Thank you to everyone who attended the Cambridge Historical Society’s “Opening Conversation” & Annual Meeting! We also want to thank the incredible speakers, Alexandra Sedlovskaya and Dr. Kerri Greenidge, and our fantastic moderator, Diana Lempel. The event helped frame this year’s question “Where is Cambridge From?” and was a great start to our year-long program series responding to that question.
For those who missed it or who want a refresher, here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
Alexandra drew on her work in social psychology to describe how we humans define ourselves in relation to the places and people that surround us. She emphasized how crucial the sense of belonging is to our identities, and how this results in our quickness to form in- and out- groups. It’s helpful to observe when we employ “we” vs. “they.”
Kerri began by sharing how her historian’s work of expanding the documentation and interpretation of New England African American history is rooted in her own experience. As a young person with deep local roots, she didn’t find her family’s stories reflected in the New England History she was taught, or read, or found interpreted when visiting local historic sites.
She stressed the importance of “who is in the room,” when decisions—whether about policy, or the recording and interpreting of history—are made. We live with the manifestations and consequences—good and bad—of groups of people holding conversations and making decisions from 25, 50, or 100 years ago. Although New England as a region is self-aware when it comes to local history, we can still forget that we’re also part of a historical trajectory and exist within a historical context.
Alexandra described how positive community (or local group) identity can be created through conversations like these, and by identifying common goals and shared values. This is in contrast to “easy” group identities formed against a perceived common enemy.
Kerri urged the Society to prioritize attracting a broad and diverse representation of Cambridge when holding events like these, where discussions around local history and identity are taking place and being documented; and where the potential for positive community identities to be formed is great. She recognized that attracting this audience is not easy.
As you think about the question of where Cambridge is from, you might start by asking yourself
- What about Cambridge do I identify with? Something about the physical place or more what Cambridge represents, such as education, progressive values, or history?
- Do I identify more strongly with a subset of Cambridge, such as a neighborhood or university?
- How are my groups’ stories reflected in recorded history or local identity?
Tuesday, 02/06/2018 – 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Cambridge Public Library, Main Library
449 Broadway, Cambridge
RSVP via EventBrite
Join us at this Opening Conversation, launching our 2018 theme, “Where is Cambridge From?”
Opening Conversation speakers Alexandra Sedlovskaya and Dr. Kerri Greenidge, guided by Diana Lempel; will be setting the table for this year’s programs which will explore the ways Cantabrigians define where they’re “from” and why it matters. What makes someone feel they’re from Cambridge or not, and how has this changed over time?
Event is open to the public and free. Please register!
The Opening Conversation will be followed by the Annual Meeting of the Members. All are welcome.
Inclement Weather Date: 2/8/18
Alexandra Sedlovskaya, Assistant Director, C. Roland Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard Business School
Dr. Kerri Greenidge, Department of History, Tufts University; Co-Director Tufts / African American Freedom Trail Project, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy
Diana Lempel, Doing History Curator at Cambridge Historical Society and Co-Founder, Practice Space