Local news anchor shares poignant story of racism in Portland

From the Facebook page of Jackie Ward, who is the weekend morning anchor for WCSH 6 in Portland and WLBZ 2 in Bangor:

“I’m writing about something I witnessed yesterday in hopes that it can serve as a reminder for us to be kinder to each other.

Jackie Ward of WCSH 6 and WLBZ 2.

Jackie Ward of WCSH 6 and WLBZ 2.

Yesterday in the Old Port, an adorable family of four was walking down Fore Street enjoying the day, popping in and out of stores along with everyone else in downtown Portland. I was waiting outside of a store with my dog when they were walking on Fore Street. Suddenly, a man driving by screamed the n-word at them as he sped off. (The family consisted of a black mom, white dad, and from what I can tell a 12-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.)

The son quickly said something to his mom, dropped his bags, and sped off after the car. This all frightened the little girl tremendously. What happened next is what made me the most sad. As the dad crossed the street to see if he could see how far his son was running, the little girl started getting visibly upset with what was going on. But the mom remained calm and stern. She told the girl her brother is a grown man who can stand up for what he believes in. “People are going to use that word and you need to know how to stand up for yourself.”

My heart broke for that little girl as she harshly learned how our society has such a long way to go when it comes to racism.

It’s happening everywhere, every day. Yes, even in Maine. Do something about it and don’t add to this evil.”

#BlackLivesMatter march.

#BlackLivesMatter march in Portland.

Note: An earlier version of this post included a picture depicting racial profiling from a post I published last summer. I’m hesitant to include this note, because I don’t want the focus to be on me, but the inclusion of the picture at this point was causing some understandable confusion. I inserted the picture into the post because, as I see it, racism is a persistent problem in Portland and the incident that I caught on tape last summer was a clear indicator of that (although many people did not agree with the message in that post either).

I also was unaware, when I was putting the post together yesterday, that the family that Jackie Ward wrote about just so happened to be Shay Stewart-Bouley with her husband and children. Stewart-Bouley is known to many as the #BlackGirlInMaine, and she operates her own blog which focuses on racism in Maine.

Stewart-Bouley, after realizing that the story had been shared on social media by Ward, and then by me on my blog page, responded with a blog of her own.

The three of us- Stewart-Bouley, Ward, and myself- did not plan on the response that this post has received, and if I had known it was Stewart-Bouley’s family who had gone through the ordeal highlighted above, I would have reached out to her prior to posting Ward’s comments.

In any case, I don’t think that Ward deserves the criticism that she has received for sharing her story, and I wish that more Mainers- whether they’re public figures or not- would speak out against the racism that can be seen in our state every day. I’m of the opinion that conversations like this one, although peppered with ignorance and hatred in the online comments sections, are vital to beating back the systemic tide of racism in our society.



Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.