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Commission Report to Town Meeting 2019

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Photo courtesy ACMi

Dave: Good evening, Town Meeting Members. I’m Dave Swanson, Precinct 5 and Co-Chair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission.

Naomi: And I’m Naomi Greenfield, Precinct 15 and also Co-Chair of the AHRC.

Dave: You will find the AHRC’s Write up in the Annual Report for the Town, but we wanted to take a few minutes here tonight to call to attention a few things for you.

For anyone new to Town or unfamiliar with the AHRC, the Arlington Human Rights Commission was created by Town Meeting in 1993 to advance issues related to the fair and equal treatment of individuals and to create a mechanism for addressing complaints arising out of these issues. The mission of the AHRC is to work individually and collaboratively with groups in our community to celebrate the ever-changing tapestry of our Town, and to emphasize, through educational outreach, the danger of intolerance at every level. So essentially, our work is in three distinct areas: Responding, Educating and Community Building.

As you will see in the Town Annual Report, in line with national and global trends, hate incidents continue to rise, with increasing complaints of tagging/graffiti of hate messages and other forms of hate speech. Starting at the beginning of last year, we started a more formal tracking system of these incidents and have been working closely with the APD and APS on a response protocol for these incidents. We have also been forging connections through the Anti-Defamation League’s Metronorth Advisory Committee and the Mass Association of Human Rights Commissions to share resources, ideas, strategies and support with other human rights organizations throughout the Commonwealth, many of whom look to the AHRC as a model of an active and energized Commission.

Naomi: In addition to a more formal system of tracking and responding, we as a Commission have ramped up our efforts to do proactive education work in the hopes that we can, as a community, bring down the number of incidents. We have produced a number of educational events and trainings in town on the topics of hate symbols, restorative justice, being an upstander, cultural competency, mediation skills, responding to hate and bias in our schools and having courageous conversations about race. We will be having an event on May 16th about responding and preventing hate incidents in our schools that we encourage all APS parents, teachers and administrators to attend. Details to come on that on our Facebook page. We have run our well-received community building event, Double Take, an evening of storytelling that will make you think twice about and from members of the Arlington community.

The AHRC has also stepped up our role as a leader in community gatherings, organizing a large solidarity and action gathering following the Tree of Life Shooting in Pittsburgh, and co-sponsoring two events in response to the mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. While we hope to not have to organize these events with such frequency, we know gathering the community together following these tragedies is an important part of the healing process.

We have increased our presence in the community at Town Day, Feast of the East and at all the programming we co-sponsor. In an effort to have Arlington visibly express its values, we have have sold and distributed over 300 Hate Has No Home signs and bumper magnets. We will have these signs available for a small donation for Town Meeting Members at the break.

Dave: We would like to remind people that should you come across a symbol of hate graffiti, please notify the APD and the AHRC before erasing or covering it over. It is important that we are able to document the incident and have all the information needed to respond. And of course, if you experience a hate incident or are witness to an incident, please report it to the APD and reach out to the AHRC for support, resources and guidance. We'd also like to let people know that we currently have 2 openings on the Commission and hope to get a strong pool of applicants that will reflect a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. Please reach out to the Town if you are interested in applying.

Naomi: And finally, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that this has been an extraordinarily challenging year in both the world and to be on this Commission. None of us expected as volunteers to have to respond so regularly and so strongly to the upswing in incidents in Arlington as well as to lend support to the communities in Arlington so dramatically affected by hate incidents around the world. We want to particularly recognize the horror we felt in the past few weeks seeing the attacks on people of faith in New Zealand, Sri Lanka and San Diego. Tonight is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that reminds us of what happens when we turn on our neighbors and treat people as less than human. Let’s continue to build a community we are proud of, free of hate speech and actions and with respect, understanding and curiosity towards the people around us regardless of their faith, ethnicity, race, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or political preference. Thank you for your partnership in this important work and in making Arlington a place for all.


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