Amos Fortune Forum: Race, belonging and trauma 

  • Grace Aldrich of Dublin spoke about the issue of race, belonging and trauma at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Grace Aldrich of Dublin spoke about the issue of race, belonging and trauma at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Grace Aldrich of Dublin spoke about the issue of race, belonging and trauma at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/12/2019 4:15:58 PM

Grace Aldrich wanted to know where the idea of race became a way that people were defined.

So the Dublin resident did some research to figure out when people were first defined by the color of their skin. At Friday’s Amos Fortune Forum, Aldrich spoke about the evolution of race in the world and how it has evolved and changed into how it’s portrayed today.

“Once something happens through generations, over hundreds of years, it starts to look like culture,” Aldrich said.

Aldrich learned from Nell Irvin Painter in “The History of White People” that in ancient Greece, people were defined by their geographic location and not the way they looked.

In “Birth of a White Nation” by Jacqueline Battalora, Aldrich read about how Bacon’s Rebellion, a revolt in 1676 in colonial Jamestown, Virginia, set the wheels in motion for the moment when “white people” were made into a separate and distinct group through legislation and the enforcement of laws. It was after the revolt where it was established that African Americans couldn’t hold office and “the notion of superiority and separation was born.”

“Whiteness was a weaponized concept that has been built on since then,” Aldrich said.

As the daughter of an African American father and white mother, Aldrich has a unique perspective on the topic that manifested after the birth of her son. Like any mother, Aldrich said, she wants the best for her child and to shield him from the views and actions that are so prominent in the world today.

“I want to protect him,” Aldrich said.

After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9, 2014 – five years to the day of her appearance at the Amos Fortune Forum – Aldrich began watching videos of the shootings of African-Americans. It got to the point where she almost became obsessed with the topic and “after a while they started to take a toll,” she said.

There was one day on which she became overwhelmed and was crying when picking up her son from preschool. A friend noticed something was off and suggested a play date at Adams Playground in Peterborough. During the outing, her son seemed concerned with how a couple young children were playing. As she started to pay closer attention, she saw that one was dressed as a policeman and was pretend shooting at her son.

She then attended the Black Lives Matter rally in Boston near where she grew up because she wanted to be a part of the healing process because as Aldrich has learned over the years, and pointed to the book by Bessel van der Kolk, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” that trauma isn’t always caused by something that happens directly to you.

“Trauma happens in life, we all have trauma, but it’s not a life sentence,” she said.

Aldrich said that “no one is to blame for the legacy of trauma that has been handed to us,” but what matters is the steps we take to deal with it.

Aldrich began her talk with a memory of a family reunion. Throngs of people showed up at her parent’s doorstep and it’s a moment that she looks to when trying to understand the best way to view those around her.

“I realized I had no idea who a lot of these people were,” Aldrich said. “But the point was not to identify, the point was to feed and welcome. To make distinctions at that point would have reduced our joy.”

Aldrich is a massage therapist, performer and facilitator. She has recently co-facilitated programs at the Parliament of World Religions and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. In the last year she has also helped to co-create a popular regional library series called “Talking about Race: Staying Curious, Moving Forward, and Being Part of the Solution.”

The final Amos Fortune Forum will be Friday when Ernest Thompson is the guest speaker with What’s Your Story?


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