Black History Month 2019 Tea Talks: That Which Divides, That Which Unites

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“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”

— Sen. John McCain (2018)

For many in the U.S., 2018 felt as if the country had never been more divided. The nation, it seemed, had become irrevocably fractured along political, ideological, and racial lines. One author suggests that this current view of divisiveness is inaccurate as our nation has never been one united nation. A recent PEW report, where nearly three-quarters of Black young Americans believe the nation is very divided over race, religion, wealth & income, appears to confirm this disunion.

Through shared stores and dialogue this series of talks will explore these conflicts and will present ideas on how we as a nation could move beyond these tensions.

The Winter Tea Talk Series, presented by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire in partnership with the Portsmouth Public Library, is a series of participatory lectures related to New Hampshire’s Black history and African American culture. Four of these Talks will be held at the Portsmouth Public Library, Levenson Room, 175 Parrot Avenue, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, other locations are noted below. In case of inclement weather, a canceled talk will be rescheduled for Sunday, March 18 or Sunday, March 25.

These events are Free and open to the public.

Sunday, February 3

Land, Wealth and Policies of Marginalization

Presenters Meghan Howey & Woullard Lett

Despite improvements in education, social mobility and many other critical arenas, large racial and ethnic disparities still exist in the U.S. Years of intentional government policies that removed lands and resources from Native Americans and restricted access for African Americans have created a significant wealth divide in the country that continues to create inequities faced by Black and Native American families today.

This panel will explore how policies and environmental issues have disenfranchised the very groups they should equalize.

This Event will be held at South Church in Portsmouth

Sunday, February 10

Black Women Magic in New Hampshire

Black women have been leaders in this country for centuries as abolitionists, voting rights advocates, college founders, civil rights defenders, labor leaders, entrepreneurs and more. Often, their determination to overcome race and gender issues have been seen as unusual or magical which minimize their labor and talent.

Through shared stores and an exploration of the feminist movement attendees will hear from some of New Hampshire’s most successful Black women on their journey to the powerful position they hold in white-centered environments.


Melanie Levesque, Yvonne Goldsberry, Nadine Thompson


Robin Hackett

Sunday, February 17

In the Beginning, There was the Word

The relationship between religion and race in American is a complex one. In the 20th century, many scholars of religion subscribed to an evolutionary model of religion that ranked world religions on an evolutionary scale.

Not surprisingly, many of the religions deemed “primitive” were also those practiced by indigenous, non-white populations.

This evolutionary ranking has and continues to play a vital role in the construction, deconstruction, and transgression of racial identities and religious boundaries in the country today.

This panel of theologians will explore the relationship between church, race and state and the role the church could play in healing the soul of the nation.


Rev. Robert Thompson, Rev. Gail Avery, Rev. Larry Brickner Wood (TBC)


Claudia Maturell

Sunday, February 24

Permit Patty, BBQ Becky & Coupon Carl

From the rash of 911 calls targeting people of color to a racist jingle that turned a Christmas tune into a KKK theme song, there is no shortage of examples of how implicit bias impacts how we see the world and resulting actions that have real and lasting impacts.

Join us for an experiential talk to explore the role of implicit bias in our lives. Implicit bias is a universal phenomenon, not limited by race, gender, or even country of origin. It refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. It is a manifestation of how we have been shaped and socialized in the world. It is a major contributor to racism. Is there anything we can do about it? The answers may surprise you.


Michele Holt-Shannon & Dottie Morrison

Sunday, March 3 Tell Me the Truth:

Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversations

How can we speak openly and honestly in cross-racial conversations? What would such a conversation even sound like? Join Shay Stewart-Bouley and Debby Irving as they talk about racism’s impact on their lives and how conversation has been instrumental in their own understanding of 21st century racial dynamics.

Shay and Debby will explore the common fears and pitfalls of cross-racial conversation that keep people isolated in their own racial groups, at the expense of personal, professional, and societal growth. They’ll also help audience members understand how interpersonal social patterns hinder organizations from living up to their own ideals for diversity and how good intentions can actually undermine collective progress.

Presenters       Shay Stewart-Bouley & Debby Irving

This Event will be held at Temple Israel in Portsmouth

Sunday, March 10 And Still We Rise


Wildolfo Arvelo, Judy Dow & Brenda Lett


Cait Vaughan.

Can you really improve race relations in a country that is so divided? Through dialogue and story sharing this panel will present three innovative ways of building bridges.

We will hear from one organization that is working to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth and families from across New England; discover new state initiatives for economic growth through diversity and inclusion and begin the dialogue around reparation for the injuries of slavery and its aftermath



Meghan C.L. Howey, Chair & Associate Professor, UNH Department of Anthropology, is an anthropological archaeologist specializing in Native North America. Her major research project has been on Native American regional organization in the Upper Great Lakes in the period preceding European Contact, exploring how tribal communities constructed and used ceremonial monument centers to facilitate economic, social, and ideological interaction in this period.

W. Lett

Woullard Lett is the Acting Regional Lead for the New England Region UUA. Prior to that he was a nonprofit and community development consultant, a senior college administrator for Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and adjunct faculty member for SNHU and Springfield College. During his career, Lett has provided technical assistance for government agencies, national community development intermediaries, and local community organizations.


Melanie Levesque, made history in 2018 when she won her district race and became the first African American member of the New Hampshire State Senate. She is an entrepreneur, a wife, mother, former state representative and a lifelong New Hampshire resident, who grew up in Nashua and has lived in Brookline for the past 28 years.


Yvonne Goldsberry, president of the Endowment for Health, is the first African American to preside over the largest non-profit foundation in New Hampshire. Before joining the Endowment, Dr. Goldsberry served as Vice President of Population Health and Clinical Integration for Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth Hitchcock Keene. She is well known as the architect of the nationally recognized Healthy Monadnock initiative, where she engaged numerous community coalitions and over 2,000 community leaders, stakeholders and residents in a bold vision for community health.


Nadine Abraham Thompson, president of Bedroom Kandi Boutique Parties, is a social entrepreneur with a life-long commitment to empowering women and creating innovative entrepreneurial opportunities for people who want to improve the quality of their lives. She is the founder of Warm Spirits and Soul Purpose, health and beauty product companies. In 2006 Warm Spirit won the Emerging Company of the Year award from Black Enterprise magazine.


Robin Hackett is an Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.




The Reverend Robert H. Thompson, a longtime resident of the Seacoast, is an ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is also the president of the Board of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, Inc.


Rev. Gail Avery is the Canon for Transition and Community Engagement in The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire.

Rev. Larry Brickner Wood [Information unavailable]

Claudia Maturell [Information unavailable]


Michele HoltShannon is director and co-founder for New Hampshire Listens at the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy. Her work on and off campus is focused on inclusive civic engagement, community problem-solving, and building coalitions for community-initiated change efforts.


As the Associate Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, Dr. Dottie Morris is a member of the Keene State College President’s Cabinet. Her main foci are providing support and direction to the Executive, Academic, Student Affairs, Advancement and Finance and Planning divisions of the college as the institution works to fulfill its commitment to diversity and multiculturalism.


Shay Stewart-Bouley is the executive director of Community Change Inc., a nearly 50-year-old anti-racism organization based in Boston that organizes and educates for racial equity with a specific focus on working with white people. Shay has been blogging since 2008, frequently on matters of social justice and systemic racism, through her Black Girl In Maine website and, in 2011, she won a New England Press Association Award for her writing on race and diversity for the Portland Phoenix. Her writing also has been featured in a variety of Maine and national publications as well as several anthologies.


Debby Irving , bestselling author, is an emerging voice in the national racial justice community. Combining her organization development skills, classroom teaching experience, and understanding of systemic racism, Irving educates and consults with individuals and organizations seeking to create racial equity at both the personal and institutional level. Her book, Waking Up White is the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago. By sharing her sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance.


Wildolfo (Will) Arvelo is the director for the Division of Economic Development for New Hampshire where he is charged with developing a comprehensive economic development strategy for the state. Will has over 30 years-experience within higher education and dealing with workforce development issues. As the former president of Great Bay Community College, he worked tirelessly to bridge higher education and business and industry to meet their workforce needs.


Judy Dow, (Winooski Abenaki), is the Executive Director of Gedakina, Inc. a Native American Experiential Outdoor Education and Leadership Development organization. Dow is also an educator who teaches science, history and math through art. Through a National Science Foundation grant and a collaboration with the University of New Hampshire, Dow has been documenting sustainable land use practices with Indigenous youth in New England.

B. Lett

Brenda Bailey Lett has a Masters in Community Mental Health and Community Economic Development from Southern NH University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Dubuque. She is the National Secretary of the National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), Board Chair of NH Black Women Health Project, Board Member, of the Greater Manchester Black Scholarship Foundation and Former President, NAACP Manchester Branch. Brenda is a community activist and social justice advocate.

Cait Vaughan is a community organizer with the Southern Maine Workers Center a human rights organization that organizes and does movement building to improve the working conditions of poor and working class folks in Maine. (Not pictured).

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