Letter: Bridge4Unity Calls On Town Council To Support Racial Equity In Amherst

Photo: rac.org

Bridge4Unity (B4U) is a multi-racial, anti-racism group, whose 22 members are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and white—from towns and cities throughout the Connecticut River Valley. We have been meeting for almost two years to engage in dialogue and to address white privilege and supremacy. Profound listening has been a significant tool for us. We have forged partnerships with colleagues in South Carolina and Kentucky.

At this time, in light of the past few months during which the Black Lives Matter movement that began five years ago has been further intensified by the murder of George Floyd, B4U has come to recognize that we need to do more, act more and act with immediacy, in keeping with the urgency this time demands. Unaddressed racial issues are not only national, regional and statewide, but exist in our own towns. 

In the past we have held community gatherings in Amherst and Springfield to share our commitment to the work of unlearning and undoing systemic and personal racism. We are committed to joining with the many other efforts in the Valley to help combat the effects of racism. 

Because racism has been baked into our institutions and governance since our country’s inception, we must actively and consciously choose to include mechanisms and commitment to identify and repudiate it and repair the harm it has caused.  This means that if you become aware of or directly experience words or actions based on race that cause harm to individuals, groups or organizations, B4U wants to engage with other groups to contribute to resolving the issue.

For instance, we learned that the Amherst Town Council’s August 5 meeting included comments which members of the BIPOC community felt devalued their experience as Amherst residents. BIPOC were speaking in support of adding social justice and racial equity into the Town Manager’s annual goals. By the August 19 Council meeting a paragraph on social justice and racial equity was added in the Policy area of those goals. But the BIPOC community’s on-going concerns are more defined.

At the Council’s August 31  meeting, the Racial Equity Task Force presented Input on Performance Objectives for Town Manager, a two-page document with very detailed social justice and racial equity goals.

BIPOC citizens and their supporters believe that these racial equity proposals need to be included because they are both specific and thorough. B4U supports the work of the Racial Equity Task Force. We hope each member of the Council will accept constructive feedback and join with an open heart and mind and commit to supporting issues of equity.

Sometimes change can’t wait. These issues in our towns are not new and the time to make the necessary changes is now with the added momentum of the BLM movement.  Our communities need to show their strength with full inclusion and equity and the changes need to be sustainable.  In the case of Amherst, assessing the Town Manager is assessing the town.  B4U believes the racial equity proposals should be woven into the fabric of the town’s goals of creating a safe and equitable community for all. 

The need for such conversations is in no way limited to any particular town council, but to each of our community’s governing bodies. It is essential to have issues looked at through both a racial equity and social justice lens: policing, education, housing, food security, health care, civility and all other arenas such policies and practices impact. This effort needs to be on-going. We, as citizens of our communities, must hold our town governments accountable if we are to have structural and systemic change that is sustainable. In addition, we must guarantee that all members of the community have an impactful seat at the table.

The members of B4U are dedicated to combating racism in all its forms and will do so with respect for all involved. Our goal is to foster the “beloved community” Dr. King believed in and we want to offer our support in whatever ways those seeking assistance believe would be most beneficial.

Tom Weiner and Deborah Snow

Tom Weiner and Deborah Snow are members of Birdge4Unity

B4U can be contacted by email: b4ualerts@gmail.com

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