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.

Jo Massarelli

Director, SRV Implementation Project; Treasurer, Mustard Seed

I would say when I began to take my Christianity seriously, it all began to make some sense. And Dorothy Day inspired me; Wolf Wolfenberger is an inspiration for me.  Those were the main influences, but really it was informed by my faith.  Now all of the work I do is in the secular world and we teach workshops basically on the sanctity of human life, but we don’t use that term because we teach them in a secular context.  But I find that you can get pretty far with people who are of good mind and heart, to prompt them to think about really the value of the human life, which is at the basis of all of my work.

Jo Massarelli was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1958.  She is involved in several organizations in Worcester, such as Family Matters, the Medical Safeguards Project, and the Social Role Valorization Implementation Project (SRV Implementation Project).  She travels the globe to teach courses on such topics and highly values the sanctity of all human lives.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/01/2017
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Janette Greenwood

Clark University Professor; Coolaborator on WAM Bullard exhibit on African American Worcester residents

I have always felt that there has got to be much more of a connection between what we do on any college campus and what gets out in the community.  And that, we can’t keep what we learn in our own research, just among ourselves.  It has to go back to the community and we have to be informed.  Out of the blue three years ago I got this email from this man. Somebody I didn’t know and he said, “I have these old photos from African Americans in Worcester that you might be interested in,” and it was the end of the semester and I blew him off quite frankly.  And he called again and I said, “You know, I’m going to Worcester tomorrow, I’ll go see what he has.”  I had no idea.   So we made arrangements and his name is Frank Morrill and he lives out in Charlton and he’s a collector of many things.  He said he had a collection of 5,400 glass negatives.  The entire work of one photographer [William Bullard].  It was a white photographer.  And within that collection, he has come across this fortress of over 200 portraits of people of color that were taken in Worcester.  And he started showing me these and I was thinking, these are amazing I had never seen anything like this.  And I mean not just for Worcester but anywhere in the country.  And then he said, “Oh, by the way, I have the photographer's log book so I can tell you who most of these people are.”  And I said, “Are you kidding me?”  And then I started recognizing names because I had just written this book. I know this family, I know this person they are from North Carolina, this person is from Virginia.  And I just couldn’t believe it.  In October we will be opening an exhibition of 80 of these photographs at the Worcester Art Museum.  So since that time, since 2014 I have been working on this and I have gotten my Clark students involved with it too and they have been doing research on them.  This semester they have been writing captions to put under these and we are putting a website together to have additional information and even when the exhibition is gone we will have a virtual exhibition.  So I guess where I have really connected, this project has really connected me in many and more ways, locally and in my own kind of activism.  Because we know who these people are we can trace them back, but we can also trace them forward.  We were able to find descendants and, “You don’t know me, but I teach at Clark and I have this   really amazing photo of your grandmother, I’m not sure that you’ve ever seen it.”  And so we connected with lots of descendants and family members and they have been wonderful in sharing their information with us.  So, we are able, so the goal is to basically to tell the story of this community which really hasn’t been told.  It’s been left out of the general history books of Worcester. We are calling the exhibition, “Rediscovering an American Community of Color, Photographs by William Bullard."

Janette Greenwood was born in the mountains of western Pennsylvania into a working-class home.  Janette and her family were a part of a Baptist faith that played a big role in her life and her career.  Janette was given the opportunity to attend Kenyon College in Ohio on scholarship after finishing her schooling at a vocational high school nearby.  After Janette finished her undergraduate degree she went to the University of Wisconsin to get her master’s before taking eight years off.  During these eight years Janette got married, started a family, and began teaching.&nb

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/27/2017
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Katie Green

Peace activist; Quaker; Storyteller; Author

I was really very active in the Worcester Safe Energy Project back in its day, and when we were looking at the connections between nuclear energy and militarism, I was very involved with  organizing for the Nuclear Freeze.  That was when a million people marched on New York City against nuclear weapons.   We organized that, we organized buses that went down to Washington D.C. several times. There was also the Women’s Pentagon Action.  There were two of those. I took my van to D.C. with seven other women, most of whom were from Worcester, to participate in the Pentagon Action.  It was really very impressive and moving. We women completely circled the Pentagon.

Katie Green was born in Virginia in 1942 and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts with her family when she was 11 years old. She attended college and graduate school in Ohio and received her master’s degree in speech and language pathology from Case Western Reserve University.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 04/01/2017
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Cynthia Enloe

Professor of Political Science, Clark University; feminist author; specializes in gender and militarism

I offered a new course called Women and Comparative Politics which meant looking at women in revolutions and women in elections and women in social movements around the world. And that would all be 1975/76, but what also happened is that we formed a women’s faculty group and the women’s faculty group became—we loved each other, we learned from each other, we taught each other.  How do you know that your chair is crazy? We have to learn these things. How do you know whether your tenure, your promotion experience is fair or not? And women faculty all got together and they compared notes. This is what a fair department looks like, this is what a crazy department looks like.  Is your workplace crazy or is it normal? And sometimes you have to get together with other people saying, “Woah, we didn’t want to do it like that. That’s not fair.” And then we thought there must be faculty members around Worcester that we should get together with and we formed the Women’s Studies Faculty Consortium and that’s when we all got to know Theresa McBride and Karen Turner right at Holy Cross. And then we joined with Kris Waters at Worcester State who’s a philosopher and so we formed this fabulous group and we would have dinners every fall, they were the best thing ever. So we really began to trade ideas with each other, we began to think of each other as feminists, that was new, we began to tell each other what kind of research we were doing and we all got excited about everybody else’s research. So that kind of brings you up to where we are now. But it was all new. 1970s were so exciting.

Cynthia Enloe was born in New York City, New York in 1938. She grew up in Manhasset, Long Island.  After studying at Connecticut College, Enloe went on to further her studies in political science at University of California, Berkeley. After beginning her teaching career at University of Miami in Ohio, Enloe was offered a job at Clark University, where she taught for several years. Although she does not teach full-time at Clark anymore, she still travels, lectures, and conducts research. Her celebrated work is in militarism, race and ethnicity, and gender.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/16/2017
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Geri DiNardo

Worcester activist;co-founder, The Mustard Seed; Catholic Worker house; author

But we were close to getting arrested that day, really close.  The protest that we had at Seabrook, we were being trained in case we were arrested.  It turned out to be a legal protest. They negotiated for it to be a legal protest and we didn’t get arrested there either fortunately.  I haven’t been arrested but Michael has.  He went to jail for I think 20 days, one of those farm jails where you have to work on the farm.  Yep, and what else? I’ve done a number.  Not a lot. I haven’t done a lot of protests but I’ve done some and I’ve done some Catholic Worker house of hospitality stuff.  I was there for five years and feeding—one time we had lettuce soup.  Most of the time we had enough food, but one time we had lettuce soup because we didn’t have enough food.  Didn’t have enough food, so we had to have lettuce, serve lettuce.

Geri Dinardo was born in Hopedale, Massachusetts.  She attended Our Lady of the Elms College where she studied sociology. She earned her graduate degree in education from Worcester State University. She has lived in Worcester, Massachusetts for over 50 years.  Geri spent many years teaching and has been involved with the Catholic Worker and the founding of The Mustard Seed in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Within the interview, Geri discusses her experiences as a woman and the influential individuals who inspired her when founding The Mustard Seed.  

Interview Date: 
Mon, 04/03/2017
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Martha Assefa

Manager, Worcester Food Policy Council

So I’m now doing food policy on behalf of the food bank, working on anti-hunger which is absolutely my background growing up in Kenya and having family in Ethiopia and knowing what hunger was. I was like, “What the hell are we doing with so much a hunger problem in this community?” You know, 90,000 folks in just Worcester County alone are food insecure.  We’re the richest country in the world and yet we cannot find a way to feed all of our people with what they need. It’s mind blowing.  So working on hunger I built up a relationship with the congressman so it was already like this is great this is just an extension of work because that’s one of his biggest issues.  And then also looking at the food system, and farmers’ markets, and urban agriculture, and federal feeding programs to state legislative programs, local stuff.  So we’re working on urban agriculture culture next week at city council.  Just being able to work on all levels of government and then connecting people from the food pantry level to foodies who are all obsessed with local food and bringing all those people together.  That’s the work that I’m up to now. 

Martha Assefa was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.  She moved to Kenya with her parents and older sister at the age of 3 and lived there until she was 18.  When she was 18, she moved to North Carolina to attend Guilford College where she studied community and justice studies.  She eventually moved to New England and received her graduate degree in Women in Politics and Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts Boston.  Martha moved to Worcester and has been a part of countless accounts of community and political organizing.  Today, she serves as the Worcest

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/27/2017
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Sasha Adkins

Environmental and peace activist; visiting professor Holy Cross; GreenFaith fellow; Birth Doula

I went to high school in Hiroshima and I remember on Peace Day I went to the Memorial [Peace Memorial Ceremony] and there was a man there who was missing an arm and I spoke Japanese at the time, and he looked at me, he said, “Are you American?” I was like, “Ah!” [laughs] And it turned out that he was a survivor of the bombing [American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, August 6th, 1945] and he told me his story and I apologized for what happened. But—and we parted very amicably and he wanted to be at the peace museum not to… hurt people, but to help them put a human face on the suffering that war causes. So, I got very interested in how to make sure we don’t have another atomic bombing.

Sasha Adkins, Ph.D.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 05/01/2017
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Kenza Dekar

Born in Algeria; Studied at Clemente Course in the Humanities

Surprisingly when I came to the U.S., I discovered my faith without the influence of the culture.  And it is something very powerful because we realize our real life there was in part patriarchal, society was everything, you needed the authorization of the father for everything, the husband, and basically you have no independence.  That is not true.  And I got to learn it when I came here because I got to discover my faith without them.  Isn't it funny, that you come to the West to end up becoming a better Muslim?  Isn't it crazy?  But I also discovered that my faith was not at odds with the Western culture, surprisingly.  But to get to this conclusion I had to delve through Clemente into Aristotle and Plato, like you have to go far away back to the Western culture and how it started and it is really not at odds.  So, there is a lot of work to do, and I learned that I can have an impact.  And I just maybe now with the kids very small, I have an impact.  You cannot be created;  you cannot be in this world and just dwell without leaving truth.  And that is something that tells you—someone who is lacking confidence like me—this is powerful.  You have an impact.  

Born in Algeria, Kenza Dekar Raheb immigrated to the United States with her husband and two oldest daughters when she was thirty-one.  Since then, she has given birth to a third daughter, home-schooled her children, and worked for a community organization.  Raised in Algeria to appreciate Western culture while living according to Muslim mores, Kenza began to explore religion seriously only after the birth of her second daughter.

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Interview Date: 
Thu, 06/01/2017
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Jasmine Jina Ortiz

Professor, Quinsigamond Community College and Becker College, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty

I'd definitely give women today advice to continue to move forward with their personal goals despite what could be going on around them and to not to lose sight of their purpose, whether professional, personal, or family goals.  To continue to be encouraged and to not let discouraging individuals take control of their minds. The loudest voice that should be heard should be theirs.

Jasmine Jina Ortiz was born in 1979, and raised in New York City. She comes from both a Latino and an African American background; her parents are both from the Dominican Republic. She moved to Worcester, MA to attend Clark University as an undergraduate. She earned an MFA form Pine Manor College. Since then, Jasmine has taught at Quinsigamond Community College and Becker College.  She also works for Keller Williams Realty as a realtor.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/03/2017
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Erin Williams

City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and Executive Director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition

It is part of my heart and soul. It’s not work it is living.  And that is where it’s not a negative it’s a positive experience where the challenges of how to bring people together through art is something that I look at every day. And with my coalition and with the city we try to build partnerships around that to see what is best for the city.

In this interview Erin Williams, born in 1957, discusses the many challenges she faced throughout her life, and how those challenges molded her into the woman she is today as the City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and also the executive director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition. As an “artist embedded in city hall,” Erin helps find ways for people to express themselves openly, and bring communities together through the use of art and culture.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/14/2016
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