Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Blog

Community Meeting on July 2, Legislative Agenda, Webinars, and more

Join us for the latest updates on the Legislative Agenda, Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E. in Burlington and updates from across the state and the latest on our Webinar Series. We are organizing like never before and continuing the work that we started in dismantling systemic racism in Vermont.

There will be breakouts for those interested in Membership, Government Relations, Organizing, Training, Research, Political Education and Policy, Communications and more. Bring your racial justice hat because this is a movement!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2685729441639264/

Date:  Thursday, July 2, 2020
Registration:  https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NGaMKLYURpezWs6pyJPbnQ

The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance is under the leadership of People Of Color.

 

Legislative Agenda

Our work in the State House is not done. We have expressed disappointment with the legislature’s hurried attempts to get some type of “criminal justice reform” work done before they recessed for the summer.  First, they are moving too fast on these policies and as a result could cause unintended consequences. Secondly, the legislators are allowing the Commissioner of Public Safety and other law enforcement folks to take all of the air out of the room.  Finally, criminal justice reform IS NOT RACIAL JUSTICE!

We have been asking the legislature to address issues like use of force for over the last three years. We reject the process that was clearly designed to move policy as quickly as possible for political purposes.

We have been providing the following priorities to legislative leadership over the last several months:

  • COVID-19 Targeted Relief
  • Economic Development and Empowerment
  • Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement
  • Staffing Racial Equity Office
  • Update Population Quality of Life Outcomes to include a “People of Color” 3 VSA 2311
  • Prioritize Centralized Race Data Repository (State Government)
  • Reparations (H.478)

Could you please remind the leadership that in these times that they should be listening to us?

Other things we are talking about:

Educational Series 

Reparations In Vermont:  Is That A Thing?

The Legislative Series continues. Created to provide a forum to educate community members and gain their perspectives while informing legislator’s decisions on policy, the Series was running throughout the legislative session and all forums were being conducted at the Statehouse until the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, we’re bringing it to your living room.

The deliberations in the US House of Representatives on legislation that would create a Commission to study and develop reparations proposals (HR.40) have reached a fever pitch. A bill has been introduced in Vermont that would establish a task force to study and consider a State apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery. Vermont law makers remain SILENT on the matter, despite the national racial unrest. We’re advancing the discussion. 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 discuss and we’ll bring representatives from community, policy makers, clergy and activists together for that discussion.

H.478 https://bit.ly/2WZtvUa is recommended for review prior to attending.

NOTE: You must register via the Zoom link.

We’re offsetting some of our expenses with a nominal fee. EVERYBODY can attend this event. For free access send a note to info@justiceforallvt.org

If you’d like to give more, go here after registration:
https://vtracialjusticealliance.wordpress.com/support/

Find more here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1283795111820645/

Who’s Watching the VTPD?

Article 6 of the Vermont State Constitution states that power is inherent in and derived from and all officers of the government are accountable to the people. Article 5 of the Vermont State Constitution states that the people, through their legal representatives have the sole, inherent and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police. Rule 25 of the Vermont House rules assign the House Government Operations Committee the duties of organization and oversight of law enforcement and public safety. Where are we on civilian oversight of law enforcement in Vermont today and why? If it is not what it should be, we can only hold ourselves responsible. We’re bringing the conversation of civilian oversight of Vermont law enforcement to the people.

Petition for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement: https://bit.ly/2Fkt3ti

Coming soon!

See Justice For All’s Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement Campaign:  Who’s Watching the VTPD here and sign the petition.

Resolution PASSED; Budget on Tonight’s Agenda – Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E.

POC speak-out (3)

We are thrilled to announce that the Burlington City Council Passed the most comprehensive resolution on racial justice in its history!  The Racial Justice Resolution was in direct response to the work of the community under the leadership of the Racial Justice Alliance.  Exciting as this sounds, we want you to know that this is a small step in the direction of justice.  We now call upon the City Council to make a moral statement by prioritizing the eradication of systemic racism in the passage of the budget tonight!

Please join us in thanking the council for the passage of the Racial Justice Bill and urge them to hold the line on the money allocated by the Mayor to do the work.

This resolution, combined with the Mayor’s budget, provide a significant step in the right direction in addressing the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance demands outlined in Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E.

Operation Phoenix Mission:  Transform the lives of black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.

R.I.S.E.

Restructuring Public Safety
Implement Cultural Empowerment
Securing Equal Opportunity
Expand Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

What does this mean?

We’re not there yet. The City Council must still deliberate and vote upon the budget resolution.

What should you do?

Reach out to the Contact the Councilors 

  • Thanking them for passing the Racial Justice Resolution
  • Asking them to make a moral statement by prioritizing the eradication of systemic racism in the passage of the budget

DEMANDS

  • We call upon the Mayor and or the City Council to declare racism a citywide health crisis. (check)
  • We further call upon the City Council to resolve that a “task force” be established to consider an apology and a proposal for reparations for the role that Burlington has played in Chattel Slavery. (check)
  • We call on Burlington to make a moral statement by prioritizing the eradication of systemic racism in the creation of the budget
  • We call on the City of Burlington to Join the Racial Justice Alliance in the implementation of Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E.

“Do not pass a budget until these demands are met”
Read more on #OperationPhoenix here.

#riseBTV

Another immediate action that you can take is to financially support the work that we are doing.  Thanks for the support.

Help Push For #OperationPhoenix R.I.S.E. Demands To Be Met In City Council’s Racial Justice Resolution

POC speak-out (1)

Resolution and Budget Addressing Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E.

The Burlington City Council will introduce a Racial Justice Resolution this evening (Monday, June 29)).  This resolution, combined with the Mayor’s budget, provides a significant step in the right direction in addressing the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance’s demands outlined in Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E.

Operation Phoenix Mission:  Transform the lives of black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.

R.I.S.E.

Restructuring Public Safety
Implementing Cultural Empowerment
Securing Equal Opportunity
Expand Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

What does this mean?
We’re not there yet. The City Council must still deliberate and vote upon these resolutions.  Although the Racial Justice Resolution has six sponsors, any number of amendments could be proposed and the final outcome is still less than certain.

What should you do?

  1. Send a note to the Councilors:
    • Thanking the resolution sponsors (Councilors Hightower, Hanson, Stromberg, Tracy, Freeman and Pine)
    • Supporting and encouraging those considering sponsoring and/or supporting the resolution (Councilors Paul, Paulino and Carpenter)
    • Asking the others to consider supporting the resolution (Counselors Dieng, Mason and Shannon)
  2. Sign up for the Speak-out during the public comments section of the City Council Meeting
    • People of color, sign up to speak
    • White allies, participate by showing up in solidarity

DEMANDS

  • We call upon the Mayor and or the City Council to declare racism a citywide health crisis.
  • We further call upon the City Council to resolve that a “task force” be established to consider an apology and a proposal for reparations for the role that Burlington has played in Chattel Slavery.
  • We call on Burlington to make a moral statement by prioritizing the eradication of systemic racism in the creation of the budget
  • We call on the City of Burlington to Join the Racial Justice Alliance in the implementation of Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E.

“Do not pass a budget until these demands are met”

***PLEASE SIGN UP IMMEDIATELY SO WE CAN FOLLOW UP WITH DETAILS FOR THE ACTION!!***

To sign up: Email publicforum@burlingtonvt.gov
Subject: Make Public Comment at City Council Meeting 6/29 @7:30 in Support of the Racial Justice Alliance Demands

Body: I would like to make a public comment at the City Council meeting Monday 6/29

BCC: Please BCC riseBTV@gmail.com in your email so we can get a count and have your email to keep you updated. Thanks!

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89864084081
**Make sure to sign in with the same name Zoom account that you signed up**

Read more on #OperationPhoenix here.

#riseBTV

Another immediate action that you can take is to financially support the work that we are doing.  Thanks for the support.

Call your City Councilors and the Mayor TODAY

To our Burlington community and beyond,

Thank you for your engagement this past week! We had 21 hours of testimony after 967 people signed up to speak at the meeting on Monday night. There was an enormous outpouring of support for the demands to move money from the Burlington Police Department, into communities of color in Burlington.

When the Mayor left public comment early on Monday night and didn’t attend other than to give a speech on Tuesday, we brought public comment to him. On Wednesday a few hundred people listened to public comments from big speakers on his front lawn, as well as in front of City Hall. The Mayor’s budget has been submitted, and the Racial Justice Alliance is still in communication with him. 

Here is what you can do now: Call AND email your city councilors and the Mayor by the end of the day and demand they support Operation Phoenix and the Racial Justice Alliance demands! If they don’t pick up, leave messages! If you get their work number, that’s because their personal number has no voicemail.

If you aren’t sure of your ward, check here.

Ward 1: Zoraya Hightower, (802) 391-4333, zhightower@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 2: Max Tracy, (802) 373-1968, mtracy@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 3: Brian Pine, (802) 578-6953, bpine@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 4: Sarah E Carpenter, (802) 658-0474, scarpenter@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 5: William “Chip” Mason, (802) 373-8545, cmason@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 6: Karen Paul, (802) 863-3817, kpaul@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 7: Ali N. Dieng, (802) 318-2527, adieng@burlingtonvt.gov
Ward 8: Jane Stromberg, (845) 544-4143, jstromberg@burlingtonvt.gov
Central: Perri Freeman, (802) 448-0379, pfreeman@burlingtonvt.gov
East:
Jack Hanson, (802) 557-0605, jhanson@burlingtonvt.gov
North: Franklin Paulino,
(802) 448-2293, fpaulino@burlingtonvt.gov
South: Joan Shannon, (802) 343-9289, jshannon@burlingtonvt.gov

Mayor Weinberger, Phone: 802-865-7272, mayor@burlingtonvt.gov

Talking points for City Council:

  • Vote in alignment with the demands from the Racial Justice Alliance
  • Do your job, which is to represent the people of your district. People have overwhelmingly told you what they want.
  • Support the work and outcomes of Operation Phoenix, which is working to transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.
  • Operation Phoenix includes four elements, including:
    • Restructuring public Safety
    • Implementing Cultural Empowerment
    • Securing and Equal Opportunity
    • Expanding Racial Equity, Belonging and Inclusion

Talking points for Mayor:

  • Resubmit an amended budget that is:
    • In alignment with the demands from the Racial Justice Alliance
    • Supports the work and outcomes of Operation Phoenix that is working to transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.
    • Operation Phoenix includes four elements, including:
      • Restructuring public Safety
      • Implementing Cultural Empowerment
      • Securing and Equal Opportunity
      • Expanding Racial Equity, Belonging and Inclusion

 

Burlington City Councilors: RISE with us!

Dear City Council Members,

We want to thank you for making and holding space for the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and our supporters in the Burlington City Council and Finance Board meetings over the past couple of weeks. We appreciate that you respected the rights of more than 1,500 folks representing all wards and beyond at this historic moment.

Know that we are committed to working with you at this time.  It is for that reason that we are developing a resolution-driven approach that we feel Restructures public safety, Implements cultural empowerment, Secures equal opportunity, and Expands racial equity, inclusion and belonging as articulated in #OperationPhoenix.

We will continue our negotiations with the Mayor, in hopes that he will work with us to deliver on his commitments that support this vision. We’ll also continue to keep our constituents engaged, so that they may see their hopes to “transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive” come to fruition.

Note: We’ve been in touch with city councilors and have heard that folks are in need of more time to adequately fill out the survey we provided earlier this week. We don’t need to put additional pressure on you, so we’re extending the public survey deadline to Monday at noonHere is the link to the Racial Justice Alliance public survey. We’ll be reaching out in the coming days to have one-on-one conversations to hear your thoughts and feelings.

We call upon on you to RISE with us! 

This is our moment.  This is our time to R.I.S.E.

All,

On behalf of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, I want to personally thank everyone who has spent countless hours organizing, strategizing and spending tireless hours on phones in support of a vision that we call #OperationPhoenix!

At the heart of this work, as always, with the Racial Justice Alliance is the eradication of systemic racism. R.I.S.E. shows us that we can do better when we first eliminate forms of oppression and reallocate resources desired to change lives.  With resources we can empower our communities, provide opportunity and provide equity needed to do far more than survive: thrive.

R.I.S.E.
Restructuring Public Safety
Implementing Cultural Empowerment
Securing Equal Opportunity
Expanding Racial Equity, Belonging and Inclusion

We at the Racial Justice Alliance already see this vision as reality and it excites us to no end to share it with you. Day after day and into the early hours of the mornings we listen to you all speak truth to power with passion and fire.  We have witnessed so many people from across the greater Burlington area and beyond, young and old, old-school activists and folks who have picked up the phone for the first time, Black and white and from every possible background, all saying one thing: WE AGREE WITH THE DEMANDS OF THE RACIAL JUSTICE ALLIANCE and we are here for justice!

This movement brings me hope and great joy to the point of tears as we stand at this unprecedented place in time.  This is our moment.  This is our time.  We were created for a time such as this and there is no doubt in my mind that as a result of work, all of our lives will be changed forever.   As we move forward in this vision, let’s do so arm in arm.  Together we are making history.  Embrace this moment and move forward with us with full commitment to R.I.S.E.

Mark Hughes
Coordinator
Vermont Racial Justice Alliance

Media alert: A “Moral Budget” for Racial Justice in Burlington

MEDIA ALERT

June 15, 2020

Contact:
Skyler Nash, nash.skyler@outlook.com, (312) 806-0534

PRESS CONFERENCE: Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Urges Mayor Weinberger to Implement a “Moral Budget” for Racial Justice in Burlington

WHATThe Vermont Racial Justice Alliance demands that Mayor Miro Weinberger implement a moral budget that reflects the Alliance’s demands on behalf of people of color in Vermont, including declaring racism a citywide health crisis and reducing the police force. Here, the Alliance explains how the Mayor has so far disappointed in making these commitments.

“We entered discussions with the Mayor in good faith and a willingness to negotiate a reasonable resolution. If he is unwilling to act in earnest, we will ask that City Council reject his budget proposal,” says Mark Hughes, Coordinator of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance.

WHEN: Today, June 15

TIME: 2:30pm

WHERE: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_kb8RKhGxRcC0G7YhNDfq3Q

Streaming on Racial Justice Alliance Facebook Page: 

https://www.facebook.com/VTRacialJusticeAlliance/  

BACKGROUND: #OperationPhoenix is a program from the Racial Justice Alliance aimed at transforming the lives of Black and brown people in Vermont by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them with opportunity, and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive. 

The demands can be summed up by R.I.S.E: Restructuring Public Safety, Implementing Cultural Empowerment, Securing Equal Opportunity, Expanding Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Read about #OperationPhoenix here.

About the Racial Justice Alliance
RJA’s mission is to advocate for the implementation of State and local policy with our collective strength, voice and leadership  The Racial Justice Alliance is a policy and outreach arm of Justice For All.

About Justice For All
JFA’s mission is to dismantle systemic racism, eliminate poverty and ensure racial equity through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.

Asking Mayor Weinberger for a moral budget

The Racial Justice Alliance is working at the State and City levels on legislative and structural approaches to address systemic racism in Vermont. One of the things that we are working on is #OperationPhoenix.  This is a Burlington plan to “transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.”

Last Monday we sent this letter to Mayor Weinberger, the City Council and the Police Commission and that night turned out over 250 supporters at the Board of Finance meeting for public comments. We intensified the pressure with 150 folks commenting at the Police Commission meeting the following day and many returned to the Board of Finance Meeting on Wednesday. Some of this is indicated (not very well) in some in the media this week.

We agreed to a meeting on Thursday and discussed (see #OperationPhoenix) our demands with the Mayor. Though his offers fell sort of our demands, the Mayor did put forward a number of commitments and requested additional time to consider more.

  1. The administration would declare racism a City-wide health crisis
  2. The police department would remain at a level of 93 uniformed officers
  3. Departmental adjustments would facilitate a Equal Opportunity-like function
  4. Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging would be staffed to operational capacity
  5. The Cultural Empowerment demand would be accommodated at 20 Allen St.
  6. A follow-up meeting would be scheduled for sometime Saturday (yesterday)

The Mayor has yet to follow up with us.  We are now discovering that he is reaching out to numerous people of color (and others) across that state, requesting that they review and support “his plan.” This age-old divisive tactic of white folks with political and economic power is incredibly predictable. We all know that it is designed to create distraction and trigger infighting amongst Black and brown folks.  Our division always creates the opportunity for those that wield power to do less and at the end of the day black and brown people suffer.  The Mayor’s behavior is both deceptive and divisive and his decision to reach out to the broader communities of color (and beyond) at this time is strategic but disingenuous.  The Mayor is desperately in need of a black and brown audience that he can say gave him license to go down the path that he desires – not the one that we demand!

We’re asking the Mayor for a moral budget.  We entered discussions with him in good faith and a willingness to negotiate a reasonable resolution. If he is unwilling to act in earnest, we ask that you reject his budget proposal.  We ask you that you urge him to keep his commitments and finish the work that he started with us that we may arrive at an option that best benefits the city of Burlington and holds true to the mission of  #OperationPhoenix: to transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.

Operation Phoenix

#OperationPhoenix

We are poised to make a transformation in the City of Burlington that will be the first of its kind.  We must lean into the transformation that we know is right for our community and this nation.   Though we stand at the intersection of pandemics of systemic racism and COVID-19, all is not lost if we have wisdom to see the opportunity that presents itself  in the midst; the courage to seize this moment; and, the commitment and integrity to see it through.  Now is the time for the City of Burlington to lead the nation in transformation to a place where for once all people are afforded equal protection and an opportunity to prosper.  We at the Racial Justice Alliance implore you to transform this city for us and our posterity. We call upon you to RISE!

Operation Phoenix Mission:

Transform the lives of black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.

R.I.S.E.
Restructuring Public Safety
Implementing Cultural Empowerment
Securing Equal Opportunity
Expanding Racial Equity, Belonging and Inclusion

#riseBTV
#OperationPhoenix

RESLOUTIONS

  1. We call upon the Mayor and or the City Council to declare racism a citywide health crisis. 
  2. We further call upon the City Council to resolve that a “task force” be established to consider an apology and a proposal for reparations for the role that Burlington has played in Chattel Slavery.  
  3. We call on Burlington to make a moral statement by prioritizing the  eradication of systemic racism in the creation of the budget.

OPERATION PHOENIX R.I.S.E. AGENDA and DEMANDS

Restructuring Public Safety
As we are committed to shifting our moral narrative to one that values the lives of all, we must ensure that everyone enjoys safety and protection under the law.  Our current system does not afford that.  It is for this reason that we call for an immediate restructuring of the entire public safety apparatus in the city of Burlington. 

  1. There must be immediate and sustained re-focussing on who, what and where we are policing.
  2. Our civilian oversight of law enforcement must place a priority on the wellness of our peace officers. 
  3. The department must undergo An immediate 30 percent reduction in uniformed officers (release offices that hurt and kill people).
  4. The department transition must be accomplished with maximum community engagement.
  5. The department must undergo a full operational and functional assessment.
  6. A complete realignment implementation must take place upon completion of assessment and analysis.
  7. The City Council must grant the Police Commission the authority to oversee this transition.

Implementing Cultural Empowerment
Our communities-of-color are at the core of our values because this is where we live and interact.  We call on the City to partner with people-of-color led business and community in the implementation of a Cultural Empowerment Community Collective.  Located central to those it serves, the CECC will serve as a bastion of hope, purpose and vision for the disempowered communities. 

  1. Community Center
  2. Youth Activities Center
  3. Education/Training and Arts Centers of Excellence
  4. Economic Development Community Partnership
    a) Adult Basic Education
    b) Basic Computer Skills
    c) People Development
    d) STEM Development
    e) Entrepreneurial Cultivation Programs
    f) Technical Assistance Grant Fund

Securing Equal Opportunity
Our values also inform us that everyone should be afforded an opportunity to prosper.  This is currently not the case.  The city must immediately establish an Office of Equal Opportunity (EO),

  1. Staffed with an EO Officer with corresponding responsibilities for complaint management
  2. Assigned oversight of a newly formed Minority Owned Business City Procurement Program
  3. Assigned oversight of a newly formed and targeted Economic Empowerment Program
    a) Capital Access Program (grants and loans)
    b) Business-to-Business Incentive Mentorship Program
    c) Technical Assistance Program for disempowered communities and businesses

Expanding Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
We urge you to fund the Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (REIB) function to enable full operational capacity.  

  1. Capacity must include for data and policy analysis, training and outreach
  2. Funding must be made available for a full baseline equity assessment. 
  3. Full commitment must  be made to ensure the implementation of the backend infrastructure required to support the requisite data collection, aggregation and correlation that will be required to support the  data-driven outcomes

Letter to Burlington Mayor, City Council and Police Commission

Honorable Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington City Council and Burlington Police Commission

Re:  Systemic Racism; City Transformation

Jun 8, 2020

Mr. Mayor, et. al,

The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor are the latest in what we know to be centuries of political and economic oppression and exploitation of black people in this country.  This racial pandemic is pervasive across all structures of society and at its roots, it was created and is maintained for the purpose of ensuring the allocation of political and economic access across racial lines, to benefit white people.  It is who we are and always have been as a nation.  This is as true in Vermont as it is anywhere in the United States and we must do our part in dismantling this systemic racism.  It is for this reason that we call upon the Mayor and or the City Council to declare racism a citywide health crisis.  We further call upon the City Council to resolve that a “task force” be established to consider an apology and a proposal for reparations for the role that Burlington has played in Chattel Slavery.   We also call on Burlington to make a moral statement by prioritizing the  eradication of systemic racism in the creation of the budget.

It is time to change this shameful reality and move to a place beyond our aspirational constitutional rhetoric that Vermont has held to be true over the  past 243 years, 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”.  We must be intentional about making a morally driven transformation in Burlington.  Our highest priority must be to right the wrongs that we have made. This will require a bold approach that will require us to transform systems, not just change processes. 

We urge you to fund the Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (REBI) function to enable full operational capacity.   The REIB Office must be expanded to include data and policy analysis and training and outreach coordination.

Funding must be made available for a full baseline equity assessment.  Full commitment must  be made to ensure the implementation of the backend infrastructure required to support the requisite data collection, aggregation and correlation that will be required to support the  data-driven outcomes of the Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Director. 

As we are committed to shifting our moral narrative to one that values the lives of all, we must ensure that everyone enjoys safety and protection under the law.  Our current system does not afford that.  It is for this reason that we call for an immediate restructuring of the entire public safety apparatus in the city of Burlington.  This should be rooted in an immediate and sustained re-focussing on who, what and where we police in our community.  Our civilian oversight of law enforcement must place a priority on the wellness of our peace officers.  An immediate 30 percent reduction in uniformed officers; community engagement; department assessment; and, analysis and realignment implementation should follow.  The City Council must grant the Police Commission the authority to oversee this transition.

Our values also inform us that everyone should be afforded an opportunity to prosper.  This is currently not the case.  The city should immediately establish an Office of Equal Opportunity (EO), staffed with an EO Officer with corresponding responsibilities for complaint management and the oversight of a newly formed Minority Owned Business City Procurement Program.  A newly formed and targeted Economic Empowerment Program should also be deployed which includes a Capital Access Program (grants and loans), a Business-to-Business Incentive Mentorship Program and a Technical Assistance Program for disempowered communities.

Our communities-of-color are at the core of our values because this is where we live and interact.  We call on the City to partner with people-of-color led business and community in the implementation of a Cultural Empowerment Community Collective.  Located central to those it serves, the CECC will serve as a bastion of hope, purpose and vision for the disempowered communities.  A Community Center, a Youth Activities Center, and Education and Training and Arts Centers of Excellence will anchor this facility.  The Economic Development Community Partnership will collectively fund programs for Adult Basic Education, Basic Computer Skills, People Development, STEM Development and Entrepreneurial Cultivation Programs. The CECC will administer a Technical Assistance Grant Fund.

In summary:

●      The problem is systemic racism and the solution is transformation; Burlington is not equipped to eradicate systemic racism; the city must equip. 

●      Safety and protection under the law and opportunity for everyone do not exist for everyone in our current structure; we must therefore re-structure.

●      Disempowered communities must be enabled to empower, sustain themselves and center on their own culture within their communities.

We are poised to make a transformation in the City of Burlington that will be the first of its kind.  We must lean into the transformation that we know is right for our community and this nation.   Though we stand at the intersection of two global pandemics, all is not lost if we have wisdom to see the opportunity that presents itself  in the midst; the courage to seize this moment; and, the commitment and integrity to see it through.  Now is the time for the City of Burlington to lead the nation in transformation to a place where for once all people are afforded equal protection and an opportunity to prosper.  We at the Racial Justice Alliance implore you to transform this city for us and our posterity.

Please acknowledge receipt of this letter and coordinate with us a time where we might begin an engagement process to work collaboratively towards transformation.  We stand at the ready to make Burlington a better place to live for all.

Respectfully,

Vermont Racial Justice Alliance
Steering Committee