People whose voices have gone unheard will be the ones steering a new commission designed to tackle equity and human rights issues in Olympia, city staff say.
A group tasked with forming Olympia’s new Social Justice and Equity Commission met for the first time on Friday and discussed what comes next in the months to come. As it sits now, the often discussed commission has a work group but no members. Members are expected to be appointed in June 2021.
“We will be focusing solely on lifting up the voices of our marginalized community members and gaining their perspective to draw from,” said Olivia Salazar de Breaux, Olympia’s Equity and Inclusion Coordinator.
The Olympia City Council voted to form the commission in June, a time when intense discussion on social justice and police brutality against people of color was prominent across the nation. The commission is to be community steered, said de Breaux, meaning people from under-represented communities will be the members and directly influence the commission’s goals.
The commission, once it is formed, will take recommendations on improving quality of life directly to the city council.
On Friday afternoon, members of the commission’s work group met for the first time to introduce themselves. While the work group members aren’t members of the commission, they’ll head the process of finding commission members in the Olympia community. Namely, they’ll facilitate a number of community conversations focusing on race and equity in Olympia, and gathering data and information from the meeting. That information will go directly toward forming the commission and the commission’s goals. Four of the five members of the work group were present Friday. They were: Frances Beard, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Megan Matthews and Rusty Shekha.
De Breaux was appointed to her position in June, and has been heavily involved in the formation of the commission. Officials had originally planned to hire an outside consultation team to form the commission, but citizens objected. To lead to substantive change, they said the commission should be headed by people who understand marginalization first-hand.