Alexandra Pineros-Shields

Election reverberates in Lynn

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
People form a circle and put their arms around each other as Rabbi Margie Klein Rankin sings a  song during a meeting for the  Essex County Community Organization, which focused on healing after the election.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — A diverse crowd turned out to begin the process of post-election healing at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday night.

What was originally planned as a strategy meeting for the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO) primarily became a forum for people to gather and discuss their thoughts about a presidential election that surprised many voters.

“We want to create space for our hearts to feel, for our heads to think through and for our hands and our feet to get ready to work,” said Alexandra Pineros Shields, director of ECCO. “We are relatives — those in the red states and those in the blue states.”  

After a brief prayer, attendees broke into small groups to talk about the impact of the election and to connect with other members of the community.

“Where I am most profoundly hearing pain is from immigrants,” said Rev. Jane Gould of St. Stephen’s, who also cited the LGBTQ community and women as groups who have expressed distress over the election of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency.  

“If you happen to be a minority, every single day you have to fight,” said Lynn resident Ahmadou Balde. “As a Muslim guy, it’s inconceivable. Knowing that I’m working every day with people who feel this way makes me very uncomfortable.”

“Women are equal people, they’re equal beings,” said Rev. Andre Bennett of Zion Baptist Church, who has five sisters. “They’re capable of doing anything that I am.”

Others in the room commented that the results of the election were complex, and that even those with differing opinions still deserved to have their voices heard.

Reactions ranged substantially, but the overall message of the night was a call for respect and unity across the country as well as close to home.

Sue Burgess came out for the evening from Swampscott and said that she had been seeking different perspectives on recent political events.

“What really bothered me the most was the lack of respect,” said Burgess about the Trump campaign. “I hope we can have more respect.”

Others joined the meeting because they simply wanted some companionship after a turbulent past few days.

“I just needed to surround myself with people of faith,” said Clyde Elledge of Marblehead.

Lending perspective to bias in Lynn

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger speaks during the Implicit Bias Training program, while Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton of the Zion Baptist Church listens.

BY DILLON DURST

LYNN — Rachel Godsil says everyone has a bias, whether they’re aware of it or not.

“If you have a brain, you have a bias,” she said.

The director of research at Perception Institute, a coalition of scientists that uses research to reduce discrimination, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting between Lynn Police and the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), a network of North Shore faith-based groups.

The gathering centered around the concept of implicit bias, or the unconscious brain’s prejudices.

Godsil, who’s also a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, said the unconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious, and can process a greater amount of information. Since people are oblivious to this sector of the brain, Godsil said, they are unaware of their implicit biases.

She had the 84-person crowd participate in exercises that allowed them to experience their unconscious mind.

“Once you become aware of your bias, you’re able to slow down and correct it,” said Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton of Lynn’s Zion Baptist Church.

“Today allowed us to open up to understanding we do have biases whether we know it or not,” added Diana Cunningham, of Bethel AME Church.

While Chief Kevin Coppinger asked members of the black community to share their issues and concerns, it’s easier said than done.

Alexandra Piñeros Shields, ECCO executive director, said 10 young black men from Raw Art Works said during Wednesday’s meeting that they’re afraid to talk to police.

“They’re taught that they’re in danger when they’re near police,” she said. “That’s important for police officers to know.”

Coppinger recalled that at an April meeting between Lynn Police and ECCO at Sacred Heart Church both sides were able to “just sit and talk” and make progress toward achieving a mutual trust. The longtime law enforcement official said members of the city’s black community were able to see officers as human beings, rather than just “big guys with guns.”

“It shouldn’t stop here,” Coppinger said of Wednesday’s progress. “I think we have amazing potential to be a model community.”


Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

Workers have their May Day

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Protesters begin to congregate at the Corner of Greene Street and Union Street in Lynn for the International Workers May Day March.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — More than 100 protesters took to the streets of Lynn on Sunday to support worldwide International Workers May Day.

The peaceful group marched a mile from the intersection of Union and Green streets to Lynn Commons, ending with a short rally.

Jack Damas, 14, of Lynn, said while his family is from Haiti, he was born in the U.S. May Day is his first protest and he came with friends.

“I want everyone to be equal and for everyone to have fair rights,” he said.

David Gass, director of the Highlands Coalition, a group that endorsed the event, said the marchers included immigrants and-low income workers. He said the goal of the march is make people aware of the inequality and discrimination immigrants face.

Gass, 71, of Lynn, said many people in the city spend about half of their income on rent. One of the purposes of the rally was to lobby for a $15 an hour minimum wage, which, he said, would help people keep pace with the cost of living.

Angela Arce, vice-president of the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), said through an interpreter that she immigrated from Paraguay 17 years ago. The 42-year-old Salem resident said she came in search of opportunities and has two children, both U.S. citizens.

“I started a company,” she said through an interpreter. “We employ people. We’re fighting so immigrants can live and work in better conditions for just wages and so that undocumented immigrants can get drivers licenses so that everybody can drive in safety.”

Alexandra Pineros-Shields, ECCO’s executive director, said she’s from Spain, but has been in the U.S. for 47 years. The 52-year-old Salem resident said she came over when she was 4, after her parents decided to move.

Shields said ECCO, a network of congregations on the North Shore, is concerned about the rights of workers, particularly immigrants.

“All of the fights we fought for over the last century are slowly slipping away,” she said. “Our faith traditions tell us that everyone has dignity.”

Mother and daughter Mary Rosales, 50, and Tatiana Iraheta, 13, of Lynn, are facing foreclosure. Rosales is from El Salvador and came to the U.S. to escape the hardships faced during the country’s civil war. She said one of her brothers was killed. The two are working with Lynn United for Change to keep their home.

“It’s a human right to have a roof over your head,” Rosales said.

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council and executive director of New Lynn Coalition, said support for workers is needed.

“This is a time when they’re trying to tear down the last few good jobs in America,” Crosby said. “That’s why we stopped at the Verizon offices to support their strike. We need union rights for immigrant workers.”

The local march, an annual event for about a decade, was organized by the ECCO, Lynn United for Change, Neighbor to Neighbor, New Lynn Coalition and Worker’s Center of Lynn.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley