For Immediate Release

A group of Williston leaders representing different groups interested in racial justice have come together to discuss how the town can better address racial disparities and build a Williston that is welcoming and equitable to all.

This group is presently called the Williston Racial Equity Partners, and its current members are Erik Wells, Town Manager; Rick McGuire, Williston Rotary Club President; Greg Marino, Williston Schools Principal; Rev. Paul Eyer, Williston Federated Church Pastor; Jane Kearns, Williston Library Director; Cristalee McSweeney, Williston Community Justice Center Director; Debbie Ingram, Vermont Interfaith Action Executive Director.

One community issue that the group is discussing is the request made by some residents that the town raise a Black Lives Matter flag. The Racial Equity Partners agree completely that Williston wants to signal that the town welcomes and respects members of the BIPOC community (black, indigenous, people of color). Yet after only a few discussion sessions, the coalition has also quickly come to recognize that the town’s collective actions around this issue must be considered deliberately and inclusively, with the understanding that they will surely cause discomfort, pain, and division in our town. The group also acknowledges that an unintended result could be that some of this pain and division disproportionately impacts the BIPOC members of our community.

The Racial Equity Partners therefore, would like to assure residents that we are strongly committed to continuing these discussions and aim to design a Racial Equity Plan that will include short-term and long-term goals and the activities necessary to fulfill these goals. We will provide regular, periodic updates on our progress, and our work will be conducted slowly and intentionally in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

We have already consulted with Xusana Davis, Vermont Racial Equity Director; Rev. Arnold Thomas, sponsor of Racism in America forums and pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Jericho; and Kesha Ram, former state representative and current state senator-elect, and a principal in the firm Creative Discourse. The group is committed to engaging town residents, especially members of the BIPOC community, as well as groups from outside Williston, in these critical but challenging conversations about race and justice.