Friday, July 12, 2024

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Meeting Explores Westport’s Whiteness

She said that while people say, “It is not like that now,” the consequences of the town’s lack of diversity — with Westport’s Black population at just 1.2% — remain.

Natasha Johnson, who is Black, graduated from Staples High School in June and now attends the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke via a recorded message.

She said she “felt like an impostor” in her Westport school experience from elementary through high school. From being asked if other students could touch her hair, if she had two parents or to being on a field trip and being asked if she were from another school, Johnson said she was viewed differently.

WestportNow.com Image
TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey at tonight’s discussion. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Ifeseyi Gayle, a Black Westport mother who moved to town a year ago, said as she was driving through a neighborhood and looking for an address, she passed a 16-year-old girl on a bicycle twice. The girl sped away and into her driveway and family members came outside.

“The young lady thought I was trying to kidnap her,” she said.

Harold Bailey, chairman of TEAM Westport and one for the event’s organizers, said that while what Gayle “experienced may be shocking to you, the strange part is that it is still going on.”

Bailey said that he has a 10-point plan he wants to present to the Westport public schools’ administration. He also urged townspeople to ask themselves if Westport is mostly white “because it wants to be that way.”

All of the proceeds from the event’s $10 admission fee are going to TEAM Westport.

At the meeting’s close, Dobin took the opportunity to ask the public to support P&Z text amendments, one which would facilitate more affordable housing by taking down “the unnatural brick wall” of a 10% housing limit on multifamily housing.

Another text amendment she touted is one that would allow accessory housing in single-family homes.

“You can’t go back to change the beginning, but you can change where you are now and go forward,” Dobin said.

She said that while people say, “It is not like that now,” the consequences of the town’s lack of diversity — with Westport’s Black population at just 1.2% — remain.

Natasha Johnson, who is Black, graduated from Staples High School in June and now attends the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke via a recorded message.

She said she “felt like an impostor” in her Westport school experience from elementary through high school. From being asked if other students could touch her hair, if she had two parents or to being on a field trip and being asked if she were from another school, Johnson said she was viewed differently.

WestportNow.com Image
TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey at tonight’s discussion. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Ifeseyi Gayle, a Black Westport mother who moved to town a year ago, said as she was driving through a neighborhood and looking for an address, she passed a 16-year-old girl on a bicycle twice. The girl sped away and into her driveway and family members came outside.

“The young lady thought I was trying to kidnap her,” she said.

Harold Bailey, chairman of TEAM Westport and one for the event’s organizers, said that while what Gayle “experienced may be shocking to you, the strange part is that it is still going on.”

Bailey said that he has a 10-point plan he wants to present to the Westport public schools’ administration. He also urged townspeople to ask themselves if Westport is mostly white “because it wants to be that way.”

All of the proceeds from the event’s $10 admission fee are going to TEAM Westport.

At the meeting’s close, Dobin took the opportunity to ask the public to support P&Z text amendments, one which would facilitate more affordable housing by taking down “the unnatural brick wall” of a 10% housing limit on multifamily housing.

Another text amendment she touted is one that would allow accessory housing in single-family homes.

“You can’t go back to change the beginning, but you can change where you are now and go forward,” Dobin said.

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