Defending Democracy (It’s Personal!)

September 12, 2023

Massachusetts— In a transformative exploration of ancestry and
heritage, Steve Matthews, in partnership with the Grand Army of the
Republic Museum and Lynn Museum/LynnArts, will present “Defending
Democracy”, the first in a series of restorative justice programs. Matthews
revealed in “Finding Mary”, a 10-part series in the Daily Item of Lynn, his
discovery that his fore-bearers enslaved African Americans in our country.
The story behind the “Defending Democracy” program is proof of the power
of self-discovery with a commitment to confronting the past. Upon learning
that his mother was adopted, Matthews embarked on a journey to
understand the truth of his unknown heritage. After discovering his family’s
enslaver past he has channeled his newfound awareness into a positive
force for change, reckoning with the implications of his family’s complicated
This groundbreaking event will be bringing together scholars of the African-
American experience and Social Justice advocates from Essex County to
discuss and reflect on the past, the state of our democracy today, and the
importance of teaching the truth about our history. The program will occur
on Wednesday, October 4 th , 2023, at 6 p.m., at the Lynn Memorial
Auditorium, 3 City Hall Square in Lynn, MA.
“Defending Democracy” uses three milestone events from the Civil War as
talking points for discussion: The Emancipation Proclamation, where
Lincoln boldly declared that “all slaves in the Rebellious states shall
henceforth and forever be Free”, fundamentally expanding and
transforming the character of the war; The Battle of Gettysburg, which is
seen as the turning point for Union victory in the war; and The Gettysburg
Address, where Lincoln proposed “a New Birth of Freedom” for the country.

The program consists of the following:

Historical Truth-Tellers Panel: Dr. Kabria Baumgartner, author and
Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Northeastern
University, will be in conversation with former Mayor of Beaufort, South
Carolina, Billy Keyserling, who lobbied his federal delegation to place the
Reconstruction National Park in his historic town. Beaufort was one of the
first places Reconstruction took hold, creating schools, distributing land,
and birthing notable African-American politicians. This panel aims to
highlight the brave and activist Black youth in Greater Boston during the
Civil War period parallel to the Reconstruction efforts in Beaufort.
The panel will emphasize the importance of teaching our history accurately
and fully, including where we have succeeded as a country and where we
have fallen short, forcibly denying many people full access to our
democracy. They will illustrate the great damage to our democracy that is
occurring and will continue to occur without widespread intervention by the
people of our country to oppose the whitewashing of our history and threats
to our dedicated teachers.
Living Historian Interlude: Abraham Lincoln speaks his Gettysburg
Address and gives a snapshot of his growth towards Emancipation. He is
joined on stage by Frederick Douglass. They reminisce about their
discussions at the White House on race and freedom for the enslaved.
Douglass then stands alone and gives his opinion on the conflict and his
decades-long fight for Abolition.
Democracy Defenders in Action Panel: Dr. Patrick Tutwiler, Secretary of
Education under the Healey Administration and former Superintendent of
the Lynn Public Schools, will offer reflections on the program and the
importance of teaching the truth about history before joining the panel of
Social Justice advocates working on solutions in Lynn:

  • Nicole McClain is the first female African-American to sit on the Lynn
    City Council and is the Founder and President of the North Shore
    Juneteenth Association, Inc.
  • Adriana Paz is the President of Prevent the Cycle, sits on Lynn’s
    Human Rights Commission, and is a leader in the Lynn Racial Justice
    Coalition, helping to develop the Unarmed Crisis Response Team
  • Martin Garnar is the Director of the Amherst College Library and will
    speak on behalf of the Freedom To Read Foundation, which is
    fighting back against book banning.
  • Jeff Crosby is a 33-year GE employee and elected union official who
    brought together labor and community groups to work on equity
    issues, forming a powerful political block under the New Lynn
    Coalition. He has taught at the Harvard Trade Union Program and the
    UMass Boston Labor Studies Program and has written for The
    Monthly Review and The Nation.
  • The Reverend Andre Bennett is President of the Essex County
    Community Organization, made up of 39 congregations and the North
    Shore Labor Council. He is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    specialist, a Youth and Family Development professional and the
    Youth Pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Lynn.
    These panelists will discuss their work and initiatives, inviting the audience
    to join them to do their part in Defending Democracy.
    Matthews notes “This event is made possible by the deep connection and
    respectful relationship between these dedicated community and social
    justice organizations and the leadership of Doneeca Thurston at the Lynn
    Museum and Wendy Joseph at the Grand Army of the Republic, which are
    both treasured repositories of Lynn’s history.”
    The Defending Democracy Planning Team

Steve Matthews is a visionary entrepreneur, social advocate, and truth
seeker. His journey of self-discovery led him to confront his family’s history
and transform it into an opportunity for positive change. His commitment to
restorative justice inspires all who seek to address historical injustices and
foster healing in our communities.
Contact information
Doneeca Thurston is the Executive Director of Lynn Museum/LynnArts,
where her role primarily focuses on mission fulfillment, financial

management, education and programming, and day-to-day operations, with
emphasis on community-centered initiatives, committed to making our
spaces more inclusive, accessible, and visible to all.
Contact Information

Wendy Joseph is the Curator of The Grand Army of the Republic Hall &
Museum of Lynn, where she is an artist facilitator who brings people
together across diverse sectors to create innovative collaborations. She
delights in working behind the scenes to bridge the gap between creative
vision and practical implementation.

Contact Information

Defending Democracy Event Details:
Date: October 4, 2023
Time: 6 pm
Venue: Lynn City Hall Memorial Auditorium
3 City Hall Square, Lynn, MA, 01901
Facebook event page:

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