With a new director, Tri-Town Against Racism looks to become a nonprofit

Jul 26, 2021

For over a year, local anti-racist group Tri-Town Against Racism has been working to bring racial issues in the community to the forefront. Now, the group is on their way to becoming a nonprofit.

Co-founders Tangi Thomas and Alison Noyce helped form the group in Spring 2020, after an Old Rochester Regional High School student brought attention to a racist TikTok account, weeks before the murder of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests.

Since its formation, Tri-Town Against Racism has become active on social media, co-hosted events like the Marion Art Center reading of a Frederick Douglass speech and installed little free diverse libraries in Marion and Mattapoisett.

As part of their efforts to become a nonprofit — which Noyce said were “pretty far along” — Tri-Town Against Racism has begun to put together a full executive board, drafted its bylaws and brought on a new executive director in Jason Chisholm.

Chisholm is a Rochester resident, and recent Rochester Memorial School Committee appointee, who is looking to help get an inclusive community dialogue on racism started in the Tri-Town.

“When we say inclusive, we really do mean everybody,” Chisholm said, noting the group welcomes questions and concerns from those with “baggage” or who may want to learn from past mistakes.

“We want to be sort of that safe space,” Noyce said. “Take people where they are.”

Another of the group’s goals is exposing the community to diversity at a young age through literature.

Thomas handles much of the book collection with Tangi’s Book Drive, an ongoing effort to fill local school libraries with diverse books.

“She knew right away books were going to be a huge part of what we do,” Noyce said.

Right now, Thomas said she’s trying to focus on LGBTQ+ literature.

Noyce said she hopes more diverse literature, especially surrounding transgender people, can “Make our community feel more welcome for all.”

“I know there are transgender kids coming out in elementery school,” Thomas said, where much of the book drive effort is pointed.

Despite their goal of inclusivity, there are some in the community who have not taken kindly to Tri-Town Against Racism, according to the group.

“If everybody liked what we were doing, we’d have no purpose,” Noyce said.

On multiple occasions, Noyce said community members opposed to Tri-Town Against Racism have stolen all the books out of their little free library. Though she said the problem has been curtailed since the group installed a trail cam.

Thomas, who owns a car service called Ride With Tangi, said she’s lost customers after starting Tri-Town Against Racism. Noyce said she’s lost friends.

“Very quickly you’re going to find out who your adversaries are,” Chisholm said.

But the group isn’t looking to engage with its most vocal opponents. Tri-Town Against Racism is after a specific demographic.

“We’re not looking for a fight,” Noyce said. “We’ve got too much to do.”

They’re looking to find members of the community who are aware of racism as a problem broadly, but may not see the ways it affects the Tri-Town.

“You can feel like ‘I can't fix this enormous problem,’” Noyce said, adding that if individuals start small, “we actually can change things.”

For Tri-Town Against Racism, becoming a nonprofit is a step that the group hopes will offer them further legitimacy.

“That then leads to the ability to start working on initiatives we really just want to get started with,” Chisholm said.

The group plans to hold panels on racism and other issues featuring community members like law enforcement and school officials.

Noyce said the objective is “to keep conversations at the forefront.”

The group hopes the conversations will help build skill sets for community members to be able to have tough talks about any number of issues, not just racism.

“We feel communication is an art form anyway,” Chisholm said.

From there, Tri-Town Against Racism hopes to expand, and form relationships with similar local groups in the region.

Above all, Thomas, Noyce and Chisholm made it clear that Tri-Town Against Racism is here to stay.

“Here today, here tomorrow and after that we’ll expand as it makes sense,” Chisholm said.