Black voices speak to racism in Franklin County during library panel

  • Moderator Allen Davis introduces guest speakers before a public discussion about racism outside the Carnegie Public Library in Turners Falls on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Greenfield resident Jeanne Hall speaks during a public discussion about racism outside the Carnegie Public Library in Turners Falls on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Greenfield resident Dick Hall speaks during a public discussion about racism outside the Carnegie Public Library in Turners Falls on Wednesday.

  • Greenfield resident Gloria Matlock speaks during a public discussion about racism outside the Carnegie Public Library in Turners Falls on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Racial Justice Rising and the Carnegie Public Library held a public discussion about racism on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2022 4:04:41 PM
Modified: 6/10/2022 4:02:34 PM

TURNERS FALLS — A small group gathered outside the Carnegie Public Library on Wednesday to heed Black perspectives during Racial Justice Rising’s public panel.

Partnering with the library, the social activism organization invited Black educators Dick Hall, Jeanne Hall and Gloria Matlock, all of Greenfield, to answer a series of prompts posed by moderator Allen Davis before responding to questions from the audience. All questions were aimed to provide those in attendance with a better sense of what it is like to be Black both in Franklin County and the broader United States.

Each of the speakers reached back decades into their lives, citing personal anecdotes to communicate their hardships, while simultaneously stressing that they didn’t need to reach back at all.

“This country is in a bad, bad, bad place and it’s getting worse,” Jeanne Hall said.

Anecdotes included Dick Hall’s description of how, contrary to a more racially diverse Springfield, “antennas go up” when he steps out of his car in Buckland or Charlemont. Jeanne Hall said that after she moved to Franklin County in 1992, she would hear the clicking of car doors as she waited to cross the street as wary drivers hit the “lock” button at red lights. Matlock recapped her difficulty buying a house and securing a paid job upon moving to western Massachusetts, grouped with an “almost weekly” vehicle pullover by police and an experience in which she was told it was time to leave a Greenfield thrift store despite there being an hour left before closing.

“It’s rough,” Jeanne Hall said. “It’s tough because you’re always looking over your back.”

For Franklin County in particular, the issue of racism prevails due to the disproportionately large number of white residents compared to other racial groups, according to the panelists. Matlock described racism as a “very sad illusion” passed down from generation to generation to “indoctrinated” youth. This bigotry, the speakers said, is upheld due to a hierarchy that keeps those on top comfortable.

“You don’t want to change the status quo,” Jeanne Hall said of the white people upholding racial hierarchies. “You’re comfortable with the status quo. You’re comfortable with where you are.”

“It’s a simplistic way of trying to maintain control,” Dick Hall said of those who embrace a feeling of superiority.

Acknowledging that white people are comfortable benefiting from their current position in society and lack personal impetus for change, the speakers said any shift must come from the good will of those atop the hierarchy.

“You have to want to fix it because you know it’s the right thing to do,” Jeanne Hall said.

“You have to fix yourself before you fix everybody else,” Dick Hall added.

To improve, the speakers argued, education must become a true group effort for society’s mentors. For starters, Dick Hall said, civics classes should be mandated in high schools and history should be taught holistically with all of its “brokenness and wonderfulness and goodness.” Matlock expressed a similar sentiment, saying the goal should be “not to lie anymore” to others or oneself as communities strive to fill out their understanding of each other.

“Like the African saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ it takes more than a village to raise this country,” Jeanne Hall said.

A follow-up conversation is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, at 6 p.m. outside the Carnegie Public Library.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
 

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy