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Spotlight

Frances Elsemore, Secretary of the Seacoast NAACP since 2001, was born in a New Hampshire resort town woefully lacking in diversity.  As a small child, she enjoyed singing along with her Sunday School class in rousing choruses of "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world," and wished she could meet some of those red, yellow, and black children all the faces around her were white.  Her sense of diversity deprivation was increased when she discovered in the town library a series of books about twins from various countries: The Dutch Twins, The Swiss Twins, The French Twins, etc.  She wanted to be a twin from some foreign land or if she couldn't be one, then at least meet one. 

Growing up, she gradually became aware of the subtle undercurrents of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism in her community.  Some of the summer visitors upon whom the town's economy depended were referred to slyly as those people you know who I mean.  A not-so-subtle sign saying GENTILES ONLY, posted at the entrance to a resort owned by a pillar of the church, did not conform with what was taught in Sunday School.  Another pillar of the church made a special visit to warn her, a few days before her departure for Barnard College in New York (she'd been given a scholarship):  "While you are in New York, watch out for all those Jews."  In those days she was more polite than she is now, and simply said, "Thank you, I will - I hope to meet them."

Frances does not mean to suggest that her community was riddled with nothing but hypocrisy and prejudice.  In her neighborhood, her church, and her school there were people of good will who appreciated her wish for a more inclusive culture, and recommended her for the scholarship which enabled her to participate in a wider world.   And of course she soon realized that prejudice and hypocrisy exist everywhere - even in New York, that great cauldron of diversity!

Frances decided in sixth grade - inspired by a wonderful sixth-grade teacher - that she wanted to teach, and with her husband Donald worked for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Japan, Germany, and Holland.  When Don died in 1972, she took a position teaching 4th grade at a DoDDS school in Rota, Spain, where she taught for the next 27 years.  Her young sons Stephen and Peter at first wished they could return to the States for McDonald's and Saturday morning cartoons, but she let them know that these were insufficient reasons for moving to the United States, and soon they began enjoying the Spanish experience and even suggested that she remain in Spain for the rest of her life, assuring her they'd be sure to come visit!  As a matter of fact, the family, which now includes two daughters-in-law and two granddaughters, does return to Spain as often as possible.  One of the attractions for Frances is the flamenco music, which flourishes in small towns in the area.

Having become addicted to long leisurely hours in cafes and at tables on the sidewalk, Frances began thinking about where to settle as retirement drew near.  Friends in New Hampshire all said, "You have to live in Portsmouth!"  Fortunately, she took their advice and moved to Portsmouth in April 2000.  At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast in 2001, she noticed a sign-up table for the NAACP, an organization she had long respected and admired, and joined on the spot.  After attending several meetings, she thought: "I'd better stay home next time, because if I go too faithfully, they'll want me to be on a committee or something!"  (While in Spain, she had wholeheartedly adopted as her motto a saying she heard there: No hacer nada, y despues descansar.  "Do nothing, and then rest."  Frances admits to being a thoroughly lazy person.)  She stayed home that month and that's all the good it did her, because the day after the meeting, Charlotte Wood, then President of the Branch, called to ask if she would serve as Secretary.  She decided that she had no excuse good enough for refusing, and that since one has to lead a useful life, she'd better say yes.  She has never regretted the decision, has enjoyed being part of this wonderful group ever since, and is glad to help in a small way to promote the ideals of the NAACP. 

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EVENT

Oct 28, 2017 3:00 PM
Memorial Service for Robin D. Willits

Nov 06, 2017 6:30 PM
Monthly Branch Membership Meeting

Dec 02, 2017
NEAC Quarterly Meeting

Dec 04, 2017 6:30 PM
Monthly Branch Membership Meeting

Jan 15, 2018
Rev Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast