On Tuesday, April 3 from 7 - 9 pm, at the Community Room at JFK Middle School, Northampton Connects will host a panel discussion on how to assure that downtown Northampton is safe, vibrant and inclusive for all. Northampton Connects is a project initiated by a group of Northampton residents seeking to provide a forum to encourage community conversations, listening, mutual understanding and exploration of common ground among Northampton residents with varied experiences and points of view.
Panelists will represent a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives, and will include: Peter Ives, former pastor of First Churches in Northampton; Booker Bush, MD, a member of Northampton's Human Rights Commission; Pastor Steph Smith of Cathedral in the Night; Jonathan Goldman, a Brandeis Student, the youngest Democratic State Committee member and co-founder of The Right to Immigration Institute; Rabbi Justin David of Congregation B'nai Israel; Nancy Cowen, owner of Happy Valley Gifts; and Judy Herrell, owner of Herrell's Ice Cream. The discussion will be facilitated by Paula Green from Leverett, founder of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and organizer of the Hands Across the Hills project, which has brought together people from Leverett and eastern Kentucky to promote dialogue.
After introductory remarks, Paula Green will facilitate a 45-minute discussion, using techniques she has used to encourage civil conversation in post conflict and polarized societies around the globe. Following the panel discussion, the audience will divide up into small groups for facilitated discussion of the topics addressed by the panel, with each group then reporting back on highlights of their conversation. The goal of this community conversation is to increase understanding of all perspectives and find common ground as we consider issues facing downtown.
Northampton Connects has its origins in an October, 2017 community meeting hosted by Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell. The meeting was dominated by discussion of the polarized nature of the city's debate about the proposal for additional municipal surveillance cameras in downtown Northampton, and conversation about what could be done to encourage less polarized and more respectful conversation about contentious topics in the future. Northampton resident Stan Schapiro joined Dennis and Paula Green in convening an informal planning group to explore options going forward.
Northampton Connects will reconvene following the April 3 forum to discuss other programs and activities aimed at encouraging respectful local conversations to develop shared approaches to concerns that affect all of Northampton's citizens.