Harold Bailey Jr., chairman of TEAM Westport, leads a subcommittee meeting Monday in a brainstorming session on activities and events to support the group’s mission. / Photo by Gretchen Webster

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — A TEAM Westport subcommittee met Monday to plan events for this year, brainstorming several ideas including a community lecture series on topics of diversity and equity. 

The lecture series — a forum for community groups and other speakers to present ideas on “DEI,” (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) — got a nod of approval from the panel.

But there also was discussion of TEAM’s role “to take on the negativity” of others in Westport and nationally who members said oppose principles that the multi-cultural advocacy group stands for, said Harold Bailey Jr., the TEAM chairman.

A website created by a group of Westport parents to fight what they consider to be false narratives and racist ideas taught at the district’s schools, is completely anonymous “because they’re afraid of threats,” Bailey said. “But they’re the threat.” 

He said his committee needs to study “what are the mechanics of what’s going on here,” and why some groups sow what he called misinformation. “They politically demonize people … they say that diversity is Marxist.”

TEAM Westport will continue to work with the town’s schools, as well as other local agencies and groups, to meet its objective to “make Westport increasingly welcoming with respect to race, ethnicity, religion and LGBTQI for people who live, work, visit and study here,” he said, despite the challenges. 

TEAM Westport has been an advisory committee to the office of first selectman for 17 years. 

A TEAM-sponsored lecture series could “highlight how relationship building and slow and steady conversations have made a difference,” said committee member Catherine Lewis.

“I think it’s important to have an overall umbrella” of conversations and events sponsored by TEAM Westport “that brings everyone in the town together,” agreed Maggie Mudd, also a member of TEAM Westport. “We don’t always want to just be reactive to national events.”

Ongoing discussion groups, training sessions and classes also were considered, as well as the lecture series. 

Among the community organizations under consideration to work with TEAM Westport on lectures and other events were the Police Department, Planning and Zoning Department in relation to affordable housing, the schools, interfaith clergy and the arts and theater community. 

Zoe Tarrant, a TEAM member, said that it is important for the committee to expand its purview beyond parents to households whose children are grown. “We need people at every sphere to expand the net wherever we can,” she said.

Bailey said the committee has recently garnered a lot of financial support not only from parents, but also from older residents. In the last year donations supporting the committee’s work totaled more than ever before, he said.

New appointees still under review

Meanwhile, the first selectwoman’s office has accepted more than a dozen applications for potential appointees to TEAM Westport, Bailey said. 

The appointees are being considered for TEAM and other town advisory committees to comply with new rules on political party representation quotas and residency issued by First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker in reaction to threatened legal action earlier this year.

Selectwoman Andrea Moore is interviewing the candidates, with final appointments to be made by Tooker.

Gretchen Webster is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.