsors an annual high school essay contest. Past prompts have included micro-aggressions, and taking a knee protests. TEAM Westport has spent has spent nearly 2 years working with the school system on a framework including training, hiring, curriculum and staffing that would address diversity and inclusion. Winners of the 2019 TEAM Westport essay contest are (from left) chair Harold Bailey, and Chet Ellis, Angela Ji, Daniel Boccardo and Olivia Sarno.
Planning and Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin discussed how the lack of diverse housing impacts who lives here. She urged elimination of Westport’s cap on multifamily housing — which limits the total number of those units to 10% of total town dwellings, many of which are age-restricted and do not allow families — along with removing a restriction on “accessory dwelling units” with full bathrooms and kitchens. Permitting property owners to rent guest cottages, or create separate private living space, would expand housing stock and increase affordability and diversity.
Over the past few months, the entire country has talked openly about race. Organizers expressed hope that last night’s event will be an important beginning — not a one-time event — for their town.
Jesup Green — Westport’s historic site for anti-war, gun violence and other protests — drew several hundred people of all ages to another, this afternoon.
Organized in less than 48 hours following the national reaction to the death of George Floyd, it was as passionate as any in the past. But — coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — it also marked the first large gathering here since mid-March. Masks were mandatory. Speeches were short.
But the message was powerful.
Organizer Darcy Hicks noted “the tension between wanting to stay home and keep the community safe, and the bubbling need to do something.”
RTM member Andrew Colabella and civic activist Darcy Hicks.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas read yesterday’s statement from his department condemning Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis officers.
Then he went further.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas (far right) with, from left, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. The town’s other 2 selectman were there too.
He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.
“I am never embarrassed, and always proud, to wear this uniform,” Koskinas said. “But Mr. Floyd’s death was devastating to this department.”
He then introduced Harold Bailey, TEAM Westport chair. The head of the town’s multicultural committee said that for every George Floyd, there are “thousands of other victims, in the dark and out of sight.” Indifference, he said, is just another way of sanctioning such acts.
Bailey added that TEAM Westport is partnering with the police, Westport Library, Interfaith Clergy Association and schools, on community forums and projects.
Hicks spoke last. “As a white, privileged person, I am complicit in the death of George Floyd and others,” she said.
“I have not always been engaged in fighting racism and economic inequality.” It is not enough to be “not a racist,” she said. “People have to do things.”
The protest ended with a long moment of silence: 4 minutes, 23 seconds. But, Hicks noted, that was only half the amount of time George Floyd’s neck was pinned underneath a police officer’s knee.
Exactly one year ago, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi was the keynote speaker at Westport’s annual Martin Luther King Day ceremony. A full house listened raptly as the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction described exactly what it means to be anti-racist.
It was a powerful, insightful lecture. Attendees contributed almost $3,000 toward anti-racism training in Westport.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
In the weeks following, the MLK Planning Committee — TEAM Westport, the Westport Library, Westport Playhouse and Westport Weston Interfaith Council — worked with Dr. Kendi and his team to develop anti-racism training for senior management of key organizations in Westport. It includes town government, the police and the school system.
The year-long, successful pilot project is now in the action stage.
Dr. Kendi’s impact on Westport has been profound.
And it came while he was engaged in his own, very different struggle.
Last week, the Atlantic published a first-person piece by Dr. Kendi. Titled “What I Learned From Cancer,” it describes his whipsawing emotions as he was diagnosed with — and then battled — Stage 4 colon cancer.
It’s powerful, personal and raw. During grueling chemotherapy, he continued to research and write his new book, “How to Be an Antiracist.” It was, he says, “perhaps my way of coping with the demoralizing severity of the cancer and the overwhelming discomfort of the treatment, furiously writing and fighting, fighting and writing to heal mind and body, to heal society.”
Dr. Kendi’s Atlantic piece ties together his professional work, and his new insights into America’s healthcare. He writes:
America’s politics, in my lifetime, have been shaped by racist fears of black criminals, Muslim terrorists, and Latino immigrants. Billions have been spent on border walls and prison walls and neighborhood walls, and on bombs and troops and tax cuts—instead of on cancer research, prevention, and treatment that can reduce the second-leading cause of death.
Any politician pledging to keep us safe who is drastically overfunding law and order, border security, and wars on terror—and drastically underfunding medical research, prevention, and health care—is a politician explicitly pledging to keep our bodies unsafe.
Harold Bailey — chair of TEAM Westport, who with Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton of Saugatuck Congregational Church has helped lead the local anti-racism initiative — notes that Dr. Kendi’s Playhouse talk last year was his first public appearance after being diagnosed with cancer.
Bailey — but few others — knew of that back story as they worked through the year together.
Today, Dr. Kendi stands a good chance of joining the 12% of people who survive a Stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis.
In fact, on Wednesday, January 30 (8 p.m., Quick Center for the Arts) he will be the keynote speaker at Fairfield University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation. (Click here for details.)
As for Westport: This year’s 13th annual Martin Luther King celebration scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday, January 20, Westport Country Playhouse) has been postponed. A new date has not yet been announced.
The keynote speaker will be James Forman, Jr. He wrote the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for general nonfiction: “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.”
James Forman Jr.
He is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color. The Brown University and Yale Law School graduate clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He then spent 6 years as a public defender.
Forman has contributed op-eds and essays to the New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Nation, and the Washington Post.
(For Dr. Kendi’s full Atlantic article, click here.)
Like a game of Telephone, each telling brought more inaccuracies.
This AP photo of Main Street ran with many news stories about the “white privilege” essay contest.
This morning, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey issued a fact sheet about the contest. It won’t get as much press as the kerfuffle story, but for “06880” readers fielding questions from friends around the world — generally framed as What the hell is going on there?! — it’s a start.
The actual essay promptreads:
White privilege surfaced as a topic during the recent presidential election. In 1,000 words or less, describe how you understand the term “white privilege.” To what extent do you think this privilege exists? What impact do you think it has had in your life — whatever your racial or ethnic identity — and in our society more broadly?
The challenge asks students to research the concept of “white privilege,” and describe to what extent they think it exists.
It does not
Make any statement one way or the other about its existence
Imply a right answer
Imply or signal anything about the town of Westport, beyond an openness to explore the topic.
The essay contest is voluntary. No student is forced to enter. Nor is it a part of any school curriculum or classroom requirement.
The contest is open only to residents of Westport in grades 9-12 attending any school anywhere, and non-resident students who attend public or private schools located in Westport. It is not open to individuals or groups outside the town.
The contest requires written permission of a parent or guardian for entry.
No taxpayer dollars are involved. All funding comes from private contributions (email email@example.com to donate!).
All members of TEAM Westport are volunteers.
This is the 4th consecutive year that the group has sponsored an essay contest. Previous topics involved race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
The essay topic is meant to allow Westport students in grades to 9-12 write about what the challenge means to them.
It is not about what older people, people outside Westport, the press or political groups think.
Think about that!
TEAM Westport contest judges (from left) Jaina Shaw and Dr. Judith Hamer, and (far right) Mary-Lou Weisman flank 2016 essay contest winners Ellie Shapiro, Ali Tritschler and Jacob Klegar.
Since its founding in 2003, TEAM Westport has tackled some of society’s — and Westport’s — most intractable problems.
Now the town’s multicultural committee is asking teenagers to join them — and write about it.
TEAM Westport’s 4th annual essay contest focuses on the hot-button issue of white privilege. In 1,000 words or less, students are asked to describe the term; reflect on the extent to which they think white privilege exists, and address the impact it has had on their life — whatever their own racial or ethnic identity — and in our broader society.
TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey says, “A primary focus and concern of our organization since its inception has been the impact of the town’s relatively low levels of racial and ethnic diversity on our children. This year’s essay topic provides our young people an opportunity to reflect upon that impact, and make their personal statements about it in very meaningful ways.”
The 1st place winner will receive $1,000. Second prize is $750; 3rd is $500.
All students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who live in Westport but attend school elsewhere, are eligible.
That’s a somewhat diverse group. And if past essay contests are any indication, this contest will spur diverse reactions — and plenty of insightful essays.
TEAM Westport’s acronym stands for Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism. In many discussions of multiculturalism, the default identity of whiteness is simply assumed. That can be particularly true in Westport.
Let’s hear what today’s teenagers — tomorrow’s leaders, in an increasingly multicultural society — think.
The winning essays will be published on “06880,”
(Click here for contest applications. Essays are due February 27. To help sponsor the contest, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It’s often said that Westport students live in a bubble. The outside world seldom intrudes — particularly when that outside world involves racial issues.
TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural organization — works to engage teenagers in “the real world.” One way they do that is through an annual essay contest.
This year’s premise says:
In the past year a troubling number of highly charged and tragic incidents — from Ferguson to Charleston to Chicago — have prompted public discussions and protests on college campuses about the state of race relations in the US. People disagree on the nature of the problem and on the appropriate way to address divisions in our society.
In 1,000 words or less, entrants are asked to describe how you, personally, make sense of the events that have occurred.
It’s a wide-open topic. It invites thought — and thoughtful, nuanced responses. The contest is open to all students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School, another school in Westport, or who live in Westport but go to school elsewhere.
A multiracial group marched to protest the Ferguson shooting last year.
Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Westport Library on April 4 (coincidentally, the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination).
Up to 3 prizes will be awarded. First prize is $1,000; 2nd is $750, 3rd $500. “06880” will highlight the winners.
TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey says, “The focus of this year’s topic is to help extend the perspectives of Westport teens beyond those which would normally be driven by demographics. This topic has touched our community and others in Fairfield County directly over the past year.”
This is the 3rd TEAM Westport essay contest. Last year’s prompt asked students to reflect on who sat where in their school cafeteria — and how to break down barriers that prevented them from knowing others who were different from themselves.
In the inaugural contest, students reflected on demographic changes in the US — describing the benefits and challenges of the changes for Westport generally, and themselves personally.
This year’s entry deadline is February 26. Applications are available on the TEAM Westport website (www.teamwestport.org). For more information, or to help sponsor the contest (as individuals or organization), email email@example.com.
Growing up in Tennessee, Harold Bailey attended segregated schools.
The Supreme Court decided Brown vs. Board of Education when he was 6, but Bailey’s city integrated its schools s-l-o-w-l-y: one grade at a time. Not until 10th grade did he and his black classmates have the chance to attend school with whites — and even then, it was by choosing vocational offerings.
He and some friends wanted to be engineers. So they took drafting classes, adding as many academic subjects as they could. “That’s how we ‘integrated’ the high school,” Bailey — now a longtime Westporter, a business executive with IBM and other companies, and a former Brown University trustee — says.
Harold Bailey, today.
White parents yelled; white students pushed the few black students into lockers. In late November, 1963 things came to a head. Everyone expected a big fight — but the next day, President Kennedy was assassinated. Bailey and his other friends talked to administrators when school resumed; things settled down.
Half a century later, Bailey recalls that “profound experience. It had a seminal effect on me.”
Realizing that racial prejudice has negative effects on members of the majority as well as minorities, he’s worked all his adult life to bring people together.
In the early 2000s, Bailey’s wife Bernicestine McLeod Bailey — owner of an IT consulting firm, and a Brown trustee emerita — talked with then-first selectwoman Diane Farrell about the need to address diversity in Westport. Local realtor Cheryl Scott-Daniels had the same idea, at the same time.
The “Jolly Nigger” bank, as described in the Westport Library exhibit.
In February 2003, the Westport Library recognized Black History Month with a display of “black memorabilia.” Unfortunately, Bailey says, it was filled with “kitschy, offensive” items like a “Jolly Nigger” bank.
“There was no context,” he recalls. “Nothing showed how far we’d come.” Library director Maxine Bleiweis was away. When she returned, she immediately closed the exhibit. But damage had been done.
Bailey and other African American leaders in town met with library officials. (Bernicestine had just been named the first black library board member.) Soon, Farrell appointed a “Multicultural Steering Committee.”
The 16 original members — including Bailey and his wife — worked hard. Fairfield University professors led intense discussions on the history of race in the US. “We read 100 pages a week,” Bailey says. “We talked about the experiences of Chinese Americans, Hispanics and American Indians, and why Middle Easterners are considered ‘white’ here. It was intense.”
The group evolved into TEAM Westport. (Member Ivan Fong came up with the acronym: Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism. Miggs Burroughs contributed the logo.) Farrell named it an official town commission. I was the 1st white male to join (representing the LGBT community). Al Puchala and Nick Rudd followed.
“We never wanted to preach,” Bailey — the 1st, and so far only, chair — says, as TEAM Westport celebrates its 10th anniversary.
“Our aim is to work with different organizations, in a way that’s natural for Westport. And to have fun.”
Over the past decade, TEAM Westport has hosted an event on the former slave ship Amistad, and sponsored discussions at churches and synagogues.
They organized speakers for Staples High School US History classes: men and women who lived through segregation, were interned as Japanese-Americans in US camps during World War II, and suffered discrimination as Hispanics. One year, all sophomores saw the Westport Country Playhouse production of “Thurgood,” starring James Earl Jones.
TEAM Westport brought a jazz master to work with the Staples band, as well as a black chef, authors and playwrights. The group also worked on issues of integrity and race relations with principal John Dodig. Each year, TEAM Westport presents 1 or 2 graduating seniors with scholarships, in recognition of their work around diversity issues.
2013 TEAM Westport scholarship winners Rusty Schindler and August Laska pose with Harold Bailey and then-1st selectman Gordon Joseloff.
The group also partnered with the Playhouse during “Raisin in the Sun,” sponsoring 24 lectures and discussions on topics like race and housing, and talkbacks following other productions. This fall they’ll offer programming around “Intimate Apparel,” the capstone of the 2014 Playhouse schedule.
TEAM Westport has awarded “Trailblazer” honors to people like Andy Boas, who works with Bridgeport schools; former superintendent of schools Claire Gold, and longtime pediatrician Dr. Al Beasley.
TEAM Westport Trailblazers (from left) Andy Boas, Claire Gold, Dr. Al Beasley.
Earlier this year, TEAM Westport organized 7 weeks of panels around the famed “Eyes on the Prize” series. The group is also sponsoring an essay contest for high school students, on the theme of America as an increasingly pluralistic country.
Some of TEAM Westport’s most crucial work is done out of the limelight. “If someone is treated the wrong way by a merchant in town, or there is some sort of incident in one of the schools, we can talk about it,” Bailey says. “Maybe we can help get a resolution. That’s so rewarding — especially as we see children grow.”
Looking back on 10 years as Westport’s low-key, but very important, official multicultural organization, Bailey says, “So many people have told us, after a discussion or event, how touched they were. They say, in various ways, that what we do has enabled them to connect the dots of their lives — and talk about it all. That’s when we realize we really are making progress, and moving in the right direction.”
Some TEAM Westport members in 2010, at the home of longtime supporter Ann Sheffer. From left: Dolores Paoli, Barbara Butler, Patricia Wei, Glenn Lau-Kee, Stephanie Kirven, Nick Rudd, Susan Killian, Harold Bailey, Amy Lin-Myerson, Bernicestine McLeod Bailey, Stu Losen and Catherine Onyemelukwe.
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