The Hopkinton Freedom Team provides a safe place for those who have experienced abuse or violence based on characteristics like race, gender and sexual orientation, and seeks to educate the community on issues of bias.
Formed this past June, the organization urges residents to report abuse by calling the town hotline (774-278-4455). The Hopkinton Police Department monitors the hotline and determines whether a report necessitates legal action. When it does not, the HPD passes on information about the call to the Freedom Team.
HFT organizer Cathleen Dinsmore said the group will reach out to victims with the promise of a confidential, non-judgmental and nonpartisan environment where they feel they can be heard.
“I think a lot of times when people want to talk, others are very quick to try to solve the problem, and that might not be what the person is looking for,” Dinsmore said. “They might just want to have somebody listen and empathize with them.”
The Freedom Team created a transformative justice model to affect change and spread awareness of social injustice within the community, primarily through educational events and programs.
HFT is planning its next event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 18), although details still are being finalized.
The group’s most recent event occurred over a three-day period: a pride celebration coordinated with the South Asian Circle of Hopkinton during the SACH’s ongoing lights show, Hopkinton Lights Up As One.
HFT also co-hosted a Zoom presentation with SACH and Hopkinton Youth and Family Services on Nov. 17. “LGBTQ+ Basics and Beyond” featured Julie Blazer and Kay Gordon from the nonprofit youth organization OUT MetroWest as speakers. They covered topics including sexual orientation, gender and how adults can support LGBTQ+ children.
“I thought the two presenters were really very warm and informative,” Dinsmore said. “It was a safe space to learn some new things and have your memory refreshed. … I think that people would like more support and resources for what adults and parents can do to help their children.”
The presentation ran as part of the Freedom Team’s Community Connections series, whose tagline on the HFT website (hopkintonfreedomteam.org) advertises “better ways to connect with your community members.”
Members of HFT and SACH are planning to work with one another on future projects. Dinsmore called the groups like-minded in how both seek to collaborate with others in the community.
HFT member Freya Proudman, a college student studying history and politics in London, appreciated the opportunity to meet new people through the lights show collaboration with SACH. It helped her see the diversity of the community in terms of personal stories and how people believe they can help one another.
“Everyone sort of has a vision of the fact that we need change,” Proudman said. “Getting a bunch of people who are really enthusiastic about making a difference together and giving them a project to work on — just the collaboration is really what blows me away because — I know it’s cliche — but you’re stronger in numbers.”
Proudman named the Hopkinton Diversity Club and the Gay Straight Alliance as two organizations she would like to see HFT collaborate with in the future.
HFT took its inspiration from the Natick Freedom Team, founded by Jamele Adams in 2016. Dinsmore met with Adams, who talked about racial incidents in Charlestown leading to the founding of the Waltham Freedom Team.
“He wanted an organization that would be prepared to react, not so much from an emergency standpoint with police, but more dealing with victims,” Dinsmore said. “It’s basically bringing all points of the town together so that you can be prepared for whatever situation might arise.”
Before Dinsmore officially formed the Hopkinton Freedom Team she sent out invitations to various community officials to join and support the organization, beginning with Hopkinton Public Schools superintendent Dr. Carol Cavanaugh and Police Chief Joseph Bennett. Both immediately said yes.
Dinsmore credited her team for making a lot of progress in a very short period, saying the passion, excitement and dedication made this progress possible.
For how community members can promote values of love, inclusion and trust outside of working with HFT, Dinsmore talked about variety of small ways of making a difference.
“You have to start somewhere,” she said. “It could just be reading a book. For instance, Ibram X. Kendi’s ‘How To Be An Antiracist.’ … It could be talking to one’s children about social injustice. It could be getting on an email list for a social justice group. There are a lot of things that don’t take a lot of energy.”