Newtown Allies for Change: Four Years Later

In May of 2020, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN while bystanders looked on in horror. The aftermath of that terrible incident and the subsequent rallies and protests around the country did not skip the community of Newtown, CT. In the wake of this terrible crime (along with the murders of Brionna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery) a group of local residents organized a rally to bring to light the racism within the town. These residents wanted to unify people towards a common goal: Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion by centering Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC) in Newtown.

What started off as a small, grass-roots organization with a handful of people, quickly became a large Facebook group of over 1,300 members, many of whom have committed to learning how to be actively anti-racist and how to help change the town from within. The Facebook page became a place where residents are able to discuss hate crimes (many people had their Black Lives Matter signs stolen or vandalized), problematic business owners, and how to stand up against the notorious Dunkin’ Donuts Parking Lot racists.

Hearing stories from local students of color about their experiences within the Newtown Public Schools and having witnessed her own children’s painful (and psychologically detrimental) experiences as well, one NAFC member turned her focus onto the school district. She pressed them to address the racism which non-white students experienced at school and the lack of complete education for all children due to curriculum insufficiencies. It was crystal clear that something needed to change.

The leadership of Newtown Allies for Change worked hard to communicate with the Newtown Public Schools’ Board of Education exactly how important embracing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and culturally inclusive curriculum into the school was. Many non-white graduates from Newtown High School told their own stories of the racial slurs and other derogatory comments which were directed at them. In the fall of 2021, it felt like a major win when the Newtown Board of Education adopted a DEI policy and also hired a DEI director.

Fast forward to 2024.

Over the past four years NAFC has continued to grow, write, educate, and advocate for Newtown to embrace DEI. Throughout the years NAFC has hosted numerous book and film discussions, educational opportunities, and panel discussions. Each program which was hosted centered the mission of NAFC. The group has also partnered with the Newtown Police Department, helping to review policies and educate officers on why it is important to listen to what the BIPOC residents say about their own experiences.

NAFC hosts a discussion about the Hulu documentary “The Sound of the Police” with Sgt. Chapman of Newtown PD in attendance

Because of NAFC’s work and presence, the town was given the opportunity to partner with the Department of Justice in the ‘United Against Hate’ panel discussion. More than 100 people gathered to discuss hate crimes in Connecticut and the importance of people recognizing AND reporting those hate crimes and hate incidents to local law enforcement. It was a proud moment for the group as they have worked tirelessly to make sure that BIPOC people in Newtown and surrounding areas feel comfortable interacting with law enforcement and trust that actions will happen when incidents are reported.

Despite many challenges, NAFC has continued to thrive and make positive progress for the BIPOC community in Newtown. NAFC remains committed to doing the hard work needed to make Newtown an educated (and therefore safer) community for ALL of its residents.

One of the bulletin boards which NAFC made for the NPS Black History month