Human Rights Commission Creates New Bylaw Subcommittee 



Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Human Rights Commission, Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. The recording can be viewed here.

Philip Avila (co-chair), Ben Herrington (co-chair), LaVerne Kelly, Rani Parker, Tyler Matsuo, and Juliana Shepard

Staff: Pamela Young (Director of the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) (DEI) and Jennifer Moyston (Assistant Director of DEI and staff liaison for the Human Rights Commission)

The meeting was held on Zoom and was recorded. The number of members of the public present was not reported.

The first substantive section of the agenda was Member Reports, in which Rani Parker and Philip Avila reported back from the joint HRC/Community Safety and Social Justice Committee (CSSJC) meeting from last week. The meeting was on the subject of local public safety. Avila explained that the HRC will have to vote on whether they would like to be included in future conversations between CSSJC and the town council. 

Next, the meeting moved on to discuss open meeting law, and what the commission is or is not allowed to do in non-public meetings. Young explained that they have two options: create  official subcommittees of no more than four commissioners who would follow open meeting law including posting notices of meetings in advance, or appoint one commissioner to serve as a lead for a project, and who would be responsible for logistics, planning, and  presentation of reports at the commission’s regular monthly meetings.

Tyler Matsuo suggested that the HRC form an official subcommittee for the bylaw language revision project discussed in the last meeting and proceed with the unofficial lead format for other projects, such as planning cultural events. The other commissioners agreed, and Avila said he will send out an email to gauge interest from the commissioners to see who will be on the new subcommittee soon.  Based on the discussion from the HRC meeting in January, the subcommittee will review  the town bylaws governing the HRC and revise their language so that it is more inclusive of all town residents. This will involve collaborating with the town counsel to standardize language across town documents.

The meeting then progressed to the planning of future town events, namely Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month in May, the annual Youth Hero Awards, and Juneteenth. Although Pamela Young and Jennifer Moyston typically take responsibility for these events, they hope that the HRC can help out more with the planning of them. Shepard volunteered to be the lead for AAPI month, which will feature migration stories and the histories of various AAPI groups. Avila took on leading event planning for the Youth Hero Awards, which typically honor local youth nominated for their leadership over the past year, alongside Chairperson Ben Herrington, who will work on the nomination process. Moyston explained that typically everyone who is nominated gets an award, and both individuals and groups can be nominated. The awards ceremony typically involves a barbeque. LaVerne Kelly will lead planning for the Juneteenth event. 

Lastly, Herrington reminded the group that their Black History event is happening on February 26. The event will feature a musical timeline of Black History dating back to 1619. It will begin at 2 p.m. at Amherst Regional Middle School, and members of the public are strongly encouraged to attend. 

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