By Raymond P. Diamond

Much work still needs to be done when it comes to building a more equitable, representative, and fairer workforce in Maine – this was the basic takeaway from the “Inclusion Maine Conference,” organized by Muhammad Humza Khan, and held in South Portland, May 1-3. The conference featured a wide array of speakers, several panel discussions, and presentations from professionals representing multiple industries, who all sounded a note of cautious optimism, describing obstacles to inclusivity in Maine, as well as the potential for solving some of Maine’s workforce challenges. According to Maine’s 10-year Economic Strategy Plan, “With unemployment at record lows, and economic growth among the best in the nation, Maine faces a shortage of workers across regions, professions, and skill levels, especially in critical sectors such as health care, education, and construction. New Mainers are important to addressing this shortage of workers, and attracting new workers is a priority for Maine’s economic future, with the State’s 10-year Economic Strategy setting a target of attracting 75,000 new workers by 2029.”

Humza Khan, CEO of Inclusion Maine

Inclusion Maine’s mission is to attract and retain talent in Maine.

Never Hate ME campaigns for a hate-free state

By Dhananji Rathnayake

Never Hate ME, a grassroots campaign designed to confront intolerance toward marginalized communities and combat rising antisemitism and Islamophobia in Maine, was officially launched at the Inclusion Maine conference, held May 1-3 in Portland. The campaign, which celebrates the acceptance of others regardless of their race, religious affiliation, political views, immigration status, and sexual orientation, is intended as a response toa Neo-Nazi march in Portland that escalated into violence in April 2023.

Among those involved in the idea for the campaign were Molly Curren Rowles, new Executive Director of Maine ACLU and outgoing director of Jewish Community Alliance; author RezaJalali; Kerem Durdag, Chief Executive Officer of Great Works Internet (GWI); Rep. Deqa Dhalac (D-Dist. 120, South Portland); and strategist and community builder Samantha Katz. Maine Community Foundation provided seed money for the project.

The campaign’s goal is to move individuals, families, organizations, and whole communities to sign pledges to create hate-free zones at home, at work, and in neighborhoods, with the aim of eradicating hate in Maine. Once additional funding is secured, the group plans to implement training programs in schools to address name-calling and bullying behaviors, particularly in middle schools. Amjambo’s Dhananji Rathnayake spoke with Reza Jalali about Never Hate ME.

DR: How does this new campaign aim to teach people about stopping hate toward groups like Jews, Muslims, and immigrants?

RJ: We want to keep Maine a hate-free state, and we are concerned that groups from outside of Maine are coming to divide us, to pit one community against another. Black people against white people, poor against rich, and heterosexual against homosexual–with immigrants blamed for almost everything. We are starting this initiative to educate the community, to tell them …it’s OK to disagree politically. or in terms of ideology. It’s OK to disagree–but we have to do it respectfully, and not engage in name-calling, or hateful language, or hateful action.

DR: What message would you like to share? We are inviting people to look for humanity in each other, because we know what happens when we allow hate to get into the picture. The Civil War that happened in this country also happened in Rwanda, it happened in Bosnia–there are many examples of what hatred can do that can really poison society. We stop talking to each other. Then we fear each other. Then we dehumanize each other. Then the problems start. Then we are likely to do some nasty things… We want to make sure that the community stays informed, and also makes a distinction between what is misinformation and what is correct information.

For more information:[email protected].