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Meet the man seeking to quadruple Westport's Black population by 2028

Westport 10
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Westport 10
Westport 10

When entrepreneur Jay Norris was looking for a place to settle his family six years ago, just one visit to Westport, Connecticut ended that search.

“Everything checked the boxes,” Norris, who is Black, said. Every box, that is, except one. “One box it didn't check was the diversity box.”

Westport is one of the richest towns in America, but it’s also one of the least diverse in the state. Just 1% of the town’s over 27,000 residents areBlack.

“My daughter is very conscious of it,” Norris said. “’She'll say, ‘I don't have any brown friends in my class ... I don't have any brown teachers’.”

One day at lunch with some friends, Norris found Westport’s lack of diversity was threatening to make the town even less diverse.

“Two of them told me, ‘I'm thinking about leaving here,’” Norris said. He suggested they take a picture. That picture of the group of four Black Westport residents became the first image on a website Norris created called “Westport10.com.”

Since then, Norris said, the group has grown from four members to 62.

“We meet once a month — first Friday of every month — and then we connect with each other on WhatsApp to connect and create community,” Norris said. “It's very important for the rest of the community in Westport to see Black and brown images of professionals that don't play basketball or entertain.”

Norris said members of the group have also made a point of talking up Westport to their other African-American contacts throughout the Northeast. He said the presence of the Westport10 has turned interest in moving to Westport into action.

“My wife is a real estate broker for Sotheby's,” Norris said. “She's a relocation specialist. We have relocated about seven families in the last two years here, all because of the Westport10 movement. It's happened!”

Norris said his hope is that school board officials will include the Westport10 in efforts to bring new Black teachers to Westport.

“When you're recruiting those Black and Brown teachers, make sure you let them know about the ‘10,’” Norris said to the school officials. “Let them know we'd like to meet them during the interview process, because we want them to feel that they're welcome here by parents in the neighborhood.”

Norris hopes Westport10 can play a role in quadrupling Westport’s Black population to over 1,000 people within the next five years.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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