The Cape Ann Forum is an independent, non-partisan community organization, founded in 2001 to increase public understanding of national and international issues and their connection to us at the local level. Speakers act as catalysts to foster free-wheeling dialogue and debate. Audience members ask questions and offer comments, and members of the community take the floor to announce other Cape Ann events.
The Boston Globe described our founding in a Nov. 25, 2001 article headlined “Forums delving into roots of terrorism”:
A few days after the September 11 attacks, Dan Connell decided he needed some fresh air.
A journalist who had worked in Africa and the Middle East and had interviewed former operatives of Osama bin Laden, Connell stumbled upon the Rev. Wendy Fitting of the Unitarian Universalist Church. Soon, the two were talking about a way for the community to learn more about the Middle East and Islamic terrorism. Through e-mails and word of mouth, 150 Cape Ann residents showed up at Fitting’s church in late September to listen to Connell’s lecture, ”Why Do They Hate Us?”
From shops on Main Street to the docks to homes on Eastern Point, the lecture is a constant topic of conversation. It began nearly two months ago, and every day it bends and sways with each newscast and report. No one in this famous fishing port considers this community a hotbed of international diplomacy. However, all agree that there is a real need to talk about Sept. 11, and how it has affected American cities such as Gloucester.
Residents encouraged Connell to continue the lecture series. Since September he’s held programs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on Saudi Arabia. The last two programs have averaged 250 people, and he’s had to move them into the main auditorium at Gloucester City Hall. Connell’s ad-hoc Cape Ann Forum now boasts an advisory board, and with talk of the lectures running every month during 2002, people have begun drawing up plans for a nonprofit organization that might ultimately spin into an advocacy group.
The Cape Ann Forum achieved tax-exempt status early in 2002. A year later, we won a national award for “Overall Excellence in Public Access” from the National Alliance for Community Media at their annual Hometown Video Festival.
Our intent is to provide access to perspectives not readily available in the mass media and to promote a critical spirit within an informed and engaged citizenry. We do so in a non-confrontational environment that fosters full, open participation in dialogue, debate and action. All our events are free and open to the public.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dan Connell, Chair: lecturer in journalism and African politics, Simmons College; author and international consultant; founder and former director, Grassroots International
Jan Klein, Treasurer: retired academic; member of Advisory Board, Cape Ann Farmer’s Market
Sage Walcott, Secretary: poet; writing instructor, North Shore Community College; Central America activist; former Gloucester City Solicitor
Carol Dirga: graphic designer for colleges and other non-profits
Martha Kurz: fundraising consultant and grant writer for non-profits; former non-profit administrator and manager of community health programs
Dan Connell: see Board of Directors (above)
Patricia Baker: statewide legal service advocate; Central America activist; Commissioner, Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence
Mitch Cohen: psychotherapist; author; facilitator, Project for the Prevention of Domestic Violence; former president, Temple Ahavat Achim
Wendy Fitting: pastor (retired), First Independent Christian Church Unitarian-Universalist
Ellen Gabin: artist; community organizer; Latin America activist; manager, The Bookstore
Tom Halsted: author; lecturer; foreign policy, defense and arms control expert; retired senior government official and non-profit director
Vicki Lindsay: Math-for-Peace educator; international consultant; former director, Community Land Trust of Cape Ann
FORMER BOARD MEMBERS
Helen McCrady: church administrator with 20 years experience in non-profits
Rich Francis: links the Forum with Gloucester High School, where he teaches social studies