Indigenous Peoples Day program in Sunderland to explore U.S. history of slavery

  • Community members are invited to stop by the Sunderland Public Library, pictured, on Monday, Oct. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. for a discussion centered around The New York Times’ 1619 Project, a long-form journalism piece exploring the history of slavery in the U.S. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2022 2:17:49 PM

SUNDERLAND — To continue discussions about racism and discrimination, three local groups are hosting a program on Indigenous Peoples Day that will be dedicated to exploring slavery in America’s history.

Organized by the Sunderland Human Rights Task Force, the Deerfield Inclusion Group and the Hatfield Equity Alliance, folks are invited to stop by the Sunderland Public Library — although this is not a library-sponsored event — on Monday, Oct. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. for a discussion centered around The New York Times’ 1619 Project, a long-form journalism piece exploring the history of slavery in the U.S.

While not directly related to Indigenous Peoples Day, Sunderland Human Rights Task Force member Aaron Falbel said the history of slavery and the treatment of Indigenous people in the U.S. have been victims of “whitewashing in the literal sense of the term.”

“It’s a history that white people don’t feel comfortable talking about and tend to ignore,” Falbel commented. “There is a mythology around both of those histories. … There is an overlap between those two histories that we will mention at the beginning of the program.”

Monday’s event will center around the 1619 Project, which aims to highlight the year 1619 as a pivotal year in the nation’s history, as it marked when the first ship carrying enslaved Africans landed on Virginia’s shores. Attendees will watch a 15-minute video interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project’s lead writer, and will participate in open and group discussions about the interview and the effects of slavery on the nation’s history.

“We think this is an important discussion for people to have about the history and legacy of slavery,” Falbel said. “Not to make people feel bad or guilty, but to acknowledge that this has been part of our history and to correct the wrongs. … I don’t think we can understand how we got to where we are today if we sweep this under the rug.”

Falbel added Monday’s event is an opportunity for people to have a discussion without involving themselves in the “current culture war” that they may see playing out on TV and in politics.

“I think a lot of us are aware of the current culture war in larger society regarding what people have been calling Critical Race Theory, even though that term is being misapplied,” he said. “We’re doing this because we think these issues are important.”

The Sunderland Human Rights Task Force was created with the mission to “support a community in which everyone’s history, culture, heritage, experience and rights are recognized and honored, and where no one is marginalized or the victim of discrimination,” according to a press release from the group.

The event is being held in hybrid format. Those who wish to attend virtually can email to get the Zoom link. Masks are optional for in-person attendance, but are encouraged.

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