After George Floyd’s murder two years ago, Pierre Morton felt hopeless, angry and fearful. As protests erupted nationwide, he wasn’t sure they would lead to real change.
“What I can tell you is that it was a feeling of no matter what, voices that have not normally been heard will be heard,” Morton, a Keene resident who serves as Franklin Pierce University’s chief diversity officer, said in a recent interview.
That May and June, people across the Monadnock Region held rallies for racial justice in Central Square in Keene, along busy highways in Peterborough and Rindge, on a village green in Winchester and on a dirt road leading to the Hancock transfer station. People spoke about racism at community forums. Keene’s mayor convened a committee on racial justice.
Morton was among those named to the committee. He recalls it as a key moment.
“That was a demarcation point between talk and action,” he said. “… That’s when the cries that you heard from people of color, and white people, actually when those cries became real. When it began to hit the road. Where action could actually take place.”
That body — the ad hoc Racial Justice and Community Safety Committee — wrapped up its work a year ago this month, with a report containing more than 30 recommendations to make Keene a more equitable and inclusive place.
In the time since, action has been taken on some of these items, from adjusting the city’s hiring processes to further diversifying the library’s fiction collection. And while others remain on the to-do list, local residents and organizations have laid the groundwork to tackle them by forming a new group, the Monadnock Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Coalition.
“It’s going to be the coalition that basically … sees that the racial justice/community safety report doesn’t just f
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