March 18, 2022

Gables’ discussion series to explore racial inequities

by Felicia Cheney

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Racial inequities in Salem and strategies for addressing these inequities are the subjects of a new, four-part discussion series at The House of the Seven Gables this spring.

In 2020 Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll appointed a task force to look at racial inequities within the city’s systems and procedures. The city published the results of the task force’s inquiries last summer, with plans to set up a more permanent commission to continue the work. The chair of that task force, Shawn Newton, will join community members at The House of the Seven Gables for a series of discussions that promise to be instructive, stimulating and timely.

Shawn Newton leads a conversation about racism and the work of Salem’s Race Equity Task Force at The Gables on Monday, March 28, 6 p.m. All are invited to join the discussion.

All are invited to come to the Visitors Center at The Gables on Monday, March 28, at 6 p.m. to participate in conversations with Newton. The discussions will focus on understanding racism and looking at strategies to address it — much as the city has done through the work of the task force. 

“It will be safe,” says Newton. “I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable.” The conversations aim to bring everyone closer to a common understanding, he says, “so we can move forward to make positive change in our community.” This four-part series that kicks off March 28 and concludes on June 27 will be conducted in person and limited free parking is available on site. These Community Conversations are free of charge.

Newton is well-suited to leading these sensitive but essential conversations. His parents, who were from Barbados, moved to Roxbury where Newton lived until he was 17. He attended Salem State University and remained in Salem where he married his high school sweetheart and raised his two children. “I’ve always been very involved in Salem,” he said. He worked at the university for 20 years, often in the field of diversity. He was the first committee co-chair of No Place for Hate, serves on the board of One Race and now runs the Newton consultancy Group where he works to educate people on the sensitive topic of racism “one person, one institution at a time.”

Newton says his audience for this new series at The Gables is “anyone interested in having a better understanding of what it really means to celebrate each other as human beings. When I speak about these issues, I know we are talking about racism but we are really talking about people.”

The task force he chaired systematically approached their goals, starting with gaining a common understanding of what race equity means. It’s the same approach he’ll use for these discussions. After two sessions of shared learning, those in attendance will move on to speak with Newton about strategies for addressing inequality. 

Ideally, people will return for each new session. “When people leave, I hope they do so longing for more conversation,” says Newton. “Racism is a problem for everyone. We need to solve it together.”

The four-part series begins on Monday, March 28. The dates for the rest of the discussions are Mondays on April 25, May 23 and June 27. 

About The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association 

The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association is to be a welcoming, thriving, historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story. For more information visit

Stories are at the core of what we do at The House of the Seven Gables. They are not just a part of our past, but also our present and future. In 2021, we look forward to exploring the lore of our historic site and surrounding community with a special series of lectures, programs and events.

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