Wooden and white wicker chairs sit facing each other on the flower-covered porch of Rebecca Murphy and John Hutchinson’s home on High Street and Lynchburg.
Three flags, a rainbow pride flag, including brown and black stripes, a Maryland state flag and a United States flag proudly sway in the light breeze. Three dogs bark from inside — happy to see yet another visitor approaching the door.
Rebecca Murphy is the leader, strategist, innovator and owner of RCM Strategic Consulting, a consulting firm that works with small businesses, non-profits, and other groups in their efforts to raise money, advance real estate development, coach and organize. She is an affiliate faculty in the department of communications at Loyola University in Baltimore.
Being a sixth generation college graduate in her paternal side, and third-generation on her maternal side, Murphy says she has privilege in education.
With an active political family, Murphy measured her summers by what campaigns she worked on rather than what vacations she went on. She worked on her first campaign in high school.
Murphy is also a middle-aged Black woman living in Chestertown, Maryland. A well-known woman, as well. Dozens of horns beep as passers-by wave on their way past Murphy’s house.
In Chestertown, Murphy serves on the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice. She is also working with the town to figure out a way to reopen the movie theatre. Her role will consist of figuring out under what conditions the theatre would be allowed to operate, and then recommending several possible operating structures.
“I was raised by people whose guiding life view was that you should leave the world better than you found it, and that to whom much is given, much is expected,” she said. “By every conceivable measure, I have lived a privileged life.”
A woman in an interracial marriage in Chestertown, she lives “a far more diverse life than anybody, black or white” that she knows. And it’s intentional.
“Leading a diverse life is more interesting, and more enriching, and it makes my life better,” said Murphy. She has heard a lot of things that many people don’t hear for someone who has invested her time and energy in many social circles.
“Aren’t you worried about people taking things from your porch?” Murphy’s white friends ask. Murphy is married to a white man, living purposely in the majority Black area of Chestertown, Maryland.
She is the mother of her almost-20-year-old Black son.
“He thankfully has not experienced anything in his 3 ½ months here,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean he won’t.”
Growing up in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Baltimore and attending a private school, Murphy spent a lot of time being one of the few students of color in her school.
“We were raised with a very very very strong sense of Black identity,” Murphy said.
Murphy moved to her house with a front porch in Chestertown eight years ago.
“I fell in love with somebody who lived in Chestertown.” Murphy said, laughing. “It never occurred to anybody — least of all, me — that I would end up in a small town on a porch happy as a clam.”
“My commitment to my community — both my Black community but also my Chestertown community — is to speak up and say what needs to be said and to help drag who I know are generally well-intentioned white people,” said Murphy.
Her concerns with the race issues in Chestertown revolve around the feeling of all neighbors of every race, ethnicity, and gender identity be comfortable in all spaces of the town. Living near a majority Black neighborhood in Chestertown, Murphy comments on “the number of times our white friends have asked us if we are afraid to live here.” She said, “The same principles apply on upper High Street as they do on lower High Street, which is, know your neighbors.”
“I give my neighbors the same presumption that white people give each other,” said Murphy.
“If in fact the White community is as legitimately committed to diversity as they say they are, please stop making racist assumptions about your Black neighbors, perhaps start saying hello to them when they walk by you,” she said.
“Black people have taken this movement as far as they can without pissing (white) people off,” said Murphy.
Now, communities like Chestertown see that it is time to take more permanent action towards racial equity. One event, proposed by the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice, is regarding street painting in Chestertown that has not yet been decided upon by the town council.
“I would like to help Chestertown work through our race issues.” said Murphy. “One of the things that makes a community legitimately diverse is when Black people and white people are chasing after the same real estate — when you have an economically diverse community,” said Murphy.
One of Murphy’s suggestion is to have a more racially diverse leadership in Chestertown, in many elected positions. Many of the current and past elected officials of the town have run unopposed, so there is room for change in the leadership positions of Chestertown. Racial diversity in political positions has to happen to be fully representative of the community.
The white community in Chestertown an all over the United States of America is being called to work harder on understanding and being uncomfortable with their privilege — and doing something about it. With a mentality that power is historically not given — and that the world and each of our communities will be better with more diversity in all realms — young people will carry this movement very far.
“I would like to help Chestertown work through our race issues,” she said. “Chestertown has a lot of potential.”
Who else is willing to take this on with her?