Letter from Executive Director John Feehan
May 20, 2022

I am not sure where to start this letter regarding the massacre in Buffalo, NY, because my emotions are running all over the place.

Last week I attended a meeting of the Newburyport Diversity Equity and Inclusion Alliance, where I heard why many African Americans celebrate Juneteenth. For many, this is not simply the end of slavery in our country. Rather, it is celebrated because it is the first time in our country’s existence that the ideals established in the Declaration of Independence came one step closer to realization. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

On Saturday, May 14th, African Americans were once again massacred in our country. Once again, they were denied these fundamental rights.

According to news reports, the gunman, a young white male, had been radicalized through social media and other online portals to white supremacy hate groups.

I am sure that there are many in Conklin, NY who are wondering how this could have happened in their community. I am sure that there are many here in our community who are saying, “this could never happen here”. But the reach of conservative media, social media, and online hate groups are pervasive. If you have a TV or internet in your home, it could happen here.

Mayor Reardon and Superintendent Gallagher are to be commended for promoting discussions on racism in our community. They have the platforms to reach many young people in Newburyport. We need more programs that talk about our country’s racist heritage; how racism impacts our society today and what needs to be done to address racism’s root causes.

“…the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense. No child alive today is responsible for slavery. No one in this room is responsible for slavery. But each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history….” Senator Mallory McMorrow in a speech given to the Michigan Senate.

If we want to live in a country that aspires to attain its ideals of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, then we need to actively counteract this hatred that is thriving. Otherwise, we run the risk of young people from Newburyport being radicalized in the same manner that this young man from Conklin NY was.

John Feehan
Executive Director
YWCA Greater Newburyport

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