Lessons Learned from the Cape Cod Camino Way

  SEP 3, 2020

As we’ve reported, the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May spurred protests around the country, and across the Cape, the Coast and the Islands against police brutality and systemic racism.

Brewster resident Peggy Jablonski was moved to explore her home of Cape Cod, this time through the lens of racism and issues affecting people of color.

She called it the Cape Cod Camino Way, after a pilgrimage in Spain. Her weekly walks recently ended, and CAI’s Kathryn Eident talked with her to ask her how it went.

Jablonski It was an amazing, deeply touching, really profound experience to spend eight weeks walking through every town on Cape Cod, trying to be fully aware and present to, you know, whatever we were able to see, and people that we were able to talk to and listen to their stories. We learned about the economy, health care, we are housing all these issues related to Black and Indigenous people of color perspectives.

Eident And just remind us, after the death of George Floyd, amid protests both on the Cape and around the country, you were inspired to put together a series of walks and they took you throughout the region, and you invited people to join you.

Jablonski Yes. I basically started with the Cape Cod Canal and structured an experience where people could join one or more. And we walked between 10 and 15 miles on every Wednesday and shared historical facts about the area. I actually had over 40 people participate in one or more of the walks or they met us at one of the sites.

Eident I’m sure you learned so much, but is there something that really struck you that you learned while you were on these walks?

Jablonski I’d say a couple of things. One is to be a really critical consumer of history and the information that we’re being provided, whether it’s through the school system or, you know, our historical site. So, for example, in my own town of Brewster, I dug deeper into the story of the sea captains and: Were any involved in the slave trade? I found the answer was: Probably yes.

And also, that the entire economy of not just Brewster, but all of Cape Cod, had a connection to the slave trade because we help feed the slaves by sending our salt, cod and herring down to the Caribbean. That’s something I just didn’t know. So, I think it’s important that we all understand our connections to issues around Black, Indigenous and people of color, because I did have a couple of people ask me, “Why are you doing this? We don’t really have any issues on Cape Cod.”  And what I realized was just by walking every week doing the research, sharing it with people that a lot of people were open to just understanding more.

Eident What was the makeup of the group? You said you had a few dozen people join, at least part, if not all of the walks that you had.

Jablonski The overwhelming majority were women in their 50s, 60s, 70s. Most of them were people who were one or two steps removed and found out about the project through a civic organization, a church, my Facebook page. At least half a dozen people went on several walks and had their own commitment build towards continuing to learn more about racism issues, about the perspectives of the Wampanoag tribe, etc.. So, I felt that being a role model just about how to be a critical consumer was really, you know, a way that I could contribute. There were a few few people of color who joined, especially the day that I walked from the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum to the Zion Heritage Museum. So that was a wonderful experience.

Eident And, now that this has concluded, what’s next? What now?

Jablonski I need to continue to explore how to take the lessons learned from the walks and share those with other groups. I’m gonna try to speak with different civic organizations, churches, etc. I want to write about the project and encourage people to take their own local area and go figure out whose story has not been told yet, or what do they need to understand to better be aware of what’s in their backyard. And then I, you know, I reaffirmed my love for Cape Cod and really a desire to make it an even better place to celebrate all of the people who live here.

Eident Thank you so much for checking in and letting us know how your series of walks went over the summer.

Jablonski Well, thank you, Kathryn, for your interest and I look forward to continuing this work.

If you want to see videos of Jablonski’s walks you can see them here on the Cape Cod Camino Way on Facebook. You can also hear a previous conversation with Jablonski talking about her inspiration for the walk below.