Newfane First in Windham County to Support Vermont’s Declaration of Inclusion | Local News

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NEWFANE – Newfane joins approximately 39 other Vermont communities in signing the Declaration of Inclusion, which “condemns racism and welcomes all people, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, identity or expression of gender, age or disability, and wants everyone to feel safe and welcome in our community.

“As a city,” the statement states, “we strongly condemn all forms of discrimination, we are committed to fair and equal treatment of all members of our community, and we will strive to ensure that all of our actions, policies and operating procedures reflect this commitment. The city (…) is and will remain a place where people can live freely and express their opinions.

On April 4, the Newfane Select Board unanimously supported signing the statement. According to vtdeclarationofinclusion.org, the goal is to have it “adopted and implemented by each of Vermont’s 246 cities.”

The overarching goal of the project is to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and highlight that Vermonters are not fully aware of systemic racism in their predominantly white state.

“Distressed by the recent catastrophic events that have unfolded across the country regarding human rights, justice and equality, Bob Harnish, a longtime resident of Pittsford, has decided to do something about it,” says the website. “His concern led him to Al Wakefield, a former businessman from the Rutland area, who shared similar distress and felt the need to do something ‘practical’. Together the two men began to work out a comprehensive statement that would build on Vermont’s agreed uniqueness, its longstanding reputation as a leader in the fight against injustices, and ensure that events unfolding in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and d “Other states don’t happen here. They realized that at the same time, such a declaration could draw people with a myriad of skills and traditions to Vermont to live, work, and raise families.”

Harnish and Wakefield found the statement they were looking for in the Statement of Inclusion, which was first adopted by the City of Franklin in 2020. The site says the intent of the statement is to show that “the Vermont is a welcoming community… of people who will treat them fairly, encourage them and support them in their interests… [and] will bring all the resources of the state, cities and towns to ensure their well-being and safety.

West River Valley Mutual Aid’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force asked Newfane to support the statement.

“Newfane was one of the first towns in Vermont to issue a statement affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the group said in a letter to the Select Board, referring to a project led by the support group. “It’s been on our city’s website since it was adopted in September 2020.”

Newfane’s 2020 statement “condemns hate speech, bias and acts intended to induce fear in any person because of their identity”. It came after roads in that city as well as Brattleboro, Dover, Jamaica, Putney, Rawsonville and South Londonderry were spray painted with anti-Black Lives Matter messages.

“We are a community of diverse backgrounds and opinions, and we draw our strength from that,” reads Newfane’s statement. “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and to feel safe in our beautiful city.”

The task force said the statement’s list of supporters includes 39 cities that have made similar statements, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Association of Planning and Development Agencies, and the Office of the governor on behalf of the state. from Vermont.

“The list of cities adopting the declaration of inclusion is receiving wide media coverage and is intended, in part, to promote business and tourism,” the task force said in its letter. “It can also be useful for grants and attracting cultural opportunities in the future. More importantly, it underlines for residents and visitors that everyone is welcome in Newfane; and that together we reject hatred and prejudice Newfane values ​​make us proud to live here and raise our children here.

A map of towns supporting the statement includes Bennington, Manchester, Pawlet and Springfield, but none of County Windham.

Brattleboro Select Board Chairman Ian Goodnow said the statement has yet to be released to his community. He plans to speak with the city manager about the prospect.

State Representative Mike Mrowicki, D-Windham-4, of Putney, is part of the Vermont Interfaith Action countywide campaign supporting the declaration.

“We plan to put this in front of cities, churches and civic groups” such as the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, he said.

Working on Putney’s Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, Mrowicki estimates the statement could be presented to the select board in about two weeks. After that, he said, his group intends to “initiate a process of community conversation to affirm our values ​​and how we can be more welcoming and inclusive as we stand against oppression of all kinds.” .

“I see this as a way to bring people together at a very reactionary time in our history,” he said.

Bellows Falls Village Trustees and a joint meeting of Village Trustees with the Rockingham Select Board discussed the declaration, but made no decision.

Susan Smallheer contributed to this report.

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