In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black citizens, a group calling itself Cape Cod Racial Justice formed this summer to do political organizing on race issues on Cape Cod.
Since then the group has been working to “coalition-build” with other organizations on the Cape, including Cape Cod Voices, the Cape Cod Coalition for Safe Communities, Wampanoag tribal members and the Coalition for Social Justice.
One goal of Cape Cod Racial Justice is to shape questions for political candidates on Cape Cod said MacKenzie J. Hamilton, one of the group’s organizers.
“Our main project at the moment is this one: We are committed to getting as many local candidates as possible on the record about these issues in advance of the upcoming election,” she said.
To that end, candidates for the state Senate’s Cape and Islands District; state representatives for the 1st, 2nd and 5th Barnstable districts; and the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners and Assembly of Delegates were sent nine questions.
Not mincing any words, the first question jumps right in: “How do you plan to address issues of systemic racism while in office?”
The questionnaire goes on to ask how each candidate will support and reaffirm Wampanoag rights, language and culture. It also addresses recent attempts to revoke the reservation of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
It asks how candidates will address racial profiling and police reform; the wealth disparities on Cape Cod, including how it affects access to affordable housing; and the issues facing Massachusetts schools regarding racism and white supremacy.
It also asks candidates if they consider it a problem that Black inmates consistently outnumber white inmates for both Barnstable and Dukes counties and, if so, how they would rectify that; where they stand on the issues facing immigrant communities on Cape Cod; and how they will work to address healthcare disparities among Black, indigenous, people of color and other low-income communities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking by videocall from Prague in the Czech Republic, where she is studying “peace and conflict issues globally” in pursuit of a master’s degree, Ms. Hamilton said last summer’s killings of unarmed Black citizens was a mobilizing moment in the country and on Cape Cod.
“We saw the reaction of Cape Codders who convened in town settings to show solidarity and say, ‘This is not who we are,’” she said.
Ms. Hamilton grew up in Harwich and graduated from Harwich High School. She and a few fellow alums came together, she said, to create the Cape Cod Racial Justice group and to “mobilize networks.”
The group’s supporters are from towns across the Cape, including Bourne and Sandwich.
For this candidate project the intention was to create a nonpartisan questionnaire, Ms. Hamilton said, adding that it is important to know what the candidates have to say on the issues of racial justice.
“It’s a good exercise,” she said.
Before going overseas, Ms. Hamilton spent several years working in Washington, DC, doing political advocacy.
After the November election, the Cape Cod Racial Justice group plans to continue to support the work of Cape activists of color and to work to dismantle racism in local communities, she said.