The following was posted by the Framingham Human Relations Commission today, January 25. It is posted on Source as a community service.
FRAMINGHAM – Last year was a year of historic transition for Framingham. The Framingham Human Relations Commission (“HRC”) was understandably and significantly impacted by the departure of former members and the appointment of new ones.
The successfully appointed Human Relations Commission met for the first time on September 13, 2018.
An important part of the mission of the Commission is “to deal with the causes of intergroup disunity… including, but not limited to, the elimination of conditions of bias discrimination and prejudice against minority groups…”
Several incidents occurring during the last 12 months have helped put into perspective that the city government and the Commission has much work to do in this area. During this period, we have experienced a number of unfortunate events.
One year after racial slurs were found in dormitories of Framingham State University, one of our own elementary school students was targeted with racist and threatening notes. Two other instances, one of which was reported in the local news only yesterday, indicate that racial slurs have also been used to target students in two other Framingham elementary schools. Immediately following these events, many community members have quickly denounced the hateful messages and offered letters and public statements of support, with the message that hate is not welcome in Framingham.
The City inaugurated its first Mayor in 2018, an African-American woman, and a few other women and people of color to its City Council and School Committee. However, more needs to be done in order to have a government that is truly reflective of Framingham’s diverse citizens.
Regarding public participation, as apparent in our boards and commissions appointment process, it is still in need of much attention.
Outreach to the community has not been as strong as the Commission would have expected. We are hopeful, however, that the newly hired Public Participation Officer will help Framingham improve in this area.
The Commission was disappointed that the Mayor’s proposal for a Diversity and Inclusion Director was turned down by the City Council. The alternative proposed by the City Council of having a small amount of the human resources consulting budget go towards a Diversity Study has also had no apparent traction. Unfortunately, this has resulted in inaction towards positive change in the area of Diversity and Inclusion.
Looking ahead, the Commission will look to be a partner to initiatives that help promote diversity and inclusion in Framingham and that send the message that Framingham is in fact committed to being a welcoming community to all. We intend to respond quickly to issues that go against this forward movement in our city. We also commit to continue to promote productive conversation on issues of diversity by providing support to diverse city events and continuing to create educational opportunities for our citizens on a variety of topics.
Most recently, we held a successful event highlighting the plight of those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. In the coming year, we plan to continue that conversation as well as creating others. We are currently working on a forum on the subject of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an issue that has been brought to our attention by Framingham High School students, of whom we are very proud.
Due to the desire to engage more directly with the citizens of Framingham, the Commission has started using social media.
The goal is to do our part to help keep citizens informed on issues and better connected to the vibrant, diverse community we live in.
We plan also to continue to invite the community to our meetings along with guest speakers, so that we can continue to learn about the needs of the community and how we may be helpful. We have made efforts to recruit additional members to the Commission and are ecstatic about the response we have received. We look forward to having a fully appointed commission in the very near future.
We hope that the work we have done since our first meeting as an official city body helps to build on the many years of service that has been provided by the Commission to Framingham.
We will continue to stay true to our mission and support the Mayor, City Council, School Committee and other partners in reaffirming Framingham’s commitment to work towards unity and improved human relations.
Human Relations Commission
Robert Anspach, Chair
José Ivan Román