The Wellesley Freedom Team joined a growing network of teams across Massachusetts aiming to combat hate-based violence upon its establishment in March 2021. The group is designed to support individuals who experience bias and witnesses to hate-based speech or action.
The concept of a Freedom Team started with Jamele Adams, a former resident of Natick and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Scituate School District.
“The Freedom Team model was born while watching the unrest unfold over the death of Freddy Gray, and trying to figure out how the community will be brought back together,” said Adams.
Adams wanted to come up with a way to combat similar instances of hate violence in the future. The initial design for what came to be the Freedom Team was called the Communal Engagement Model (CEM), a community resource which Adams believed could preserve freedom.
He said that, originally, there was no plan to expand to other communities, but he believes they serve as healing and proactive initiatives that unite people in difficult times.
“The network is seemingly growing because of its connection to the people and its decentralized leadership model. Everyone comes to the table as equals. It does not cost money, but requires heart, dedication and commitment to community,” said Adams.
The Wellesley Freedom Team’s mission statement reads, “The team’s intent is to respond with urgency whenever members become aware of individuals who experience threats, harassment, or violence related to race, color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, or class.”
Members of the teams serve voluntarily, listening to people who contact the group through email or call line and guiding them through incidents of hate-based violence.
“The Wellesley Freedom Team was established in response to reports from residents who experienced incidents of racism and bias that are not defined as hate crimes, and therefore, could not be addressed under the law,” said Amy Frigulietti, a member of the team and Assistant Executive Director of the Board of Wellesley.
Frigulietti, along with Chief Jack Pilecki of the Wellesley Police and Town Executive Director Meghan Jop, reached out to members in the community and asked if they would be interested in participating on the team.
Dr. Jorge Allen, Interim Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at WPS, joined the group in 2022. He discusses and responds to information which is brought to the team alongside members who work in the police department, town government, schools, and places of worship.
Dr. Allen explained that, upon being contacted through the call line, the team stores information so they can later follow up with the reporter. He made it clear that, as a grassroots organization, the team is under no requirement to release stored audio or information to anyone, ensuring the privacy of reporters.
“The person who responds to the call engages in conversation with the reporter. We ask to get an idea of what kind of support they are seeking, and how to follow up. The person receiving it might also bring it up with the whole group, and we can pitch in and give more ideas of how to support them,” said Dr. Allen.
Schools in Wellesley have witnessed numerous incidents of racism in recent years, all of which gain attention quickly on social media or blog posts and then simmer down just as rapidly. Dr. Allen believes that the team can be a resource to students at the high school.
“Students are Wellesley residents. Awareness in school is important. For students to know that they are supported not just in school is important. When we have students and families who want to talk to someone outside of the school structure, they know there’s a community resource available to them,” he said.
Recently, students have started to recognize the team as an asset they could use in the future to share their own experiences.
“I think it’s an amazing idea, and important for kids who need guidance. Students at WHS could really benefit from this resource,” said Maiwenn Kamdje ‘24.
For Dr. Allen, the success of the Freedom Team comes from the community. In order for it to gain traction throughout the town, people should know that they have an available resource they can use to voice their feelings.
“I think bigger for us means more awareness. Using tools like The Bradford to let the community of Wellesley know that there’s someone who is willing to listen to and will be able to channel resources to any person who encounters this kind of event. The growth is in the information and awareness,” he said.
Wellesley’s stance towards combating racism and bias is largely progressive, however there are many incidents of hate which go unnoticed or that people feel schools and businesses respond to inadequately. The Wellesley Freedom Team works to make change at a local level.
“The impact is first raising awareness that situations like this happen in our community. The second impact is on visitors and residents to feel supported and welcomed, a community which is willing to respond when not ideal situations happen,” Dr. Allen said.
The team encourages members of the community to consider contacting them if they experience or witness bias-motivated threats, harassment, or violence.
Hotline: 339-216-0124Email: WellesleyFreedomTeam@gmail.com