Report by Paula Antolini, June 6, 2020, 6:37AM EDT
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Their goal is to highlight what they can do as individuals and as a community to combat racism, and to bring together bright minds to educate, inspire, and motivate their community to take action against racism.
They support and seek to be active allies to organizations taking the lead in the fight for racial justice in America, including Color of Change, Black Lives Matter and the NAACP. They support them in their mission and you can too.
The group is planning a Live Streaming Virtual Rally “What Can I/We Do?” this Sunday, June 7, at 1pm:
Join our virtual ‘What Can I Do? What Can We Do?’ event beginning at 1 pm on Sunday, June 7, 2020, at Ridgefield Allies Facebook page or at Ridgefield Allies YouTube channel. Our featured event speakers:
- Mark Robinson, 2009 recipient of Connecticut’s Martin Luther King Leadership Award
- Susie Da Silva, Ed.D., Superintendent, Ridgefield Public Schools
- Jennifer De Julio, high school history teacher
- Niro Feliciano, anxiety specialist and cognitive psychotherapist
- Mia Walker, Broadway theater director
- State Senator Will Haskell
- Arthur Miller, Catholic deacon, author, radio/TV host, military vet, civil rights worker.
- Oluwadamisi Adetona, 2016 RHS and RABC alumna, current college student.
Mark S. Robinson
Introductory remarks & moderator
Mark Robinson is an active member of the Ridgefield, CT. community since moving here in 1992. He has served as chair of the Committee for Educational Quality & Diversity for the Board of Education. Mark was nominated for the 1994 Connecticut Human Rights Award for his community service and work in multicultural education. In 2000, Mark was appointed by the Governor to the State’s Martin Luther King Commission. In 2009, he was chosen to receive the state’s Martin Luther King Leadership Award for his activities in diversity, community service and multicultural education.
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Mark has been a member of the Ridgefield Youth Commission for the past 10 years. He is the former chairman of Effective Leadership for Ridgefield, a think-tank of local civic leaders who develop collaborative solutions for local issues, former chair of ROUND; Ridgefielders Organized for Understanding of Diversity, and former member of the board of A Better Chance of Ridgefield, an educational opportunities organization for academically gifted minority students.
After co-founding Spike/DDB with filmmaker Spike Lee, Robinson was recognized as the 2001 Entrepreneur of the Year for the successful launch of the S/R Communications Alliance, the first 100% minority-owned network of multicultural advertising and marketing companies. Mr. Robinson is also a member of the Multicultural Marketing Leadership Council of the American Advertising Federation and is one of the AAF’s traveling lecturers.
Susie Da Silva, Ed.D.
Dr. Da Silva has recently come to Ridgefield, CT as its new Superintendent of Schools. Prior to joining the Ridgefield school system, Dr. Da Silva was Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Darien. Her background includes elementary principalship in Westport and Waterbury CT, classroom teaching at the elementary and middle school levels, and adjunct professorship at St. Joseph’s College.
Those who have worked with Dr. Da Silva describe her as an outstanding administrator and effective communicator with an inherent desire to problem-solve and work collaboratively with teams of people to accomplish district goals. Describing her leadership skills as Assistant Superintendent, former Darien Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner said “One critical measure (of effective leadership) in administration is to watch and see if practice has changed and defined initiatives have been accomplished. Toward this end, there is no one better than Dr. Da Silva.”
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She is ethically grounded and is driven by a sense of persistence toward excellence and unyielding expectations for herself. As principal she “created an environment that was incredibly student-centered, focusing not only on academics but also on affective behaviors that focused on respect for all,” according to Elliott Landon, her former Superintendent in both Westport and Darien.
Jennifer De Julio
Topic: How did we get here? A historical review.
Jennifer DeJulio is a social studies teacher at Ridgefield High School and has been a teacher in the Ridgefield School System for fourteen years. Loved by her students and respected by her peers, DeJulio was chosen Teacher of the Year in 2019.
DeJulio’s proudest moment as a teacher came watching her students organize a memorial walkout for the victims of a school shooting that occurred on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“I do think the point of teaching U.S. history is to make our students engaged citizens, whatever way that is to them,” she said. “So the fact that so many of my young students are getting involved in political marches and political movements … all of that I feel like that is just the fruit of the labor of teaching them about, you know, why George Washington became the president.”
Topic: 𝙎𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙣 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙢.
Niro Feliciano, The Incidental Therapist is an anxiety specialist and cognitive psychotherapist. Niro completed her graduate work at Columbia University with a background in the psychology of racism and racial identity development. She is the co-founder of Integrative Counseling and Wellness Group in Wilton, CT where she has been in private practice for the last 15 years. Niro has been featured on NBC.com, Today.com and Parents Magazine and often appears on Fox 61 and Cheddar News TV. Niro also hosts the podcast All Things Life which focuses on living healthy mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Niro is a wife and mom of 4 biracial children growing up in Ridgefield, CT.
Topic: The need for representation in the arts.
Mia creates and directs for theater, TV, and film. She was selected as TV Directing Fellow by the Drama League in 2018, for which she shadowed Director/ Executive Producer Tom Verica on the Shondaland/ ABC show For The People. Mia is currently developing a new musical digital series.
Broadway/National Tour credits include: Associate Director, Jagged Little Pill; Tour Director, current National Tour of Finding Neverland and the recent National Tour of Pippin; Assistant Director on Waitress (music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles),The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Pippin, and Finding Neverland. Upcoming: directing Disney’s Freaky Friday at ACT of Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Mia holds a B.A. from Harvard University (Magna Cum Laude; John Harvard Scholar; The Louis Sudler Prize Talent in the Arts for Directing; The Women’s Leadership Award; Carol Pforzheimer Fellowship).
State Senator Will Haskell
In November 2018, 22 year old Will Haskell was elected to represent Connecticut’s 26th State Senate District by defeating conservative Republican Toni Boucher, who had held the seat since before Will was born. The district encompasses the towns of Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton, and parts of Bethel, Weston, Westport, and New Canaan Will is the youngest member of the Connecticut General Assembly. In December 2019, Haskell was named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in Law and Policy.
Sen. Haskell graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. Prior to serving in the State Senate, Senator Haskell interned for the Democratic National Committee, analyzing state legislation and fighting for voting rights. He also assisted the Community Tax Aid program in Washington D.C., working with low-income residents as they filed their taxes. While at Georgetown, Sen. Haskell helped launch the Free Speech Project, dedicated to monitoring and protecting freedom of expression.
In Connecticut, Sen. Haskell developed a passion for improving our criminal justice system after working with Connecticut’s Office of the Public Defender, where he helped connect low-income defendants with social workers and attorneys. As the Senate Chairman of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, Sen. Haskell is laser-focused on providing businesses with the 21st century workforce they need in order to thrive in Connecticut.
Catholic deacon, author, radio, and former television host, Vietnam-era veteran and veteran civil rights worker. Deacon Miller was ordained for the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford in 2004. Currently he is Director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries, the Chaplin at Hartford’s Capital Community College and adjunct faculty for Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford and Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington, CT.
At public forums, houses of worship, schools and universities across the country, Deacon Miller speaks to his audiences from the perspective of an African American who grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s. He was 10 years old in 1955 when his schoolmate Emmett Till, age 14, was brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman—an incident that energized the nascent Civil Rights Movement. His recently released book “The Journey to Chatham”, details the historic events seen through the eyes of Emmett’s friends.
Deacon Miller was arrested and jailed during the summer of 1963 as he sat in silent protest over the sustained use of racial bigotry to separate black Americans from the imbued rights of all Americans.
Deacon Miller is a certified trainer in Dr. King’s nonviolence philosophy and to this day addresses 21st-century examples of the societal tendency to embrace violence. Echoing the thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he believes that as part of the great human experience, no one can sit idly tolerant of the great injustices that happen anywhere in the world.
Oluwadamisi (“Da’Misi”) Adetona is a Ridgefield High School and Ridgefield A Better Chance (RABC) Alumna— Class of 2016. After a semester at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA, she moved to NYC to uncover her true passion and her love for restaurants and hotels. While pursuing a Tourism and Hospitality degree, she has also joined the Make It Nice Hospitality Group. This includes Eleven Madison Park, The Nomad, The Welcome Conference and most recent addition, Made Nice, where she supervised.
Oluwadamisi attributes her “malleability” in adulthood to her four-year experience living in Ridgefield. “Everyone and everything I was exposed to during my time at RABC has given me an invaluable understanding of ‘self’ as I navigate this world as a young Black woman who is the product of rich Nigerian, Haitian and Dominican ancestry. I understand that my experience is my own, so it is important for me to draw out the voices of others.”
Oluwadamisi believes that as human beings first, we must all do our part to correct the injustices of history. And in order to correct, we must be able to recognize both who we are as individuals and how much stronger we are together. “My hope in offering the perspectives and sentiments of my own awakening are to resonate with other underrepresented people who look like me, empower and awaken a stronger consciousness in others.”