Aviva Chomsky — scholar, author, professor and social advocate — is the first to speak at a new and important series of community discussions at The House of the Seven Gables Visitor Center on Wednesday, May 13 at 6 p.m., 115 Derby Street, Salem, Mass. Refreshments will be served.
A frank, safe and open conversation about immigration, especially as this human experience unfolds in Salem and surrounding communities, is the aim of this long-range series. Look for nine compelling topics, ranging from unaccompanied children at the U.S.–Mexico border, to trauma associated with immigration, to immigration and legality — a key issue.
Chomsky, Professor of History and Coordinator of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies at Salem State University, tackles that key issue with her talk titled, “How Immigration Became Illegal.” Her point of view, rooted in her research, confronts some common assumptions people make about immigrants.
“I challenge the notion a lot of people who are citizens hold that their ancestors came here legally,” says Chomsky. “That has meant being white. There were no restrictions on white immigrants, and they have been the beneficiaries of racist immigration law.” Immigration law, as it stands now, is discriminatory, she says.
As such, these conversations are expected to be sensitive and compelling. Ana Nuncio, series coordinator, will supply ground rules at the outset so that people feel safe enough to share their viewpoints and concerns.
Nuncio, Manager of the Settlement, or community partnerships supported by The House of the Seven Gables, says that the Gables’ community partners want to develop a better understanding of the immigrant population that first settled in Salem in the ’70s. This population — primarily people from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico — came to the Boston area and Salem in response to their countries’ dire political and economic upheaval. It’s a relatively new immigrant population that, she hopes, will join with others in discussions about community, integration, anxieties and shared areas of common experience.
The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, says Nuncio, “is to preserve our National Historic Landmark — The House of the Seven Gables — and leverage its power to engage diverse communities. Once all segments of Salem’s population are better integrated,” she says, “our city becomes more robust, and all residents feel they have a stake in it.”
“We’re very fortunate in Salem,” she says. “Here’s a city that consciously tries to correct the social wrongdoings of its past and tries to be very deliberate about treating people fairly.” She hopes that these conversations provoke a pattern of questioning in individual residents and among Salem’s various communities. She hopes to help broaden understanding within the community so that we can see each other through a more humane lens.
All community conversations begin at 6:00 p.m. in The Gables’ Visitor Center.
The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association coordinates and manages the series, with support from Historic New England, the Salem Award Foundation, Catholic Charities and the North Shore Community Development Coalition.
Learn more at 7gables.org or call 978-744-0991.