Celebrating Diversity in Southern Vermont
Vermont Heritage – Black History Month
Welcome to part one (of a six-part blog series) entitled, “Celebrating Diversity in Southern Vermont”. This month, we are celebrating Black History Month. Black History is American History; it honors our past, present, and future. Manchester, VT is committed to sharing diverse and inclusive content to celebrate Black achievements in history, sports, education, culture, and more: all in an effort to increase understanding of race and what actions still need to be taken to ensure quality and justice for all.
The first colony to ban slavery: Vermont
On July 2, 1777, in response to abolitionists’ calls across the colonies to end slavery, Vermont became the first colony to ban slavery outright. Not only did Vermont’s legislature agree to abolish slavery entirely, but it also moved to provide full voting rights for African American males.
Unfortunately, the declaration’s wording was vague enough to let Vermont’s already-established slavery practices continue. Regardless of (what appears to be) the good legal intentions of New England legislators, Black Americans continued to be treated with disdain and cruelty in the North. While Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut abolitionists achieved laudable goals, each state created legal strictures making it difficult for “free” Blacks to find work, own property, or even remain in the state.
Whether free or not, Black Americans clearly understood that their daily welfare was dependent on their ability to both challenge and accommodate the racism they faced. Black Americans during this period were more often treated — at least physically — better than the Black men and women in the South. But they remained discriminated against, unwanted, and – at times – subjected to harsh treatment similar to that suffered by enslaved Africans in the South.
But on November 25, 1858, Vermont would again underscore its commitment to abolishing slavery by ratifying a stronger anti-slavery law into its Constitution. This was several years ahead of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1865).
Although historically the State of Vermont has made many efforts, and at times been the leader, in trying to end racism and ensure justice and equality for all, there is still work that needs to be done. Working together with open hearts and minds, creating equal opportunities for all, engaging in open dialogue, continued education, and addressing racist actions and behaviors, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us, will allow for further progress and positive change.
The Vermont African American Heritage Trail
We welcome all to visit the Vermont African American Heritage Trail (VAAHT), which shares remarkable stories of Black Americans who have made Vermont their home since the time of the Revolutionary War. Seven museums located throughout the State of Vermont share the stories of the first state constitution to outlaw slavery, of early Abolitionists, of citizens who provided aid to fugitive slaves, and of Vermont’s early Black Americans who lived and worked and made a difference locally, nationally, and overseas.
Governor Phil Scott has declared February, “Vermont African American Heritage Trail Month”, adding a Vermont exclamation point to the national celebration of February as Black History Month. He noted that the Trail, launched in 2013, “would not exist without the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, a team of volunteer researchers and Vermont agencies.” The VAAHT is comprised of ten sites and 21 historic markers. It winds through the state, leading Vermonters and visitors alike to museums and cultural sites where exhibits, films, tours, and personal explorations illuminate the lives of Black Americans in the Green Mountain State. Many of these historic places chronicle eras and events significant to the journey of all African Americans.
One of the key sites on the VAAHT is located right here in beautiful Manchester, VT. Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, offers a provocative exhibit featuring a restored 1903 Pullman palace car and explores the complex history behind the rise of America’s Black middle class. The exhibit includes a timeline overview, ‘Many Voices’, that spans 100 years, representing the Pullman Company, its wealthy passengers, the black porters who worked on its rail cars, and the voices of those who visit. Modern-day visitors are challenged to ask questions and engage in civil civic discourse with others, an outcome that fits squarely within Hildenes’ mission, ‘Values into Action.’
“While a job as a porter was perceived by those in the Black community as one of prestige, the porters themselves knew that it was arduous work with long hours and low pay.”
Pullman porters earned good wages and had an opportunity to see the wider world, but often experienced an exploitive work environment
CELEBRATING OUR LOCAL LEADERS / PAST AND PRESENT:
Falcomb “Fred” Nickelwhite
Fred Nickelwhite was a master tailor who lived for many years in Manchester Village. He passed away in 1995, and he is buried in Dellwood Cemetery. Among his clients were many notable visitors who vacationed at the Equinox Hotel and in the Village’s summer cottages. He is fondly remembered by all who knew him as a gentle and unassuming man who loved jazz and was proud of his enduring friendships with many jazz greats, including Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. For a period of time, he worked for the historic Equinox Resort.
Nicklewhite was such a beloved member of the community that when the newly constructed Kimpton Taconic Hotel needed a name for one of its cottages, they reached out to the local community. Countless submissions were received and the overwhelming majority wanted the hotel to name the cottage, the Nickelwhite Cottage, in honor of Falcomb “Fred” Nicklewhite. And so it is…
Everton Brownie – Jamerican Cuisine Food Truck
Who would have thought a small town in Vermont could be a culinary wonderland, offering everything from casual traditional fare, award-winning fine dining, and multi-cultural cuisine? That’s what you will experience in Manchester, VT, and one of those one-of-a-kind offerings comes from Jamaican native, Everton Brownie.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Everton Brownie is the owner and operator of the Jamerican Cuisine Food Truck.
During his early adult life, Everton worked as a National Police Officer in Jamaica, a job similar to a VT State Trooper. Although a noble profession, the job didn’t come without its risks. After the third time of being shot on the job, his mother began to worry about his safety, strongly encouraging him to find something new. That’s when Everton began to explore the world beyond his home country. He learned about seasonal opportunities in the States, specifically in Vermont, and in 2003 he landed a job working in Southern Vermont under the H2B visa program. Since it was only a seasonal visa, he had to return to Jamaica after 6 months. But each year after, he would reapply, get approved, and return to work at area resorts and restaurants.
In 2007, he was able to make Vermont his year-round home. Landing in Londonderry, VT with his wife and two young boys, he made quick work of finding a year-round job to support his new venture and support his family. In 2015, he and his family moved down from the mountain into Manchester. He worked for the local Inns, the Village Country Inn, world-class resorts, the Equinox Golf Resort and Spa and local restaurants, Gringo Jacks, and the Reluctant Panther continuing to hone his culinary skills. When he began to receive accolades from patrons and fellow workers, serving his Caribbean-inspired specials, Everton realized that there was serious demand for more multi-cultural cuisine in Manchester and that he could fulfill his own dream of owning and operating a business while fulfilling the needs of others.
In the late summer of 2020, Everton made his dream come true. He purchased a used food truck and converted the truck into what is today, the Jamerican Cuisine Food Truck. He welcomed his first customers at 693 Depot Street, just across from r.k. Miles, at the end of August. The jerk chicken and jerk pork flew off the grill to visitors and locals alike, through the late fall. In November, they had to close up shop as the location being used needed to be clear. The following spring, the food truck reopened to once again serve up tasty Caribbean-inspired dishes. It was an incredibly busy summer and fall. With winter looming once again, Everton had to decide his next step. That’s when Everton received a call from the Orvis Flagship Store Manager. The Food Truck had worked together with Orvis on a few events throughout the summer, and they were a huge hit! Orvis Flagship store invited Everton’s Food Truck to be a permanent fixture at the flagship store, year-round. Today, you will find the Jamerican Cuisine Food Truck located at 4180 Main St., in the Orvis Flagship store parking lot. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 11 am – 6:30 pm.
Please stop by and meet our local entrepreneur, Everton Brownie – and while you are there, support this local small business by making a purchase. Who wouldn’t want a taste of the Caribbean in the Vermont winter?
For more info CLICK HERE.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY THROUGH THE ARTS: SVAC’s “MANY AMERICAS” EXHIBITION
The Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC) is excited to feature the exhibition, “Many Americas”, in its Wilson Museum from late August through November 2022. “Many Americas” is an unflinching exploration of race and culture, while seeking out how an American experience can be shaped by divergent histories. The exhibition will feature close to two dozen works by 20 diverse artists, complemented by in-gallery interpretation, public programming, and performances that encourage civic discourse.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY THROUGH SPORTS: BENNINGTON MARTENS
The Bennington Martens are the latest addition to the historic ABA, a semi-professional basketball league that previously had the likes of basketball royalty Julius “Dr. J” Erving competing in the league.
Shawn Pratt and Chris Kidd, co-owners of the Martens share an affinity for basketball and helping others. They are responsible for bringing semi-professional basketball to Southern Vermont.
As Pratt explained to The Manchester Journal, “It really started for us on the dream of mentoring guys, helping them come along, and get better,” Pratt said. “Mainly, it was about bringing them together, along with what’s going on in the world in terms of social justice, helping our youth, and helping our young men.”
Beyond Basketball, Pratt is a community leader, promoting and advocating for social justice, educational equity, and opportunities for youth leadership. He was appointed to the Criminal Justice Council of Vermont by Gov. Phil Scott.
Kidd is a Pastor in Troy, N.Y., with the Move of God Deliverance Ministry, and owner, trainer, and coach of Hoops4Christ LLC.
The Martens aim to bring social justice to the forefront, while also providing entertainment on the basketball court. To learn more and how you can support the team please go to facebook.com/Martens00/
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY IN SCHOOL
To celebrate Black History month, Burr and Burton Academy (BBA), has created a shared calendar, challenging all teachers and students to learn, connect, and take action in support of Black History. Additionally, students can attend a workshop entitled “Hip Hop: a Celebration of Black History and Culture”, the monthly JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) meeting, and an event from SOCA (Students of Color Alliance). Students in civics classes will read “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi as they learn about early government and civil rights, and throughout the month, art classes will feature the works of African American artists each day. Although there is a greater focus during the month of February, at different points throughout the academic year, BBA supports the works of black authors, artists, and teaches Black history.
Burr and Burton Academy’s core values include a respect for individual differences, a supportive and caring community, and engaging and vigorous educational experiences. Appreciating and elevating the contributions of Blacks programmatically and through curriculum, is one of many ways that BBA strives towards those goals.
CELEBRATING OUR REGIONAL AND LOCAL RESOURCES:
RUTLAND BRANCH OF THE NAACP
Founded in 2016, the Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP serves Vermonters in Bennington, Rutland, and Addison counties by providing education, advocacy, and support around issues of racial justice, equity, and discrimination. The vision of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race. To learn more, to make a donation, or to get involved please go to naacprutland.org/
THE ROOT SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTER
Founded in 2013 the Root Social Justice Centers’ mission is to support BIPOC-led organizing in support of growing a movement for racial justice in our communities. It’s a Vermont-based, BIPOC-led nonprofit organization focused on racial justice organizing, community advocacy, and relationship-building through our programming, actions, and local initiatives.
The Root Social Justice Center provides a physically and financially accessible space in Southern Vermont for social justice groups to meet AND is a hub for racial justice organizing. The Root prioritizes Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leadership and shifting resources to BIPOC-led racial justice work. They operate collectively to sustain a space that strives to be free of oppression, harm, and injustice. To learn more, to make a donation, or to get involved, please go to therootsjc.org/