Anti-Racism Organizing in Maine (AROM) 2021


"Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is - and that’s in their home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.” ~Malcolm X 1964


The AROM (Anti-Racism in Maine) Gathering 2021 occurred virtually with the support of A Special Gathering, an incredible black-owned virtual event and creative production company.  The gathering focused on Maine’s untold history and ground organizing efforts in that history. The Gathering was planned with all of the components necessary to build an anti-racist community; historians to ground us in Maine’s true history in regards to slavery and Indigenous genocide; policy-makers fighting for anti-racist legislation with transformational potential; and youth organizers to plug participants into existing anti-racist power building efforts across the state.


Rev. Kenneth Lewis opened the Gathering with an offering of spiritual guidance to those embarking on an anti-racist journey. “Just like any viral outbreak,” he told us, “many of the carriers of racism can be asymptomatic. Their mouth doesn't spew hate, but their mindset is constructed in such a way that does not travel this journey well.... And so today is the beginning of a new day for some, I pray. That this virus that has infected and affected people for more than 400 years can at some point in time be dismantled.”


The opening keynote speaker was historian Kate McMahon, who works at the National Museum of African American History and specializes in New England's participation in the transatlantic slave trade. She shared a harrowing presentation on Maine’s complicity, revealing that “​​though Maine entered the union as a ‘free state,’ and has remembered and celebrated itself as such for 200 years, a truthful examination of history reveals that Maine would not exist without slavery… Some of the many merchants, bankers, ship builders that participated in the wealth of the slave trade also held significant political power in local communities. This mixture of wealth, cumulated through systematic enslavement of African-descended people, and power led to the institutional racism that we continue to live with in our present. We must continue to research these histories, to better shed light on present injustices to build a more just future.”


The need to face our history honestly was repeated by both Representative Rachel Talbot Ross and Ambassador Maulian Dana, two incredible political leaders in Maine who are working to shape a future where Maine– and the country– are grounded in anti-racist policy rooted in the reality of regional and national histories. The two leaders discussed their work on the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations– a commission with the potential to set transformational precedent for the entire country. Rep. Talbot Ross pointed to the commission as an example of what we should be working for. “It is just not enough,” she said, “to attend the rallies, issue statements, create a DEI position that's isolated from everything else... to come to the legislature, maybe testify on one bill to celebrate Indigenous People's day. This is not enough. This is not enough. The investment in the self-determination of our people is a must. The difference between anti-slavery and abolition... we are in a time right now that requires abolition.”


After another panel filled with formidable local historians, there was a panel called “Voices of Change, Visions of Justice,” packed with youth organizers from Black P.O.W.E.R., Maine Inside Out, Maine Youth Justice, and Racial Equity and Justice. These organizers delved into the work they are already doing– the work that built the power that enabled the passing of the Permanent Commission and the work that will continue to change the landscape of what is possible in Maine. Desiree (Anakoniwa) Vargas from Racial Equity and Justice told the participants that, “across Maine there's a lot of working in silos. We want to be able to address that gap. We don't want to be working in silos. We want to be working together on these issues without competition, without you know, internalizing colonialism… all the work we do, all the panelists here, all the work we do is relational.”


The work coming out of this gathering can be summed up with a quote by Jonathan Cappart, shared at the Gathering by Atlantic Black Box Executive Director Meadow Dibble. “The moral arc doesn’t bend toward justice by itself. We need to bend it.”


Rachel Talbot Ross – Maine Democratic House Representative, assistant House Majority leader, and founder & co-chair of the Permanent Commission on the status of Indigenous, Ethic, and Maine Tribal Populations

Maulian Dana – Tribal Ambassador of the Penobscot Nation and co-chair of the Permanent Commission on the status of Indigenous, Ethic, and Maine Tribal Populations

Kate McMahon – Museum Specialist at the National Museum of African American History & Culture, leads research efforts at the Center for the Study of Global Slavery

(for more detailed speaker bios see:

Featured Panelists Included:
Bob Greene – Retired Associated Press journalist and Maine historian

Patricia Wall – educator and author (inc. Lives of Consequence: Blacks in early Kittery & Berwick in the Massachusetts Province of Maine)

Members of Maine Inside Out – A group led by formerly incarcerated people that activate individuals and communities to imagine and embody freedom through art, advocacy and support, and transformative justice

Members of Black P.O.W.E.R. – a group led by black organizers working to end racism

Members of Maine Youth Justice – a campaign fighting to end youth incarceration in Maine

Members of Racial Equity & Justice – an alliance of BIPOC utilizing a solution-based approach providing support to BIPOC individuals and families to survive and thrive with greater equality, justice, liberation, resources, safety, cultural wellness, healing, empowerment, and opportunity

Claudia Sayre – Leader of the Kennebunk Region BIPOC History Project

Lisa Simpson Lutts – Executive Director of the Castine Historical Society


While we focus on addressing the fact that racism in this country is a “white problem,” ALL ARE WELCOME to this event, as we need each one of us to build a more liberated nation.


The intention of this event is to move members of predominantly white communities deeper into antiracism organizing. It is our belief that white people are in a unique position to confront and leverage power due to their proximity to power and privilege. Thus, while working toward the upliftment and liberation of BIPOC, white people need to be working together to shift white supremacy culture and institutional racism embedded within society. It is our stance at Community Change Inc. (CCI) that it is not enough for white people to work with people of color and allow them to lead. It is imperative that white folks gain the skills and comfort to work in their own communities; this is a crucial element to bringing about transformative change across systems, and throughout the dominant culture. White people must acknowledge and understand the historic role of radical white anti-racist organizers in their history to build on a lineage of accomplices to a multi-racial struggle for freedom.


Sponsored by:

Racial Equity Institute - New England

Elmina B. Sewall Foundation

The BTS Center

Maine Initiatives

St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Brunswick

South Portland Human Rights Commission

First Parish Congregational Church UCC - Saco

Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative

HopeGateWay Church

Night Moves Bread