Pedro Altagracia is a community organizer who lives in New Hampshire. This essay opposing HB 544 originally appeared as a social media post. The Charitable Foundation’s testimony on that proposed legislation can be read here.
In 2010, I uprooted my life to move to New Hampshire for the opportunity to achieve success no person in my family’s history has ever accomplished, a life a seldom few from my country/community would ever live to see, and to make a lasting impact on the communities suffering from the systems that keep us from getting there.
For 11 years, I dedicated my life to understanding the Granite State, its people, and its culture while sharing insight on the untapped potential it has to host a diverse population; fruitful in economic opportunity, sustainable community vitality, and cultural welcomeness. Though I have met resistance at every level of my engagement here, I fostered meaningful relationships with people and organizations inspiring the hope and desire for New Hampshire to be a place of abundance for everyone; a home of choice for the tenured residents that call it home and for the individuals and families lost and in search of a place to call it as such.
My story is similar to that of thousands of young potential homebuyers, business owners, aspiring legislators and leaders who chose to stay in New Hampshire for the opportunity to live as free as the state motto intends and the accessibility to impact suffering communities in short time. However, as the general population ages, the demand for public service disproportionally falls on the responsibility of a young, diverse workforce with a diverse collection of needs and desires left unmet. Failure to address these concerns has left the Granite State in a severe workforce shortage for the last several years as it struggles to fill occupancies with people willing to stay, work, and play in this state.
Contrary to popular belief, New Hampshire is not immune to the changing times, the changing population patterns, and the change in needs for people to survive and thrive here. The ongoing movement following the death of George Floyd motivated locals, communities at-large, businesses and organizations alike to demonstrate solidarity and a uniform desire to dismantle the principles and applications racism and white supremacy. Collectively, it was understood that to address the issues the state was facing in keeping its residents from leaving that it would benefit the most by becoming a welcoming space for everyone. Becoming culturally relevant, mindful of the suffrage marginalized populations experience, and active in combatting oppressive principles would create a safe landing place for the upwardly-trending diverse population of the United States.
Coupled with the other narratives of unaddressed issues in social determinants of health (affordable housing, low wages, high tuition, appropriations for education, etc.), New Hampshire is facing a profound deficit it has never seen before: Young residents are finding very little reason to stay and non-residents are not finding reasons to come here. The populations needed to fill the needs of the state want diversity, inclusion, and equity. They want to live, work, and be ambassadors of a state that values and respects them. A place where they can live free of the implicit bias that has impacted their quality of life for generations.
If HB 544 passes — aimed ban to anti-racism, implicit bias and gender bias training in state-funded agencies, schools, and business — it would be severely problematic for our economy, our children, and our image to the rest of the nation. We want New Hampshire to foster an environment that lifts the human spirit to achieve their fullest potential within our workplaces and our communities. This bill would diminish our ability to do so.
The language of the bill has been installed and approved into the State’s budget, illustrating a strong support for HB 544 in the legislative body.
It is not enough to be a bystander and say “this sucks.” It is not enough to post black boxes on your IG or to re-share your organizational statement of commitment to anti-racism work. It is time to act. I cannot do this alone.
If this bill passes, young professionals, like me, and families will not look at New Hampshire as a place to live and work. Many who live in the state will leave by the bus load…and perhaps that’s the intent of the bill.
Call your legislators and demand they vote in OPPOSITION of HB 544. The future of the state depends on it.