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‘Summits in Solidarity’: Social Justice Organizations Team Up To Support BIPOC Communities

Summits in Solidarity

Editor’s Note: Since the initial publication of this story, NHPR has reported that citizens of a federally recognized Abenaki First Nation based in Canada say there is no evidence many members and leaders of two New Hampshire groups have Abenaki ancestry. An NHPR review of genealogies and other records also failed to support local leaders’ claims of Abenaki ancestry.

A North Country-based group found a new way to get people outside and support their work. Summits in Solidarity put together a hiking initiative to raise money for two social justice organizations. Leaders from the two groups, the Cowasuck band of the Pennacook Abenaki people and NH PANTHER, talked with NHPR about their missions and what the funds will do to support their work in BIPOC communities. 

Below is a transcript of the conversation.

Peter Biello: This is All Things Considered on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello. Two New Hampshire-based organizations focused on supporting communities of color are receiving a financial lift this summer. A North Country-based initiative, Summits in Solidarity, has started a hiking campaign to raise money for two groups, the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People and NH PANTHER. Denise Pouliot as the Sag8moskwa of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People, and Ben Becote is the founder of NH PANTHER. They're here to talk about the goals of their organizations and what the fundraising effort means to them. Denise, thank you very much for speaking with me.

Denise Pouliot: Oh, well, thank you for reaching out, Peter. Nice to see you, Ben.

Ben Becote: Hey, nice to see you, too, Denise. Thank you.

Peter Biello: And, Ben, thank you for joining us.

Ben Becote: Thank you, Peter. It's my pleasure to be here.

Peter Biello: I'd like to learn a little bit more about your organizations. So, Ben, we'll start with you. The 'Panther' in NH PANTHER stands for Plymouth Area Network to Help End Racism, and you formed it in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Can you tell us what your organization has focused on in Plymouth since it started?

Ben Becote: Absolutely. Thanks so much. Well, after that tragic event, you know, we first were motivated to start rallying, start getting out in the streets, just letting the public know how we here in New Hampshire, were also grieving with the collective America as we were going through this kind of tragic experience. Quickly, we moved from protests and marches to organizing events where we would have speaking events and then from speaking events, we started to shift to more of a support role for some of the Black Lives Matter organizations here in New Hampshire, but also seeking to make networks with other like minded social justice organizations like Paul and Denise's, whoever it is out there, like Summits in Solidarity who reached out to us, that are on the forefront for social justice and change here in New Hampshire, we're looking to partner with.

Peter Biello: And Denise, you're involved in several regional and statewide alliances that deal with race, education, food insecurity, sustainability and justice related to marginalized and BIPOC communities. Can you tell us why you and your tribe are dedicating time to these causes?

Denise Pouliot: One of our main goals with our tribe is education, and we firmly believe that in order to better educate our community, we need to support each other. And [NH PANTHER] is one of those organizations that we believe that needed that support. We believe in their cause and and we felt that we were able to give them the assistance that they needed to help establish themselves in a more permanent manner.

Peter Biello: And Denise, why is an indigenous perspective important when it comes to these issues?

Denise Pouliot: The indigenous voice tends to be erased when it comes to history, when it comes to legislative moments. The indigenous voice was the original voice of this land, and we're still being oppressed today when it comes to inclusion in many areas of society. So I feel that the indigenous voice matters. We're part of your community, we're part of the fabric that weaves the country we call the United States. And as one of those strong threads within that fabric, we should be heard as well.

Peter Biello: I should note, we are speaking on Zoom and Ben, you are offering signs of support to what Denise is saying, showing thumbs up and a little heart symbol with your hands. Seems like there's a lot of sort of unity between your two groups.

Ben Becote: Yeah, well, Paul and Denise and I were connected through Summits in Solidarity and the North Country Collective. We at NH PANTHER, we're primarily here to uplift Black voices, but we understand that in New Hampshire we're already a very diverse population and that indigenous people who live here have been mentors and elders in this fight for social justice since this land was created. So, their example is a model for us and how to we can also remediate the narratives that exist around race and here in America, especially here in New Hampshire,

Peter Biello: You're both now part of the North Country Social Justice Collective, a network of groups that support social justice initiatives in New Hampshire, and you meet regularly. Ben, what efforts have come out of those conversations?

Ben Becote: Well, the first one is this big hike that we're doing on June 26. So, we're encouraging volunteers to hike any mountain, hill, go to their areas of recreation and promote a sign of solidarity with the people, with the land, with all of the different voices that are here in support of social justice in New Hampshire. This is a fundraiser that's going to benefit Black youth on our end of the spectrum and also the Cowasuck people on Denise and Paul's end of the spectrum. Our funds are going directly to these individuals, Keagan Supple and Shawtel, and they are going to use these funds to go and pursue their dreams. We hope that they'll use those funds and inspire other people to also live largely and live their dreams out in New Hampshire, knowing that they can find a community of support.

Peter Biello: And Denise, can you talk a little bit about the plans you may have for the money raised through this effort?

Denise Pouliot: Sure. The Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki people has a nonprofit called COWASS North America that we maintain and operate. So, as a tribal group, we don't receive any payment for -- we don't have employees. So we're all a volunteer tribal group. And so any money that comes into us goes back into education. So when we go and do presentations and we need supplies, not every school system has the ability to pay presenters or has the access to materials that the children would need in order to better their education. So what we try to do with the money that we take in is then in turn use it for those students. So basically all the money that we get in, we put right back into education within the New Hampshire population.

Peter Biello: Denise Pouliot is the Sag8moskwa of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki people and Benjamin Becote is the founder of NH PANTHER. Thank you very much for speaking with me.

Ben Becote: Thank you for your time today, it's my pleasure. Denise, you're amazing. Thank you for all your support.

Denise Pouliot: Benjamin, sending you love, man. Peter, thank you so much for inviting us here today.

Peter Biello: The Summits and Solidarity fundraiser ends July 31st.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
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