World of Wellesley steps up programing

By Rama K. Ramaswamy

While it can be said that the power of a community to sustain change comes from its ability to discover what it cares most about, Wellesley points to the World of Wellesley to light the way.

Over the fall, one of the programs WOW featured was the critically acclaimed documentary, “Dawnland,” in partnership with Wellesley Friends Meeting at MassBay Community College. “Dawnland” is a film about cultural survival and stolen children in Maine and an inside look at the first, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for Native Americans.

Many of the attendees did not know that for most of the 20th century, Native American children were systematically forced from their homes and placed with "white families.” As recently as the 1970s, one in four Native children nationwide were living in non-Native foster care, adoptive homes, or boarding schools. Furthermore, many experienced devastating emotional and physical harm by adults who mistreated them and tried to erase their cultural identity. The Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribal communities were represented in “Dawnland”; collectively, they make up the Wabanaki people.

For over two years, the TRC in Maine collected testimony throughout the state about the devastating impact of the state’s child welfare practices with regard to the Wabanaki community. “Dawnland,” part of the Upstander Project, captured these exclusive conversations. It reveals the untold narrative of indigenous child removal in the United States.

Angel Nighthawk of the Nipmuc Nation provided an opening and closing ceremony for the documentary and shared his experience growing up in Massachusetts.

Dr. Mishy Lesser, Learning Director at Upstander Project and Educational Fellow at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, runs a week-long professional learning experience for teachers and museum educators focusing on genocide and human rights. She also researches and authors the "Five-Inquiry Teacher's Guide for Dawnland.” Lesser shared the history behind the people and the documentary process with attendees, among whom were three middle school history teachers and a high school English teacher who had 10 of her students participate for extra credit.

“We were excited to partner with MassBay Community College on this documentary viewing in a beautiful auditorium,” said WOW President Michelle Chalmers. “The World of Wellesley looks forward to cosponsoring the Martin Luther King breakfast this year at MassBay as well, on January 21, 2019."

In partnership with Temple Beth Elohim, Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, Wellesley Congregational Village Church, OUT MetroWest, Keshet, Wellesley Friends Meeting, St. Andrews Church, Wellesley Democratic Town Committee, Freedom for All Massachusetts and the League of Women Voters Wellesley, the World of Wellesley organized "A Community Conversation on Transgender Equality.” This forum was convened to discuss transgender rights in MA and the challenge to those rights posed by Question 3 on the statewide ballot (November 6, 2018). The League of Women Voters Wellesley took a "yes" position on Question 3, which affected the 2016 state law that banned discrimination against transgender people in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, malls, and restrooms. Due to potential confusion arising from the required wording of the referendum, a “yes” vote on Question 3 would actually keep in place the current law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public places. The event had several panelists and was moderated by Michelle Chalmers. It is available for viewing at https://youtu.be/Umu4YulwxiY.

Last month, the World of Wellesley, due to a grant awarded to further their mission, organized a workshop, “Exploring Class and Classism,” to explore and discuss the effects of class differences and the impact of class divisions, and what can be done about it.

“The World of Wellesley decided to exchange the annual diversity summit for this powerful workshop on class and classism with facilitators from Class Action,” said Michelle Chalmers. “The workshop was open to only 35 people this time around. The World of Wellesley personally invited many of the town leaders and encouraged Town Meeting Members to attend as our guests.”

The Word of Wellesley is full-steam-ahead for 2019, beginning with an impressive lineup, including a petition to honor Indigenous Peoples' Day in Wellesley, the Board of Selectmen's Annual Diversity Program, the Annual Martin Luther King Community Breakfast, and the Annual Martin Luther King Family Event, with more to be announced.

For more information on these and future programs, visit https://www.worldofwellesley.org.

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