Part of history: Wareham Historical Society hosts talk on ‘race amity’ in America
All throughout American history, race has had a complex and often negative affect on the way people view themselves in the relation to others. Now, the The Wareham/Bourne Race Amity Committee is fighting to change that narrative through education and stories success.
On Monday night, the committee hosted speaker Ann Landry in collaboration with the Wareham Historical Society to talk about positive connections between races in the United State’s history at the Old Methodist Meeting House on Main St.
A member of the National Center for Race Amity Advisory Board, Landry began her work in race education 30 years ago as a founding figure in Wayland’s Diversity Network, a cultural enrichment program that brought students of various races and background together to learn.
Landry was also a pivotal figure in establishing a women’s center at Framingham State Prison for survivors of domestic violence, which she said truly taught her the meaning of race amity.
“In that prison, our volunteers were as diverse as the community they served,” she said. “We were white, black, hispanic, gay and straight. It was there that I really learned to listen and understand that violence is determined by the victim.”
As Landry explained, race amity means creating environment where individuals can share their truth without fear of judgement in the hopes of bettering equality for all.
“African Americans and Native Americans don’t want to be victims of history,” Landry said. “They want to be part of history, and they are. They’re heroes and actors, just like white people were.”
Landry went onto explain that races often at odds with each other worked together at various times throughout American history, helping to make the country what it is today.
She referenced African American scientists Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson as three such individuals.
Known as “human computers,” these three women performed calculations that helped NASA to win the space race in 1962. A movie about the women, called “Hidden Figures,” was released in 2016.
“1962,” Landry said. “And hardly anyone heard about them until more then 50 years later.”
Of course, Landry added, these relationships weren’t always perfect; but the country managed to do more when its people worked together than apart, she said.
“We don’t teach these relationships in our schools,” Landry said. “And it leads to a toxic cycle of grievance and blame without change ever being made.”
Wareham/Bourne Race Amity Committee is planning to host another talk on positive race relations at Wareham High School this April.
“These are important conversations for us to have as a community,” said committee member Wandra Harmsen. “I’ve lived in Wareham my entire life, and even today I encounter racism. We need to start changing the dialogue and listening to one another.”
To learn more about the National Center for Race Amity, visit www.raceamity.org