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Some Upper Valley festivities muted as July Fourth spurs thought about racial injustice

  • Katie Baldino, of Marietta, Ga., takes a through-the-ears photo for her collection while waiting with Synthetic to ride in a neighborhood Fourth of July parade on Brothers Road in Hartland, Vt., on July 4, 2020. Baldino competed in Montana and Italy with Synthetic in 75-mile endurance races as part of the U.S. Equestrian Team. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Baldino is spending the summer in Hartland with Synthetic's owners Melody and Jeff Blittersdorf. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • As organizers Colleen Glenney Boggs, left, and Kari Gleiser listen, Michelle Caver, who is the commander at the VFW Post 782 in Burlington, speaks at a Black Lives Matter Independence Day rally on the Dartmouth College green in Hanover, N.H., on July 4, 2020. "It's not us and them," Caver said, "It should be we." (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Maggie Moore, of Hartland, Vt., waves bubbles while marching in a neighborhood parade on Brothers Road in Hartland on July 4, 2020. The town's annual Fourth of July parade was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Judy Nichols, of Milbrook, N.Y., is amongst over 100 who attended a late morning Black Lives Matter Independence Day rally on the Dartmouth College green in Hanover, N.H., on July 4, 2020. Nichols is spending the summer in the Upper Valley. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • As Matt Waite drives, from left, Kim Aare, Carolyn Ingraham and Jennifer Waite, all of Hartland, Vt., continue to make noise between batches of neighbors while parading down Brothers Road in Hartland on July 4, 2020. The town's annual Fourth of July parade was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Over 100 in attendance listen as Ivy Schweitzer, an English professor at Dartmouth College, speaks about small acts to help the Black Lives Matter movement during an Independence Day rally on the college green in Hanover, N.H., on July 4, 2020. The sign at right is for a nearby construction project. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/4/2020 9:36:26 PM
Modified: 7/4/2020 9:36:24 PM

HANOVER — For people around the country, the Fourth of July looked a little different this year.

That’s largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced annual spectacles like fireworks displays and parades to cancel.

But for many in the Upper Valley, there was another reason to dial down the usual festivity and think about the holiday in another way: growing tensions and nationwide protests over racial injustices.

“(Independence Day) was an important step, but it wasn’t complete. It was for white men to be free and independent,” said Dr. Kari Gleiser, a Hanover psychologist who organized a rally Saturday on the Dartmouth Green in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “It feels like we’re still in the work of extending independence and freedom.”

The Saturday rally was one of many similar rallies and protests held at towns around the Upper Valley and the country following the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota in May and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky in March. Both Floyd and Taylor were Black, and both were killed by police.

Gleiser said her decision to hold this rally on the holiday was a conscious one; she hopes people will start to acknowledge the deeper meaning in “Independence Day.”

Around 100 people came from Hanover and surrounding towns to join in the rally Saturday, with many carrying signs in support of the national Black Lives Matter movement. Four speakers took center stage, reading excerpts from Langston Hughes poems, sharing their experiences facing racism and calling on their neighbors to take action and continue to support the movement.

The significance of the date was not lost on many speakers and attendees.

Bill Nichols, from West Lebanon, who attended the rally with his daughter and wife on Saturday, said the Fourth of July is supposed to be a celebration of freedom, but not everyone in the country has the same freedom.

His daughter, Judy Nichols, from Millbrook, N.Y., echoed his words, calling the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving “bittersweet” during this “time of great oppression.”

“They feel like holidays where you have to speak out for inclusion and justice,” she said.

Far away from the rally, in a neighborhood tucked away in the woods of Hartland, residents held a small (and socially distant) parade to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Some residents drove tractors and old Volkswagen bugs down a stretch of Brothers Road, while others marched while waving the national and state flags. Still more residents cheered from the sidelines.

But despite the celebration, many neighbors shared the same concerns as the Hanover protestors.

“I don’t feel particularly good about my country right now,” said resident Nancy Arnold, who watched the event from her daughter’s lawn Saturday.

Despite not feeling patriotic, Arnold said it was good to be with her family and see neighbors — even if from afar — after months of social distancing.

Jeffrey Bell, a Hartland resident who participated in the parade, said he also recognizes the concerns surrounding the holiday, especially amid nationwide protests, calling it a day that “spoke to white slave owners.”

But he noted a positive side to the celebration, saying it allowed neighbors to see each other and spend time together.

“All of these people put in energy, and they’re very excited about it,” he said.

For organizer Phil Hobbie, that was the goal of the parade: bringing the community together. Hobbie said residents miss the Fourth of July “home days” and he wanted to give them an opportunity to be social again.

Still, Hobbie, who said he has regularly attended Black Lives Matter rallies in the Upper Valley over the past few weeks, said he shares the same concerns about celebrating the holiday amid national protests. He said he tried to make the event more of a celebration of the neighborhood than of the Fourth of July.

“We’re not making it a ‘rah rah’ patriotic thing,” he said.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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