What Equity Looks Like and Ending Slavery in Vermont

What Equity Looks Like
24 February, 2019
3:00 – 5:00 pm
First Congregational Church
38 South Winooski Avenue

Here is an opportunity for us to celebrate the work we have accomplished and discuss the unprecedented year ahead.  There will be an overview and discussion on racial equity; a presentation on current implementation of Act 54 (2017) and Act 9 (2018) and an opportunity to discuss the racial equity bills that are being introduced. The sponsoring legislators will be on hand for the discussion. 

Come out and get involved
Family friendly

#EndslaveryVTThe proposal to amend to the constitution; eliminating slavery (Proposal 2) was taken up in Senate Government Operations Committee last month and testimony has been ongoing.  There is mounting discussion about the prospect of leaving the language of constitutionalized slavery in the Vermont constitution for “historical purposes”.  Further, the limited number of folks asking to testify has caused the Proposal to get stuck in Committee.  This is the first time in 242 years that we have had an opportunity to remove this language.  Help us make it happen.   Contact the Senate Government Operations Committee and tell them to “remove slavery from the constitution”.  Let them know that you are willing to testify!  

Here are three ways you can voice support or sign up to testify:

  1. Email Senate Gov Ops at this address: vermont-senate-government-operations@googlegroups.com
  2. Leave a message at 828.2228
  3. Call the Committee Assistant at 828.2272

NO Taxation and Regulation Without Reparations Campaign

The legislature has the regulation of cannabis on the fast track.  The financial upside seems to have given everyone “war on drugs” amnesia. Regulating Cannabis without taking these factors into consideration is scandalous and immoral.  Stand with us as we proclaim No taxation and Regulation Without Reparations!  

  • Automatic, no cost expungement of cannabis related criminal records
  • Immediate release of those incarcerated for cannabis related crimes;
  • Exclusion of cannabis related crimes as impediments to opportunities for employment and access to public services;
  • Training and start-up assistance in the hemp and cannabis industry;

Join us as we address this vitally important issue.  Here is how you can help:

Thanks!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.   Would you like to Become a member? 

Here is an option for a one-time contribution

Protect Me

Mark Hughes, Executive Director, Justice For All

The Advice Show, on Kiah Morris

I am deeply disappointed with the manner in which the Attorney General has addressed Kiah Morris’ request for an investigation. V.S.A. 13, 1023 is simple assault.  This and potentially aggravated stalking clearly are crimes committed in this case.  13 V.S.A, 1458 provides injunctive reliefs despite any charges being brought against the “alleged” perpetrator.  Instead of prosecuting this case, the Attorney General defended and judged it!   The resulting new “Bias Incident Reporting Protocol” is deeply problematic. There was no community stakeholders’ coordination in this process. This is indicated by there being no civilian reporting process.  I guess they never thought about the potential of a “bias incident” being committed by law enforcement.  The protocol internalizes all processes to law enforcement.  The person filing the claim has no visibility or involvement in critical referral (HRC, OCR, ACLU, etc…) decisions. Finally, who collects the data?

It’s so sad that Kiah, James and Jamal would be traumatized yet again and let down by the system on the same day.  Sadder is that it was all too predictable.  There never seems to be a problem figuring out how to protect white folks (alleged perpetrator or victim) and their property throughout all history.  There has never seemed to be a problem finding a law that could be applied to prosecuting black folks.  In cases where there hasn’t been a law to prosecute black people, we have been a nation that simply created them.  All this as white people nervously exclaim “all lives matter” when we try to remind them that black lives matter.

I know that many are wondering where we go from here. First, T.J., apply and prosecute the law in this case and change law if necessary to address future occurrences (13V.S.A. 1454 & 1458 and 9 V.S.A 4501-4507).  Secondly, Pro Tempe Ashe, Speaker Johnson, Chairwoman White and Chairwoman Copeland-Hanzas, get a handle on civilian oversight of law enforcement by starting with public hearings on civilian oversight of law enforcement in this state (FIPP included)!  Third, Chairman Sears and Chairwoman Grad, join them and conduct public hearings on the implementation progress on the only laws designed to address systemic racism, Act 54 (2017), Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel and Act 9 (2018), Racial Equity in State Government. Finally, Speaker Johnson and Pro Tempe Ashe, embrace fairness, equity and diversity in Outcome Indicators in the legislature and lead by prioritizing and championing legislation to meet these objectives.   The work required here is the same as the work required addressing all racism in this nation and the good news is that Vermont has already started.

There was a Vermont Democratic Party gathering at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington on November 9th, 2016.  Word came in on the results of the presidential election and T.J., you looked me in the eyes and said “Don’t worry Mark.  I’ll protect you”.  Well, Mr. Attorney General, here we are and I need you to be true to your word.  Protect me.

#protectme

Analysis: Incarceration Rate of People Of Color Report

The Vermont legislature passed Act 164 (2018) an act relating to bail reform. Section 6 of this law directed an “Incarceration Rates of People of Color Study”. The Vermont legislature passed Act 164 (2018) an act relating to bail reform. Section 6 of this law directed an “Incarceration Rates of People of Color Study”. What follows is a critical analysis of that report.

Act 164 Sec. 6. INCARCERATION RATES OF PEOPLE OF COLOR; STUDY
COMMITTEE; REPORT

(a) Study Committee. The Commissioner of the Department of
Corrections, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, the
Attorney General, the Executive Director of the Department of State’s
Attorneys and Sheriffs, and the Director of the Vermont State Police shall meet during the 2018 legislative interim to examine data regarding people of color who are incarcerated in Vermont. To the extent possible, the Committee shall also review data regarding people of color incarcerated in Maine and New Hampshire.

(b) On or before October 15, 2018, the committee shall report to the Joint
Legislative Justice Oversight Committee on:
(1) data regarding all nonwhite offenders in the custody of the
Department of Corrections, including:
(A) demographic information about the offender, including race and
ethnicity and all known places of residence;
(B) the crime or crimes for which the offender is serving a sentence
or being detained; and
(C) the length of the sentence being served by the offender or the
length of his or her detainment;
(2) sentence length comparison data between white and nonwhite
offenders who committed the same offense; and
(3) comparison data among Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire
regarding sentence lengths and incarceration rates of people of color.

Analysis of the Vermont Department of Corrections Report Requested by the Legislature in Act 164 (2018), Section 6
 
1.  The report request was to examine data regarding “non-white offenders “in custody”.  The report expanded the scope to all which “were” incarcerated in 2017, hence providing misleading demographic information suggesting progress of a reduction of 11% African American incarceration to that of 8.5%. 
 
2.  The Executive Summary of the Report states that the commissioning authority is ACT 163 (2018).  It is actually ACT 164.


3.  The report is cited as a “preliminary report” but no follow-on intent is communicated.

4.  ACT 164 calls for race, ethnicity of offenders.  The report moves beyond the scope of this request to include gender and age, while failing to provide all data requested.
 

5.  The report acknowledges a “flawed” data collection process in DOC.
 
6.  A poorly explained Analytical algorithm referred to as “Chi Square Goodness Fit Tests” are used to arrive at the conclusion that the proportion of incarcerated blacks were under the so called “hypothesized” rates in at least one instance. 
 

7.  DOC reported not having sentencing length data for 2017.
 
8.  Additional unknown and poorly explained analytical algorithms referred to as the “Chi Square Test of Independence”, “Independent Sample T-Test”, “One-way Analysis Variance ”were used to arrive at the detrimental conclusions that there are significant differences in:
 
a.  frequency of charges issued to white and black inmates.
b.  frequency of drug charges issued to white and black inmates.
c.  sentence length between white and black inmates.         
d.  sentence length across six race categories.
e.  frequency of Disciplinary Reports issued to white and black inmates.

9.  Interstate comparison data is confusing and inconclusive.
 
Conclusion

ACT 134 (2012) requested similar data. The report, delivered in 2015 included unsubstantiated assertions and was largely inconclusive due to unavailability of data.

This report also fails to provide the substantiating data to support the conclusions.  The black-box algorithms discussed in items (6) and (8) are analogous to “not showing ones work” to some very serious problems.  Also troubling is the fact that (unlike previous reporting) the data set includes all personnel that entered the system in 2017.  This fails to take into account that 80% of inmates are incarcerated for periods of longer duration and at any given day black people make up about 11% (not 8.5%) of the prison population.

Finally, the development of this report was absent vital stakeholders throughout the process.  Community members (specifically people of color) should have been involved.  This could have been easily accomplished by simply routing this request to the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisor Panel.

Mark Hughes, ED, Justice For All
 
 

 
Mark Hughes,
Executive Director
Justice For All

The Battle Against the War on Drugs

Our Justices courageously interpreted the constitution with a blind eye towards justice.  They chose right over easy.

The Battle Against the War on Drugs

The Vermont Supreme Court issued a monumental decision of seismic proportion a couple weeks ago in Zullo vs. the State of Vermont. As legal scholars grapple with the ramifications of Article 11, monetary damages and search and seizure, the Attorney General is still muddling through this voluminous decision.  The decision rambles on about reasonable suspicion resulting in the smell of “a faint odor of burnt marijuana”, the idea of Article 11 being “self executing” (enabling Gregory to file suite against the state), “bad faith” and “unlawful animus”.  The one that thing can be said of this historic decision is that it is complicated and even befuddling legal experts. With all this to unpack it is probably fair to say that this State decision is comparable to Brown vs. the Board of Education at a national level.

This finding taught us that search and seizure protection in Vermont is greater than those offered by the US Constitution. Our Justices courageously interpreted the constitution with a blind eye towards justice.  They chose right over easy.  Interestingly what lies at the center of this case is a black man, drugs (suspicion) and a law enforcement officer.  This case started with yet another traffic stop, and though seemingly absent use of force, the force exerted caused traumatic impact. Gregory was one of the fortunate few.  He was able to negotiate the maze of confusion and find remedy. Make no mistake about it; there is nothing normal or trivial about his endeavor.  It was a miracle, thanks to the Vermont ACLU a private law firm and a number of friends of the court through an amicus brief.  

Thousands of cases never see the inside of a courtroom. Black and brown people in Vermont faced with lost civil liberties are often left traumatized and paralyzed. Now is the time for the legislature to take action.  The legislature should take up the bill expanding the Human Rights Commission with the addition of a litigator, a community outreach director and funding to enable Community Justice Center intake.  This bill calls for Vermont to join the 30 states that have made racial profiling illegal. The legislature must also conduct public hearings to determine the progress of the implementation of the work that has been accomplished in Act 9 (2018), Racial Equity Panel (and Director) and Act 54 (2017), Racal Disparities In the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel. 

Finally, when discussions on regulation and legalization of marijuana arise (as is inevitable), hopefully we won’t forget the story of the black man, law enforcement officer and drugs.  There should be no regulation or taxation of marijuana without addressing the harm of the past and providing a hope for the future for black and brown people.  The moral arc of the universe is indeed long and bends toward justice in Vermont.  Let the battle against the war on drugs continue in the Green Mountain State.

Alliance Announces Legislative Agenda: #Change Vermont

Change Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Mark Hughes, Justice For All Executive Director: 802.532.3030

Racial Justice Reform Coalition Changes Name, Calls for Change

Montpelier, Vermont, January 8, 2018 – The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance (the Alliance) previously the Racial Justice Reform Coalition, that advanced Act 54 (2017), Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel and Act 9 (2018), Racial Equity Panel (and Director), today announced its legislative agenda, “Change Vermont:. The agenda puts forward bills abolishing constitutionalized slavery and establishing a commission to provide recommendations on reconciliation.

“We should not excuse ourselves from our responsibility for this fight. It’s time for us to recognize that racism is both a tool of oppression to harm people of color and the most historically successful instrument of oppressing and obstructing the progress of money poor white folk” said Netdahe Stoddard, a white member of the Alliance. The Alliance is moving forward bills to expand the Human Rights Commission, implement ethnic studies standards, prohibit racial profiling, roll out consistent standards for law enforcement use of force and to update Act 9. Nico Amador of Vermont ACLU said, “People of color have taken the leadership in advancing new approaches to addressing racial justice issues across the state of Vermont. It is our hope that constituents support the leadership”

Alliance members will be at the “Advancing the People’s Platform in Vermont” forum on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 from 10:45 until noon discussing the platform.

About Justice For All
Justice for All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship building.

###

Statements of Policy, Guidance for nondiscriminatory School Discipline, Withdrawn

While we weren’t looking

On December 21st 2018, the Acting US Attorney General withdrew[1] the Dear Colleague Letter on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline[2], the Overview of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative[3] and supporting documents.  Collectively these documents have served as the backbone of a framework implemented to address the administration of nondiscriminatory discipline in schools and stop the school to prison pipeline.  These statements of policy and guidance were implemented by the previous administration because of the absence of any other suitable tool as a result of an obstructionist congress, unwilling to pass the appropriate laws.

The decision to withdraw this guidance was hidden in the noise of the Friday afternoon of the most tumultuous week of this presidency.  It is being sold to us in the false narrative that the previous guidance impinged upon schools discretion in discipline and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an adequate remedy for discriminatory discipline in schools.  Neither is true.  Removing this guidance is a heinous atrocity, which will cause traumatic and irreparable damage to our children and our nation.

The Struggle Home

We, in Vermont have struggled tirelessly to address discriminatory discipline, harassment and bullying in our schools.  The Vermont Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil rights reported discovering in 1997 racial harassment “pervasive … [and] not a priority among school administrators, school boards, elected officials…”[4] An update, six years later reported “problems cited in its 1999 Report persist…”[5] and a recent 2015, Vermont Legal Aid reported that “Black/African-American and Native American Students Were Two to Three Times More Likely than White Students to be Suspended.”[6]   

We ask the legislature, the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission in consultation with the Department of Children and Families and the Secretary of Education to immediately develop and implement policy that will ensure inclusiveness in standards, fairness in discipline and diversity in admissions. Address this with the urgency and commitment you showed in response to the immigration crisis in 2017.  Do this because it is the right thing to do.

#Justschool

Amanda Garces
Founder, Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools

Christine Kemp-Longmore
Co-founder Community Council Accountable with Law Enforcement Officials

Wafic Faour
Vermonters For Justice in Palestine,

Mark Hughes
Executive Director, Justice For All

Tabitha Pohl-Moore President,
Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP

Steffen Glenn Gillom
President, Windham County Branch of the NAACP

Kiah Morris
Former State Representative

Sha’an Mouliert
Co-Coordinator, I am Vermont Too

Don Stevens
Chief of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe

Gemma Seymour,
Vermont Human Rights Advocate


[1] https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201812.pdf

[2] https://www2.ed.gov/print/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201401-title-vi.html#

[3] https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/appendix-3-overview.pdf

[4] http://justiceforallvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Public-School-Racial-Profiling-Vermont.pdf

[5] http://justiceforallvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Racial-Harassment-in-Vermont-Public-Schools-Progress-Report.pdf

[6] http://justiceforallvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Kicked-Out-VTLegal-Aid.pdf

40 Days of Fire Wrap-up: Next Steps

40 Days of Fire Campaign!

Happy Holidays to all and season greetings! First things first. Will you please donate to Justice For All HERE? 

Click here to donate

Thank you!

40 Days of Fire
 
The 40 Days of Fire Campaign was a statewide racial justice community organizing initiative designed for two purposes:  to shine a light on the use of racial dog whistles in political discourse and debate, by educating and empowering folks to break their silence and; to enlist folks to learn more about and engage in our ongoing efforts in the fight against overt and systemic racism. This involved updating community members on the progress on the implementation of Act 9 (2018), Racial Equity Panel and Act 54 (2017), Racial Disparities Panel.  We also provided updates and called folks to action on ongoing efforts to amend the constitution to remove slavery.  Homework was provided to enable folks to escalate concerns to elected and appointed stakeholders.
 
What we did.  What we accomplished

This statewide campaign organized nearly 200 people with visits to Montpelier,BurlingtonMiddleburyHardwickHartford, Marshfield, East Montpelier and Brattleboro.  We also conducted a webinar in conjunction with the ACLU Smart Justice Campaign.  The feedback that we have received from the “homework” assigned indicates that as a direct result of the campaign, the Attorney General and Human Rights Commission Act 54 “Task Force” Report was resubmitted and the Speaker of the House urged the Secretary of Administration to create a community-facing web presence for Act 9 updates.  We have also received reports that the full Act 9, Racial Equity Panel was seated and the Governor’s office announced that they are considering amending Executive Order 4-18 (Racial Equity) in the coming months.  Finally, the Senate President Pro Tempore committed to taking a “renewed look at what steps need to be taken” regarding improper implementation of Fair and Impartial Policing Policy by state police.  He also committed to taking measures to amend the constitution to remove slavery. 

How we ended and what’s next
 
The campaign culminated in a Community Gathering where folks from across the state gathered to discuss next steps in organizing and begin the process of building a sustained effort to engage in addressing systemic racism and racial justice across the state.  As we transition into the next phase we will continue the business of engaging elected and appointed officials on a new legislative agenda (Public Engagement)!   We will also bring the community together around issues  (Community Organizing).  We will be meeting on a Conference Call on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 6:00 PM to discuss how we will make this happen.  We will be unveiling the 2019/2020 Legislative Agenda this meeting.  You don’t want to miss it.  The meeting is open for the community to join!

information and agenda are below:
 
The Racial Justice Alliance is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
 
Topic: Action Meeting: 40 Days of Fire Closeout – Legislative Agenda!
Time: Jan 2, 2019 5:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
 
Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/807774420
 
One tap mobile
+16699006833,,807774420# US (San Jose)
+19294362866,,807774420# US
 
Dial by your location
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 929 436 2866 US
Meeting ID: 807 774 420
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeAbCt5Fgz
 
Agenda

  • Background
  • Updates
  • Legislative Agenda
  • Discussion
  • Next Steps    

The year is closing and you can still give us a hand.

Choose an amount that works for you and donate here.  
We sure do appreciate it

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.   Would you like to Become a member? 

Thank you!

Thank you

Justice For All Membership available here.

Calls for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement in Vermont Continue

Please sign this petition for civilian oversight of law enforcement

Delivering on the Promise of Hope and a Future
Press conference during deliberations on Act 54

Working to Make All of Vermont Safe For All

Thousands of folks across Vermont have worked hard over the last number of years to ensure the appropriate protection of those in vulnerable categories.  The State continues to struggle to produce an environment that is safe for all.  We have been advocating civilian oversight of law enforcement for this purpose. Our calls have fallen on deaf ears.  We need your help to deliver the message.

The Fair and Impartial Policing Policy  (FIPP)

Act 54, updated Title 20, 2366 to require the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council (VCJTC) and the Attorney General’s (AG) Office to bring the existing FIPP into compliance with immigration law and the VCJTC to create a cohesive FIPP.  The FIPP was negotiated and revised, reviewed by the AG (to ensure compliance with federal immigration statutes), revised again and adopted by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.  As of  March, 2018, all agencies have been under legislative mandate to adopt all components of the Council FIPP. Finally, Act 54 requires that the AG and the VCJTC review the FIPP of all agencies, no later than 15 April, 2018.

Poor FIPP Implementation

Inconstant with process outlined in Act 54, the VCJTC changed the FIPP without the consultation of the Human Rights Commission in November of 2017.  This was done in response to a threat from then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withhold a grant valued at over five hundred thousand dollars. It is no wonder that now we find that the Vermont State Police have failed to adopt the FIPP, as required by law (Act 54).

Recently, our friends at Migrant Justice informed us that the Vermont State police have failed to adopt the FIPP, as required by law. Migrant Justice says, in a recent letter that “The State Police’s violation of state law has resulted in farmworker Olman Lopez being placed in immigration custody. Because of the State Police’s actions, Olman is now in deportation proceedings and at risk of being permanently separated from his wife and three children.”

State Police Advisory Commission 

The “State Police Advisory Commission” SPAC is held out as the best example of oversight in Vermont.  Seven days spoke of the ineffectiveness of the body in the Spring of 2018. Despite the conflict of interest being brought to the attention of the Assistant Attorney General over one year ago, Governor Scott reappointed Nancy Sheahan to Chair the SPAC.  Sheahan, a partner at the Burlington firm McNeil Leddy & Sheahan is “a go-to lawyer for Vermont cops who have been accused of mistakes or wrongdoing.” All of this and in almost EVERY instance, law enforcement are cleared from any wrongdoing by the States Attorney or the Attorney General.

Training

Act 147 (2016) updated Title 20, 2358, requiring all law enforcement to attend “anti-bias training approved by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and training on the State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency’s fair and impartial policing policy”… On or before December 31, 2018”.  There is no indication that this deadline will be met by Vermont law enforcement.

In early December, 2018, it was discovered that the State Police were scheduled to attend a program that brings local law enforcement to Israel for training with the Israeli military, police and secret service. Local activists organized and petitioned and the state police pulled back on their plans to attend.  Despite our calls, there remains no consistent appropriate use of force, de-escalation and cross cultural awareness training across the 79 agencies in Vermont.

UPDATE:

VTDigger.org reported Monday (January 7, 2019) that an investigation by the Burlington Police Department found that Officer Erin Bartle and two others sustained injuries such as concussions and hearing loss during an academy drill known as the “hitchhiker scenario.” A fourth officer was knocked unconscious. During the drill, instructors punched recruits in the head without warning. Bartle is suing the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, which oversees the academy.   Read the latest update in this gross negligence of oversight and threat to public safety here.

Vermont Constitution
Article 5. [Internal police]

That the people of this state by their legal representatives, have the sole, inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police of the same.

Article 6. [Officers servants of the people]

That all power being originally inherent in and co[n]sequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.

Our Demands:

  1. We call on the Attorney General to
    • investigate compliance with Title 20, 2366 and 2358.
    • hold the pubic safety commissioner accountable to the law
  2. We call on the legislature to
    • mandate the removal of the Attorney General from the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council
    • execute its constitutional responsibility to be accountable to the people by “governing and regulating internal police” with sufficient civilian oversight of law enforcement.
    • codify remedies for law enforcement violations of Title 20, 2366 and 2358.
    • legally prohibit racial profiling
    • mandate the incorporation the collection of use of force data into the existing traffic race data collection data set outlined in Title 20, 2366.
    • mandate that all law enforcement agencies be required to implement consistent appropriate use of force, De-escallation and Cross cultural Awareness Training
    • mandate that all law enforcement agencies be required to undertake appropriate use of force, de-escalation and cross cultural awareness training (and in service).
  3. We call on the Governor to
    • Hold the Public Safety commissioner accountable for racial equity in enforcement.
    • remove Nancy Sheahan from the State Police Advisory Commission.

Sign the petition for civilian oversight of law enforcement

Your Call to Action: 

Contact the Attorney General  and demand that he conduct a formal investigation into adherence to Title, 20, 2366 an 2358 and hold the Public Safety Commissioner accountable to the law.

Reach out to your legislator and legislative leadership and demand  public hearings and and other requests above to protect Vermont’s most vulnerable.

  • Main number: 828-2228
  • Find Legislators here
  • Email legislative Leadership here

Ask the Governor to remove Nancy Sheahan from the State Police Advisory Commission

  • Email the governor here
  • Contact his office by phone at: 828-3333

Sign the petition for civilian oversight of law enforcement

#whoswatchingVTPD

Local Activists, Organizers and Community Leaders Speak Out on Sanders Institute “Gathering” of “Progressive” Leaders

 

From left to right Rutland NAACP President Tabitha Pohl-Moore, former Champlain Valley NAACP President Mary Guillory-Brown, former State Representative Kiah Morris, former State  Representative, Kesha Ram, and Executive Director of Justice For All Mark Hughes 

Vermont is known as a progressive safe haven. However, some of our citizens struggle to connect personal experience to this sentiment. The purpose of publicizing these feelings is not to throw shade at the national progressive movement that Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to foster, but to point out that Vermonters in marginalized positions- be they poor, disabled, LGBTQ, people of color, indigenous, immigrant or non-mainstream in other facets of identity, help to create this state and make it what it is, yet still, we find ourselves excluded from the movement. This is an awkward juxtaposition. To call out when we have been excluded invariably elicits an accusation of sabotage, selfishness, or saltiness. To ignore it is to relegate ourselves to invisibility, thus fortifying the very systemic inequity the progressive movement works to deconstruct. It is with this in mind that I write the following: 

At 9:15 PM on November 19th , Windham Area NAACP President Steffen Gillom sent me a text with a link to the VT Digger article announcing Senator Sanders’ 3-day progressive event in Burlington that was planned for this past week, it was followed by the question, “Did you know about this?” My first response was excitement. A progressive agenda that promised to raise an intersectional approach to ending injustice and oppression? In our backyard? As I read the roster and saw the names of my own idols like Cornel West, my initial response grew into hope. We would finally be heard and seen here in Vermont!  But, as I neared the end of the star-laden roster, I began to wonder.  How many leaders from Vermont were invited to speak? I reviewed the list again and saw only the name of Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman. Okay. One. Then I wondered how many justice leaders from Vermont had been invited.  Racial? None. Economic? None. LGBTQ? None. Immigrant rights? None. I read the article several times. Maybe I missed something? I thought progressive politics was about lifting the voices of common people. For a group that prides itself on grassroots organization, it seemed that this progressive event had forgotten its roots; the people of Vermont.

My heart began to sink as my curiosity grew. In his remarks, Senator Sanders said that this event was “not just to talk about economic issues, we’re here this weekend to be talking about racial and social justice. We’re here to be talking about ending, in all of its many and varied forms, institutional racism.” 

How could Senator Sanders host what is supposed to be an intersectional, progressive event without inviting the very people whom he serves? If this is really about economic justice, where are the poor folks? If it is really about racial justice, why are there no local racial justice leaders?  Chief Don Stevens of the Abenaki?  Disability rights?  Where is Justicia Migrante? I don’t see them on the list.

 I had a hard time believing that Senator Sanders would overlook the very people he serves as people who could speak to the issues.  I also know that the Senator’s people had no problem finding me to talk about race in Vermont the day before he met with NAACP President Derrick Johnson last May. But really, there are plenty of other leaders who could speak. Surely someone in Vermont had to have been invited and they just weren’t included in the article because, really. Who here compares to Danny Glover? So I took to social media and posted the article, tagging various justice leaders that I knew. No one knew about it. I asked groups like Rights and Democracy, who posted an article to advertise the event, if they would be speaking. I heard nothing. Even Kiah Morris, who was Vermont’s lone black woman in the legislature—that is, until the racist threats and harassment became so intolerable and intimidating that she not only had to withdraw from an uncontested race, but she stepped down from office just three months ago—was not invited. 

I write this not to complain about the fact that none of us were invited; I write this to point out the hypocrisy of the situation. How do you say that you are a person of the people, how can you be “awoken”, in the words of Victor Lee Lewis, when you come home to Vermont to talk about justice and institutional oppression and don’t invite the very people your represent? In speaking with other folks, I learned that I am not the only one who has noticed this omission. We hope that we are missing something, but if we are not, this is a either a major oversight or just one more example of how institutional oppression looks, even among those who are progressive. 

Respectfully,

 

Tabitha Pohl-Moore
Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP

Steffen Glenn Gillom
President, Windham County Branch of the NAACP

Amanda Garces
Founder, Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools

Curtiss Reed, Jr.
Executive Director, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity

Kiah Morris
Former State Representative

Katrina Battle
POC Caucus Coordinator, Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington

Jabari Jones
Organizer, Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington

Wafic Faour
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine

Member, BLM of Greater Burlington

Marita Canedo
Migrant Justice

Shela Linton
Co-Coordinator BIPOC Caucus, Root Social Justice Center

Sha’an Mouliert
Co-Coordinator, I am Vermont Too

Mark Hughes
Executive Director, Justice for All

Beverly Little Thunder
Activist, founder of Kunsi Keya Tamakoce, Peace and Justice Board Member

Gemma Seymour
Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future

Nico Amador
Community Organizer, ACLU of Vermont

Etan Nassredin-Longo
Co-chair, Fair and Impartial policing committee of the Vermont State Police
Chair, Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel

Olivia Lapierre she/her
Environmental Justice Community Organizer

Don Stevens
Chief of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe

Sarika Tandon
Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity

Press Release: ’40 Days of Fire’ to Address Overt and Systemic Racism Across Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

’40 Days of Fire’ to Address Overt and Systemic Racism Across Vermont

Racial Justice Community Organizing Campaign Kicks Off in October in 5 Locations –

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Justice For All Executive Director: 802.532.3030

Montpelier, VT — 40 Days of Fire, a joint effort by Justice for All and Rights and Democracy, is a statewide racial justice community organizing initiative kicking off in October. Events held all over the state will enlist Vermonters to learn more about and engage in our ongoing efforts in the fight against overt and systemic racism in Vermont. We will also mobilize voters to take a stand against racial pandering and dog whistles in politics.

The 40 Days of Fire initiative offers Vermonters in all communities an opportunity to host and participate in training and empowerment sessions, conduct workshops, register to vote and participate in voter engagement opportunities, and directly confront candidates and elected officials on the issues of racial justice and the rights of those in traditionally marginalized communities.

All are welcome to the following organizing sessions planned so far (RSVP at the links):

  • Burlington, October 2– Ruach haMaqom Synagogue, 6:30 – 8:30 .PM
  • Middlebury, October 4 – Fenn House at Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, 6:00-8:00 PM
  • Hardwick, October 9 – St. Norbert’s Church Hall, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Hartford, October 14 – Main Street Museum, 3:00-5:00 PM
  • Marshfield, October 17 –Twinfield Union School, 6:00-8:00 PM

To learn more about 40 Days of Fire, and to sign up to hold a workshop in your area, please visit http://justiceforallvt.org/40-days-of-fire/.

About Justice For All
Justice for All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship building.

 

###