An Equity and Justice for All Advisory Committee was established on a unanimous vote of the Select Board on July 1 in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality and an end to institutionalized racism in Milton and the country.
“This is momentous,” Select Board Chair Melinda Collins said.
The new, up-to-11 member panel, whose make-up is still to be named, will include a representative from three key community organizations which have long worked toward racial equality in Milton. Those groups are Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice, the Milton Interfaith Clergy Association, and Citizens For Diverse Milton.
Town Administrator Mike Dennehy was tasked with acting as a “clearing house” for potential members of the advisory group, which the Select Board is expected to name soon.
Select Board member Mike Zullas is the point person for the measure in response to recent calls for justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked several protest rallies and discussion in Milton as part of a nationwide outcry against systemic racism.
The advisory committee will be charged with the following tasks:
Reviewing town policies, procedures, and budgets for the purpose of advancing equity and justice for all, with a focus on eradicating from Milton oppression, racism, injustice, and violence against people of color, including, without limitation, immigrants of color;
Reporting to the Select Board about the results of its work at least once each calendar quarter;
Making recommendations based on the results of such work for the consideration of the Select Board within 18 months from the date of appointment of a chair of the committee.
The Select Board worked on the proposal over a period of weeks in an effort to get the charge and membership of the group “exactly right,” in the words of Zullas.
He said that most of the membership slots are open to anyone. The measure no longer specifies that a member of the board serves on it.
This was done in order “to make sure it is more independent of town government,” Zullas said.
Select Board member Richard Wells agreed at the June 24 Select Board meeting that the advisory group needs to be independent.
“This has to hurt. You want to talk about race and injustice...it has to be uncomfortable for you,” he said. “The only way to have success is through communication and open dialogue. We have to touch on subjects that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. We will never be able to totally understand until we are to listen.”
Wells said the town is full of “brilliant leaders” in the community who can serve, open their ears, and listen to those from all areas of the community: police, schools, clergy, fire, neighborhood groups, and citizen groups.
He also offered the most recent change in the measure that specifically included “immigrants of color.”
Wells said that immigration issues are raw in this country, “closely tied to issues of justice,” and need to be part of the discussion.
“We need to start listening in a way that helps us change,” Collins said.