Community invited to discuss racial equity, inclusion

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) People in Burlington are thinking of ways to enhance racial equity and inclusion in the Queen City.

Justice for All hosted a forum called "What Does Equity Look Like in Burlington?" on Tuesday at the First Congregational Church. About 50 people showed up to discuss solutions in making schools, health care and law enforcement more fair and just. They also focused on three questions: Who are we as a city? Who do we hope to become? And how will we get there?

City Councilor Karen Paul said Burlington is a city struggling with equity issues and with implicit bias training.

Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said Burlington hopes to become a model for the rest of the state and the nation by acknowledging the need for diversity, understanding the challenges and honestly confronting the issues.

Mark Hughes, the executive director of Justice for All, led the crowd in a series of sessions that allowed them to brainstorm in small groups. They talked about solutions to creating a more fair education system, city administration and criminal justice system.

Wafic Faour, a local activist, said equity in schools is his priority. His solution is to make sure the contributions people of color made to the United States are taught to all students.

"If you look like every subject, from arts and music and social science, the contribution of people of color and different ethnic groups to this great country haven’t been recognized in our education," Faour said.

Paul said one thing the city can do to enhance equity is to make sure everyone has the same access to voting.

"Making sure people vote and understanding the impediments to why people don’t vote," Paul said. "Not having the education in terms of the issues that are before the voters."

Burlington police officials were in attendance to talk about the criminal justice and law enforcement aspect.

"I think people respond better to a police department that mirrors the community itself," del Pozo said. "It’s hard. Vermont is struggling to diversify. The city is striving to diversify. But diversity will always be a priority for us."

Some of the other proposed solutions included redistributing resources, ensuring representation in all public spaces and strengthening the city’s task force to review equity.