‘Lifting the Veil’: Interfaith Council of Franklin County hosting panels on racism

  • Greenfield City Council President Penny Ricketts, pictured in July, is among the panelists who will share their experiences of racism on Wednesday as part of a series organized by the Interfaith Council of Franklin County. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Kate Stevens, president of the Interfaith Council of Franklin County, which has organized a series of panels on racism that start on Wednesday. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/23/2021 5:08:13 PM

Inspired by a talk on racism she saw several years ago in Ashfield, a member of the Interfaith Council of Franklin County proposed organizing a similar program that’s coming to fruition this week.

“I feel like it’s easy for those of us in this area to feel like we live in a bubble, and that we don’t have (racism) problems here, like they do in other places,” said Kate Stevens, president of the Interfaith Council of Franklin County and a member of the leadership team planning “Lifting the Veil: Racism in Franklin County.”

The first virtual panel of the series, which will feature African Americans who live or work in Franklin County, is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Panelists, including Greenfield City Council President Penny Ricketts, will share their experiences of racism in the county.

“We’re specifically asking people to speak about (their experience) in Franklin County,” Stevens said.

Stevens explained that in the early stages of planning the event, the Interfaith Council intended to have just one panel, featuring African Americans from the area.

“In conversations with African Americans in the community, at least one person said, ‘Why are you only asking African Americans?’” Stevens recalled. “This is a white problem. We need to hear from some white voices as well.”

From those conversations grew the idea for two additional panels, one of which — scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 11 — will include white people whose families include children, spouses or grandchildren of color.

“These are people that have to wrestle with some of the same issues, even though they’re white,” she said. “They still have to have these conversations with their children, who are children of color.”

The final panel, at 7 p.m. on March 25, will feature Black, brown and white anti-racism activists sharing their stories from the justice movement.

All of the events will offer an opportunity for the panelists to share their experiences, and will be followed by a question and answer session.

“I’m hoping people, particularly those who are white … that they listen, and they listen with open ears, open hearts, and with the hope that we can begin to tell our own stories,” Stevens said. “When did we become aware of racism? How does it play a part in my life?”

Stevens said that above all, she hopes it inspires people to take action.

“My hope,” she said, “is that it’ll open people up to tell their stories and then become active … to be part of the solution, as opposed to the problem.”

To register to attend any of the panels, email Interfaithcfc@gmail.com.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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