Public Comment, BTV City Council Meeting July,15, 2019





July 15, 2019
Public Comment
Burlington City Council

Support of RESOLUTION relating to Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

I speak in support of the Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Resolution.  This resolution takes the unprecedented step of adding a Standing Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee to the Burlington City Council.   The Committee “In addition to overseeing the implementation of the Equity Strategic Plan, … is tasked with the exploration of the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission”.  Finally, this Resolution states that “the City of Burlington shall create a senior, full-time position, responsible for overseeing, managing, and advising other senior officials on the City’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; the position will report to the Mayor, be part of the City’s leadership team, and have citywide responsibilities and authority.”

The fact that this resolution is sponsored by eleven of the twelve City Councilors reflects that this Council not only has the ability to work together, but it reflects their shared values of fairness and justice.  I would like to give shout outs to Councilors, Dieng, Roof, Pine and Mason for being at the center of this important work.   The Mayors Office and the Office of the City Attorney worked tirelessly to cause this resolution to come to fruition this evening.  The Chief of Staff never took her eyes of a single detail, while loaded down with her normal impossible job.

In addition to the hours of work with the administration, Justice For All brought upwards of   80 people together last week at a Community Discussion called “What Equity Looks Like in Burlington”.  Notably, one of the most important recommendations of the “Equity in Administration Group” was the creation of a “paid position” in City government and a “Task Force” to address equity in Burlington.  Our next meeting is will be August 13th at the same time and location.

We have always accomplished more as a nation when we’ve worked together.  Our finest moments of progress come when all the voices are at the table, not just the ones that we agree with. We reach our collective full potential when we embrace those who are different, not fear them or try to control them. And our best ideas happen when folks that don’t agree with one another have the difficult but necessary discussions, not avoid them.  This is a proud moment for Burlington and a defining moment for the State of Vermont.  I ask that you please NOT waive the reading of this pivotal resolution.  I ask that the 2019 Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resolution be read to memorialize this work and our commitment to dismantling of systemic racism in Burlington, Vermont and this nation… that we may FOR ONCE have Justice For All.


Mark Hughes
Executive Director,
Justice For All

Update: What Equity Looks Like In Burlington (with Action Items)

The “What Equity Looks Like in Burlington” meeting was overwhelmingly productive and we’re excited about continuing the discussion.   First, would you mind providing some feedback on your experience?  This is important to enable us achieve desired outcomes.  This is something that you can do to affect change in addressing equity in Burlington.

Secondly our next meeting, “What We Are Doing About Equity in Burlington” will be August 13th from 7:00 till 9:00pm.  This is an action-oriented meeting.  Please place this on your calendar.  Expect weekly highlights, leading up to this meeting.  Here’s todays highlight: 

Equity Highlight

Equity in City Administration

Our City Administration Group decided that three of the most important things that WE can do to address equity in City administration is to identify active community spaces (to facilitate outreach); create a position in the City government to review equity, and; attend City Council Meetings and hold officials accountable for achieving equity goals.  City Administration Team, thank you for your concise output from your discussion.

Here is a HUGE opportunity to show up as a community and take responsibility for what equity looks like!

There will be a meeting of the full City Council on Monday, July 15th at 7:00pm.  The Council will be taking up a Resolution that creates a standing Committee and a full time position (that reports to the Mayor) for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  Take a look at the Resolution, reach out to your City Councilor and show up to voice your opinion and/or concerns.  This is what equity looks like!

Don’t forget about the film viewing (Slavery by Another Name), this Sunday, the 14th of July and the Justice For All Organizing Meeting on Wednesday, the 17th of July.  Both events will be at the First Congregational Church, 38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington.

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Support this work because the proven results that Justice For All consistently delivers affects YOU!  Provide a quick, secure contribution here:

CLICK here and help us do the work

 Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 
CLICK here!

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?

Community Discusion and Film Viewing

All,

Now is the time to show up with your perspective.  This is where we tell the elected and appointed folks what we expect them to do to ensure that black and brown folks are not just welcome but thrive and prosper in the Greater Burlington area.

The State Racial Equity Director has been seated; the Mayor has committed to an Equity Officer, reporting to him, and; the City Council is considering a Resolution, creating a Standing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.  This is an opportunity to tell them what equity looks like in Burlington.

Please show up and pass this along.  The Mayor and City Council are planning to advance proposals later, in July.  Let’s not let them move forward without us.

https://www.facebook.com/events/465094444306582/

Listening invitations
Mayor Weinberger. Confirmed
Chief Del Pozo. Confirmed
Superintendent Obeng. Invited  What Equity Looks Like kin Burlington:  As Goes Burlington…

Tuesday, July 9th 6:30 till 8:30
First Congregational Church
38 S. Winooski Ave, Burlington

There is lots of talk from elected officials about the necessity for Vermont to grow its economy. It can only do so with a dramatic change of the racial demographics of the State. We all know that this will not be sustainable until we address factors contributing to the systemic nature of racism in the State. The population and race demographics of Burlington scream the fact that “as goes Burlington, so goes Vermont. This is a community conversation about that.

Who are we, as City? 
Who do we hope to become? 
How will we get there?

These are some of the questions that many are asking. This strategic session will give us an opportunity to wrestle with some of these questions and discuss some solutions. 
This will be a forum to hear from the community on matters of equity, diversity and inclusion. This is your opportunity to be heard. Bring your voices.
 We’ll see you there!

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Support this work because the proven results that Justice For All consistently delivers affects YOU!  Provide a quick, secure contribution here.

Choose an amount that works for you and CLICK HERE.  

We sure do appreciate it!
Thank you!

Film Viewing 

Slavery by Another Name

First Congregational Church
38 S. Winooski Ave, Burlington

On Sunday, July 14th, at 3:00 pm we will be viewing Slavery by Another Name.”  Slavery By Another Name is a 90-minute documentary that challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century.

For most Americans this is entirely new history. Slavery by Another Name gives voice to the largely forgotten victims and perpetrators of forced labor and features their descendants living today.  There will be a brief overview of PR.2, the current proposal addressing slavery in the Vermont constitution.  JFA provides community film viewings monthly on the 2nd Sunday. 

Help us get the work done here:

CLICK here and help us do the work

 Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 
CLICK HERE!

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?

Happy Juneteenth Day

Happy Juneteenth Day!

The US House of Representatives has taken up H.40, a bill that would create a commission to develop proposals to address the lingering effects of slavery and consider a “national apology” for the harm it has caused.

Any discussion about money only distracts us from the lakes of blood and mountains of bodies that continue to mount to this day, as some would have us believe that this all ended 150 years ago and it has nothing to do with us. The discussion is futile because our treasuries do not contain enough to make right what has been made wrong. Vermont policy makers, the best that you can do is to pass H.478 so we can get on with the work.

Vermont H.478 (modeled after H.40) was taken up in House Government Operations on March 21st, 2019. No testimony has been taken. This debate is about addressing the social, emotional, spiritual and economic impacts caused by a nation that has to this day used slavery to build and sustain political and economic power.

It is about acknowledging the self correcting nature of this oppression with the Constitutionalization of prison slavery through the 13th amendment; Commissioning convict leasing; Instituting sharecropping; legalizing segregation, promoting Jim Crow, codifying redlining, limiting the New Deal and GI Bill to whites; criminalizing the Civil Rights movement; policing and incarcerating of black folks disproportionately, deconstructing the Voting Rights Act and much, much more.

And please, don’t ask another black person if we think that you should give us money.

Important Updates and Upcoming Events

Summer in Vermont
It’s almost summer and we’re not checking out – We’re checking in.  We’re checking in to wish you an amazing summer.  With such a long winter and spring almost behind us, it’s time to enjoy the sun.  We hope you have plans to do so.

We’re proud to update you on some of the work that we have accomplished the first half of the year.  We have hosted a number of racial equity forums, community events (including an emergency response to excessive use of force) and film viewings in Burlington. We contributed significantly to a City Council’s Resolution to form a Special Committee to review Burlington Community Policing Practices. We recently recommended that the Burlington administration revisit their approach to diversity, equity and inclusion and continue to work with officials to roll out a thoughtful approach. We have also collaborated on diversity and equity with the Snelling Institute’s Leadership Institute and a Community Leadership Action Planning Session with our friends at the Council of Rural Development.

We worked in conjunction with the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools in passing an education bill (Act 1, 2019) this session; provided testimony on the Cannabis tax and regulate bill (S.54) and offered testimony as input to the 50-year review of Act 250!  We also provided testimony on the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (Act 41, 2019)called for a public hearing on civilian oversight of policeand testified extensively in committee and public hearing on the amendment pertaining to the prohibition of slavery (PR.2). Amongst the proposed policy produced by JFA for introduction with our partners in the Racial Justice Alliance were the reparations bill (H.478), the appropriate use of force bills (S.119 and H.464), discriminatory practices bills (S.145 and H.465), a racial equity cleanup bill (S.120) and PR.2.

We now turn our attention to the remainder of the year where exciting times lie ahead.   We will continue to contribute to the ongoing work of addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in Burlington.  This will be in community outreach, education and advocacy.  We’re looking forward to digging deeper into the work of the Racial Justice Alliance and educating our constituents in communities across the State on dismantling systemic racism and eliminating poverty.  We’re happy to be supporting community grass roots efforts in publishing an open race traffic data collection project sometime in the near future. We’re taking our work to a new level this year.  What next can only be defined as a game-changer for Vermont.  So check in with us this summer.  Here’s what’s happening at a glance:

Details of all of the events are listed below.
 But first, please stop here.

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Support this work because the proven results that Justice For All consistently delivers affects YOU!  Provide a quick, secure contribution here.

We sure do appreciate it!

Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 
CLICK HERE!

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!
Here are the details on all JFA related events happening over the next month.  All activities will be at the First Congregational Church at 38 S. Winooski, in Burlington.

JFA Organizing Meeting

We’re kicking the summer of with an Organizing Meeting on Wednesday, June 19th form 6:30 till 8:30 pm with a JFA Organizing Meeting.  We want to hear more of your thoughts on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resolution that is being discussed in the Burlington City Council.   We’ll also update you on our work with the Racial Justice Alliance #ChangeVermont with a focus on theConstitutional Amendment (PR.2).  You’ll want to hear about the No Taxation or Regulation without Reparations Campaign.  JFA Organizing Meetings are every third Wednesday.

Game On

On Wednesday, June 23rd from 3:00 till 6:00 pm it’s Game On!  Grab the kids, some board games and snacks and meet us for some fun.  Sometimes you just have to put fun on calendar.  Let’s get together for some mindless fun and talk about nothing. There will be a brief update and discussion on the Burlington Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resolution.   JFA hosts Game On” Monthly on the 4th Sunday.

Racial Justice Alliance People of Color Steering Group Meeting

Calling all folks self-identifying as people of color, we’re looking for you.  On Wednesday, June 26th, from 6:30 till 8:30 pm we are continuing to organize the Racial Justice Alliance POC Steering Committee. The Racial Justice Alliance is the former Racial Justice Reform Coalition, which successfully moved landmark legislation forming the Racial Disparity (Act 54, 2017) and Racial Equity (Act 9, 2018) Panels.  This meeting will provide space for Introductions and an Overview and provide an opportunity to Review, Update and Revise the Strategy.  The Racial Justice Alliance People Of Color Steering Committee meets Monthly on the 4th Wednesday.

#whoswatchingVTPD

It is imperative that civilian oversight be implemented to ensure appropriate law enforcement transparency and accountability. History has taught us that in the absence of law enforcement transparency and accountability the general public has more times than not questioned law enforcement legitimacy. We have all witnessed numerous instances where the resulting loss of public trust has stood as an obstacle to the crucial working relationship required between law enforcement and the community.  Joint the nearly 400 people who agree that we need civilian oversight of law enforcement in Vermont.  Click on this link and sign the petition.

JFA Community Meeting

On Wednesday, July 3rd from 6:30 till 8:30 pm, we will host “What Equity Looks Like in Burlington.”   Who are we, as City?  Who do we hope to be?  How will we get there?  These are some of the questions that many are asking.  This strategic session will give us an opportunity to wrestle with some of these questions and discuss some solutions.   This will be a forum to hear from the community on matters of equity, diversity and inclusion.  This is your opportunity to be heard.  Bring your voice. JFA Community Meetingshappen Monthly on the 1st Wednesday.

Racial Justice Alliance (Full Meeting)

Come out for the full meeting of the Racial Justice Alliance on July 9th, from 6:30 till 8:30 pm.  It has been over six months since the transit and the he Racial Justice Alliance is still very much in the formative phases.  This is a time of organizing, outreach, education and planning.  We’ll review the first half of the legislative session and reset our priorities.  We will conclude with strategic planning on our collaborative work beyond the #ChangeVermont, our legislative agenda.  This meeting is for members or those considering joining the Alliance.  The Racial Justice Alliance meets Monthly on the 2nd Tuesday. 

Film Viewing – Slavery by Another Name

On Sunday, July 14th, at 3:00 pm we will be viewing Slavery by Another Name.”  Slavery By Another Name is a 90-minute documentary that challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century.

For most Americans this is entirely new history. Slavery by Another Name gives voice to the largely forgotten victims and perpetrators of forced labor and features their descendants living today.  There will be a brief overview of PR.2, the current proposal addressing slavery in the Vermont constitution.  JFA provides community film viewings monthly on the 2nd Sunday. 

All activities will be at the First Congregational Church at 38 S. Winooski in Burlington.

Help us get the work done here:

CLICK here and help us do the work

Thanks!

Have a great summer!

Sincerely, 

Mark Hughes,
Executive Director, Justice For All
mark@justiceforallvt.org
@Justice4AllVT
802.532.3030
http://justiceforallvt.org/

Open Letter to the Burlington City Council and Mayor Weinberger

Members of Burlington City Council

Response to Burlington Police Department Excessive Use of Force

20 May 2019

The latest tragedy in the pattern of racially disparate practices of the Burlington Police Department (BPD) is a symptom of a larger problem – the inability or unwillingness to effectively address overt and systemic racism in Burlington, across the state and the nation. African Americans are still engaged, arrested, convicted and incarcerated at disproportionate rates in Vermont and the data tells us that BPD and the Chittenden County States Attorney are leading contributors to this unfair truth.

In addition to the destruction of lives, the breakdown of trust and a diminishing public safety posture, unconstitutional policing distracts us from the problem of which it is only part. The Vermont Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission Task Force, Act 54, (2017) Racial Disparities in State Systems Report (Act 54 State Systems Report) indicated that “In addition, and likely related to the income disparities, racial disparities have been documented in each of the areas identified in Act 54 (education, labor and employment, housing, healthcare and economic development).”

Last year Vermont adopted Act 9 (2018, special session) a law creating a Racial Equity Director (and Panel) with cabinet level authority.  The stated legislative intent of the General Assembly is “to promote racial justice reform throughout the State by mitigating systemic racism in all systems of State government and creating a culture of inclusiveness.” Burlington, the largest city in Vermont with the largest number of African Americans is faced with a unique responsibility.  Burlington must take decisive steps to dismantle systemic racism and aggressively respond to ALL forms of overt racism – not distract us with petty defenses of what we all know to be one of many symptoms of this nation’s original sin.

The Weinberger administration’s efforts towards equity and diversity seem largely perfunctory and have been relegated to “initiatives” buried under the Community Economic Development Office with no individual accountability.  The 2018 “EquityReport”, with no mention of the Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan fails to communicate vitally important disaggregated race demographics data required to measure progress towards equity and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has disbanded. 

It is now time for the “conspicuously courageous leadership” referred to in the Strategic Plan five years ago. It is time for elected officials to give consideration to expending the “hard earned political capitol” spoke of in the report to bring about change through meaningful community engagement.  As the report suggested, this engagement must encompass “residents from historically marginalized communities who see themselves – and are seen as – full partners in the decision-making, program-planning, and policy-making processes that impact their lives in significant and sustained ways”.

The Act 54 State Systems Report explains, “Addressing these issues also furthers other state goals. To the extent that People of Color are the fastest growing demographic in the state, taking steps to be more inclusive in all aspects of our state systems will further economic growth in a time when our workforce is rapidly aging. In other words, equality of opportunity is good for everyone, White, Black and Brown.” A little over a year later Governor Scott pointed out in his 2019 Budget Address that “we need more tax payers, not more taxes”. 

Maybe the Governor was trying to tell us something when it was within this context that he reminded us to be mindful of “how we treat each other” in our communities; to “reject hate and anger” in our interactions; and to have the “courage to do what is right as opposed to what is easy”.  Now it is the time for Burlington to do our part.  History has taught us that racism doesn’t just go away and privilege always finds safety in silence.

Today, we need a concerted effort of community, elected and appointed officials and organizations to bring about the change to enable us to dismantle systemic in Burlington.  We call on the Weinberger administration to bring the full bear of city’s resources in addressing these efforts:

·      Establish the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee as a standing committee of the city council, charged with oversight of the implementation of the Equity Strategic Plan.  

·      Create an Office of Racial Equity and Civil Rights, charged with addressing matters surrounding systemic racism mitigation and civil rights.

·      Create an Inclusion and Racial Equity Commission comprised of impacted community members appointed by the city council to ensure stakeholder ownership.

Governor Scott concluded his 2019 budget speech with these words: “The best comes when we are guided by our core beliefs.”  It is our hope that our collective core beliefs enable us to make Burlington a place where African Americans are not just safe.  Burlington, Vermont must be a place where African Americans, just as all people thrive and prosper and there is justice for all. 

Mark A. Hughes
Executive Director
Justice For All
e: mark@justiceforallvt.org
t: @Mark_A_Hughes

Testimony on PR.2 Concludes in House Government Operations Committee

Chairwoman Copland-Hannzas, House Government Operations

Government Operations Committee is poised to vote on PR.2;  Declaration of rights; clarifying the prohibition on slavery and indentured servitude today. Final testimony submitted is below:

Mark Hughes
Executive Director, Justice For All
Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance
PR.2 Testimony
House Government Operations Committee
Room 11, Vermont Statehouse
May 9, 2019 9:30

Good morning Madam Chair and House Government Operations Committee. I am Mark Hughes, Director of Justice For All and Coordinator for the Racial Justice Reform Alliance.  We are the proponents of the Proposal.

I am offering additional testimony for your consideration as you move into your committee discussion and possible vote today.    

We are in support of the amendment as passed by the Senate.  Please pass it unanimously.

2018 introduced new hope as Racial Justice Reform Coalition advanced Act 9 into law.  In it, for the first time in history was legislation creating a panel and an Executive Director to “promote racial justice reform throughout the State by mitigating systemic racism in all systems of State government…” 

Our research with Act 54, 2017 (Racial disparities), Act 9, 2018 (Racial Equity) and the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy led us to understand that state laws and institutions inherently create and sustain racial disparities. The constitutional amendment is a continuation of our work to dismantle this systemic racism. We successfully convinced the Vermont Democratic Party to adopt a platform statement to address slavery in the constitution and lobbied the legislature for a resolution, resulting in H.R.25 (2018) (not taken up in House Government Operations). Recently the League of Cities and Towns passed a resolution and the Bishop and Episcopal Diocesan Council of Vermont issued a letter of support for the Proposal.   

As indicated in the Proposal, as introduced in the Senate, PR.2 has always been about “addressing systemic racism in our state laws and institutions.”  Despite this fact, much attention in testimony has been given to words “removing all reference to slavery”.  As indicated in our original request last year, that has never been the Alliances primary goal.  The Vermont Constitution in its current state is unclear on slavery prohibition.   

To be clear, this discussion goes beyond slavery.  To constitutionalize slavery (or form of servitude) because a person is “bound by the law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” is tantamount to criminalization of poverty which always has a greater impact on black people.  Clearly repercussions on criminalization manifest in all aspects of life and impact our posterity.  Clarification of Article I of the constitution enables us to take a major step in the right direction in addressing systemic racism in Vermont.  This amendment will serve to nullify any statute supported by this clause and call into question any institution created to sustain the premise of it into perpetuity. 

Though the Senate’s decision to remove “addressing systemic racism in our state laws and institutions” in the “Purpose” section of the Proposal has created some confusion surrounding our intent, the current proposed language satisfies our objective of providing clarification on slavery prohibition.

Many have asked why this is important. This is about our racist national and State history of criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of black (and poor) people. It expands in concentric circles beyond this, adversely impacting African American’s fair and equal access to housing, education, health services, employment and economic development. 

You have heard testimony that the US constitution makes the language of slavery in our constitution “academic” and it suggests that it has “no practical consequence”. But we have come to know that the 13th amendment constitutionalized slavery for the punishment of a crime, when duly convicted. Vermont State laws permit  “Imprisonment In Lieu Of Payment of Fines And Costs”.  Article I of the Vermont constitution provides an exception that permits slavery when “bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like”.  Collectively, this is the literal criminalization of poverty, the new slavery!

In closing, our work on addressing systemic racism has been ongoing for nearly five years.  Our analysis of the necessity to address the constitution is rooted in data driven research.  Those challenges, which are systemic in Vermont, must be addressed at the root – the constitution.

Please pass PR.2 unanimously.

Thank you for your service



Public Hearing PR.2; Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Slavery

All,

Yesterday morning we found out that the House Committee on Government Operations was planning on holding a Public Hearing TONIGHT on PR.2;  a Proposal to amend the Constitution, to clarify that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.  We requested the Hearing be moved to enable us the ability to effectively notify our constituents. The House leadership’s responded with a narrative of time constraints, citing the approaching end of session.  We informed the Committee that ” [as per]… § 72 of the Constitution and House Rule51a, the Senate and House have the entire biennium to complete their respective votes…”.  As a result, the Public Hearing date has been changed to May 8th!  You can find out more about the Public Hearing here.  Please come to the Public Hearing.

  • If you need accommodations for the Public Hearing, please call 828.2228
  • If you’d like to provide written testimony, you can send it to testimony@leg.state.vt.us.
  • If you want more details on the Proposal or the Public Hearing, please call the assistant at (802) 828-2267 or email: kobrien@leg.state.vt.us

Let’s do all we can to ensure a turnout at this historic Public Hearing for the constitutional amendment that clarifies that slavery and indentured servitude of any type are prohibited. Some would have us believe that this is largely symbolic.  There could be nothing further form the truth.  Slavery is at the root of the criminalization, punishment and oppression of black and poor people. Our constitution reflects our values and underpins our laws and institutions. Please show up and stand with us in solidarity.

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on this vitally important work.  Supported the work of Justice For All and The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance because of the proven results that we consistently deliver.  We have experts behind the scene all year long doing the work that affects YOU!  Provide a quick, secure contribution here.

  Click HERE to Donate 

Thank you!

Unprecedented Public Hearings; Vermont Constitutional Amendment Completely Prohibiting Slavery

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All,

This has never happened in Vermont.

Show up and be a part of history!

Thursday, April 4th at 5:00 pm, there will be a public hearing on a proposal (PR.2) to amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont to completely prohibit slavery (as introduced)which will “serve as a foundation for addressing systemic racism in our States’s laws and institutions”.  Testimony till now has been taken in the committee room during normal business hours.  We believe that this has resulted in the current version of the proposal where that purpose is now “to clarify that slavery in any form is prohibited” and offers confusing and unnecessary language that could be interpreted to the contrary.

What are we asking of the committee that they are not doing?

  • Take testimony at a time when working Vermont can be heard
  • Ensure that the constitution clearly and unambiguously prohibits slavery   
  • Replace language referring to “Qualifications of Freemen and Freewomen” in Vermont Constitution Chapter II
  • Comport the language to our current ideals and values, not our history; not our current laws and institutions


If you are interested in testifying on Thursday here is how you can reach the committee and inform them of your desire to do so (you can also offer written testimony):

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Slavery is still not completely abolished in Vermont

Here are the instructions for preparing testimony.

Do you need a ride?  Get on this list ASAP and we’ll help you make it to this event.Paragraph

The criminalization, punishment and oppression of black and poor people is at the root of slavery. Show up and be a part of history in our journey to dismantle the foundation of systemic racism in Vermont.  It has taken us 242 years to get to here.  Please make sure that you are in room 11 in the Statehouse on Thursday, April 4th, 2019 at 5:00 pm. 

#ChangeVermont

Testify to Prohibit Slavery Constitutionally; Change Vermont

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All,

The Senate Government Operations Committee has delayed the vote on the constitutional amendment, prohibiting slavery.  Testimony has been reopened for Thursday, February 28th at 3:15.    

1)  TESTIFY ON PR.2:  Give the Senate Government Operations Committee the Rest of the Story

We”re excited that this will give us an opportunity to tell our stories.  The Senate Government Operations Committee have concerned themselves with the task of preserving the historical significance of the fact that “Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery”.  The fact is that Vermont never abolished slavery from the constitution of 1777 or 1786 and after becoming a state the constitution of 1793 never abolished slavery.  In fact, after 242 years and 28 adopted amendments the Vermont constitution has yet to abolish slavery.  Sadly, the language that the Government Operations Committee was poised to vote on would not have abolished slavery either.  To be clear, no state in US history has held constitutional language permitting slavery longer than Vermont. 

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Why is this important?  It is language like this in the constitution that serves as the edifice of the criminalization, punishment and oppression of black and poor people. This is not the time to attempt to “preserve” aspects of this document to capture the essence of the mindset of white men at a time when black people were property.  This is not even a time to comport the new language to the statutes, rules and institutions that it now upholds.  The purpose of this proposal (PR.2) is “…to serve as a foundation for addressing systemic racism in our State’s laws and institutions. You can help change this entire system by helping to shake it at its foundation.  #EndslaveryVT

TAKE ACTION NOW

2)  Ask Senate Government Operations to Take up S.120: Give the Racial Equity Director a Chance to Succeed! 

Remember S.281, the Systemic Racism Mitigation Commission?  Well the Racial Equity Director was left reporting the Governor with an option to move the position under the Secretary of Administration.  We all know how this story ends. If there is any hope for the Racial Equity Director to be effective, me must ensure that the position is on par with his or her contemporaries.  Join us in our calls for Senate Government Operations to TAKE UP S.120.

TAKE ACTION NOW

3)  Ask Senate Judiciary to Take up S.119:  Address Use of Force with Law Enforcement

Did you know that law enforcement does not collect use of force data as a part of the race traffic stop data collection processes?  It gets worse, There is no model Appropriate Use of Force Policy or standardized training across all agencies either.  A recent report from the Burlington Police Department indicated that use of force was being applied to black people at 4 to 5 times the rate as white folks.  Stand with us as we call for Senate Judiciary to TAKE UP S.119.  #fixUseofForceVT

TAKE ACTION NOW

  • Leave a message for your senator.  Find your senator here OR call 828.2228
  • Email the Committee and senior leadership.  Email address: vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com
  • Leave a message with member of Senate Government Operations.  Find member here or call 828.2278

4)  Ask House Government Operations to Take up H.478: Appoint a Slavery Reparations Commission 

Legislators have acknowledged disparities in the criminal justice system in Act 54 (2017) and the Attorney General’s and HRC’s Task Force Report.  The need to address systemic racism in all state government is in the process of being addressed with the hiring of a Racial Equity position, as prescribed in Act 9 (2018).  Serious consideration must be given to if and how Vermont chooses to address reparations.  This commission will grapple with these questions.  Help us as we call on House Government Operations to TAKE UP H.478.  #ReparationsVT

TAKE ACTION NOW

  • Leave a message for your Representative.  Find your representative here OR call 828.2228
  • Email the Committee and senior leadership.  Email address: vermont-house-government-operations@googlegroups.com
  • Leave a message with member of House Government Operations.  Find member here or call 828.2267
     

5) Ask the House Judiciary to take up H.465: Expand the Human Rights Commission and Prohibit Racial Profilingiciary

The Human Rights Commission has never in its existence been more busy and it has always been underfunded. What is more important than protecting the civil liberties of every protected category in this state? We have waited far too long. Let House Judiciary know that it’s time to TAKE UP H.465. #NoracialprofilingVT

TAKE ACTION NOW

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VisibilityPublicPublishFeb 27, 2019 7:34 amPost FormatAsideGalleryLinkImageQuoteStandardStatusVideoAudioChatStick to the Front PageAuthorerinarose802hughesmanthonygmailcomvermontinterfaithactionMove to trash

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