Politics/Community Involvement

In addition to a traditional focus on the public realm of governance and power structures, this theme should also reflect a feminist understanding of “the personal as political.” We are interested in women’s opinions, values, and activities as they relate to a broad sphere of social relations.

Meredith Walsh

Co-founder Worcester Refugee Assistance Project; Peace Corps Vounteer

I had  learned to live in a setting that was completely foreign, completely different to what I had grown up with. In the Peace Corps I was living in a mountain village with no electricity, no running water.  Went to bed with the sun, woke up with the sun, farmers all around me, learned to plant rice, walked to the school right down the rice paddy path to teach, hiked to the next school to teach.  So I knew the pace of life and I knew a little bit about the priorities, the things that are important to people who are living in that sort of setting in terms of getting food, making sure your children have food–not necessarily some of the things we would worry about in the Western world although people do worry about getting food definitely here, but in a different context.  So the skills of being able to sort of step outside of yourself and really be open to observing and to listening and to following what others around you are doing regardless of whether it is something you think is funny or awkward or different or just doing as they do. I think that's a life lesson that I think everybody could use [laughs] and it's hard to get that life lesson though unless you're thrown in a setting where people are different around you.  You don't get that and I think that's part of where some of the myopic views that we see in America come from, not just America, the Western world in general, the modern world, people who are around people like them all day long or they're avoiding the people that are around them that are different, actively avoiding them.  They don't ever have that understanding of the other and what the other is.

Meredith Walsh, born in 1978 in Memphis, Tennessee, is a remarkable individual who has traveled widely and dedicated her life to improving the wellbeing of others. She began her international work as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and then as a health care-worker, educator, and advocate for human rights on the Thai/Burma border. (Burma is now often referred to as Myanmar).

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Wed, 05/31/2017
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Teresa Wheeler

Social Justice Activist; Entrepreneur

Well that’s sort of the thing about the Catholic Worker in particular, the idea is that you’re working for peace and you’re doing the works of mercy at the same time.  So the idea of hospitality, you’re opening up your home to people, and Peter Maurin who was one of the founders with Dorothy Day, that was his idea. We just had a clarification of thought, at the session last night at the Mustard Seed, that’s part of Peter Maurin’s idea that you’re serving and you’re also thinking about things and working on clarifying your thoughts.  And you had the intellectual side of this movement and then the real direct service.  The whole philosophy with Dorothy Day is that it’s a very personal movement, so you’re serving the individual, you’re really getting to know a person. And that’s what I really like about it because I really think that people can be moved much more easily and convincingly on helping people and just having an idea about a policy if they actually get to know someone or the facts. And so this idea of a Christ-room or something as a part of the Catholic Worker Movement and maybe you wouldn’t need so much government if everybody took on someone in their own home or that sort of philosophy.

Teresa Wheeler is a lifelong Worcester resident and peace activist. She has been involved in the Catholic Worker movement for over three decades and has done work in a number of social justice movements including offering extensive support for the city’s homeless population.

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Thu, 04/20/2017
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Suzanne Belote Shanley

Co-founder of Agape Community; Educator;Activist

I am the co-founder of a lay Catholic community that’s ecumenical, interfaith, and open to all. No one is unwelcome here under any circumstances and so Brayton and I co-founded this community with two missionaries from Haiti and a priest. He’s a Melkite priest in the Eastern Rite, in 1982. So now I am part of this whole sustainable operation and we teach. We do courses here. We do programs here. We have hundreds of college students come here every year for the immersions. We started this community, Agape, but [first] in Brockton, sort of in the inner city of Brockton, with the idea that we would become more residential. People would come and live with us. We started a community with this family, but then we had this dream after five years that we really needed to reduce our lifestyle even more, grow our own food, not use fossil fuels, heat by wood. We drove a car that drove on vegetable oil, we had a grease car for a while. Now we have an electric car. So we really wanted to scale down even more so this afforded the opportunity to come to this land and we got interest-free loans and we got donations. By the time we moved here in 1987, people knew us fairly well. We had been at the peace issues or doing one thing or another with peace-making for about 15 years, so people knew us and people were willing to support donations.  ...... All of our protesting came out of our faith. So before we went anywhere and witnessed against anything, we said we would pray together. We said we would have long periods of prayer together. What is God calling us to?  How is God calling us? How is God touching our hearts?  Before we would act, and then we would act nonviolently.  

Suzanne Belote Shanley is co-founder of the Agape Community, a residential, lay Catholic Community dedicated to prayer, voluntary simplicity, and gospel-centered nonviolent witness in the world, in 1982. She has studied the topic of women and war for over 35 years, bringing to life biographies of pacifists in the women’s movement past and present, while inspiring young people to claim their nonviolent heritage. In this interview, Suzanne reflects upon the many factors that contributed to the cultivation of her activist spirit and commitment to nonviolence, sustainability, and Catholicism.

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Mon, 03/27/2017
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Claire Schaeffer-Duffy

Member, SS Francis and Therese Catholic Worker House; Freelance Journalist

So, this very emaciated man with a burlap bag was ferreting through that trash looking for something to eat. And I went in the house and got two pieces of bread and spread jam. And just held it out because I didn’t speak Hindi. But he came over and we were, you know, just holding it like this. And I remember, kind of our two hands connected. And just, that curiosity about who’s the person on the other side of the fence, [laughs] in my life I think has been an early trait of mine. And that was just who I am [laughs]. But in India there were lots of opportunities to ask that question: who is on the other side?

Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1960.  She is currently a freelance journalist, lives in and runs the Catholic Worker House in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is involved in a wide range of peacemaking activist work within the city and beyond, with a focus on anti-war efforts.  Claire describes her childhood as formative in that her international, highly diverse upbringing in a home that cultivated a curiosity of the world has played an integral role in her interest in diverse cultures and peoples.  Her educational experience studying political and soc

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/29/2017
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Jane Petrella

Community Activist

The school [was my inspiration].  My children had been finished with grammar school for a long time, but I kept pursuing it knowing that they needed a new school there.  I mean the play yard was all broken  in front of the school, the cement or whatever it was made of.  So, I kept pursuing that and we did get a new school.  They put in the new school and they put in the library, which we didn't have, and then they dedicated the library to Jane Petrella.  If you want to go down, my picture is there.  Again, it was a neighborhood event.  We had a true artist in the village who painted my portrait.  The "mothers’ club" engaged his doing it.  I guess it is the "parents’ group" that they call it now.  People come up to me and say, "Thank you for the school."

Jane Petrella was born in 1933 in Wheeling, West Virginia.  Throughout this interview she speaks about her education through college and many of her experiences growing up with several brothers and sisters.  Jane married Frank Petrella and they had six children together.  Jane speaks about her children and the ways in which they inspired her to become an activist and a responsible member of the community.  Jane and her family moved to Worcester in September of 1960 when her husband received a job at College of the Holy Cross where he would teach economics.  Jan

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Thu, 04/06/2017
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Amarely Gutierrez Oliver

Director of Domestic Violence Services, YWCA

Some of the kids I worked with unfortunately would meet their goals, but then they would go backwards and then we would talk about it in session. It was always domestic violence. That was the key for all this, I want to say with 90 percent of my clients. I decided I needed to be more informed about domestic violence. So I got a part-time job working for a shelter that focused on domestic violence. I think I did that like once a week and I fell in love with that.  I saw how the dynamics played out. I saw how it impacted the children that were just witnessing it. I saw how survivors were so strong. Just keep going after being broken down. I really enjoyed it and I loved what I could bring to the table for them and how I can support them. So I did some of that and that's how I ended up shifting my career and life in an instant.

Amarely Gutierrez Oliver was born in El Salvador in Central America.  She moved to the United States when she was six years old.  Her early childhood was filled experiences of prejudice and her mother and father struggled because of their lack of education and their ability to speak English.  This shaped her identity to become an activist at a very young age.  In college she started a movement to help minority students feel safe on campus in response to cases of harassment by campus police.  Amarely finished college at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and earne

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Mon, 04/17/2017
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Joyce McNickles

Social Justice and Diversity Educatior; Owner, McNickles & Associates; Activist

They don't like when you speak out.  You're vulnerable and people try to bring you down. But there's a community here with you that is very supportive. They may not be visible to the powers that be, but they're doing it.

Dr. Joyce McNickles was born in Florida and moved to Worcester at a young age due to her father’s job.  She is one of seven children within her family.  Joyce grew up with the appreciation of differences in people due to her father’s great influences on her.  This contributed to her becoming a diversity educator.  Today she works and teaches diversity training.  She is working to better the community as well as provide education in areas where society needs it the most.  Joyce is a social justice and diversity educator.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/06/2017
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Ginger Navickas

Former Director of Domestic Violence Services, YWCA; ArtWorcester Volunteer; Activist

So that was my beginning at the YWCA and an understanding of the complexity of poverty and the impact on women and girls and not having an opportunity to see the world as a possibility for growth and a place that was so hindered by being poor and uneducated.  And I paid attention to that.  Of course I was in a fertile place because the YWCA of Central Mass is all about the empowerment of women and the elimination of racism.

Ginger Navickas was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1945.  As a Worcester native, Ginger has been a strong member of the community. Attending various schools throughout Worcester, she became well versed in the variety of neighborhoods.  In her line of work, Ginger is celebrated for her continual involvement in the YWCA and Daybreak as Director of Domestic Violence Services. Although she is now retired, Ginger continues to volunteer for programs like ArtsWorcester, Planned Parenthood,  and Worcester League of Women Voters.

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Thu, 04/20/2017
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Heather Mangione

PhD Candidate Developmental Psychology; Founder of Airspray; LGBTQ Advocate

So it’s a really important time in our history and in our lives not to be incredibly discouraged, but to move your efforts and energy elsewhere. And to really educate yourself on what’s going on in your community as opposed to the national government. I think also I’m always really reminded of the radical feminist phrase, “The personal is political,” in that we always are engaging in political rights and activism just by virtue of living as marginalized groups. As women, as queer people, whatever, I think for me getting active in the various dyke marches I have participated in, [laughs] it has been very powerful to see communities and people who look like me and are like-minded and often that I don’t see in my visual sphere.

Heather Mangione was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1985 and is currently 32 years old. She moved to Worcester in 2009 to attend Clark University, pursuing her Ph.D. in developmental psychology. Post graduation, Heather gravitated towards community development, looking to create change for those around her. As an advocate for the LGBTQ community, she quickly recognized the lack of a social scene, founding a group called Airspray. This monthly event held at a bar in downtown Worcester has successfully filled that gap for the residents of Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 09/24/2017
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Stacy Lord

Art Teacher; stART on the Street Volunteer; Owner of the largest LEGO collection

It kind of saved my life in a way. I had a learning disability growing up and I didn't speak until I was in first or second grade and school was very difficult.  My parents have always been wonderful and just encouraged me in whatever I did.  So I would draw and draw and draw and they’d buy me whatever paper, pens, paint to draw.  They took me to the Worcester Art Museum as a kid to take classes there even though they didn’t have a lot of money. And full circle is when I got into high school I ended up teaching there.  So here I am eight years old taking classes and seeing my artwork up on the wall and then high school I get accepted to teach at the Worcester Art Museum. So I see the benefits of the arts and I grew up in music as well and how it can change someone’s perspective from being, “Ugh, I can’t do this, I’m a failure,” to “Oh, guess what, you can attempt and you can do things.” As long as you can find that niche of something to keep you going, that passion, that drive, that place where you can fall back on when things get tough.

Stacy Lord was born in Holden, Massachusetts in 1969, grew up in Princeton and moved to Worcester in 1996. She attended Wachusett High School and Anna Maria College where she discovered her love for the arts. Stacy is a loving partner as well as mother to two boys. Throughout her life, Stacy had many jobs involving the arts and now is a devoted middle school art teacher in Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 09/29/2017
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