We Exist Series 2: Audio Recordings
Civil Rights and Activism: Mrs. Joanna Boley-Lee McKenzie


Civil Rights and Activism: Mrs. Joanna Boley-Lee McKenzie



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Mrs. Joanna Boley-Lee McKenzie, (age 66; born 1937 in Newark, New Jersey; lived in Maine for 8.5 years)

Maureen Elgersman-Lee : "Okay. Well, now can you -- can you talk about any of the committees that you -- that you have (inaudible) locally?

Joanna Boley-Lee McKenzie: “Uh, I work with the, uh, City of Lewiston. There are two committees, um, both of them are diversity committees, one of them under, uh, Mayor Kaileigh Tara that was the beginning of the diversity committee. And then, um, there's another committee that has -- was put together, amazingly, just before the, um, uh, -- the, um, march in January when the white supremists came. We were trying to set up some workshops for the city to help people to – to resolve the issues they had with the Somalians being here. And it was perfect timing because we were able to then concentrate our efforts on the, um, rally at Bates. The "Many and One" group, sort of -- many of the people on this, uh, city committee also served on the "Many and One" committee. So, we've worked together. Uh, I did training for the Lewiston and Auburn Police Department. I serve on the "Hate Bias Taskforce" committee which is, uh, a state committee, but each city has its own small organization that is part of the larger group. Uh, and then the other kinds of committee are the Jubilee Center at Trinity Episcopal Church. Um, not so much for diversity and gender, but here it's class. We -- we work with the -- the, uh, poorer and unemployed people in the city, um, those kinds of things.” Now, how would that work differ -- when you -- when you work in class issues, how is that different from the work you do around race and gender? “Actually, there is not a whole lot of difference. I think the reason why there is a lot of class -- more class issues in this area than issues of race have to do with the fact that it's pretty a homogeneous community. And, so, the same kinds of, um, um, derogatory statements, um, the treating people differently, uh, looking down on others comes out based on your status within the community. So, we do find that poor people, poor white people are treated by each other in the same way as people of different races are in more diverse cities.” And the "Many and One" rally in January of this year, January 2003, uh, was held at Bates, and your committee worked – how did it feel (inaudible) -- uh, in -- in the middle -- so to speak, how did it feel to be working with the city, how did it feel to be working on these committees in the mists of what -- what was some turmoil? “Well, you know, at first it was kind of frightening because – and our small committee, we were talking about how do we protect our community from what could happen with the white supremists coming in. Um, and so we were thinking of workshops and things that we would actually do after the rally was over because the police were going to take care of controlling the environment. And then the "Many and One" committee, which I was not a part of, but that committee started working on having the rally at Bates which was a wonderful thing because it gave people who wanted to do something a positive place to go. So, um, it was almost like two things at one time. What has happened since the rally is that, um, the "Many and One" committee and the committee from the Lewiston government have, more-or-less, come together to begin the dialogue. And so there have been workshops and dialogues and meetings since February. And there is, um -- there is going to be a report that is coming out, they are working on it now, about the outcomes of the various workshops that they have been having. So the two groups have been overlapping after the events.”

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Civil Rights and Activism: Mrs. Joanna Boley-Lee McKenzie