The New Castle Council on Race and Equity has had a busy month.
We’re proud to announce that we’ve completed Phase One of our plan. Each of our eight working groups made a presentation to the Town Board to offer proposals and recommendations to address racial inequality and improve the lives of all New Castle residents. The focus areas covered community partnerships, education, communication, housing , outreach, business and commerce, events and programs, and working with town administration.
The presentations are available to view On Demand:
- Community Education, Community Partnerships, Community Outreach HERE
- Communications, Events and Programs HERE
- Business and Commerce, Housing and Planning, Town Administration HERE
In the course of this work, we’ve forged relationships with many groups within the community, ranging from our local police, fire department and ambulances services to local hospitals and medical care providers. We’ve also partnered with other town committees, including the Recreation and Parks Department, with whom we showcased “Black Panther” as a drive-in movie.
Our Culinary Showcase at the Farmers Market was a huge success, where New Castle residents got to sample delicious offerings from BIPOC-run businesses.
CRE also partnered with Family Britches on a BIPOC Art Showcase.
A Letter from Our Co-Chairs
Friends, neighbors, community members:
We are pleased to report we have officially concluded Phase 1 of the Council on Race and Equity's work. As you recall, the CRE was established in the Spring of 2020 with the mandate to carefully examine and evaluate the existing systems, structures, processes, and programs in the Town of New Castle, so that we might offer proposals and recommendations to bridge racial inequities and begin the hard work of dismantling deep-rooted systemic racism.
For the last three months more than 100 community members - residents, parents, students, business owners, CCSD alumni – worked across eight workgroups which each focus on different areas to create a set of recommendations for the Town Board.
Over the last three weeks, the CRE's workgroups presented in the weekly Town Board meetings the group recommendations, complete with all research, case studies, benchmarking, and comprehensive due diligence.
The CRE also presented various workgroup recommendations to stakeholders including the library, CCSD and NCPD. We look forward to continuing to support them in this most important work. We give special thanks to our eight workgroup leaders Candace Chestnut, Hermian Charles, Johanna Nayyar, Kristina Herman, Tanya Tochner, Mindy Park, Angela Bronner Helm, and Melissa Cintron for their incredible leadership.
As we look forward to Phase 2: Implementation, we ask that residents of New Castle who are interested in joining the CRE to please reach out. In the coming weeks a public call for volunteers will be put out as well. We look forward to receiving your applications.
In the meantime, please visit the CRE booth at the Farmers Market on Saturdays to say hello and meet our volunteers.
As always, we are humbled by your ongoing support. Black lives matter.
Zabeen Mirza & Nichelle Maynard- Elliott
Welcome to the first installment of our community advice column. We are jumping right in with a tough question from a local BIPOC mom.
My son went to a birthday party last weekend, and there were parents in the backyard socializing. The boys are now in middle school, and have been friends since my son was in the first grade. At one point I went to get something from my car, and I found my son sitting in front of the house, where another kid was holding court, telling “funny racist jokes.” He was in the middle of telling one about Chinese kids, and I walked over to them and said, “not cool and NOT funny.”
“Yeah, it’s funny,” the kid says.
At that point, the other kids start telling him to pipe down. I went back to the parents for a while before I left. Should I tell the parents? I don’t know the kid, but it made me sad, because one, it was so casual; like nothing happened this summer. And two, as I was leaving, an Asian man was just standing back waiting for his son. Did he hear the joke? Whoever his kid was definitely did.
First off, we think it’s awesome that you said something to the kid on the spot. It’s a great example to your own son as well as the other kids to speak up and just say “not cool.” When racist comments are put out there as jokes, it can make it more awkward for those standing by to call it out. (Whether it ought to be awkward is not the point of this particular letter…) Next time those kids might find it easier to just say “not funny” themselves. You mentioned that there were others telling him to cut it out, so they knew it wasn’t okay, even if they didn’t have the nerve to say so before you came along.
As for the parents, we’d say there are probably zero residents of New Castle who would want to be called out as being a racist family, which means they would probably be defensive. We’d start with the host parents, since you know them well, and let them know what happened. It’s tempting to go straight to the urge to shame the “jokester” kid and/or his parents, but whether they are completely shocked or not by his behavior, they will likely still want to protect him. However, we believe that the important thing to focus on is the impact of a racist joke, way more than the intent. It could have been the most innocent boy in the world, but the far-reaching result of his joke can be as simple as hurting one of the other party guests (or his waiting dad), to reinforcing to these young middle school kids that anything is ok as long as you are joking, and it’s ok to stay quiet just because someone says a joke that you may know is racist.
An optimistic outcome would be disgust on the part of the host and guest parents, and some serious discussion with their kids. Sometimes we don’t know our kids are doing something stupid. Sometimes kids are just doing what is ok for them to do at home, and in that case you still can have a shot at making an impact on their behavior (if not their beliefs) by letting them know just what you did – it’s not acceptable.
Ask Us Anything. (Really.) We are here to answer your difficult, uncomfortable or awkward questions. All submissions will remain anonymous.
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What We're Reading, Listening To and Watching
Thoughts - and recommendations - from Black Writers
“When Black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs.”
So wrote Tre Johnson, a writer on race, culture and identity, in an Op-ed piece in the Washington Post. Johnson recently moderated an online discussion with three writers of color, to talk about how to advance antiracism through literature. The panelists spoke about how conversations on race are increasingly happening in mainstream forums and among whites. Clearly the events of last summer spurred a kind of reckoning. But these long-time advocates, while glad more people were paying attention, are grappling with the phenomenon.
Johnson noted that “It seems we have to pay some type of tithe for our community to give up someone in order for the rest of us to be heard. There’s a cultural observation that we have the greatest value when we’ve paid our greatest price, right? So Black Lives Matter in part activates people at the expense of an actual black life.”
“Why are white people all of a sudden paying attention to equity?” asked Dr. Gholdy E. Muhammad, an Associate professor of Language and Literacy at Georgia State University and the author of Cultivating Genius. “I ask myself that all the time, because we’re on all these workshops and panels and I keep hearing, ‘now is the time for equity.’ And I’m like – when has it not been time for equity?”
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, a poet and an Associate professor at Teachers College at Columbia, focuses on racial literacy in teacher education. “I still believe that there’s something somewhere down deep inside folks, that once you expose them to the ways that they create trauma in others or hurt or inflict violence, that they may want to change,” she said.
Gabriel Bump, a novelist, said that he seeks to tell the truth about people’s lives through fiction. “My new novel deals with themes like police brutality and segregation and the history of oppression and marginalization of people like us.” Yet Bump says fiction writing gives him the room to have “fun” with silly characters dealing with heavy issues, and even to create a world he’d like to live in.
In his Op-Ed, Johnson wrote that after the murder of George Floyd. “I watch many of my white friends and acquaintances perform the same pieties they play out after Trayvon, Eric, Sandra, Korryn, Botham, Breonna.” When things get real, he says, white people read and then talk about what they read. “This isn’t time to circle up with other white people and discuss black pain in the abstract; it’s the time to acknowledge and examine the pain they’ve personally caused.”
Sealey-Ruiz echoed his thoughts. “’What books do I need to be an anti-racist?’ We’ve got to look at the heart first, read your heart and then you can read some books.”
So does this mean you shelve your copies of “White Fragility” and “How to Be An Anti-Racist”? No, keep reading. But understand that’s just a start. And, more important than intellectual texts on anti-racism, these authors suggest white people should read literature that deals with black lives. Here are some of their suggestions:
- Real Life by Brandon Taylor
- The Shadow King by Maaza Mengsiste
Bump’s new novel is “Everywhere You Don’t Belong”
- Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
- Black is the Body: Stories from my Grandmother’s Time, my Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard
- When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
- The Bible
- The Koran/ Qur’an
- Black newspapers from the 19th century (via libraries), The Colored American, Freedom’s Journal, The North Star, Provincial Freeman
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