The Falmouth Affirmative Action Committee opened its meeting Monday, January 11, by addressing the violence and riots that occurred last Wednesday at the US Capitol.
Co-chairwoman Meghan Hanawalt said she and Patricia Oshman, the committee’s other co-chairwoman, had planned to open the first meeting of 2021 with a look back at the challenges of 2020 and then shift the focus to a new year.
“But the events last week propelled us to change our reflection. We realize it’s the same chapter, just a new page,” Ms. Hanawalt said.
“It became painfully clear last week that Black lives and Black opinions matter less in this country than white lives and white opinions. When Black peaceful protesters are met with riot police, tear gas and arrests, and white insurrections, some armed, are able to storm the US Capitol,” she said. “Many people are saying this is not who we are, but this is exactly who we are, and who we have been for a nation for 244 years. We have to acknowledge that before we can change it. We look forward to working together in 2021 to change how the next chapter plays out.”
Hiring a diversity coordinator and creating the job description will help meet the Falmouth Affirmative Action Committee’s goals of inclusion. Members of the committee have solicited public comment on what the role of the diversity coordinator should be. Based on the comments received, the person should have more autonomy and authority that what was proposed at the Annual Town Meeting in June, when the position was funded.
Committee member Susan O’Brien summarized the comments and concluded that the person hired should not answer to the town manager or superintendent of schools, as is currently proposed, as it would hamper the ability to be effective and could create a conflict of interest. Other comments included changing the position from a coordinator to an executive level position with leadership authority. The recommendations will go to the town manager and superintendent. The committee will present a revised scope of duties to the select board before the job is posted.
“I fully support this position and applaud Town Meeting for resurrecting it. It should never have been eliminated, as need for it never waned. In fact, it is an incredibly needed position in this town, as every town in America, because none of us can escape our own history,” committee member Debra Berglin said.
The position was last held by George Spivey. It has been vacant since his retirement in August 2013.
She said it is clear from the public comments that there is a strong appetite for the role to have autonomy, a view Ms. Berglin endorses.
“This is another precipitous time in this country, particularly for the Black and brown members of our communities, as we saw so painfully last week at the Capitol,” she said. To make this country safe and equitable for all people we, especially white members of the community, need to be courageous enough to stand up to white supremacy and systemic racism, starting at home, by open and honest examination of our own institutions of which we are a part.”