Neville Richen

The racist graffiti on the front door of the African Meeting House three years ago was not the first time Neville Richen saw hateful words spray-painted and left as an anonymous message.

by: John Stanton

It was the late 1990s, when Richen was working at the Department of Public Works and helping to implement the town’s recycling program at the landfill. His boss had told him to rig up some plywood over the bins, so that people would not begin using them until the program was ready to be opened.

“I came in one morning and I see ‘N-word, Go home.’ And that was direct in my face,” he said. “Spray-painted. Big letters. So I called the foreman and said look at that. I
wanted to know who did it. I said until I find out, I was not coming out here again. I said I’m not even going to touch it.”

Born in Trinidad and raised in Brooklyn, Neville Richen served in the U.S. Air Force before finding his way to Nantucket. He talked about the forms of racism he has dealt with along the way.

At the time, Richen was the only Black man working at the DPW.

“It was one of those things where you just think you probably would never really find out who did it,” he said. “That was my first big experience on this island with racism.”

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