In a community engagement session last night, the Lacey Commission on Equity received several suggestions on how to make the city a more welcoming place, with some community members believing it all begins with having a more diverse representation.
Call for better representation
During the Nov. 15 discussion, Lacey resident and army veteran William Jackson shared that while the city appears to be very welcoming, he feels that it is only on a surface level. He believed that the city needed more diverse representation, especially in positions of power. His wife Latanya added, “Representation matters.”
Lacey’s Youth representative Alanis Blackburn agreed. “There would be times when we have meetings and the topic would be equity or racial injustice and I would still be the only African-American in the room. Like why are we having a conversation about equity, when there is no equity?” Blackburn said. “Before we talk about equity outside of this room, it needs to be in this room too,” she added.
A member of the Olympia’s Social Justice and Equity Founding Workgroup and Lacey resident, Joslyn Nelson shared that representation should also include individuals with disabilities. “Often, they are left out [in] a lot of discussions, a lot of activities and public participation simply because it wasn’t forethought,” Nelson shared.
Understanding personal biases
Terry Jones, who said he is a member of a new organization called the Multicultural Services Center of South Sound, also came forward to say he recognizes that he is a part of the problem. “I believe that the problem is largely caused and fostered by Caucasian people. And I’d be very willing to participate in a discussion with other white people about our bias. The things that I carry, that surprise me.”
On the contrary, army veteran Jelli Bustillos claimed that the commission’s actions are counterproductive, “I feel like we are trying to combat racism with racism.” He also disagreed with the idea that white people are inherently racist, “What we’re doing right now is pushing people away, the way this approach with this commission and equity talk.” Bustillos claimed that instead, the commission should focus more on individual character.
Blackburn clarified the misconception that white people are inherently racist. She explained that the real issue is about privilege. She said that with these discussions, they are “trying to tackle the privilege of not understanding racism because you never had to experience it.”
Commissioner Makieda Hart, who serves both on Lacey’s Commission on Equity and The JOLT News Organization’s Board of Directors, also believes that the issue is a matter of empathy, “It's about having compassion for someone’s experience.”
Aside from the need for better representation, Nelson said she believes that the city should also provide better access for individuals. “Access meaning that not everybody has the ability to attend in-person and or even in a laptop, or their phones.” Another community member, who introduced herself as Darla, also shared her struggles with being unable to participate in city activities. “There are a lot of people, believe it or not who don’t have internet access,” she shared.
Commission Chair Thelma Jackson said that one of the outcomes they wanted to see is to access different communities, whether it's tapping into church groups and other community organizations.
In line with the city’s goal to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, Lacey Timberland Library Manager Holly Paxson shared that the staff, who are mostly white women, are also making huge efforts to provide a more welcoming place for readers. She shared that their efforts are, “to ensure that we are developing the full values of our organization, that we are doing what we can to lift up folks who may need a boost for their voice.” Paxson added, “I hope the library can be part of making Lacey a more welcoming community.”
North Thurston Public Schools board member Graeme Sackrison also thanked the commission for its work. “I feel that what you are doing, and what we are starting is crucial,” Sackrison said.
Jackson said she remains hopeful that as these sessions continue, more people will be able to join and participate in them. Overall, the insights and suggestions from these conversations would help the commission to formulate short-term and long-term goals, she said.
For those who are interested to join, the commission will have another engagement sessions on Sat., Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. Residents can participate in-person at Lacey City Hall, 420 College Street SE or online through Zoom.
Editor’s Note: Commissioner Makieda Hart serves both on Lacey’s Commission on Equity and The JOLT News Organization’s Board of Directors. Graeme Sackrison is a member of The JOLT’s Board of Advisors.
2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here