FALMOUTH, MASS.—The Falmouth Clergy Association will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20, with the presentation to East Falmouth resident George R. Spivey of its first award for human rights work and community leadership.
The presentation will take place at the town’s seventh annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast, set for 9 a.m. at the Morse Pond School. The Falmouth Service Center will prepare the meal, with tickets available at the door at $15 for adults and $10 for children.
Spivey, 67, retired last June from his 13-year career as the town’s affirmative action equity officer. In that role, he served as Falmouth’s watchdog against bias in housing, employment and other areas of concern, working with the local Affirmative Action Committee and Commission on Disabilities to resolve issues in both the schools and local government. In addition, he spent many years in the Falmouth school system, part of that time as principal of the East Falmouth Elementary School.
He also worked with the local NAACP and a national organization called Concerned Black Men to assist and inspire local youth of all ethnicities through educational programs and mentoring activities, often helping to match students of promise with scholarships and other opportunities for growth.
Raised in rural Southern New Jersey to parents of limited education, Spivey grew up picking blueberries to help support his family. As he grew, he thrived at academics, athletics and leadership to become his high school’s first student of any race to enter an Ivy League university. Attending Dartmouth in the politically charged 1960s, he gained a sense of idealism, an understanding of injustice and a hunger to make things better both for other African-Americans and for society at large. After gradating with a B.A. in government, he briefly attended Rutgers Law School but left to pursue a career in teaching and school administration, eventually earning an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Apart from working with the full range of town offices to find solutions to perceived incidents of injustice related to race, gender, sexual identity, religious affiliation and national origin, Spivey’s many initiatives in Falmouth have included the following:
• He organized the community for membership in No Place for Hate, a national antidiscrimination association initiated by the Anti-Defamation League.
• He collaborated with the clergy association, local churches, the Chamber of Commerce and other entities to launch the town’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast.
• He worked with the police department and an independent consultant to respond to allegations of racial profiling and provide sensitivity training to officers in Falmouth.
• He spearheaded successful efforts greatly to increase access by the disabled to Falmouth businesses and public areas, rallying 150 volunteers to help construct a handicapped-accessible playground at the East Falmouth Elementary School.
• He helped establish and run a for students of all races at weekly after-school academy at Falmouth High that recently was chosen as one of four Concerned Black Men projects nationally to share a $1.3 million grant for mentoring initiatives.
• Through No Place for Hate, he managed the town’s participation in area multicultural observances, including the annual Wampanoag Powwow in Mashpee, a yearly diversity celebration at Cape Cod Community College, and Harambee festivities during Black History Month on Woods Hole.
In announcing the award, Falmouth Clergy Association president Rev. Robert Murphy, pastor of the Unitarian-Universalist Association of Falmouth, called Spivey “a miracle worker,” saying, “He’s a good community organizer. His strength is in bringing people together—which is, after all, what day-to-day human rights work looks like at the grass roots level. I sometimes say that every town in America ought to have at least one George Spivey.”