Melinda Salazar has been a teacher for more than four decades. She has taught a wide age range of students and teaches about everything from Women’s Studies to Sustainable Development. She has acted as a counselor to individuals and families recovering from substance abuse. These are just the tip of the ice berg that comprise her past work as an instructor and facilitator.
“I fit the cat nine lives profile. I always seem to resign and move on rather than ‘retire,’” she said.
In addition to the academic world, this cat has no shortage of other lives.
“If we listen close enough to what our inner voices are telling us, we can bring our outer lives to align with the passion inside of us,” she said. “Issues of diversity and race inclusion have always been an issue for me. I’m Colombian on my
mother’s side and my father is Ukrainian Jewish. Fitting in and not belonging have always been in my background.”
She said she remembers being called names while growing up and feeling “a sense of invisibility, not feeling like I belonged to the community I was living with … not really being seen.” Her desire became to address these “unspoken experiences with other folks like me, or slightly different from me.”
Always one to support her words with actions, several years ago she cofounded the non-profit Seacoast Peace Academy with a handful of other like-minded citizens. According to the group’s website, its mission is to “Develop and encourage communities of learning that foster and enhance a sustainable culture of peaceful relationships in the Greater Seacoast Region of New Hampshire and Maine.” The organization is “a non-partisan, principle-based community of learning that believes that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures and the earth.”
She is also co-director of The Truth Telling Project, a non-profit organization formed after the death of Michael Brown, Jr. in St. Louis. The organization’s vision as written on its website is for a “just, equitable, and sustainable society free of state-sanctioned violence and systemic racism.” Salazar said, “Here in New Hampshire we rarely have to confront police brutality or outward discrimination. The streets are dry, there are roofs over people’s houses, so in the context of living in a very beautiful, relatively privileged community, it’s hard to make a connection locally,” with what’s happening nationally.
She is currently writing a grant request for The Truth Telling Project. Among other things, they hope to “offer professional development opportunities for teachers to partner with the Seacoast African American Cultural Center.”
Does it ever feel like she is “preaching to the converted”? “We all care about the same things. We all care about clean water to drink, good schools for our kids to go to, being able to function economically. So finding common ground and joining where we agree in some way is easier, I believe, than uniting our commonalities where there’s extreme differences. Activate the choir rather than trying to convert the gallery.”
Though she faces steep challenges, she says, “I can’t imagine being silent and not being active in the current [political] climate that we live in. Environmentally, politically, culturally, I have to contribute. Whether it’s touching the life of a lone individual or being able to contribute to policy shifts. Even if it’s just when I go to sleep at night knowing I took action today, brings me peace.”
Her optimism is undeniable. “I believe this is an amazing time to be alive. The potential [is there] for the greatest amount of growth. Lighting a candle in the darkest corner generates the most amount of light.”
For more information, please visit www.thetruthtellingproject.org