As part of the opening reception of our Fitchburg exhibit at the Fitchburg Art Museum Community Gallery, we hosted a panel discussion to discuss labels and stereotypes, experiences and concerns of various groups in the community, and answer audience questions people may have about groups they're unfamiliar with.
- Sam Squailia, is a Fitchburg City Councilor-at-Large representing all the residents of Fitchburg. Born and raised in Fitchburg, she is an active volunteer in the community hosting Discussing Fitchburg Now on FATV, serving as President of the Friends of Fitchburg DOGS for the Fitchburg Dog Park, on the board for the Longsjo Classic and Fitchburg Pride, and was recently appointed by Governor Baker to serve on the Massachusetts State Bicycle & Pedestrian Board. She works as a Designer & Project Manager for a Building Engineering Firm, owns a small business with her spouse Nick, has a daughter Nicolette and dogs Ruff & Dynamite.
- Kenisha Coy, a multi-talented Writer and Impresario currently resides in Massachusetts. She believes her lifework is to serve through the healing properties of art. She has been published in a variety of publications. A Contributor to the most recently published in Palgrave Macmillan’s Michelle Obama’s Impact on African Women and Girls, Ms. Coy is currently working on her first book. Ms. Coy has been recognized for her creative engagement and talents and has collaborated with national business franchises to birth literacy, public initiatives and community engagement programs. Break Through Silence, a division within her nonprofit, My CARE Initiative, (Community, Arts, Research & Education) has recently been granted a National Day of Recognition, National G.O.E. (Growth. Overcome. Empower) Day which connects the arts as a powerful tool of empowerment and healing from abuse and assault trauma.
- Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., is the minister at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Also a columnist and blogger, he writes a weekly column called Hopeful Thinking on spiritual optimism in the information age. Wil is active in community organizing, event production and youth mentorship specifically regarding individual and community empowerment through participation in the cultural economy. Married to his husband Jamie Darcangelo, RN, they live with their daughter Lavender, friends Peter and Christoph and several beloved animals. Wil is also a vocalist, carpenter and stained glass artist.
- Mary Heafy, is the President and CEO of The Arc of Opportunity in North Central Massachusetts, part of the largest national community-based organization advocating for and supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Mary is also the current president of the Rotary Club of Fitchburg (MA), serves as a board member of Workers’ Credit Union, and is Vice President of the Northern New England District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She has one cat, two golden retrievers, two adult children, twenty-eight chickens, and one husband.
- Irene Hernandez, is the Vice President of the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition, a Commissioner in the Status of Women in Massachusetts, and the President of the Three Pyramids Minority Coalition. She is currently working for Fitchburg Community Connections Coalition (FCCC) whose mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect in the region, and Active Life adult day health care center. Irene is a longtime community activist advocating at the local and state level and being a voice for those in marginalized and vulnerable populations. She has spearheaded several innovative and impactful initiatives including the TORCH Youth Leadership Training and the Fitchburg Alcalde de su Calle program (featured on CNN). In addition to her many community roles, Irene is a proud wife, mother, and grandmother.
- Lieutenant Jeffrey J. Howe, is the Community Engagement Unit Commander of the Fitchburg Police Department. Lt. Howe is a 25-year member of the Fitchburg Police Department, beginning his career as an officer in 1994. He obtained the rank of Sergeant in 2003 and was sworn in as Lieutenant in 2015. During this 25 years of service to the city of Fitchburg, Lt. Howe has received several recognitions, including a commendation of heroism and two merit awards. He also served as a volunteer first responder in New York City following September 11, 2001. Born and raised in Fitchburg, Lt. Howe is a 1988 graduate of Fitchburg High School. He continued his education at Fitchburg State University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology and earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College. He resides in central Massachusetts with his wife, Lauren, daughter, Francesca and stepdaughter, Gracie. In his spare time, Lt. Howe enjoys being in the outdoors, and spending time with his family and dog, Boo Bear.
- Furqan Mehmud, is the religious youth leader and local outreach secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Fitchburg. Born and raised in Fitchburg, and graduate of Fitchburg State, he lives with his wife and 2 children ages 14 and 2. He is the author of 2 poetry books, loves playing basketball, and is thankful to God for everything.