603 Diversity, Issue 2 (Winter 2022)

Page 1

Q1 2022







elcoming New Hampshire is a coalition of organizations and community leaders from across the state working together to make New Hampshire more welcoming and inclusive for everyone, with a particular focus on immigrants and refugees. Welcoming NH participants come together to learn from one another, raise up immigrant voices, collectively address community concerns, and effect institutional change. Our mission is to build a more inclusive New Hampshire where all people can thrive and feel valued. Welcoming New Hampshire is an initiative of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees (NHAIR). NHAIR is dedicated to advocating, organizing and engaging immigrants as voters and leaders. The work of NHAIR and Welcoming NH is led by Eva Castillo, a Venezuelan native who came to the U.S. in 1975 and has been a fierce advocate and community organizer ever since. Welcoming NH is coordinated by Lindsey Shaffer, a leader in local and statewide Welcoming work since 2015. Welcoming New Hampshire is proud to be supported by the Endowment for Health and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

For more information, to get involved or to donate, visit: www.welcomingnh.org or email welcomingnh@gmail.com

603 DIVERSITY 6 0 3 D I V E R S I T Y. C O M Contributing Writers Rony Camille Jasmine Torres Courtney Daniel Nour Habib Contributing Essayists James McKim Anthony Payton Contributing Photographer Robert Ortiz Contributing Artist Richard Haynes Editor/Publisher Ernesto Burden x5117 eburden@mcleancommunications.com Managing Editor Rick Broussard x5119 editors@603diversity.com Creative Services Director Jodie Hall x5122 jhall@nhbr.com Group Sales Director Kimberly Lencki x5154 sales@603diversity.com Business Manager Mista McDonnell x5114 mmcdonnell@nhbr.com Sales Executive Connie McCullion x5121 cmccullion@mcleancommunications.com Business/Sales Coordinator Heather Rood x5110 hrood@mcleancommunications.com Digital Operations and Marketing Manager Morgen Connor x5149 mconnor@mcleancommunications.com


150 Dow Street, Manchester, NH 03101 (603) 624-1442, fax (603) 624-1310 E-mail: editors@603diversity.com Advertising: sales@603diversity.com © 2021 McLean Communications, LLC






delighted to be back, and grateful to our readers, community, advertisers and underwriters for continuing to see the value in this effort — and putting their time, passion and financial support into it. We threw a reception for contributors and sponsors after the first issue published, and the enthusiasm I heard in conversations that evening — for the representation this publication brings to various communities in the state — was overwhelming. And as the magazine made its way throughout the state, the positive feedback was fairly universal. To be honest, in these polarized times, I’d expected to hear more criticism. But be careful what you wish for: I did get one note saying I shouldn’t feel entitled to inflict my “woke” political agenda on New Hampshire Magazine, where the letter writer had encountered our first issue (603 Diversity is inserted in New Hampshire Magazine, as well as NH Business Review). Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I disagree with the writer’s premise. And I don’t mean the idea of whether it’s my prerogative to inflict a personal political agenda on our magazines, but rather the notion that 603 Diversity represents a specific political agenda to begin with. Understanding diversity, in all that the word entails, and applying that understanding to our ability to engage in the world with empathy and compassion, has never been more important — or practical — than it is right now, in our fractious, deeply polarized and highly complex world. It’s part of how we can help create, for all of our neighbors — that sense of “welcome and belonging” that our columnist James McKim discusses in this issue. (See page 38 for McKim’s thought-provoking essay.)

And since healthcare is top of mind for everyone in the world right now as the pandemic grinds on, I’ll borrow an example from our story on “culturally effective healthcare” in this issue. The piece opens with an anecdote about a patient who’d had an organ removed but, because of culture and language barriers, didn’t know which one. Seems like an unbelievable experience to live through. And if an improved framework of cultural competence for healthcare providers, as described in our story, can help prevent things like that, or improve any of the array of disparate healthcare outcomes that some communities experience, that’s a positive for the whole state. A good faith effort toward cultural competence shouldn’t be considered radically political, any more than empathy, hospitality or good-old-fashioned neighborliness.


603Diversity.com | February 2022 1




14 Favorite Dishes for Holiday Feasts by Local Chefs 24 First Gen American Is on the Air 30 Culturally Effective Healthcare Means Better Results UPFRONT



From the Publisher

36 Marketplace


Mission and Underwriters

38 Essay by James McKim


Our Contributors

40 Essay by Anthony Payton


Perspective: Seeking Freedom by Lily Tang

42 Events That Make a Difference 44 Shout Out: David Villioti

12 Profile: Immigration Attorney Enrique Mesa by Jasmine Torres

Our People Are Our Greatest Asset At Enterprise Bank, we encourage and foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, where everyone feels valued and respected. We embrace this philosophy while serving the financial needs of businesses, non-profits, and individuals throughout our region.

You can make a difference on our team and in the lives of our customers. Visit EnterpriseBanking.com/careers or scan here for information about career opportunities.

Enterprise Bank has 26 branch locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Enterprise Bank is an equal opportunity employer and makes employment decisions without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or protected veteran status. EOE M/F/Disabled/Vet.

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We embrace


At Shaheen & Gordon, we recognize that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential as we seek to: Enrich the lives of all our employees. Serve our clients in the best possible manner. Make change in the broader communities in which we work and live. Our firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is committed to educating ourselves and others, to diversifying our work force, and to volunteering and reaching out to diverse communities to listen to and meet their needs through leadership, mentoring, and service.

It’s different here shaheengordon.com Concord • Dover • Manchester • Nashua • Portland


A STORY OF SUCCESS: Shaheen & Gordon was the first regional law firm in New Hampshire to have a DEI summer internship. Our inaugural class of 2021 welcomed three interns. Upon completion of the program, the two students who were graduating this year accepted offers of employment with our firm. For our 2022 summer class, we are excited to welcome Ronelle Tshiela, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Manchester and NH 200 honoree. Applications for additional spots are still open.



To illustrate the mission of 603 Diversity, Seacoast artist Richard Haynes has provided one of his recent designs to accompany our motto in this premiere issue. We will print a limited number of art-quality T-shirts with Haynes’ design and sell them to raise funds for the Manchester Chapter of the NAACP. Visit 603Diversity.com or send a letter of interest to editors@603diversity.com to reserve one.








Live Free and Rise

UNDERWRITERS ROCK! The following 603 Diversity underwriters provide a significant financial foundation for our mission: enabling us to provide representation to diverse communities and for diverse writers and photographers, ensuring the quality of journalistic storytelling and underwriting BIPOC-owned and other diverse business advertising in the publication at a fraction of the typical cost. We’re grateful for our underwriters’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in this magazine, their businesses, and their broader communities.


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OUR CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Daniel Our 603 Diversity calendar was researched and compiled by Courtney Daniel, a creative strategist, designer, life coach and radio show host. Daniel has worked with national celebrities and even designed a stamp for the U.S. Postal Service. She lives on the Seacoast where, in her spare time, you can find her interviewing community members through her online group No To Patterns.

Anthony Payton Essayist Anthony Payton is a writer/columnist at Granite State News Collaborative and ManchesterInkLink who also prepares meals and provides counsel at the Cypress Center, a nonpprofit drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility and rehab organization of the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester.

Nour Habib Our feature on equity in healthcare is by Nour Habib, a journalist currently covering issues surrounding race and equity in New Hampshire. Previously, she spent years as a newspaper reporter in Oklahoma where she did everything from education to city government reporting to writing movie reviews and lifestyle features.

James McKim Essayist James McKim is president of the Manchester branch of the NAACP and managing partner for Organizational Ignition. such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, FIRST, Hawkeye Data LLC, and Digital Equipment Corp. in launches of new products and performance enhancements. 6 603Diversity.com | February 2022

Ernesto Burden Our cover story for this issue was written by the editor and publisher of 603 Diversity, Ernesto Burden. Along with his work on this and other publications for parent company Yankee Publishing, Burden has written two novels and a number of short stories.

Courtesy photos

McKim has led organizations

Jasmine Torres Jasmine Torres is one third of the creative team of First Gen Multimedia featured on the cver of this issue. Her story on a Manchester immigration lawyer reflects the mission of First Gen Multimedia to both assist in the process of acculturation for new citizens, but also to help promote their efforts at finding their own versions of the American Dream.

Rony Camille Our feature story on favorite Photo by Jeremy Gasowski/University of New Hampshire

old-country dishes as made by local BIPOC chefs was written

Richard Haynes

by Rony Camille, a freelance

603 Diversity stories emphasize not only how things are, but how they might or even “ought” to be as we seek out and reveal our state’s diverse communities. When we needed a single image to summarize the mission of this magazine, we went to a man who has long been telling complex stories with bold stokes of color and universal symbols. Artist Richard Haynes provided a selection from his recent work for this purpose. See page 10 for more on Haynes and page 4 for how you can fashionably spread the good words.

journalist (and son of Haitian immigrants) based in Nashua. A media manager with a focus in digital editorial content and operations, Camille is currently the media program director for the Town of Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.

Robert Ortiz Primary photographer for 603 Diversity is Robert Ortiz of Robert Ortiz Photography. Ortiz began his photographic career at 15 and has chronicled everything from local weddings and events to the lives of the ES

native peoples of the Peruvian

Courtesy photos

with his wife and son and 15-year-old daughter, Isabella, who is currently in training as his photo assistant.


Amazon. He lives in Rochester TB AR





Live Free and Rise Artwork by Richard Haynes: artistrichardhaynes.com

603Diversity.com | February 2022 7



Courtesy photos


Lily (on the right) with two middle school classmates in Chengdu, Sichuan, 1976 when Mao died

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was born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China right before the start of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I lived with my illiterate working-class parents and two younger brothers in community housing consisting of just two unheated small rooms. To cook, my dad built an outdoor kitchen since there was no indoor plumbing. The free community housing had a mud floor, and eight families in the community shared one water pump and a single outdoor bathroom. Life was tough for my family. My parents worked full-time, six days per week at state factories. We survived on little pay and monthly food rationing coupons from the local government to buy small amounts of pork and eggs (only 2.8 lbs. of protein from all sources for a family of five for a month), a little rice, sugar, and wheat. Because my parents were ordinary workers, we were not eligible for luxury items like powdered milk. Sometimes, to supplement our diet, we even ate rats. I learned from my uncle how to trap rats

until they were hunted out and the threat of starvation abated. Quite a few times, we ran out of money to buy vegetables, so my parents would send me out in the open fields to find wild greens at the edge of the city. When I turned 6 years old I was very excited to attend school. I was so excited that my parents had to bribe me with a movie ticket to keep me at home for an extra year to watch my one-year-old brother. I cried for three days but felt obligated to help the family. You see, my parents could not afford the state factory’s childcare for my baby brother. Yes, even in this communist paradise we had to pay for government schools and child care centers. Due to the delay in my education, I became an extremely motivated student when I started school; I often passed my classes with perfect scores. Later, however, I became very unhappy with school when the teacher told me that I could not join the “Young Pioneers” (Mao’s organization for elementary school students) because I was not “humble enough” (I had bragged about my perfect grades to my friends in school and they told on me). At this young age, I learned a hard lesson: conform and keep your thoughts private. Do not trust anyone, even your friends. I did everything “right” after that: writing conformist entrees to my public diary, memorizing Mao’s Red Book, chanting “Long Live Chairman Mao, 10,000 years,” and singing Red Songs. I was very young and I truly believed in what I was taught in school: Mao was our supreme leader, Communism was great, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had saved China, all Black Classes and religions should be eliminated, etc. What is a “Black Class?” Mao arbitrarily divided the Chinese into five Black Classes (the oppressors) and five Red Classes (the oppressed) and he used those divisions to exert political control. Control permeated everything. We had approved hairstyles, dress codes, and even dating was banned. When Mao died in 1976, ending the Cultural Revolution, I started having questions: “How did he die? Who lied to us?” Years later, I chose Fudan University in Shanghai to study law, wanting to transform China from a society ruled by men to a society ruled by law. However, I quickly became disheartened when I was taught the law, based on the Soviet Union’s legal model, is “… a tool the governing class uses to rule the masses.” I thought laws were supposed to provide justice! I was lost and did not know what to believe or why I existed. I became very cynical and socially rebellious. I started to make friends with some international students on cam-

May 11, 1988, Lily landed at Austin airport in Texas after 23 hours of flight.

pus and was eager to learn what the world was like outside of China. One of these students, an American exchange student, showed me a pocket-sized version of “Declaration of Independence.” Even with my limited English skills, I could understand most of these words: “We hold these truths to be self–evident….” The light bulbs came on. I had never heard such beautiful words before, but I loved them so much that I spent many hours with my American friend to learn more about these new concepts and America. I had a new dream: I wanted to go to America. I eventually made it to America in 1988 with only $100, which was borrowed. I spoke very little English. In the 33 years since, I have enjoyed living in this great country. I received a graduate degree, got married, raised three children, started my own >> 603Diversity.com | February 2022 9

UPFRONT: PERSPECTIVE and of course its motto, “Live Free or Die.” I was determined to move and make New Hampshire our new home. In 2019 we were finally able to move to Weare. We enjoy living here, meeting people, and making new friends. Today, I am living my American Dream with a loving husband of 31 years. We have three wonderful adult children, our own business working from home, and traveling across the country to share my stories. I feel very blessed in America and I am grateful that the people of the granite state have welcomed me with open arms. I am proud to call New Hampshire my home. 603 Lily and her husband John moved into their home in Weare, Nov. 2019, after driving 4 days, over 3,000 miles from Colorado.

business, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1995. While living in Colorado, someone told me about the state of New Hampshire and how things were different there, so I decided to visit to see for myself. In November 2016, in the middle of fall, I traveled to

New Hampshire for the very first time and spent four days there. I visited many more times after that, even during winter! I fell in love with New Hampshire for its natural beauty, the White Mountains, its rivers, lakes, coast, it’s wonderful decent people, vast rural areas with open space,

Lily Tang Williams is Co-Chair of New Hampshire Asian American Coalition that calls for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and is a strong proponent of the principles of free markets, individual liberty and tthe American Dream. Contact them through nhaac@protonmail.com

DIVERSITY KEEPS US HEALTHY Embracing inclusion to achieve what matters most.

Our unique backgrounds and life stories enrich each and every one of us. By celebrating our differences and promoting inclusion, we help improve the health and well-being of people and workplaces. Together, we’re making New Hampshire a happier, healthier place to work and live.

All Cigna products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. 960235 01/22 © 2022 Cigna. Some content provided under license. 960235_DiversityConf_6.75x4.875_AD_v2.indd 10 603Diversity.com | February 2022


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603Diversity.com | February 2022 11


Focusing on the Family n BY JASMINE TORRES

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s he settles into a chair for his interview on First Gen American with host Oscar Villacis (see feature story page 24), immigration attorney Enrique Mesa straightens out his jacket. “I always get a little nervous before an interview,” he says. He puts on the headphones, “Test, test, test …” and then Villacis introduces him to the show’s growing audience with his signature opening: “Welcome, welcome, welcome, to First Gen American Show.’’ Mesa wipes his forehead and focuses on the microphone before him. He’s ready to share. After Fidel Castro took over their home in Cuba, Enrique Mesa’s family fled to the United States in search of a better life. Growing up in Miami, Enrique experienced the trials and tribulations of the path to citizenship, so it was not odd that he was called to pursue a career in immigration law. After graduating from the UNH School of Law he opened his immigration practice, but due to his focus on families, Mesa found himself called to help with other types of family law due to the lack of Spanish speaking attorneys. “Many Latinos find themselves having to go to Massachusetts for attorney services because there are not enough lawyers in the state of NH that practice immigration law or even

speak Spanish,” says Mesa. The eclectic focus of his practice continues. “We do not just provide immigration services, we also provide notary services and sometimes just basic translation services because at the time those necessities are not being met to the best of the state’s ability.” Mesa serves as the chair of NH’s Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs and is a Board member of the NH Legal Aid. When Vallacis asks him about his personal mission as a lawyer, Mesa replies, “I really do want families to be able to stay together. When a family member is separated or deported, it disrupts the entire family dynamic and if there are children involved, it can leave a lasting impact on that child. I hope to keep providing more services and resources for the Latino community so that they can recognize that they have rights.” “What is something that people lose sight of on immigration?” asks Villacis. “Everyone tends to focus on the border crises and those who are crossing the border,” says Mesa. “We need to focus on the people who are in our broken immigration system who have been waiting a very long time for citizenship. There are some TPS holders or Dreamers who have been waiting for years and are doing their best to try to follow ‘the right way.’” So, through the hustle and bustle of everyday life in downtown Manchester, NH immigration attorney, Enrique Mesa, carries on his work to bring families together. His tools are the immigration laws of the United States, but his motivation can be summed up in four words. “Inmigracion es mi passion,” he says, then translates, “Immigration is my passion.” 603

Courtesy photo


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A festival is nothing without a feast. Here’s a guide to five unforgettable holiday dishes by five local chefs. n BY RONY CAMILE

Holy Dishes C

ontrary to popular belief, there are several other food-related holidays besides Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrated in the United States. For instance, Islam’s biggest holiday is Ramadan, which in 2022 will be celebrated from April 2 to May 2. Here though, it’s the lack of food that makes it special. Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, reflection, prayer and community building.


For some Buddhists, one most significant holiday is the Chinese Spring Festival or New Year, which will fall on February 1. And while such holidays are “holy,” when it comes down to it, it’s almost always about the feast no matter where you are in the world. While interviewing the chefs and business owners in this piece I found some common threads: a passion for community and sharing and lots of rice. It’s easy to see why this is the case: Rice can be prepared and presented in various ways and flavors, which makes it so useful and filling. These days, I don’t get to eat it as much, but each bite still brings a cherished moment of memories. And although I’m watching my carbs, my wife, Jenn, a native New Hampshirite, has delegated me to rice-cooking duty in our household because I make it the proper way. Here is how these four cultures celebrate their holidays through food across our region. >>

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Mami Luz’s Café Colombian/Puerto Rican | Tyngsborough, MA Although Mami Luz’s Café Espresso and Martini Bar is just over the New Hampshire border on the banks of the Merrimack River in Tyngsborough, the owners Heidy and Mike Santiago have called Nashua, New Hampshire, home for just over two decades. Mike, born and raised in Lowell, Mass., describes himself as a “sort-of Rican.” His parents are from Puerto Rico. Heidy hails from El Valle, Colombia, and arrived in New Hampshire in August of 1997 at the age of 12 with her siblings and her mother, Luz Millian, for whom the cafe is named. In early 2020 just as the Covid-19 pandemic made it to our shores, the Santiagos were already opening up shop in Tyngsborough, acquiring necessary permits when state officials issued lockdown mandates. So, the couple stayed home and started cooking, testing and perfecting their menu in their home kitchen. “We had so much time to perfect things,” says Mike Santiago, who worked in the restaurant business in the ‘90s in

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Lowell. Still he was surprised when it all came together. He had put his passion for cooking on pause for nearly 20 years, working for Nashua as a police dispatcher and parking clerk before jumping back as a chef a year ago. Growing up in Colombia, Heidy recalls the holidays in her household making sweet buñuelos, a deep-fried dough fritter with cheese, and natilla, a Colombian-style sweet custard infused with cinnamon. “It all depends on the region (of Colombia) you’re from,” Heidy says. “And each family is different. But for us, buñuelos and natillas were a must at our house,” she says. These two items are served

together with some melted chocolate to create a beautiful harmony in your mouth. Both Heidy and Alex Montoya, a bartender at Mami Luz who also hails from the same region, recall the days leading up to Christmas as a spiritual community event. From December 16 to December 24 marks the time of “novenas,” a tradition of devotional praying. And a week before Christmas with a plate in hand, Mami Millian would send Heidy and her siblings off to visit the neighbors for a neighborhood dish exchange to kick-start the nativity season leading up to the arrival of Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. “That’s the one thing I miss about Colombia. It was the best because we would

Photos by Robert Ortiz

A creamy-sweet coquito for after dinner

Heidy and Mike Santiago at Mami Luz’s Cafe

Pollo guisado with salad and tostones

go from house to house and collect gifts on the 24th,” Heidy says. Mike Santiago says that his most cherished memory in the kitchen during the holidays is helping his mother prepare

sofrito, the aromatic base for most Puerto Rican dishes. A basic sofrito calls for peppers, onions, garlic, oil and fresh herbs finely chopped in a blender or food processor

into a paste. While this paste has different interpretations and names across the Caribbean Islands and Latin America, it’s the base to any dish and packs a ton of flavor. He then creates pollo guisado or Puerto Rican chicken stew using that base. It’s a braised-chicken stew slow-cooked in tomato sauce, peppers and potatoes that’s served with (you guessed it) white rice along with salad and tostones (fried plantains). It’s one of the dishes the Santiagos introduced to their community in December. And for an after-dinner dessert drink — coquito, a sweet coconut-based alcoholic beverage often called Puerto Rican eggnog. The creamy drink is infused with cinnamon and nutmeg, sweetened condensed milk, rum, coconut milk and cream of coconut. To mark their first anniversary in business, it is through these foods that the Santiagos offered that treasured sense of community and shared their culture.

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Pho Golden Bowl Vietnamese/Chinese | Manchester For Samantha Diep, manager of Pho Golden Bowl in Manchester, holidays meant honoring the deities and helping her grandmother and aunt feed their large family. As Buddhists, there are two major holidays that Diep’s family celebrates. One is Chinese New Year (February 1) and the other is the August Moon Festival. “For Chinese New Year, my grandmother had this one dish — she cut all the vegetables you can imagine into little pieces, and then she would stir fry all of them,” Diep says. “She would then take all of it to a big pot and combine all together, then roll it into what looked like a big burrito. This dish, called popiah (also spelled bò pía), could be described as a giant spring roll. “That’s one of the biggest traditional foods in my life. It’s one of a kind,” she says. “When you eat the dish you think of your family,” Diep says. Another dish made for the Chinese New Year holiday is a che troi nuoc, a sweet sticky rice ball in ginger syrup. “It symbolizes a unique union like the whole family united,” she explains. “Most Asian people like to keep their culture and tradition alive; 18 603Diversity.com | February 2022

we hope to keep it alive for the next generation. Even though my sister’s kids were born here, they all know that Chinese New Year is the time to go, to see Mom and to visit our family. And that’s the kind of tradition that we hope to last forever.” Diep runs the Vietnam and Chinese food restaurant on Lake Avenue just across the street from the SNHU Arena with her sister Chan Loi and brother-inlaw Frank Loi. This cozy restaurant has nine tables and bright yellow walls lined with Asian-themed artistry and traditional red money pouches on the walls. The clean and open-concept kitchen produces lots of pho and Vietnamese cuisine. Pho (pronounced “fa”) is considered Samantha the national dish of Vietnam. It’s a soup Diep consisting of hot broth, rice noodles, aromatic spices and herbs, and meat. While the Diep family grew up in the Cho Lon (China Town) section of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, they can trace roots to the Fujian Province of China, located on the coast of the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea. Their grandparents and parents relocated to Vietnam in the 1930s. The family arrived in New Hampshire in 1993 and has been in business since 2005.

Photos by Robert Ortiz

A dish of popiah is prepared for Chinese New Year.

Come discover a higher concept of Nepali cuisine. Traditional tastes from all regions of Nepal with a beautifully refined American presentation.


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Habibi Mediterranean Café Egyptian | Portsmouth

Habibi Cafe offers delicious ways to break the Ramadan fast each day.

Enes Abd 20 603Diversity.com | February 2022

ly composed of pure sweet, fiber-filled dates.”You just put it on the mixer to make it softer, and you add some nuts to it, and you add some coconut and a little bit of vanilla [extract] to give it a nice flavor and smell. Then you kind of roll it into balls,” she says. It can be consumed as is or you can add it to warm milk, similar to a hot chocolate melt.

All these foods include an ingredient that makes everything taste better: hunger after a long day of fasting. “In my opinion, it’s just the best thing ever. I always tell my mom (when I was young) at the end of the day, when I break my fast with milk and beet, it is not going into my stomach; it’s going into my heart. That’s how much I love it,” Abd says.

Photos by Raya Al-Hashmi

While growing up in Alexandria, Egypt, Enes Abd helped her father run his bakery by taking orders from customers. Decades later, she and her family are doing the same thing running Habibi Cafe. Except the backdrop isn’t the Nile Delta, home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It’s actually in Portsmouth, home to one of the state’s oldest neighborhoods to be settled by Europeans: Strawbery Banke. As a practicing Muslim, Abd and her family actively celebrate in the holy month of Ramadan by not eating from sunrise to sunset and engaging in reflection, prayer and community building. Abd especially enjoys the sustaining food prepared to be consumed each day after sundown, like a beetroot and milk smoothie. “It has all the vitamins you need after a long day of not eating,” she says. Tabouli and lentil soup is another good way to break the daily fast. “It’s always on a plate because they have all different kinds of vegetables,” she says. Energy date balls is another beloved treat, main-

The mission of the Manchester Branch of the NAACP is to secure political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights for individuals and black businesses.

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Aneka Market offers a variety of ethnic snacks as well as the ingredients needed for just about any Indonesian feast.

Aneka Market Indonesian | Rochester Not too far from Portsmouth, up the road off Route 16, you’ll find a shop sharing a church space serving a growing Indonesian community. While nearly 86% of Indonesians practice Islam, there are some crossover foods when it comes to celebrations. For instance, whether it’s Ramadan or Christmas, butter cookies are a must in any Indonesian home, says Jane Albertina, manager of the Aneka Market in Rochester. Indonesia is home to nearly 1,300 ethnic groups, says Albertina. For nearly 350 years, Indonesia was held under Dutch colonial rule until 1945. The influence of the European nation is so vast that today both nations have the same legal system — and a love of butter cookies. “During Christmas or during Ramadan, you would make this at home, or bake it using the instant dough mix,” Albertina said. Albertina and her husband, Ronald Politton, came to New Hampshire from Bandung, West Java. Politton is a minister


naacpmanchesternh.com with New England City Blessing Church, a non-denominational church in Boston and Rochester. The shop, which launched in November of 2020, is located in the basement of the Rochester church. “We have so many different tribes and groups and different dishes, but another thing we all love is fried noodle and fried chicken,” she says. While not necessarily a holiday food, one dish that is a must for milestone celebrations is Nasi Tumpeng — a towering cone-shaped yellow-rice dish accompanied by vegetables, poultry and meats. Striking in presentation, it’s made from rice mixed with turmeric to make it yellow. This symbolizes prosperity, says Albertina. According to local news reports, there are about 2,000 Indonesians calling Somersworth home as of spring 2021. It is also the home to the Little Indonesia Project, a long-term project to connect Indonesian communities with the Granite State and beyond through expressions of art, culture and economic opportunities via a vibrant, revitalized business district.

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Ansanm Haitian | Milford

Once Haiti became the first liberated Black republic in 1804, the new emperor of Haiti officially declared it the national soup. “We’ve been having that soup every January 1 for 217 years,” says Viaud. Making and serving it is like “calling every person around the world that is denied freedom, denied dignity, to join on this table and share the soup with us, just as we did on January 1, 1804,” said Dominique Dupuy, Haiti’s ambassador to UNESCO on a recent episode of NPR’s Weekend Edition. The

Chef/Owner Chris Viaud (far right) and his crew — above are just a few of the Haitian specialties they prepare. 22 603Diversity.com | February 2022

Courtesy photos

Ansanm, the Haitian Creole word for “together,” is the brainchild of Chef Chris Viaud, chef/owner of Greenleaf in Milford, and his family. They currently operate it as a monthly pop-up under the Greenleaf umbrella, offering traditional Haitian dishes. According to Viaud, The cooking style used in Haiti and in their dishes blends influences of French and Caribbean styles guided by the back-story of African heritage and a hint of French complexity. Soup Joumou, a mildly spicy traditional Haitian pumpkin soup, illustrates that complexity — not just for its delicious taste, kick and the various vegetables, pastas and meats in it — but because of its history. When the French occupied present-day Haiti for nearly a century, the soup was prepared by enslaved Haitians for the landowners — yet, they were forbidden to taste it.

United Nations agency awarded the soup protected cultural heritage status in December. It was the first time that any cultural item from Haiti received this sort of status. “It’s just like a reminder of who we are, where we come from, what we enjoy eating and what brings us back home,” says Viaud.

Soup Joumou

HAITIAN SQUASH SOUP Note: This soup can be made as a vegetarian dish if desired or beef stew meat can be added. Yields 8 servings, 2 cups per serving

Ingredients: 1 ½ pounds of beef stew meat (optional) 2 tablespoons oil 1 medium yellow onion, diced 3 cloves of garlic, crushed 4 stalks of celery, diced About 2 pounds of butternut squash, peeled, cut into ½ inch cubes 1 cup of leeks 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into small pieces 2 golden potatoes, peeled, cut into ½ inch pieces sliced thin ½ of a head of green cabbage 1 turnip, peeled, cut into ½ inch pieces 2 stems of parsley 4 sprigs of thyme 6-8 cups of broth (vegetable, chicken or beef) Juice of 1 lime ½ pound of rigatoni 2 tablespoons of butter Salt and pepper to taste Cooking twine

Soup Joumou was awarded by the United Nations for its cultural heritage status.

Cooking Instructions: 1. Add broth and squash to a large pot and bring to a boil. Cook until squash is soft. 2. In a separate pot, cook the rigatoni al dente (do not cook all the way through). a. Make a bouquet with the parsley and thyme, tied with the cooking twine. 3. While squash is cooking, in a different large pot, add oil and allow to get hot. (If not using meat, add oil to pot and skip to step 4.) a. Add the meat and brown on all sides (add seasonings of choice). b. Let cook for about 10 minutes. c. Remove meat from pot and set aside, leaving oil in the pot.

4. Add onions, garlic and leeks to hot oil and let cook until soft and golden brown. a. Add the celery next, stirring frequently. b. Add carrots and stir. 5. Add the cooked squash to a blender or food processor and puree the squash. a. Reserve the water in which the squash was boiled (you’ll be using that water in the next steps). 6. Add the pureed squash to onion/leek/ carrots mixture. a. Add in reserved liquid from the squash to thin out the soup to your liking. (This soup can range from thin to very thick so add the liquid accordingly). If too thick,

add more of the reserved liquid or some broth. b. Bring to a boil. c. Add in the potatoes, turnip and parsley bouquet. d. Let cook for 6-8 minutes, then add in the cabbage. e. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. 7. Add in the cooked meat (optional), then stir. a. Add in the cooked pasta and lime juice, then stir. b. Let simmer for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. c. Add butter, then stir.

603Diversity.com | February 2022 23

Jasmine Torres, Oscar Villacis and Megan Villacis outside their Nashua studios for First Gen American 24 603Diversity.com | February 2022




he WMSN 1590 radio studio is the perfect place to keep an eye on the Gate City. Situated on an upper floor of their corner building on Main Street you can hear the construction taking place on the new Nashua Center for the Arts building and oversee the bustle of downtowners and the variety of shops and eating spots that keep these streets walkable and attractive. Nashua, chosen twice by Money magazine as “the best place to live in America,” likes to bill itself as a real city with a hometown feel. That’s not too far off the mark for most residents, but for some newcomers it’s a very different proposition. This was vividly illustrated in a video that went viral about a year ago when radio show host Diana Ploss taped herself haranguing a crew of Latino workers for speaking Spanish to one another while landscaping in front of the radio station. Ploss repeatedly informed the men they were in an English-speaking country and that they should be using the local language. “Are you here illegally?” she shouted. The video reveals that her loud and hostile tone of voice eventually lured one outdoor diner from across the street to come and ask why she was “harassing” the men. Ploss had paid the station for her time slot to produce her show — a strident local retread of the kind of right-wing programming typically associated with AM talk radio. She posted the video of the confrontation to publicize her show and make her points, but for many of the hundreds of thousands who viewed it, her remarks appeared to be a casebook example of bigotry. Oscar Villacis was one of those who saw it that way. Villacis, a long-time resident of Nashua and a first-generation American whose family had migrated from Ecuador to New York and then settled here in 1999, describes them as overwhelmed by the challenges of their new life. By the time Oscar was 13 he was more than they could handle. He lived at the Nashua Children’s Home until >> 603Diversity.com | February 2022 25

Fadayz (at left), a motivational speaker, DJ and street dancer, is interviewed by Oscar Villacis. he was 18. After that, he was ready to make his own mark and he was looking for ways to prove it. Which may have been the foundation for what happened next. Rather than just retaliate online like so many following the Ploss incident, he decided to get involved locally. He went to the managers of the station to complain. The video had become a problem, or at least a burr under the saddle, for the owners, so they were not unsympathetic when they heard Oscar ask, bluntly, “How do we get her off the air?” Villacis learned that though her contract protected her from summary removal, there was a loophole — a stipulation that a petition requesting her removal with 2,500 signatures would be sufficient to require the management to revoke her agreement and offer the spot to someone else. Villacis already had plenty of friends 26 603Diversity.com | February 2022

and was gathering supporters for some of his ideas of how to make the city more inclusive and welcoming. That local cred and the fame of the video incident made it possible to exceed that required number by about 2,000%. “We brought them 45,000 signatures,” says Villacis. Ploss was gone and there was a timeslot to fill. Meanwhile, WSMN station owner and producer George Russell had listened to a recording, a podcast pilot, that Villacis had made. It was just one of his many ideas for how to make a difference for his home “town” of Nashua and for the people of color, immigrants and other marginalized folks he had met growing up there. Russell told Villacis it was good and suggested he consider taking the spot. But there was still the monthly bill required for an hour of radio time. It was a lot of money for him to come up

with, but once again the internet intervened. Getting the word out via a fundraising program, he soon had the funds to purchase the hour. That was when Russell made one more offer. “He asked if I spoke Spanish,” Villacis says with a chuckle. Russell had been looking for someone to host a Spanish-language hour on WSMN and told Villacis that if he would produce one, he could have that hour as well, no extra charge. It was a lot to assimilate. Fortunately, Villacis was not alone. He had developed a list of allies in the local business community and had been developing his ideas for a podcast he called First Gen American. His wife, Megan, who was already working alongside him, served as an encourager and supporter. After starting his parent company First Gen Multimedia, she became both publicist and overseer, so he looked to Megan for her counsel. Her

answer was simple: “She’s like, ‘If you want to do it, do it. You know you can do anything.’” It did seem to fit with his original vision, and having a media “anchor” in the form of a radio show, something on which to base some of his other plans for online and in-person community building, was appealing as well. The fact that they would be using the same medium that had launched the careers of archly conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity just made it seem all the sweeter. He knew they’d need more help, though, and in the early days, with Covid-19 already causing trouble for finding employees, it would require some special people motivated by more than just money. When they began looking for interns to assist getting plans off the ground, Jasmine Torres saw the posting. “I thought to myself, this is different. I was looking for something different.” She’d followed the Ploss story, and then heard the pilot podcast that Villacis posted on SoundCloud. She says she thought it was brilliant. And needed. Torres was working at the Boys and Girls Club at the time and, despite having a career and degrees in culinary management and psychology, she essentially threw her hat into the ring as an intern. The team coalesced as the three of them brought their core competencies to the challenge. With Villacis as host and executive creative director, Torres as producer and executive director of operations, and Megan as director of marketing and content creation, the team has learned to lean on each other’s strengths — and know each other’s weaknesses. Villacis jokes about his attention span: “I’m everywhere,” he laughs. “Here, here, there, there, this, that.” “I just organize it,” Torres chimes in. This kind of experience, she says, provides insights for the other businesses in the community the team is expanding to serve. The project has grown far beyond a radio show, with all of the team members stretching to execute new ideas and

expand the concept to encompass five different shows, a podcast studio where recording artists can book time, and media consultancy; helping businesses create media for their websites and social media and strategize marketing and promotion. “We’re just continuously learning,” says Torres. Villacis produces a different themed show every day of the week as well as his Spanish language show, “Latinos en Vivo,” every Wed. at 12. Jasmine has her own show “Love Lessons with a Latina” in which she tackles not just matters of romance and dating but also problems of abusive relationships and troubled marriages. “This is not a business,” Villacis says, “this is a classroom.” And it’s a classroom about much more than just business, he says. It’s a class on how First Gen Americans can take their own shot at what people call “The American Dream.” “I think the American Dream is constantly changing,” Villacis said in an NBC TV interview last year. “As we try so hard fitting in, we do an awesome job sticking out.” Their radio show and other work result from some remarkable collaborations, but not only between Villacis, Megan and Torres — the show’s guests are invited into a growing network; a “Black and brown Chamber of Commerce,” as Villacis describes it, “because we help individuals develop after the show.” “Do you need a business plan? We help you set up a business plan,” Villacis says. “You need a partnership agreement? We help you set up a partnership agreement. We help you develop all the way through.” They see their reach expanding to minority-owned businesses in other cities, as far North as Laconia and also into the nearby portions of Massachusetts. Each new company brings its own needs and challenges but also its own network to play in what seems to be an ever-growing sphere of influence. The team feels this is especially important as the entrepreneurs who join them on the show — and who they >>

Connecting with First Gen American Oscar Villacis and team are on live radio, Monday through Friday from 12-1 p.m. on WSMN 95.3FM or 1590AM. They are eager to hear from all new Americans (and old ones, too). Here are some ways that you can connect: Weekly show line up: MONDAY: Asking for a Friend with Oscar Villacis TUESDAY: First Gen American WEDNESDAY: Latinos En Vivo THURSDAY: Love Lessons with a Latina FRIDAY: Asking for a Friend: Business Spotlight All shows are on Facebook live: facebook.com/FirstGenMultiMedia facebook.com/firstgenamerican Email: firstgenmultimediallc@gmail.com

603Diversity.com | February 2022 27

Latinos en Vivo, FGM’s weekly Spanish segment hosted by Villacis and Torres, is described as “a radio program dedicated to educating the public about the issues that interest them today. We are here to serve by telling your stories the way they should be told in your language … our stories, our community, our lives, Latinos live.” work to develop — share, in addition to common business obstacles, many of the unique challenges faced by immigrants and first-generation Americans. It’s all part of what Villacis calls the “swinging pendulum” effect that a first-generation American experiences — retaining a sense of belonging to his former land and heritage while also seeking ways to prosper in the new world

in which he lives. Add to this the fact that they often serve as the primary aides and guides to parents who may never learn to speak the new language with ease or become familiar with the customs and expectations of the American way of life. It’s a role that Villacis, whose mother was a factory worker and his dad a handyman, knows all too well. And the persistence of those who would create

obstacles to that process, like a certain radio host, can’t stand up against a positive attitude, a smart organization and a few lucky breaks, like the one that put his team on the air, five days a week. So, to all first-generation Americans and to anyone struggling for a little hope, Villacis says, “I know there’s still a great opportunity for us to come together and solve some of our problems.” 603

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Years ago, Paula Smith met someone who had had an organ removed in a medical procedure, but didn’t know which organ. That’s when Smith was struck by the need for better interpretation services in healthcare. “So we started the interpretation training program, so that we could build capacity within the hospitals and healthcare systems,” she says. Smith is the longtime director of Southern New Hampshire Area Health Education Center, which provides workforce development for current and future health professionals. Language and communication access is considered one of the basic elements of providing culturally effective healthcare. Culturally effective healthcare organizations are institutions working to implement various practices that can improve care and reduce health disparities among a diverse patient population. Trinidad Tellez, former director of the Office of Health Equity for the NH Department of Health and Human Services, co-authored an issue brief in 2015 that created a framework to help healthcare organizations become more culturally effective. The brief was published in partnership with Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy. Tellez, who is a physician, says the framework draws from recommendations and best practices established >> n BY NOUR HABIB 30 603Diversity.com | February 2022


603Diversity.com | February 2022 31

Trinidad Tellez Paula Smith

Tellez notes that, while the framework was derived for a healthcare context, it is useful for people-serving organizations including human and social service, education and child abuse prevention. about much more than just having the individuals who make up the organization be culturally competent. “This cultural effectiveness framework is about, what are all the many things that need to be operationalized so that the organization can serve everyone?” says Tellez. In addition to language and communication access and staff cultural competence, other elements of culturally effective healthcare organizations include: leadership buy-in, institutional policies and procedures that formalize an organization’s commitment

32 603Diversity.com | February 2022

Photos by Rob ert Ortiz

by several healthcare standard-setting organizations, but offers a more “digestible” roadmap for providers who are new to the work and trying to figure out how to make their organizations more equitable. Tellez also facilitates a work group through the New Hampshire Equity Collective that is trying to teach people about the framework and encourage organizations to implement it. “We’re the shepherds of the work,” Tellez says about the group. “The goal is that organizations understand how helpful it is to use the framework as the way to begin to think about operationalizing systems and processes so that they’re moving towards equity.” “(The framework) helps organizations build capacity, so that they can serve everyone, no matter what dimension of identity they may bring,” she says. Those doing work around cultural effectiveness say it is about responsiveness to all types of diversity, whether related to race, religion, disability, age, immigration status, sexual orientation or something different. And Tellez says creating a culturally effective organization is

to cultural effectiveness through written goals and practices, workforce diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and data collection and analysis. Tellez notes that, while the framework was derived specifically from and for a healthcare context, the work group has found that it is useful for people-serving organizations in varied sectors, including human and social service, education and child abuse prevention.


Cultural competence in practice Amoskeag Health in Manchester has been working to implement culturally effective healthcare practices for years, and is championing the framework. Officials at Amoskeag have created a toolkit to help other organizations implement the framework. Betsy Burtis, the Chief Officer for Integrated Health Services at Amoskeag, said the early days of the organization’s cultural effectiveness journey were primarily focused on interpretation and making sure that patients would understand and be understood by their providers. But that was just the beginning. “I think what sets us apart is that we take culturally effective care far beyond language access,” Burtis says. She says though Amoskeag has a diverse staff and is working to actively make sure its workforce reflects the patient population, that’s not enough to ensure cultural effectiveness. “You can’t make the assumption that everybody understands what that means to work with somebody of a totally different culture,” says Burtis. And so Amoskeag diligently collects data and tries to engage and collaborate with different community groups to improve the quality of care. These practices are among the elements listed in the framework that the organization champions. “We continually work on our policies >> and procedures to make sure that

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As a community health worker, Nelly Gachohu’s role is to build trust and understand the needs of the people she serves.

they align with where our vision and mission are for this work, and that they are not disproportionately hurting any population,” Burtis says. “One of the things that I always stress is, Amoskeag Health has come a long way, but the work is never done. As the state becomes increasingly diverse, we are always trying to learn and grow and trying to be humble about what we know and what we don’t know.”

Smith, who runs the workforce training center, says her organization has always been committed to providing training that improves cultural competence. Recently, they established the Center for Cultural Effectiveness, which encompasses several different programs, including one to train community health workers. Smith says she thinks of community health workers as a “bridge” between the community and the health system. “They do peer education, they do individual and community needs assessment, they do a lot of linkage to services,” Smith says. Employing community health workers is one of the ways healthcare organizations can implement the community engagement and workforce diversity elements of cultural effectiveness, says Tellez. “In health systems, sometimes patients have a lot of needs related to the ‘social determinants of health,’” Tellez says. “(That’s) what we call the environments where people live, learn, work, play and pray.” People may be having a housing crisis, which can lead to destabilized health, or experience food insecurity that they don’t know how to navigate. Community health workers can often step in to provide resources and education in those instances. “So community health workers are just really important for historically excluded populations and BIPOC communities,” Tellez says. Because they are already trusted members of the community that they work within, community health workers often

34 603Diversity.com | February 2022

Photo by Robert Ortiz

Community health workers

Nelly Gachohu

have more success connecting people with physical or mental health services that they need. Nelly Gachohu is a community health worker with the City of Nashua Public Health Division. Gachohu, who is from Kenya and speaks Swahili, says her background is an asset to the department when they are trying to reach out to the Black or brown communities in Nashua, and specifically the African population in the city. Gachohu says her role is to build trust

and understand the needs of the people she serves. As an example, much of her recent work has revolved around COVID-19. She has held teaching and listening sessions to try to understand why many people in the BIPOC community she serves have not been vaccinated. “We are not rushing to get arms and vaccinate,” she says. Instead they want to hear the worries and concerns of the community, many of which are valid. When people feel heard, and receive answers to their specific concerns, some

are more willing to receive the vaccines, she notes. Gachohu says mobilizing community health workers is part of the work of making healthcare more equitable, through addressing many of the social determinants of health. “Sometimes you’re born into something, or a situation, that allows you to thrive or not,” she says. “And we’ve seen this evidently, throughout the years, that in the BIPOC population, those things are not well distributed.” Gachohu also works to make resources and all elements of the healthcare system more accessible for the people she works with. Some of the people she serves may not seek medical treatment because they can’t afford to, and they don’t always realize there are resources and options that can help them financially. Alongside her work as a community health worker, Gachohu is studying public health at Regis College. She says when she learned about public health, she felt it would be a good fit for her. “I just wanted to be that essential person that is working to improve access in a way, some way,” Gachohu says.

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Making good care universal Essentially, creating culturally effective healthcare organizations is about making sure everyone gets the same level of good-quality care. “If you take that culturally effective part out, it’s no different than any one of us wants to be treated in healthcare,” Burtis says. “We want to be treated like a better person, we want to be asked about what matters to us and where things hurt. And so, while you have to pay special attention to make sure that you are providing that level of care to every person, the basics of what is good care really is universal. “We just have to make sure we’re applying it and giving it universally,” says Burtis. 603

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Business groups didn’t get every single thing they wanted from New Hampshire lawmakers this year, but on the whole, they’re pretty happy with the outcome of the 2021 legislative session. “This was a great year for the state’s smallest businesses,” said David Juvet, senior vice president of public policy for the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire. “There were lower taxes and new programs to help them keep running.” Added Bruce Berke, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business: “There were not any broad sweeping measures that impacted the business community, and that’s a good thing.” Still, not everyone is happy with the session. Anyone trying to run a family planning clinic is LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP, PAGE 18


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Across industries, New Hampshire businesses have been navigating the burdens of skyrocketing prices and difficulties obtaining essential materials since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains. For 25 years, Seabrookbased manufacturer AeroDynamics used a specific type of cotton swab for masking metal finishes on aerospace and defense products. Then its supplier stopped selling cotton swabs in bulk Cara and packaged them Burzynski, individually for Copresident of vid testing, charging AeroDynamics in an exorbitant price. Seabrook. With cotton swabs no longer an option,

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elcoming and belonging. We all want to feel as if we are welcoming. We all want to feel as if we belong. Welcoming and belonging seem to be two sides of the same coin. The question on the table today — “Is New Hampshire a welcoming place for diverse people such that they feel as if they belong”? First, some definitions. Merriam-Webster defines welcoming as “to greet (someone) in a warm and friendly manner as in // She welcomed the students into her home.” Belonging is defined as “close or intimate relationship // as in a sense of belonging.“ How do we welcome people such that they feel they belong? By greeting them with a smile and warm tone of voice. Introducing them to others and to new ideas. Including them in conversations and activities. Providing equitable access to public resources and services. Acknowledging their contributions. C.E. Garcia, in her article “Belonging in a predominantly White institution” described five primary characteristics of belonging: 1. Where I have a role or responsibility; 2. Where people look like me; 3. Where I am valued and cared for; 4. Where my racial identity and culture is recognized and valued; and 5. Where I share interests or values with others.

While the article was focused on race, I think most people would agree that these characteristics of belonging are applicable from more than just the perspective of race. How does this play out in our daily lives in New Hampshire? U.S. News & World Report “Best States Ranking” New Hampshire is No. 4 in the nation for best places to live. This ranking measures healthcare, education, economy, infrastructure/environment, public safety (crime & corrections), fiscal stability of state government, and opportunity for residents. But does that translate to being a welcoming state where everyone feels they belong?

38 603Diversity.com | February 2022

Healthcare: According to NH Health and Human Services reporting, African Americans and Latino citizens are twice as likely to contract Covid-19. Education: The NH Department of Education reports that White students are 10% more likely to graduate from high school than African American students. ProPublica reports that white New Hampshire students are 2.5 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as students of two or more races. Economy/Opportunity: The World Population Review reports that in New Hampshire, people of color are three times more likely to be in poverty than whites.

U.S. News & World Report places New Hampshire at No. 4 in the nation for best places to live. But does that translate to being a welcoming state where everyone feels they belong? Infrastructure/Environment: While the physical infrastructure of the state does not seem to be discriminatory, the attitudes of many leaders and hate groups in this live free or die state create an atmosphere where people feel they cannot speak their minds or be themselves. The passing of recent bills such as HB2, which included the Right to Freedom from Discrimination statute and various abortion bans, have struck fear into many, including those of the predominant race. Public Safety (Crime & Corrections): Black and Hispanic people make up 9% of arrests, although they are just 5% of the population. Looking at those statistics through the lens of the characteristics of belonging we can answer the question: Is New Hampshire a welcoming state where people feel they belong?

Courtesy photo

Welcoming and Belonging in NH

1. Where I have a role or responsibility — New Hampshire seems to be doing well here with employment being representative across difference. 2.

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3. Where I am valued and cared for — the discrimination seen For begsMore Information: the question of whether diverse people feel valued and cared for. Many do. A disproportionate number do not. 4. Where my racial identity and culture is recognized and valued — the discrimination described begs the question of whether diverse people feel their racial identity and culture is recognized or valued. The passing of the “Right to Freedom from Discrimination” statute in the recent HB2 and HB1255 bring recognition and value of diverse people into question.

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5. Where I share interests or values with others — this seems to be OK. From this analysis, it would appear that New Hampshire is predominantly a welcoming state where diverse people feel they belong. But it also shows that we still have work to do to live fully into the sentiment we see on the signs on highways as we drive into New Hampshire that say “Bienvenue au Welcome to New Hampshire.” Research says that we are happier when we are welcoming — acting in service of others. I invite us all to consider how we can each be happier and make our fair state truly live up to that welcome. 603

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nhpbs.org/windows 603Diversity.com | February 2022 39




hey say that when you do something that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I work as a cook for the Cypress Center right here in Manchester. The Cypress Center is part of the MHCGM (Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester). To be quite honest, as a guy who’s been cooking for years, this job has been one of the best. It happens to fulfill my needs, it’s exceeded my expectations, and I don’t dread going to work. This hasn’t always been the case in my work history. I speak as a cook, not one of the counselors, staff or nurses (all unsung heroes) who are on the front lines tending to the patients. I have such profound respect for the counselors and staff there. These men and women stay up late at night, they arrive at the break of dawn, some of them are on 24-hour call. They speak softly to the patients and try their best to build them up

40 603Diversity.com | February 2022

while giving them complete wrap-around support. I’m also someone who’s familiar with the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, but not in depth enough to diagnose anyone accurately. However, I grew up in the housing projects of Brooklyn and lived a life that some may consider cinematic, so I’m usually on point when I make an assessment about someone who may struggle with mental health. More importantly, my own PTSD spans decades, thanks in part to this “cinematic” life that I’ve lived. So I’m very careful to never pass judgment on these people. Some of the patients arrive on their own accord, some come with family, and some are brought in by police or ambulance. Within minutes, the counselors and staff let me know of their arrival and if they have any food allergies. I feel as though my job is to not only feed their stomachs but to feed their souls. Their

moods tend to fluctuate, so sometimes I engage in light conversation, and sometimes I suggest fruits or smoothies when they aren’t in an eating mood. During their moments of struggle, I try to provide a meal that satisfies the soul, surprises them and gives them something to look forward to. One patient, who’s been a resident for quite some time now, completely makes my day. I would say that his issues are severe, and his medications are strong. Yet and still, we’ve had short conversations on everything from sports to cuisine. He’s very easygoing, he hates fish, loves my cream of potato soup, and prefers a country french salad dressing with his salads. These patients are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, friends and acquaintances. Their ages and situations vary. Some of them are fortunate enough

Although things have gotten better when it comes to the stigma of mental health in Black and brown communities, it still persists. to have a support system and some don’t. Sadly, some of them do return back to the Cypress Center. However, it’s better that they return to these places where they can get help and support, as opposed to being locked away inside of a prison cell or another hostile environment. I believe that the environment at the Cypress

Photo by Allegra Boverman

Mental Health: The Common Denominator

Center is one that ultimately cultivates healing. I’ve watched these men and women go from being secluded and withdrawn to engaging in board games and television with their peers. Although things have gotten better when it comes to the stigma of mental health in Black and brown communities, it still persists. I come from an era of well-meaning but misinformed people. During summer months, I’d hear, “Black people don’t get sunburned.” At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I’d hear, “Black people won’t get Covid.” And for decades, we seemed to disregard mental health issues and counseling for Black people. It wasn’t supposed to be for us. We were too far on the negative side of the socioeconomic scale. And besides, we usually got our therapy from our families and friends. However, in my nearly four-month tenure there, I’ve seen plenty of Black and brown faces. Last Christmas the Cypress Center staff made sure that the patients had a Christmas tree and plenty of decorations. The counselors prepared everyone for a festive mood. I promised one of the residents that we’d have eggnog, and that I’d make the same southern-style mac and cheese that I did for Thanksgiving. There’s no race when it comes to mental health issues. There’s no gender, no income, no sexual orientation. It has no face, and it runs across the entire spectrum of our society. I believe that we need to normalize seeking help. The holiday stresses may have passed, but it’s always a good time to reach out to a family or friend who’s struggling with mental health issues. They may have a smile on their face, but they could be in one of the deepest valleys that you can imagine. Speaking as someone who knows the power of a good mac and cheese, just the simplest of gestures can be all it takes to lift someone’s spirits. 603

Choose your path.

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603Diversity.com | February 2022 41


THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE To submit multicultural or changemaker events for the next issue, send them to editors@603diversity.com.

Celebrate Black History in February and All Year Long Black History Month originated at Kent State College in 1970 after being proposed by Black students and faculty of that college. As if to make up for lost time, it actually ran nearly two months that first year, but within six more years the month of February was set apart for the study and appreciation of Black history all across the U.S. in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and other community centers. President Gerald Ford formally recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial, urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” There are plenty of places to appreciate the history and contributions of Black Americans (and Granite Staters) here in New Hampshire both for Black History Month and year-round. Below are two organizations with resources and walking trails and some events to introduce yourself or someone you know to this rich, vital and too-often unsung vein of our collective past.

The Harriet Wilson Project Research work to develop the Milford, Harriet Wilson & the Anti-Slavery Movement Black Heritage Trail began in 2003. The Milford Trail was inspired by the publication of a novel written by Harriet Wilson that is considered the first novel to have been published by an African American. The trail, modeled after the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail developed by Valerie Cunningham in 1995, includes a stop at the Harriet E. Wilson Memorial. Guided tours are available by contacting the Harriet Wilson Project and promise to reveal “stories of Black history omitted from three centuries of white historical narrative.” The project’s website has many local and regional resources for anyone wanting to know more about Black history in New England. Milford, harrietwilsonproject.net 42 603Diversity.com | February 2022

BHTNH raises awareness for New Hampshire’s Black history by fostering dialogues about race, diversity and inclusion. Self-guided tours are mapped out and available for you to experience the history of New Hampshire. The website for the BHTNH also contains a variety of resources for those seeking to know the struggles and triumphs of New Hampshire’s Black residents over the centuries and contains this hope: “We believe that if we could embrace our shared history, we could heal racial anxiety and misunderstanding — in our communities, our state and in this country.”

We the People: The Seacoast African American Cultural Center The “We the People” exhibit is open through the end of February, highlighting the fight for justice for people of color in white suburbia. Take a stroll through an exhibition commemorating and documenting the movement in New Hampshire. 10 Middle Street, Portsmouth (inside of Discover Portsmouth), www.saacc-nh.org

Courtesy photos


Black Heritage Trail New Hampshire

“Listen,” by Maureen Carlson, from the Truth Be Told exhibit.

Truth Be Told

The organization offers signature programs throughout the year, making it a continuous resource for students,

teachers or anyone studying Black history. Portsmouth, blackheritagetrailnh.org

Fourteen artists put their conversations about systemic racism front and center in their work. The “Truth Be Told” exhibit in Hopkinton by a group of Black and white women artists from across the country who regularly meet over Zoom to discuss racial injustice. Although the original show at the Two Villages Art Society gallery ended last year, a curated selection is still on display at the Hopkinton Town Hall where it can be viewed during regular business hours Monday–Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. 330 Main Street, Hopkinton

Richard Haynes: Culture Keeper, Culture Maker: An American Visual Storyteller

Courtesy photos

Afrofuturism 2022 Imagine a vision of the future in which the stains of our collective past do not paint the present. Imagine a culture unencumbered by the weight of oppressive structures meant to divide and suppress. Imagine a society in which people of color, the African diaspora, are not tokenized or seen as “other.” This is a vision of AFROFUTURISM. A vision of the future in which people of African descent not only have a place in — but are synonymous with — the progress and advancement of the human race. Through art, science, philosophy and exploration they lead our world forward. It is in this vision we wish to explore what the contributions of the entire body of the human race can yield. It is in this vision that we ask you to create. Building on the exciting artistic and philosophical legacies of AFROFUTURISM, we invite you to participate in our year-long community-inclusive and collaborative arts and culture programming. Presented by Green Acre, a Bahá’í Center of Learning & the Seacoast African American Cultural Center, the show runs from April to December 2022. 10 Middle Street, Portsmouth (inside of Discover Portsmouth), www.saacc-nh.org

Richard Haynes uses his art not only to make society aware of the invisible in this world but also to inspire unity. He is a painter, photographer, educator, mentor and powerful advocate for social justice who currently serves as the associate director of admissions for diversity at the University of New Hampshire. Richard Haynes: Culture Keeper, Culture Maker presents Richard’s most recent acrylic paintings done in his signature style of semi-abstract faceless figures rendered in flat, bold colors, portraying “Blacks and whites harmoniously living, working and playing together, side by side, even touching, something that was forbidden in Haynes’ childhood world.” February 3–May 7, Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the William H. & Sonja Carlson Davidow ‘56 Fine Art Gallery at Colby Sawyer College, New London, www.colby-sawyer.edu/gallery 603Diversity.com | February 2022 43


David Villiotti

Photo by Robert Ortiz

Note: One of the many kids that David Villiotti has mentored and helped at Nashua Children’s Home is Oscar Villacis, who appears on the cover of this issue of 603 Diversity.

44 603Diversity.com | February 2022

Not all heroes wear capes or swing from tall buildings on a spider web. Some just stick with the same hard — often thankless — job for nearly half a century; one where daily struggles are the norm and glory comes in small portions. For David Villiotti, executive director of the Nashua Children’s Home, it’s not fame nor fortune that motivates him, but a different reward: the words of thanks he gets from young residents who were helped or even saved by the simple grace of someone caring about them as more than a statistic or mental health label. “When I talk to community groups about Nashua Children’s Home,” says Villiotti, “I’m often asked, ‘Isn’t it such rewarding work?’ And my response is that sometimes it is, sometimes we encounter profound disappointments, but one needs to stick around long enough doing this work to realize its most compelling rewards.” The Nashua Children’s Home is what people once called an orphanage. It’s a place where kids (boys and girls ages 7 to 18) wind up because for one reason or another they cannot live at home. Sometimes it’s a behavior problem in the child, but it could be a result of domestic violence, substance abuse, parental neglect or simply because the family can’t afford to keep up with basic needs. The Nashua Children’s Home, known to insiders as the “home on the hill” because of its elevated location near Nashua’s Edgewood Cemetery, has seen the worst of it but keeps on keeping on. “We often need to see kids leave here, fall flat on their faces, pick themselves back up, and then become productive adults,” he says. It’s a pattern that Villiotti has had lots of time to observe. He just celebrated 45 years in the same line of work this last December — 36 of those years spent in his current position. And after all that time, he’s still optimistic about the chances for those young people who the rest of the world has seemingly rejected. “Some of the same kids who seemed to ignore our counseling, reject our warnings and admonitions, stop by as young adults and clearly remember the commitment of our staff, the lessons that they learned at Nashua Children’s Home.” 603



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