Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Burlington Joins U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 12, 2013
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                802.735.7962

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Burlington Joins U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination
Honors Memory of Four Young Girls Killed in Birmingham, AL Church Bombing 50 Years Ago; Highlights City’s Anti-Racism and Inclusionary Initiatives

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced that the City of Burlington had joined the U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination and signed onto the Coalition’s 10-Point Plan of Action.  The Mayor shared this news during a gathering at First Congregational Church, as a number of his fellow mayors gathered in Birmingham, AL at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting and other mayors around the country took similar steps as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that left four young girls dead in 1963.  The Mayor also highlighted some of the ways that Burlington is and will continue to pursue the action plan, including:

  • Implementation of inclusionary City policies and procedures;
  • Engaging in difficult, yet productive community conversations about race; and
  • Working with the school system to promote education about differences, tolerance, and respect.

“Today, we remember the four young girls who gave their lives 50 years ago – we remember Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair,” stated Mayor Weinberger at a news conference at Burlington’s First Congregational Church.  “And we honor their memory through tangible action steps to do better as a City and as a nation – steps that will help our community be more effective at preventing racism and discrimination, teaching tolerance, and advocating and working toward greater inclusion.”

The First Congregational Church of Burlington, United Church of Christ, hosted the Mayor’s announcement.  Reverend Peter Cook, Senior Minister of First Congregational Church, shared the following thoughts:  “We at First Congregational Church are pleased to work with the City and Mayor Weinberger to address the challenges of racism in our community.  While we have come a long way in the last 50 years, there is much work that remains to address great racial and economic inequalities in our society.”

Also, the Mayor was joined by Roy Hill, President of the Vermont Ecumenical Council and Bible Society and Charter Member of the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church, whose congregation meets for prayer and other activities at First Congregational Church, who stated:  “It seems right and just that we members of the human family, including mayors and faith community leaders, commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham church bombings because it was in some ways the worst of times and the best of times.  That horrific deed to our children left us with the resolve to remember that all God’s children, red and yellow, black and white, are precious in His sight.  And so it is the hope of the faith community, including the Vermont Ecumenical Council and Bible Society, as well as the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church, and others that we continue to address the fact that racism is sin, evil, and a violation of God’s intention for humanity.  As the New Alpha covenant reminds us, we must continue ‘to engage, to watch over, to pray for, to exhort, and to stir up each other unto every good word and work.’”

Inclusionary City policies and procedures
The City of Burlington is focusing on improving its policies and procedures to ensure that they promote inclusion and do not discriminate.  This work, made possible in part by a recently secured federal grant and through newly designated funds in the fiscal year 2014 budget, includes:

  • New efforts by the Human Resources Department to provide all its employees with cultural competency training;  
  • The continuation and expansion of the “We All Belong” program, a City leadership executive education program; and
  • Development of new, inclusionary public engagement protocols for City departments that take into account our richly diverse community.

Additionally, the City is continuing to work on a new Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan.

City of Burlington Human Resources Director Susan Leonard shared her enthusiasm about the new and improved City policies and procedures, stating:  “For the first time as HR Director, I have been provided with budgetary resources specifically designated for diversity training for all City staff, so we can ensure that we use our best efforts to see that all members of our community get equitable access to City services and resources.”

Community conversations about race
At today’s event, University of Vermont Professor Emily Bernard, professor of English and an award-winning author whose areas of expertise include African-American and 20th-Century American literature, Critical Theory, and Race and Ethnicity in Literature, highlighted three important, upcoming anti-racism events and applauded the City’s current efforts to prevent and fight against racism:

  • City of Burlington anti-racism community conversation – fall 2013 at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center;
  • UVM Teach-in – September 27, 2013 on the UVM campus; and
  • Tim Wise presentation – November 20, 2013 – Wise, who is white, is known to be one of the most prominent anti-racist writers and educators in the nation – event sponsored by Champlain College, UVM, ECHO, and the City of Burlington.

“Mayor Weinberger already has demonstrated a willingness to engage in difficult conversations around race and racism in Burlington, as well as encourage community participation in reflections that are both celebratory and somber as we experience the richness of growing diversity,” stated Professor Bernard.  “I am heartened further by his commitment to join mayors around the country in a collective national effort against racism and discrimination.”

Promote education about differences, tolerance, and respect
Mayor Weinberger also signaled his ongoing support of two separate, but related, efforts in the schools to end racial disparities and promote inclusion.  First, the Burlington School District continues its efforts toward closing the achievement gap in our City’s schools through implementation of its diversity plans.

Nikki Fuller, Burlington School District Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, & Employee Relations, stated:  “The Burlington School District has worked diligently on ‘Diversity: Our Gift and Our Future 2012’ and now has moved into our 2013 plan.  Through this process, we have gained an even greater understanding of the importance of equity and inclusion to the success of every student.  We recognize that we must do more than just tolerate our differences.  We must engage and value those differences – every face, every voice, every perspective.  It is only then that we can truly achieve excellence as a community.”

Second, the Partnership for Change, a philanthropically-funded initiative, now is in its second year of operation, focusing on expanding student-centered learning in the Burlington and Winooski high schools so that all children can succeed. 

Hal Colston, Executive Director of the Partnership for Change, shared:  “If we are to fully evolve as human beings to move beyond racism and the ultimate ‘ism’ of classism, we must remember our past and honor all of our unsung civil rights heroes, whether their skin pigment is black, white, red, or yellow so we may follow in their footsteps on the march to justice.”

Other officials who participated in today’s news conference, included:  Reverend Adrianne Carr, Associate Minister, First Congregational Church of Burlington; Kesha Ram, Public Engagement Specialist, Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO); and Beth Truzansky, Director, CEDO’s “We All Belong” Program.

To learn more about the U.S. Conference of Mayors anti-racism efforts in conjunction with Empowerment Week, commemorating Birmingham’s key involvement in the civil rights movement of 1963, please visit http://usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/2013/0903-advisory-empowermentweek.pdf.

*Please see attached U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination 10-Point Plan of Action.

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Press Release Date: 
09/12/2013
City Department: 
Mayor's Office