Thursday, June 11, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Community Letter

I am sitting here on the weekend reading a story in the Washington Post about a 29-year-old black man in Nashville, Shawn Dromgoole, who was afraid to walk in his own neighborhood where he grew up. Over the years it gentrified from African American neighbors to white. He reflected on Mr. Arbery a black man out jogging in Georgia when he was shot to death, and Mr. Floyd a black man killed while in police custody. Shawn saw frequent postings on an app “Nextdoor” warning about “suspicious black men.”

In Rutland, where Project VISION grew up, I remember the value of walking the neighborhoods and as a small group of “Visionaries” began at one site, we walked and stopped to talk with everyone along the way encouraging everyone to walk together in the neighborhood with us. The power of neighbors reaching out to each other and looking out for each other, meeting folks who you do not know, is palpable.  Shawn in Nashville posted his feelings of fear of not returning home to his family alive that kept him on his porch. Responses poured in, asking if they could join him in his walk; before he knew it, he was walking with 75 neighbors, whom he never met before. All unexpected, but enduring.

Over this past year, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont (NWWVT) chose to work on a principle called, “REDI” asking are you REDI? REDI stands for race, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Our Board of Directors embraced this important work that begins by educating ourselves. Then, came the death of George Floyd and a ground swell of nationwide and global protests for social justice, with movement to policy change. These are important times and the protests show the diversity in the crowds, which is far different from the 1960s. No longer can Americans sit silently on the sidelines. While we may not all feel that we can publicly protest, we can make a difference in our lives, in our neighborhoods and in our board rooms.

While there is always room to improve how we treat each other, regardless of race or skin color, one of the most visible representatives of government is law enforcement. Today, everyone is focused on the power of government, especially when a death occurs at the hands of a police officer. The public outcry in the form of weeks of mostly peaceful protests, countered by violence and destruction, is difficult to watch, as are the deaths of African American citizens when reason seems lost.

In my view, not only must change occur in law enforcement but across our society – we all have work to do.  There was much work started in public safety at the national level several years ago with the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing which divided the recommendations into six pillars. They are: Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight, Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Officer Training and Education, Officer Safety and Wellness. This is a body of work that is consistent with the call for social justice – fundamental fairness for all.

In housing, there is a history of inequality in federal laws that held minority populations back. The idea that racism and injustices went on and was legislated and affected African Americans and other minorities is wrong. We are all Americans, so why the division? The desire to be treated fairly and equally is every American’s right. It is worthwhile to review our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It begins with “We the People of the United States” and the Declaration of Independence gives the inalienable right of “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

NWWVT recognized that to do our part the Board Room must intentionally change and improve. “An exceptional board recognizes and prioritizes the value and importance of diversity and revitalization in the boardroom. The board sees the critical correlation among mission, strategy and board composition (2020 Stretch Principles, NeighborWorks America)”.  NeighborWorks of Western Vermont is committed to a continuous recruitment effort to bring a more diverse membership to its board and staff that includes race, gender, profession, customers, geography (representing the NE Kingdom, Addison, Rutland, and Bennington counties) and more.

Accept the challenge to be better leaders and citizens, to hold each other accountable, to do the right thing, every day. Begin by listening and learning more about social injustices. Strive to be better neighbors, “walking” together actually and/or to perform an act of inclusion and equity. Accept the challenge to practice the golden rule as a moral imperative to treat all people the way you would like to be treated, every day. Accept the challenge to do your part to eliminate racism.

 

Scott A. Tucker, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, Board President

Project VISION, Executive Director (retired)

Rutland City Police Department, Commander (retired)

 

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At NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, we are all things home. We work to help Vermonters become educated about finances and homeownership; find homes to purchase; get the loans they need to buy homes; and renovate their existing homes to make them healthy, safe and affordable. We believe that homeownership supports people and families in living healthy and stable lives.