Freedom Forum Addresses Racism

Systemic racism and finding ways to fight it was the topic of a “Freedom Forum” hosted by Mystic Seaport Museum and Discovering Amistad the evening of August 20. Formally titled,The Freedom Forum: A Series of Courageous Conversations on Race, Privilege, Oppression and Justice in America for the Town of Stonington, the Town of Groton and the City of Groton,” the event gathered more than 80 municipal officials and community leaders from the local area to address the issue of systemic racism. This was the first of what Discovering Amistad intends to be a series of Forums held in different towns and cities across Connecticut. The event began with keynote remarks by Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson, who told the crowd, “It’s as if the country is at a crossroads and what we do at this moment will determine whether we are finally going to live up to America’s ideals of equality and true justice for all, or forfeit them to the dustbin of history.”
Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson
Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson addresses the Forum.
Justice Robinson’s remarks were followed by a panel discussion with local leaders about the realities of racism, privilege, oppression and bias in our communities. The topic for discussion was: “In the wake of centuries of oppression and a summer of events demanding justice and triggering protest, how do we build an effective, inclusive and sustainable commitment to eliminate systemic racism in our communities?” The panelists were Danielle Chesebrough, First Selectwoman, Town of Stonington; Mary Anne Butler, Assistant Superintendent, Stonington Public Schools; Pastor Joseph Coleman, St. John’s Christian Church, Groton. Troy Brown, Discovering Amistad board member, acted as the Forum moderator and posed questions such as “Why are conversations about race so difficult?” and “Do you think about race every day?” Panelists shared their thoughts and experiences with the common acknowledgement that confronting racism is a long journey and there is no easy answer. “We have to have these conversations with each other to build a foundation of comfort and honesty,” said Butler. “We have a lot to do, but I am glad we started.” The event concluded with Antonia Wright, a young graduate of the Amistad Academy reading quotes by the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who observed “Stand up for what you believe. Because in the final analysis, we are one family, the human family.” To learn more about Discovering Amistad, please visit discoveringamistad.org.