Courageous Conversations Merrimack Valley was organized in 2016 and works to advance and amplify conversations about interpersonal and systemic racism, racial identity and privilege, and antiracism through community reads, films, facilitated conversations, speaker events, and panel discussions. Partners include Memorial Hall Library, the South Church Social Justice Coalition, and others, including Libraries Working Towards Social Justice.
Our purpose is to educate ourselves on these issues so that we may better understand the systems that perpetuate racial inequities and reflect on strategies for interrupting and dismantling those systems. Current planning team members include Kate Margolese, Deb Olander, Aldonsa Pereyra, Mary Pritchard, Susan Stott and Stefani Traina, Memorial Hall Library.
Courageous Conversations Events
2021 Fall Series Upcoming Programs
Visit this page for resources focused on Indigenous Peoples.
September 30, 2021, 7pm - Ready to be Different - An Online Conversation with Andover's Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Meet Andover's Commission on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and learn about their work. A recording of this event can be found here.
October 7, 2021, 7pm - Annawon Weeden: Understanding Indigenous Culture. An online evening with Annawon Weeden, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, in conversation with Julia Alexander, an educator at The Pike School. Register through Zoom.
November 4, 2021, 7pm - Beyond the Mayflower & 1620: Native Americans of New England. Professor Christoph Strobel will present an interpretive history of the indigenous peoples of New England. Register through the Chelmsford Library.
November 18, 2021, 7pm - Decolonizing: Placing Indigenous Peoples in the Conversation - An Evening with Claudia Fox Tree & Debby Irving. Join Claudia Fox Tree and Debby Irving for an online conversation as they explore how U.S. narratives have shaped their understanding of themselves, one another, and the complex world we live in. Register through Zoom.
2021 ‘In Search of Justice’ Series
May 12, 2021 – Parole 101: The Massachusetts Parole System & Why It Needs to Change. The program was designed to raise awareness about parole and change hearts and minds about the importance/difficulties of parole in Massachusetts. Panelists included Representative Liz Miranda who has filed several parole bills for 2021-22, Attorney Patricia Garin, one of the foremost parole experts in Massachusetts, and moderator Jean Trounstine, professor, writer and activist who has written extensively about parole, in addition to invited guests, Isaiah Dotson and Jonathan Best, who shared some of their experiences. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library in collaboration with the Social Justice Coalition of South Church and the Coalition for Effective Public Safety. A recording of this program is available at https://mhl.org/courageous-conversations-parole-101-massachusetts-parole-system-why-it-needs-change.
April 28, 2021 – A Virtual Reflection on ‘In Search of Justice’; a virtual conversation for anyone who attended at least one Courageous Conversations event in the series. Jean Trounstine led an interactive session where participants could share their thoughts and reactions about what they learned in the series. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
April 14, 2021 – What Positive Justice Looks Like; UTEC's team discussed their nationally recognized model which begins with intensive street outreach, correctional facility in-reach, and gang peacemaking, engaging our most disconnected young adults by meeting them “where they’re at.” Their wraparound program is designed to never give up on young adults as they overcome personal, health, and institutional barriers to improving their lives. The team also shared some of the ways they are innovating with the State and the Department of Corrections to make real, meaningful changes at a systemic level. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library & Haverhill Public Library.The program recording is available at https://mhl.org/courageous-conversations-what-positive-justice-looks-utec-inc.
March 10, 2021 – We Need to Talk About Ending Injustice: The Work and Path of Bryan Stevenson. A virtual conversation about the work of Bryan Stevenson and Danielle Sered and the role of restorative justice with author and activist, Jean Trounstine and defense attorney Alicia McNeil. Karter Reed joined the discussion to share his story and perspective on restorative justice. Attorney Jennifer Capone moderated the Q&A. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library in collaboration with Haverhill Public Library.
February 10, 2021 – The Injustice of This Moment is Not an Aberration; Stacy Seward, Executive Director, The Dream Network, facilitated a discussion with experts of the local impacts of our system of justice and the issues and challenges faced by people leaving the carceral system and returning home. Panelists included Attorney Denise Molina Capers, Attorney Saundra Edwards, Lawrence Public School Committee Member Kassie Infante, and several returning citizens. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library in collaboration with Haverhill Public Library.
January 27, 2021 – Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You: A Virtual Conversation with Local Educators & Students; facilitated by Delia Duran-Clark, Principal, Esperanza Academy; panelists included Kwesi Moody, Assistant Principal, Andover High School, Taylor Ware, Phillips Academy, Aldonsa Pereyra, Phillips Academy, and students Will Ware, Sofia Duran-Clark, Mara Duran-Clark, and Elena Duran-Clark. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
2020 - Affordable Housing & Voter Suppression
November 9, 2020 – Affordable Housing in Andover: Update and What's Next? Panel Discussion. Moderated by Dara Obbard, Andover Community Trust, Board of Directors; panelists included Denise Johnson - Executive Director of Andover Community Trust (ACT), Lisa Schwartz - Senior Planner, Town of Andover. Dana Walsh - Senior Pastor of South Church, Sindy Davila - ACT Family Homeowner. Virtual event hosted by Memorial Hall Library. Program recording is available at https://mhl.org/affordable-housing-andover-panel-discussion
October 8, 2020 – A Virtual Discussion of Carol Anderson’s ONE PERSON, NO VOTE; a presentation and discussion about Carol Anderson’s One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy, led by Dr. Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, Assistant Professor of History, UMass Lowell. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library;
September 29, 2020 – I’m a Good Person! Isn’t That Enough? A Virtual Evening with Debby Irving. Moderated by Rev. Dana Allen Walsh, Senior Pastor South Church; panelists included Elizabeth Walther-Grant & Bria Gadsden, founders of Merrimack Valley Black & Brown Voices, and Amaryllis Lopez, Program Director, Elevated Thought. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library in partnership with 7 Merrimack Valley libraries - Burlington Public Library, Haverhill Public Library, Lawrence Public Library, Nevins Memorial Library, Stevens Memorial Library, Tewksbury Public Library & Wilmington Memorial Library, the newly formed Libraries Working Towards Social Justice.
August 5, 2020 – Documentary screening of Suppressed: The Fight to Vote by Robert Greenwald about the 2018 election in Georgia, followed by a facilitated discussion led by Caroline Cole of the Andover/North Andover League of Women Voters. Virtual event hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
March 4, 2020 – Book Discussion of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. Dr. Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, Assistant Professor of History at UMass Lowell led the discussion. Dr. Herbin-Triant is author of "Threatening Property: Race, Class, and Campaigns to Legislate Jim Crow Neighborhoods," Columbia University Press, 2010. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
February 13, 2020 – The Moral Imperative of Affordable Housing Panel Discussion; moderated by Yesenia Gil, Executive Director of Bread and Roses Housing, Inc. Panelists included Jessica Andors, Executive Director, Lawrence Community Works, Meegan O'Neil, Executive Director, Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity, Anabelle Rondon, Great Neighborhoods Manager, Smart Growth Alliance, Eric Shupin, Director of Public Policy, Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA). A panel discussion focused on how housing works as a platform for good life outcomes - stable housing leads to better health outcomes, better education outcomes, and a healthier social fabric. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
November 21, 2019 - Film screening of The Angry Eye documentary by Jane Elliot, followed by a discussion facilitated by Heather Keyworth, K+associates. Hosted by Memorial Hall LIbrary.
October 24, 2019 - White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism; a screening of a short video of antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo talking about white fragility, followed by a discussion facilitated by Gail Forsyth-Vail, Unitarian Universalist Association. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
October 13, 2019 - History and Culture Walk on the Spicket River Greenway in Lawrence; led by Lesly Melendez, Groundwork Lawrence and Mark Cutler, Phillips Academy
2019 Immigration Series
In this series, we focused on the hardships of the immigrant journey to the United States, the history of U.S. intervention in Central America, which plays a major role in the flow of Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S., the story of the transformation of Lawrence into New England's first Latino-majority city, and the immigrant voices from Lawrence speaking to the struggles, as well as the strength and resilience of immigrants working to rebuild Lawrence.
April 3, 2019 - "Voices from Lawrence" Panel Discussion moderated by Robert Forrant, Professor of History, UMass Lowell; panelists included Delia Duran, Executive Director, Mill Cities Institute, Lesly Melendez, Deputy Director, Groundwork Lawrence, Jadi Taveras, Head of School, Esperanza Academy, Yesenia Gil, Executive Director, Bread and Roses Housing, and Abel Vargas, MassHire Merrimack Valley Workforce Board. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library
March 25, 2019 - An Evening with Dr. Llana Barber: Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
February 28, 2019 - Film screening of Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzales, followed by a facilitated discussion led by Dr. José Jorge Mendoza, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UMass Lowell. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
February 6, 2019 - Film screening of Who is Dayani Cristal, followed by a discussion led by Deb Olander & Mary Pritchard. Presented in collaboration with Showing Up for Racial Justice. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
November 13, 2018 – Book discussion of So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo; led by facilitators Michael Eatman, Director of Community Life, Pike School and Rev. Dr. Julie Mavity Maddalena, Adjunct Professor, Southern Methodist University and Interim Pastor, Georgetown Congregational Church. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
May 14, 2018 - Examining Whiteness Workshop followup session led by Rev. Julie Mavity Maddalena, Director of Spiritual Life and Minister and Instructor, Brooks School. Hosted by Andover U.U. Church.
April 26, 2018 - "I'm a Good Person! Isn't that Enough?” An Evening with Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race. Hosted by South Church in partnership with Courageous Conversations. Hosted by South Church.
February 22, 2018 - Panel Discussion of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Facilitated by Shaunielle McDonald, Director of Diversity Initiatives, Brooks School with panelists Michael Eatman, Director of Community Life, Pike School, Martin Henson, Black Lives Matter, Boston, Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion and Wellness, Phillips Academy, and Trevor Brown, Office of Admissions, Phillips Academy. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
February 8, 2018 - Film screening of Alice's Ordinary People documentary film based on the life of Alice Tregay, an unsung heroine of the Chicago Freedom Movement, followed by a discussion with filmmaker, Craig Dudnick. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
February 1, 2018 - Examining Whiteness Workshop led by Rev. Julie Mavity Maddalena, Director of Spiritual Life and Minister and Instructor, Brooks School. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
October 23, 2017 - Film screening of I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary by Raoul Peck based on James Baldwin's examination of race in America, followed by a discussion led by Rev. Julie Mavity Maddalena, Director of Spiritual Life and Minister and Instructor, Brooks School, and Shaunielle McDonald, Director of Diversity Initiatives, Brooks School. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
May 4, 2017 - An Evening with Peggy McIntosh, Research Associate at Wellesley College and author of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Hosted by Pike School.
April 12, 2017 - A Quiet Revolution, a documentary film by Tom Dey looking at the impact, after 50 years, of the A Better Chance program, a groundbreaking program to identify young students of color from low-income backgrounds for admission to the nation’s leading boarding schools. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
Spring 2017 - Community Read of Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
February 15, 2017 - The House We Live In, the third episode of the 2003 PBS series, Race - The Power of an Illusion. The film screening was followed by a discussion led by Damany Fisher, history and social science instructor at Phillips Academy and Rev. Lee Bluemel of North Parish Unitarian Universalist of North Andover. Hosted by Memorial Hall Library.
Read a February 16, 2017 Andover Townsman article about Courageous Conversations.