Person of the Week
Elijah Manning: Helping to Close Gaps in Education
Old Saybrook native Elijah Manning has helped his hometown and other communities across the state to grapple with anti-racism education. (Photo courtesy of Elijah Manning)
Over the last year, many people across the nation have engaged in difficult conversations related to race and unconscious bias. Elijah Manning, a familiar face along the shoreline, has helped facilitate those conversations.
Elijah attended several rallies held in shoreline towns supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. After a conversation with a friend, he decided there was more work to be done. Elijah realized that many people did not know about the Tulsa Race Massacre, for example, and did not know the history behind Juneteenth, a day commemorating the emancipation of African American people who were enslaved, a day that just became a federal holiday.
His next steps included founding Inclusive Education, LLC, which offers programs geared at increasing inclusion and anti-racism education in the schools.
“A lot of it is focuses on gaps in the education,” Elijah says.
Elijah says that the response to his initiative has been mostly positive, with people eager to have more conversation around the issue.
“I’ve been working on this ever since,” he says.
Elijah was born and raised in Old Saybrook and for the most part has positive memories of his hometown.
“It was a great place to grow up. I remember being accepted and loved,” Elijah says.
Still, nowhere is perfect and Elijah can recall some of the times where he felt singled out as one of the few non-White people in town.
“I was one of the few families where we had color. It was definitely something people noticed,” says Elijah.
Elijah says there were few “severe” moments of racism he experienced, but he has also recalled other slights that were more subtle.
“I remember looking back and realizing I did see more than I thought,” Elijah says as he reflected on his childhood.
As an adult, Elijah is still giving back to Old Saybrook as he was worked with the schools on presentations about implicit bias and cultural humility. Implicit bias is described as a “blind spot” that people may subconsciously hold against groups of people while Elijah described cultural humility as “accepting another culture and allowing them to be their own culture.”
“If you don’t see color, then you don’t see all of me,” says Elijah.
In addition to Old Saybrook, Elijah has also held events in Clinton and Haddam and has upcoming events in Madison and Chester.
“We’re hoping to expand next year to even more events,” Elijah says.
Of the many rewarding moments in his past year of outreach, leading a march for equality in Old Saybrook stands out. Elijah says that he had no intention of leading the march when he showed up, but soon after he realized someone needed to get it going so, he stepped up. Along the way he met new and old Old Saybrook residents who showed their support of his work.
“It was special to have that kind of support in my hometown,” Elijah says.
Elijah also helps run a Facebook page called CT Coalition for Educational Justice and a Culturally Responsive Curriculum where people from around the state can discuss issues related to education and learn about racial injustices.
While working toward making society inclusive is important, it’s not Elijah’s main career. Elijah works for Constant Hustle Comics, a Black-owned comic book producer. Elijah works a lot on brand awareness for marketing aspects for the company, even attending various comic conventions.
Elijah has a background in theater and acting, so the plots of the comics drew him in.
“I’ve always been interested not so much by the comic books, but by the comic book stories,” Elijah says.
In his spare time, Elijah can be found spending time with family, reading, cooking, and “watching way too much sports” he says with a laugh. He was also recently asked to be on two different boards of directors for theater companies so he can still scratch his thespian itch.
“Acting still has my heart, but my heart can be stretched in multiple ways,” says Elijah.
Though he no longer calls Old Saybrook home, Elijah still has a strong appreciation for his hometown.
“I love the town itself. It’s nice, it’s friendly. It’s clean,” Elijah says, and the water views don’t hurt, either.
Elijah recalls some of his fondest memories are the ones of simply hanging out with friends downtown.
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Eric O’Connell at email@example.com.