Add To Favorites
Ellington is a step closer to declaring racism a public health crisis
Journal Inquirer - 4/19/2021
Apr. 19—ELLINGTON — In response to a letter from the Ad Hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion asking the Board of Selectmen to declare racism a public health crisis, First Selectwoman Lori Spielman is working with the town attorney to draft a formal document for board approval.
At the board's meeting on April 12, members from the committee presented the letter to the selectmen. They also handed over 37 other letters — submitted by the public and committee members — in support of the initiative.
Although, at that meeting, the selectmen could not put forth a motion because they had no formal document of their own — only a request — Spielman vowed she would take further steps to advance the request.
She said she would collaborate with the town attorney to draft a formal document that the board could approve. She would also research what other towns in the state have done.
Board members unanimously tabled further discussion on the topic for a later board meeting, possibly in May. If the selectmen ultimately decide to declare racism a public health crisis, Ellington would join scores of towns state-wide who have already done so, with Manchester, Hartford, and Windsor among them.
The committee's letter stated declaring racism a public health crisis "will open paths to making actionable changes in our policies, practices, and programming. This declaration will show to our community that every person has a voice and a place in Ellington. It is a means of holding ourselves and our town accountable for addressing racism in our town and beyond."
Sen. M. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, and Rep. Jaime Foster, D-Ellington, both voiced their support for the declaration at the meeting.
WHAT: Ellington'sAd Hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion asked the Board of Selectmen to declare racism a public health crisis
OUTCOME: The Selectmen decided to collaborate with the town attorney to create a formal document about it that the board can approve
NEXT STEPS: The document will be discussed at an upcoming board meeting, possibly in May.
Anwar explained that the declaration is part of a larger effort on a state-wide level.
"What the towns are doing is saying that we are concerned about our community as one but also the larger part of the state," he said. "Making a statement does not solve the problem, but it is a first step."
He said the state is working on policies to better address the issue, and support from the town would help coordinate efforts on multiple levels.
Foster reminded the board that it established the Ad Hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, so it's important to engage with the committee's recommendations.
"As we all represent the community that we serve, I think the most important thing to do is listen when they speak to us, and they have spoken," Foster said.
Declaring racism a public health crisis has been a goal of the committee since it met last December. During the committee's meeting on Dec. 4, members moved to declare racism a public health crisis and began drafting letters on the topic to submit to the first selectman's office.
The suggestion to write letters was brought forward by committee member Anthea Grotton, who said at the meeting that each letter should be personalized, bringing a more relatable element to the declaration.
"When you declare racism a public health crisis, you're intentionally recognizing that there are disparities and inequalities that need to be addressed, and there are policies that need to be looked at," Grotton said.
The committee was formed by the selectmen in the aftermath of Spielman posting what many considered to be a racist meme on Facebook last July. The selectmen also issued Spielman a written reprimand, along with ordering her to attend 40 hours of diversity training.
For coverage of Ellington and Somers towns, as well as Enfield Public Schools and Board of Education, follow Erika Purdy on Twitter: @ErikaPurdyJI, Facebook: Erika Purdy JI Reporter, and Instagram: @ErikaPurdyJI.
(c)2021 Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.
Visit Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn. at www.journalinquirer.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.