Trey Ellis and Dr. Amanda Freeman and their blended family have lived in Westport for almost a decade. Mr. Ellis is an award-winning screenwriter, novelist, essayist and producer whose work ranges from the 1995 film Tuskegee Airmen, featuring Lawrence Fishburn to the HBO documentary King in the Wilderness. Dr. Freeman is a sociology professor at the University of Hartford who focuses on poverty and policy. She is also a contributor to the Atlantic. In 2019, their son Chet, now a Harvard University sophomore, was the first-place winner of TEAM Westport’s Diversity Essay Contest.
We moved to Westport 9 years ago from the Upper West Side [of Manhattan]. Our daughter, Maia who is now 14 was entering kindergarten and we weren’t happy with our zoned options. We wound up getting off the waiting list at the public school we wanted on the same day we actually moved to Westport. We were looking for a suburb with great schools, the beach and the arts that was roughly in between Hartford and NYC.
We are a blended family. Maia lives at home with Pamela who is three and a half. Our son, Chet, 19, [Staples, 2019] lived here until he headed off to Harvard where he is now a sophomore and Ava, 22, recently graduated from Columbia and moved to Boston to take a job in data analytics with Wayfair. We all lived together back in Westport for the first six months of the pandemic.
We live in a small house and we were intensely bonding during the first six months home altogether. In September, Chet decided to live with some friends in Boston even though his classes were online. Ava had signed a lease on an apartment in Boston with a friend back when she was assuming she’d be working (somewhat) in person, so she also moved to Boston in September. We didn’t see the kids again until the holidays and had them quarantine for a few days and test before coming home.
Taking covid precautions with someone immune-compromised in our household somewhat hampered us taking part in Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations, but this movement has drawn attention to many of the issues that are important to us and hopefully will lead to real and lasting social change.
Trey: I have been teaching online at Columbia’s graduate film school but also working on various projects inspired by this tumultuous year. I’m currently writing a fictional podcast about social justice for Futuro Media and the Kellogg Foundation that I’m very proud of.
Amanda: As a sociology professor and someone who writes about social issues impacting low- and middle-income families, the pandemic has called attention to many issues of inequality and in many ways created more work for me.
…the pandemic has called attention to many issues of inequality…
In terms of social issues, we feel that the town has dealt with the pandemic extremely well. We were a famous early hotspot but the town government has been extremely cautious and communicative. The issue of inclusion in a super wealthy town or really any town built around single-family home ownership is problematic. We need to do much, much, much better.
The public discourse [around social issues] thanks to Team Westport and frankly the WMHC [Westport Museum] has been excellent. However, we wish we could all figure out a way for more action and real change for Fairfield County. We worry a great deal about the lack of racial and economic diversity in Westport. We worry about the loss of the artistic community that can no longer afford to live here.