The board of the New Hampshire Center for Justice and Equity (from left to right): Chairman Dwight Davis, Sandeep Bikram Shaw, President Anthony Poore, Vice Chair Makiyah Moody, Dr. Jamaal Downey, Claire Holston, Secretary Jim Schachter, Dr. Susan Huard, Ignatius MacLellan, and Treasurer Troy Martin. (Courtesy of Matthew Anderson)
A new nonprofit was launched last week to tackle issues of racial and economic justice and equity in New Hampshire, at a time when the state is diversifying rapidly.
One way Anthony Poore, the founder and president of the New Hampshire Center for Justice and Equity, plans to do that is by making policy recommendations and weighing in on the legislative process.
“A lot of the circumstances people find themselves in are a result of policies, as opposed to individual circumstances or the individual failings of a person,” Poore said. Impacting larger communities and creating change at scale requires systems change, he said.
He expects to develop a policy platform within the next six months. One of his ideas is advocating for attaching an equity note to bills, much like fiscal notes are used to explain how a bill impacts state funds.
His goal is to eventually make the nonprofit a community development financial institution that could make money accessible to groups that haven’t historically had it. In addition to its public policy work, the nonprofit will do community organizing and bring together other efforts in this area from around the state.
The center is funded with state and federal grants, investments from public and private foundations, donations, and fees for certain services, according to Poore.
Poore, 52, moved to New Hampshire 25 years ago, and in that time, he said the state has changed considerably. In the past decade, for instance, he’s seen the state’s non-white population double – growing to represent 13 percent of the state’s population as of the 2020 census.
That means the influx of Black and brown people has helped New Hampshire maintain and slightly grow its overall population. And Poore said people of color are an asset to the state, contributing relatively young individuals to the workforce.
But communities of color face significant challenges in a state that’s historically been predominantly white. Racism is among them, Poore said.
“In recent years, New Hampshire has been one of those states that has been subjected to outside interests kind of pushing an agenda to normalize and tolerate racism,” he said. He pointed to the recent example of a white nationalist group targeting a Franklin restaurateur of Jewish and Asian descent.
The challenges communities of color face aren’t always easy to see. While Nashua and Manchester are the most diverse parts of the state, people of color live in all parts of New Hampshire. Poore said isolation is a problem in some of the state’s more rural areas.
He described meeting a young boy in Lancaster, when he was there working on a mural with a Dominican and Puerto Rican man. “He looks like me,” Poore remembers the young boy telling him about the Puerto Rican man. “You can be an artist just like Manny,” Poore told him. “I sure can,” the boy replied.
One of the teachers later told Poore that the boy had struggled with fitting in, but that working with the men of color in their school made a difference.
“Representation matters,” said Poore, who served as executive director of New Hampshire Humanities from 2018 to 2021.
Through the new nonprofit, Poore hopes his advocacy and organizing work will have a statewide reach. “So these communities that are in our rural counties don’t feel so isolated, alone, and recognize they’re part of a larger community,” he said.
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