In April 2019, the Black Student Union at Sharon High School shared their personal experiences of marginalization, othering, and racism at an open meeting of the Sharon School Committee. Watching this presentation live on Sharon TV, resident Natasha Nese felt driven to “do something” to support those who came forward.
Single-handedly, Nese reached out to the Sharon community via Facebook, seeing a need for an organized response to the lack of racial inclusion and equity in the town. Kiana Pierre-Louis, was part of those early meetings in 2019 with Natasha Nese and shared her own personal story of discrimination against her young son in kindergarten. Along with a core group of founding members, Nese and Pierre-Louis met several times in the spring and summer of 2019, to strategize how to support Black students and their families in the Sharon school system.
By the summer of 2019 the group adopted the name Sharon Racial Equity Alliance and started a grassroots effort to deal with racial inequity within the Sharon Public Schools. In early 2020, Lori Bihler, joined SREA to help with these efforts. The group met with the Superintendent and fought for an Assistant Superintendent of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the schools.
Soon members of SREA realized that racial inequities needed to be addressed beyond the schools, so they expanded their lens to try and dismantle racism across the town of Sharon. Many Sharon residents recognized the micro-aggressions against the first Black Superintendent in Sharon, seeing that she was treated more harshly than all prior Superintendents who were white. Their concern was heightened when she was eventually let go from her duties.
With the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and the firing of our first Black Superintendent, even more Sharon residents became acutely aware of racial injustices within our own community. More locally, it ignited a passion for actively engaging in anti-racist work among people within the Sharon community and swelled SREA’s ranks.
In June of 2020 SREA began to petition the Select Board to create a Town Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. The Select Board agreed and the committee officially began in October 2020 with several SREA members a part of the committee.
In August of 2020, SREA hosted its first community event in conjunction with the Sharon Pluralism Network. The three-part event, Black In Sharon, included a webinar where Black residents shared their experiences of living in Sharon, as well as community dialogue before and after the event. SREA has hosted and co-hosted many events since.
At the end of 2020, SREA undertook a strategic planning process, which expanded the organization’s focus to include Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). SREA created a Board of Directors through the strategic plan, and hosted the first meeting of the Board in March of 2021. SREA will continue to raise awareness of racial injustice and foster relationships with other organizations in and around Sharon to continue working towards racial equity, justice, and belonging in Sharon.