“I was part of the social justice task force that pushed our athletic department to look more into hiring practices,” Mr. Williams said. “We also pushed for antiracism sensitivity training for our coaching staff and players. It’s all about community, and what I feel on the island, I try to create in other spaces.” Meanwhile, the spirit of activism on the island continues, with events held this summer for Juneteenth, receptions supporting the campaigns of Black political candidates and supply drives to benefit college students.
But things on Martha’s Vineyard are not always idyllic. On July 29, at a summer camp run by the Chilmark Community Center, an incident took place in which two white children wrapped a tent strap around the neck of a Black child, eerily reminiscent of a noose. The center’s investigation determined that “we have not found any evidence of overt racial motivation,” but noted that “the act itself and the races of the three boys involved are significant.”
Sophia Hall, of Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston, represents the family of the Black child. “We are still very much a country that is trying to figure out how to deal with racism,” she said. “The report issued by the community center indicates their belief that, because there was no overt racism, this could not have possibly been a racialized incident.” When contacted, the center declined to comment further.
Nicole Groves, a lawyer from New York City began coming to the Vineyard 10 years ago, when her parents bought a place on the island. I caught up with her outside C’est La Vie, a Black-owned apparel store. This summer in particular, she was reassured by the prevalence of faces that look like hers, and the presence of Black Lives Matter banners flying from homes and stores along the main streets of town.
This summer, Ms. Groves, 42, was pregnant with her first child, a boy. She said the prospect of raising a Black male child in the current era is “scary,” but that Oak Bluffs provides a respite.
“To have a place where you feel at home, and people walk down the street and give you ‘the nod,’ you always feel safe here,” she said.