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Same boat now


02/01/18



 Words can be our most powerful tool; they’re used to educate, to connect us to one another, and to inspire action. But what happens when you witness something that words simply cannot capture? How can you articulate that experience to your neighbor, friend, colleague in a way that adequately expresses what you felt? That’s what I grappled with last week after attending the Seacoast NAACP’s celebration of the life and legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Hundreds gathered for this event at the South Church in Portsmouth and laid to rest the myth that our state lacks diversity. Those in attendance included African-Americans, European Americans; gays and lesbians; transgender, genderqueer and cisgender people; Muslims, Jews and Christians; disabled people, immigrants and refugees. I saw police officers standing alongside activists, educators sitting with elected officials, and students holding hands with business leaders. Social classes were stripped away along with many of the labels society has placed on each of us.  
I embody privilege in many forms: I’m educated, white, employed and can confidently say that I live a middle-class lifestyle. A white girl from small-town New Hampshire, I somehow landed on a path that regularly exposes me to the multitude of diversity that exists in this state. This experience has not only shaped me, but has also truly made me a better person through expanding my community and enhancing my knowledge. My own bias and lenses have been changed, and I’m able to better recognize our commonalities while appreciating the struggles that so many have endured because of the color of their skin.
Gov. Chris Sununu also sees the value in diversity and demonstrated his commitment to this cause by establishing the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. This landmark Executive Order will work to create a more welcoming environment for all residents and ensure that everyone truly “Lives Free” in New Hampshire. As was evident at the MLK Day breakfast, we do have diversity but we can certainly work to raise the profile of this fact, by embracing it and enhancing it. This is no small feat and there’s a long way to go for each of us to overcome ingrained prejudices to find camaraderie in our fellowship as Granite Staters. In the end, there is hope that, despite our backgrounds, we can be a more inclusive and accepting state. That we will all recognize, as the late Dr. King once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” 
Allyson Ryder serves as associate director at Leadership NH. Her email is almryder@outlook.com. 





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