Stratford marks MLK Day with talks on CRT, community advocacy – CTPost

STRATFORD – When Donald Smart asks people if they’ve heard of Critical Race Theory, many say yes But few actually know what it is, he said.

“So many people are, ‘Are you aware of critical race theory?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What is it?’ ‘I don’t know. But I don’t think it should be taught in schools,’” Smart said.

Now he’s planning on addressing it in his own way on Monday at the Sterling House Community Center as part of a series of discussions commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Smart will give a presentation on Critical Race Theory, which is a legal framework on how race has influenced the law in the United States and is primarily taught to law school students.

But many people hold misconceptions on what it is, who it’s for and why it’s being taught, he said.

He said the end goal of his presentation, which is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17, is to give people a better understanding of the theory. Participants will listen to Smart give a presentation and will also have discussions on what the theory means and their personal feelings on it.

The presentation is geared towards those 18 and older. The event will be held in person at Sterling House and will be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

Smart said he’s not there to change minds.

“Knowledge is power. It will empower people to take a more critical view of what they’re hearing and seeing over the popular debate surrounding Critical Race Theory,” he said.

Smart is an attorney and has practiced law since the 1980’s after graduating from Harvard Law School He is the founding partner of the Smart Law Firm, based in Stratford. He primarily focuses on corporate and regulatory law but is also a member of the town’s Police Engagement Program, where he said he also had discussions with police officers over the theory.

He has previously worked with Sterling House over the years and recently suggested a workshop about CRT since so many people were talking about it in town.

People’s curiosity about the topic proved to be the catalyst.

“The question has come up so often, ‘What is Critical Race Theory,’ that I suggested a workshop that focuses on exactly what Critical Race Theory is? That’s what got me involved and motivated to participate,” he said.

Smart said participants can expect to hear about the history of the theory from its origins in the civil rights movement, to widely held misconceptions of it. Reaction to the talk from around town has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.

The center is also including other presentations from the head of the recently opened African American History Museum and other community members who will give presentations on how to advocate for changes in their community and mutual aid.

Executive Director Amanda Meeson said the discussions and activities will be held in person but visitors will be spaced out and windows will be opened so air can circulate.

It’s the first time Sterling House will commemorate the day with activities instead of just closing for the day, she said. The center did commemorate the day last year with guides for self study. This year is much more involved, she said.

“This year (we) decided to do something more robust. So when we were picking the workshop titles, we were trying to have a selection of pieces that were educating folks on Martin Luther King, Jr. and what the day stands for,” Meeson said.

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