Alliance Fall Updates

Happy Fall to All!

For those who may not know, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance was established by Justice For All to leverage collective strengths and voices to implement public policy that will address systemic and overt racism in Vermont. Led by people of color, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance consists of both individuals and organizations committed to the work of advocating, implementing and defending policy.  Information on joining the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance can be found hereMeetings are the second Tuesday of each month, from 5:30 PM till 6:15 PM at the First Congregational Church, 38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington  Our Next meeting is October 8th. There is a Use of Force Forum on the agenda (discussed later).

#ChangeVermont Legislative Agenda

  • Proposal to Remove Slavery from the Vermont Constitution, PR.2
  • Slavery Reparations for African Americans, H.478
  • Appropriate Use of Force, S.119 and H.464
  • Data Collection in the Justice System, H.284 

People of Color Steering Committee Meeting

Oct 23, Nov 27 and Dec 27
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

First Congregational Church 
38 South Winooski Ave., Burlington

Use of Force:  How Much is Enough and How Do We Know it?

Oct 8, 2019
Oct 24, 2019
6:30 PM till 8:30 PM
First Congregational Church 
38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington

Law enforcement Use of Force in Vermont is a hot topic these days.  With the numerous challenges that the topic presents, community engagement and awareness on the matter is an imperative.  From training to policy and data collection, this community forum will provide insight on Use of Force in policing In Vermont and share policy proposals to take us forward. S.119 or H.464 are recommended for review prior to attending.  Burlington Police Brandon Chief Del pozo is confirmed.

Systemic Racism: Origins, Impacts and Solutions

Oct 16, 2019
6:30 PM till 8:30 PM
First Congregational Church
38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington

What is systemic racism and how does it manifest in Vermont?  What can we do about it?  Join us for a brief talk laying out the anatomy of systemic racism and the very real and tangible persistent components of this system that continues to plague us as a nation today.   Then interact with an illuminating panel discussion that unpacks systemic racism and discusses solutions.  Read More Here we shine a light on this system of oppression from a historical perspective as well as come to terms with its continued impact on us in Vermont.  Act 54 Racial Disparities in State Systems Report and Recommendations (2017) is a recommended for review prior to attending.

Making the Justice System Work With Data

Nov 12, 2019
6:30 PM til 8:30 PM
First Congregational Church 
38 South Winooski Ave., Burlington 

Join a lecture and panel discussion on the origins and emergence of race data collection in the Vermont justice system.  Panel one will discuss the early days of voluntary data collection by four agencies in Chittenden County and State Police.  The second panel will discuss our current state and the proposed legislative approaches in data collection in the justice system for the future.   H.284 is recommended for review prior to attending.  Representative Colburn, Professor Stephanie Seguino, Christine Kemp Longmore, Wanda Hines and Skyler Nash are confirmed.  We’re excited to release the Race Traffic Stop Dashboard during this meeting. 

The Facts About Slavery in Vermont

Nov 20, 2019
6:30 PM till 8:30 PM
First Congregational Church 
38 South Winooski Ave., Burlington 

Join us as we discuss “The Facts About Slavery In Vermont“.  Most are starting to come to understand that the United States constitution has a loophole that has always permitted slavery “for the punishment of a duly convicted crime”.  But what would you say if you discovered the Vermont State constitution contains a loophole of it’s own?  Professor and Author, Harvey Amani Whitfield, Vermont Law School Constitutional Law Professor, Peter Teachout and former US Attorney and Author Gary Shattuck will be on panel to discuss the implications.  Executive Director of Justice For All, Mark Hughes and legislators will update us on efforts underway to amend the constitution and more.  PR.2 is recommended for review prior to attending. Peter Teachout, Harvney Amani Whitfield and Gary Shattuck are confirmed.

Reparations For Slavery in Vermont: Is that a Thing?

Dec 10, 2019
6:30 PM till 8:30 PM
First Congregational Church 
38 South Winooski Ave., Burlington

As the national dialogue on reparations continues and despite the introduction of a slavery reparations bill in early 2019, law makers remain largely silent on the matter of reparations in Vermont.  We’re advancing the discussion.  To what extent does the harm done from slavery persist today?  Is the appointment of a task force to examine an apology and reparations the appropriate solution?  What are the hopes and fears of community and policy makers surrounding the prospect of such task force?  There is allot to unpack and we’ll bring representatives from community, policy makers, clergy and activists together for the panel discussion.  H.478 is recommended for review prior to attending.

The Racial Justice Alliance #ChangeVermont Legislative Agenda

Dec 18, 2019
6:30 PM till 8:30 PM
First Congregational Church 
38 South Winooski Ave., Burlington

The Racial Justice Alliance presents #ChangeVermont, an agenda focused largely on continuing to dismantle systemic racism in Vermont.  The Racial Justice Alliance and bill sponsors will present the full #ChangeVermont legislative agenda and priorities for 2020 in a public forum.  Legislators are invited to join in on the community discussion.  The Racial Justice Alliance Legislative Agenda is recommended for review prior to attending.

Help us continue the work

CLICK here!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.     Become a member?

Mark Hughes,
Executive Director, Justice For All
Coordinator, Racial Justice Alliance
mark@justiceforallvt.org
t @Mark_A_Hughes
I Mark.A.Hughes
802.532.3030
http://justiceforallvt.org/

“What Equity Looks Like” and Other Updates

All,

Please join us at the upcoming “What You Are Doing About Equity in Burlington” session on Tuesday, August 13th.  We’re following up on the work that we did last month.  This session will give us an opportunity to return with updates, provide deeper analysis and expand upon some of the suggested actions.  This meeting is from 7:00 till 9:00 PM (First Congregational Church, 38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington).  Here is a roll-up of many of the findings that were reported out last month. 

Before the Meeting
Meet up with the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance.  Here you’ll have a chance to join the Alliance and learn that legislative agenda.  This meeting is from 5:00 till 6:30 in the same location. 

Other Events happening this month:
Film Viewing – Against All Odds – 8/11
First African Landing Vermont – 8/24
Game On – 8/25
Racial Justice Alliance POC Steering Committee Meeting – 8/28

Help us continue the work

CLICK here!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.    

Become a member?

W.E.L.L. Update August 2, 2019

Happy August! 

All here is the fourth in a series of updates on What Equity Looks Like.  If you have missed any of the updates, you can see them on our site, at www.justiceforallvt.org or on the site of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, at www.vtracialjusticealliance.wordpress.com.  In case you missed it, right around the corner is “What We Are Doing About Equity in Burlington”, August 13th from 7:00 till 9:00pm.  This is an action-oriented meeting.  Please place this on your calendar.

News Flash

Xusana Davis, the Racial Equity Executive Director, appointed as a result of the legislative mandate of Act 9 (2018) is completing her first week on the job.  This is the position that Beth Fastiggi spoke of when she briefed us at the W.E.L.L. meeting last month.  Our hope is to invite Xusana to one of our meetings at some point in the near future.

Equity Highlight

Equity in Affordable Housing

Our Affordable Housing Group reported out that the lack of affordable housing is a “serious national and local issue” that impacts a large percentage of the population.  They made the assumption that “racism is a block for people accessing housing”.  Finally it was agreed that there is a definite connection to wages and the so-called affordable housing that does exist is largely of poor quality.  Licensing the landlords to improve housing quality and implementing progressive taxation based on property value were amongst the suggested solutions that the group fleshed out. With what they believed to be as many as 85% of voters holding this issue as a priority, this work is sure to be ongoing.  Shout out to the Affordable Housing Group for starting this work.

Upcoming Events

Here are a few things that are happening between now and our next meeting.  Click on the links for times and locations.

First African Landing Vermont

On August 24th, from 1:00 till 4:00 PM, at North End Studios, Studio A, 294 N. Winooski Ave., Burlington we will commemorate First African Landing Day. This commemoration serves to recognize the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in 1619. It will feature a commemorative ceremony, food, storytelling, dance, drumming, musical performances, and more. This First African Landing Commemorative Day will offer an opportunity for those who are interested in learning about the heritage, struggles and triumphs of the first Africans who were brought to the shores of what would become the United States.  Find out how you can become a supporter or sponsor or register for the commemoration here.

Please Help us Continue This Work 

We are free conduct outreach and education and provide advocacy but providing them is not free.  Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Provide a quick, secure contribution here.
CLICK here!


Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 
CLICK here!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.    Would you like to Become a member?

W.E.L.L. In Burlington Update

Hello all,

Here is your weekly What Equity Looks Like (W.E.L.L.) in Burlington update.

Our next meeting, “What You Are Doing About Equity in Burlington” will be August 13th from 7:00 till 9:00pm.  This is an action-oriented meeting.  Please place this on your calendar.  The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Meeting will precede this meeting (5:00pm), at the same location.  As indicated last week, we are providing weekly highlights from the initial W.E.L.L. breakout sessions.

Todays highlight is the Justice System. 

Equity Highlight

Equity in the Justice System

The breakout group on the justice system was the liveliest of our group discussions in our W.E.L.L. session on July 9th. The need to collect race data system wide and establish an independent complaint system was among the suggestions discussed amongst the group.  Community members also suggested the need to increasingly have those difficult (race related) conversations and stressed the importance of attending Police Commission meetings.   Some other topics included decriminalizing minor offenses and working to change policing culture and the manner in which they train. Thanks to the W.E.L.L. Justice System Group for their work.  We’ll continue to track this work and keep you updated.   

I chatted with our Chief of Police, Brandon del Pozo, today on JFA TV about what equity looks like in BPD.  The interview will be released sometime next week on Channel 17.  Please take the time to find the conversation.

Are you interested in hanging out and playing board games?  We do it every 4th Sunday, from 3:00pm till 6:00pm.  Will we see you on July 28?  Check here for details.  Also Our monthly Film Screening happens on the 2nd Sunday, every month from 3:00 till 6:00pm.  Come join us on August 11th as we share “Against All Odds” as we continue to do the work at the intersection of systemic racism and poverty.

Don’t forget to provide feedback on your experience at the W.E.L.L. event July 9th

Finally, can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Provide a quick, secure contribution here:

Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 

CLICK here!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.   
Would you like to Become a member?

W.E.L.L. in Burlington Update

Hello all,

Here is your weekly What Equity Looks Like (W.E.L.L.) in Burlington update. 

The Racial Equity Resolution was passed by City Council on Monday, July 15th. The Resolution creates a standing Committee and a full time position (that reports to the Mayor) for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This is what equitylooks like!

Our next meeting, “What We Are Doing About Equity in Burlington” will be August 13th from 7:00 till 9:00pm.  This is an action-oriented meeting.  Please place this on your calendar.  As indicated last week, we are providing weekly highlights from the initial W.E.L.L. breakout sessions. Todays highlight is on education.

Equity Highlight

Equity on Education 

A concern reported by the breakout group on education was that of a need for effective guidance and counseling processes.  Here, our team spoke in terms of a “high-school-to-college process” and stressed the importance of financial aid, role models and follow-up polices.  Progressive administrative follow-up was proposed as an important area to be addressed.  This included post college professional development; the tracking of student transitional developments; employer hiring and termination policy reviews and effective inclusion policies. Finally the group indicated a need to acknowledge a growing diverse community.  This was discussed in terms of empathy for culture mix; real time community diversity, and; community involvement through mentorship programs.  Thanks to the W.E.L.L. Education group for their work.  We’ll continue to track this work and keep you updated.   

I chatted with Henri Sparks, Director of Equity and Safe Inclusive Schools on with the Burlington School District on JFA TV, on W.E.L.L..  You can find that interview here

Interested in hanging out and playing board games with community members on a Sunday afternoon?  Game on!  Check here for details.

Don’t forget to provide feedback on your experience at the W.E.L.L. event July 9th. This helps us to course correct and hopefully get it right.  If you can’t do anything else, please consider this as a contribution to the cause.

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Provide a quick, secure contribution here: CLICK here and help us do the work

 Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 
CLICK here!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.    Would you like to Become a member?

What Equity Looks (W.E.L.L.) Like in Burlington

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  Thanks to those who were able to join us at “What Equity Looks Like in Burlington”. 
 
The meeting was overwhelmingly productive and we’re excited about continuing the discussion.   If you were able to attend, please provide some feedback on your experience?  This is important to enable us achieve desired outcomes.  This is something that you can do to affect change in addressing equity in Burlington.
 
Secondly our next meeting, “What We Are Doing About Equity in Burlington” will be August 13th from 7:00 till 9:00pm.  This is an action-oriented meeting.  Please place this on your calendar.  Expect weekly highlights, leading up to this meeting.  Here’s todays highlight: 

Equity Highlight
 
Equity in City Administration
 
Our City Administration Group decided that three of the most important things that WE can do to address equity in City administration is to identify active community spaces (to facilitate outreach); create a position in the City government to review equity, and; attend City Council Meetings and hold officials accountable for achieving equity goals.  City Administration Team, thank you for your concise output from your discussion.

Here is a HUGE opportunity to show up as a community and take responsibility for what equity looks like!
 
There will be a meeting of the full City Council on Monday, July 15th at 7:00pm.  The Council will be taking up a Resolution that creates a standing Committee and a full time position (that reports to the Mayor) for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  Take a look at the Resolution, reach out to your City Councilor and show up to voice your opinion and/or concerns.  This is what equity looks like.


Don’t forget about the film viewing (Slavery by Another Name), this Sunday, the 14th of July and the Justice For All Organizing Meeting on Wednesday, the 17th of July.  Both events will be at the First Congregational Church, 38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington.

We are free conduct outreach and education and provide advocacy but providing them is not free.  Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Provide a quick, secure contribution here: CLICK here and help us do the work

 Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 
 CLICK here!

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.    Would you like to Become a member?

House Gov Ops Finalizing PR.2; Constitutional Amendment Clarifying Slavery

Government Operations Committee is poised to vote on PR.2;  Declaration of rights; clarifying the prohibition on slavery and indentured servitude.

We support this amendment!

We’re proud of the work that we have been able to accomplish in getting the language to a place where it is clear that slavery and indentured servitude are absolutely prohibited.

Here is the Vermont Constitution as it exists today:

Article 1. [All persons born free; their natural rights; slavery prohibited]

That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; therefore no person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice, after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.

This is what the Amendment is proposing that Article I look like:

Article 1. [All persons born free; their natural rights; slavery and indentured servitude prohibited]

That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; therefore slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.

Please read the testimony provided to House Government Operations Committee, outlining our position.

Mark Hughes
Executive Director, Justice For All
Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance
PR.2 Testimony
House Government Operations Committee
Room 11, Vermont Statehouse
May 9, 2019 9:30

Good morning Madam Chair and House Government Operations Committee. I am Mark Hughes, Director of Justice For All and Coordinator for the Racial Justice Reform Alliance.  We are the proponents of the Proposal.

I am offering additional testimony for your consideration as you move into your committee discussion and possible vote today.    

We are in support of the amendment as passed by the Senate.  Please pass it unanimously.

2018 introduced new hope as Racial Justice Reform Coalition advanced Act 9 into law.  In it, for the first time in history was legislation creating a panel and an Executive Director to “promote racial justice reform throughout the State by mitigating systemic racism in all systems of State government…” 

Our research with Act 54, 2017 (Racial disparities), Act 9, 2018 (Racial Equity) and the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy led us to understand that state laws and institutions inherently create and sustain racial disparities. The constitutional amendment is a continuation of our work to dismantle this systemic racism. We successfully convinced the Vermont Democratic Party to adopt a platform statement to address slavery in the constitution and lobbied the legislature for a resolution, resulting in H.R.25 (2018) (not taken up in House Government Operations). Recently the League of Cities and Towns passed a resolution and theBishop and Episcopal Diocesan Council of Vermont issued a letter of support for the Proposal.   

As indicated in the Proposal, as introduced in the Senate, PR.2 has always been about “addressing systemic racism in our state laws and institutions.”  Despite this fact, much attention in testimony has been given to words “removing all reference to slavery”.  As indicated in our original request last year, that has never been the Alliances primary goal.  The Vermont Constitution in its current state is unclear on slavery prohibition.   

To be clear, this discussion goes beyond slavery.  To constitutionalize slavery (or form of servitude) because a person is “bound by the law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” is tantamount to criminalization of poverty which always has a greater impact on black people.  Clearly repercussions on criminalization manifest in all aspects of life and impact our posterity.  Clarification of Article I of the constitution enables us to take a major step in the right direction in addressing systemic racism in Vermont.  This amendment will serve to nullify any statute supported by this clause and call into question any institution created to sustain the premise of it into perpetuity. 

Though the Senate’s decision to remove “addressing systemic racism in our state laws and institutions” in the “Purpose” section of the Proposal has created some confusion surrounding our intent, the current proposed language satisfies our objective of providing clarification on slavery prohibition.
Many have asked why this is important. This is about our racist national and State history of criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of black (and poor) people. It expands in concentric circles beyond this, adversely impacting African American’s fair and equal access to housing, education, health services, employment and economic development. 

You have heard testimony that the US constitution makes the language of slavery in our constitution “academic” and it suggests that it has “no practical consequence”. But we have come to know that the 13th amendment constitutionalized slavery for the punishment of a crime, when duly convicted. Vermont State laws permit  “Imprisonment In Lieu Of Payment of Fines And Costs”.  Article I of the Vermont constitution provides an exception that permits slavery when “bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like”.  Collectively, this is the literal criminalization of poverty, the new slavery!

In closing, our work on addressing systemic racism has been ongoing for nearly five years.  Our analysis of the necessity to address the constitution is rooted in data driven research.  Those challenges, which are systemic in Vermont, must be addressed at the root – the constitution.

Please pass PR.2 unanimously.

Thank you for your service