Thoughts about the North Shore NAACP Branch

Written by Barbara Smith,

Blogger and Social Justice
Activist and former chair of the Hamilton Democratic Town Committee

I am sharing the latest newsletter from Kenann McKenzie DeFranza, president of the North Shore NAACP chapter. My thoughts are in purple italics. I disagree with her assumption that White people cannot empathize with the suffering of people of color. The type of people who join a NAACP are the type of people who care about hate and discrimination-against ALL.

  • Although as a White woman, I will never be a victim of microaggressions, violence, unjust imprisonment and murder because of hate against my race, I am capable of empathy. As an ally I work to elect Democrats who are the only political entities that care to change the American culture of hate, especially against people of color, women and the LGBTQTI community.
  • Kenann must denounce the hate coming from Hamilton political lobbyist and Evangelist, Anna Siedzik. I am one of the founding members of the NSNAACP. My “crime” was to insist that the Hamilton HR Commission include women and atheists as classes worthy of HR protections….Leaders such as Kenann and former president Natalie Bowers should protect me from bullying. Instead the chapter has embraced Ms. Siedzik’s tactics of calling all who disobey her demands- anti-human rights, bigots, classists, racists and TERFS….
  • The North Shore NAACP chapter must be transparent. The fact is that Anna Siedzik works for Kenann’s husband – Andrew DeFranza, president of the 7 church owned consortium that sells affordable housing units. There is a conflict of interest in what the NAACP CHAPTER does and the people in charge earning income from their actions. Kenann made her husband chair of the HOUSING COMMITTEE. Although Harborlight Homes is a non-profit, MS. Siezik and the DeFranzas earn a nice commission. The also take tax payer money via ARBA (pandemic funds) and community tax monies when the development project runs dry (as in Beverly).
  • This is a flagrant constitutional transgression against separation of church and state. Housing units sold by Harborlight Homes PAY NO REAL ESTATE TAXES. While its great that a nonprofit is building housing, it is not ok to portray communities concerned about the environment, density, traffic and outrageous taxes as racist and classist.
President’s Message

May is Mental Health Awareness month. We have a unique conglomeration of people in our Branch, as most of our members identify as White; we have been an increasingly diverse group with more people of color and African-Americans, and those who identify as part of the Black diaspora on the North Shore. We all share the common goal of dismantling racism. Some of us are new to facing these systems and others live with daily reminders that they are suffering from racist actions and policies.  We have a unique opportunity to bring together those most affected, and those who would like to be allies with that understanding, while also having an appreciation for how collective trauma is relevant. For a non-Black person, it may be difficult to understand why a racist assault elsewhere in the country rallies groups together, and in fact, could impact the daily experience and mental health of people in the African diaspora in this country who are otherwise not connected to that individual in a literal sense. 

As a White person, I have no problem empathizing with the horrors of 400 years of trauma. I once heard Kenann mention that she was perceived as a “angry Black Woman”. It is inconceivable that any Black woman not be angry given the war against people of color and women.

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I don’t have to be raped in order to empathize with and be horrified by women who have, and neither do men.

I don’t have to be gay to be horrified when Mathew Shepherd was murdered and I don’t have to be Black and Trans to see that hate against this demographic is causing high rates of terror and death.

Kenann continues:
In the book High Conflict, the author, Amanda Ripley, talks about how we have a very visceral, and in fact, neurological response to understanding that others in our group are being mistreated and harmed, particularly when we see, read and hear about it on a consistent basis. For that reason we are sensitive in our branch to think about how we talk about these issues if we are not a person of African descent. We don’t want the understanding of these issues to become a disembodied educational discussion that has nothing to do with empathizing and understanding the real harm that people are facing every day. With that acknowledgment, we want to be thinking about our programming so that it is inclusive to bring in those who are directly affected, and also to understand that we are all affected as a society when we do not challenge racist notions, actions, and beliefs. So for mental health month I’m asking us all to examine our positionality as it relates to these issues- when we hear about these incidences- if we are not directly affected, or don’t identify as a person of color in the United States or in the African Diaspora- do we read about it and wonder how we can help, but feel hopeless? Do we know what actions to take? Do we know how to recognize the shared experience, but know that it is a unique experience for that person in that community who may be feeling that collective trauma? Our Branch has ways to be directly engaged on all those fronts.  In the coming months, we will talk more about allyship while also making sure to embrace and connect with members/nonmembers who are having these direct experiences.

After reading the above statement from Kenann, I am convinced that I do not belong in this NAACP group with it’s focus on trauma caused by racism. I am happy to talk to individual Black people on any topic and share our experiences, and thoughts etc. But perhaps this chapter should consist of only people of color and use a consciousness raising support group model geared toward healing. This might be similar to the women’s consciousness raising group that I joined in the early 1970 where we could share our anger about domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment etc. and men were not invited.

Kenann continues:
We are unfortunately, hearing more and more about incidences of racial harming and profiling in our community that are saddening, and that are difficult, particularly for our young people to endure, and we want to make sure that as a branch we are continuing to be active, engaged, concerned, and taking seriously these allegations with a sense of urgency and commitment. They are in fact happening in our communities and we want to continue to pay attention and continue to lift up these issues -knowing that ultimately the goal is to eradicate race-based discrimination. Peace and Progress always,

I am saddened by the above remarks on the growing incidence of hate and discrimination, and especially its impact on young people. This is extremely serious, of course, although not a surprise given the history and political climate in the U.S. The branch must continue to react as former president, Natalie Bowers, did during the Danvers athletic hate crisis.

I had huge respect for Natalie as she brought the chapter into fruition. But that all changed when she told me that it was OK for Anna Siedzik to bully people who don’t obey her Christian Nationalist and anti-women demands and then call voices of dissent “racists” . I have blogged extensively on this topic with screenshots to support my position. I even have a screenshot of Natalie telling me in a text that its OK to call someone a racist, its no big deal…..

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Intersectionality is more important than ever in order to make the world more just. It is not acceptable to throw hate at women and atheists because Anna Siedzik serves the “Beloved”, Gordon-Conwell, Gordon University that earns income from development . It is not OK that she thinks that women don’t need civil rights protection.

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