Tuesday’s Town Council meeting approved two resolutions to move the town closer to addressing racial equity in Chestertown.
A 16-month program “Chestertown Unites Against Racism” was unveiled by Mayor Cerino as a framework “to educate the community about its history pertaining to race relations 2) pursue legislative reforms that address systemic racism in the Town of Chestertown 3) promote unity, equality, and inclusivity amongst all residents.” It is organized in three main “pillars,” Education, Legislation, and Unification.
The 23 page “framework” is a wide spectrum of 15 educational, legislative, and unifying efforts to promote community inclusivity and range from a 52-part video “History of Chestertown” to war redistricting and zoning ordinance reviews.
Both complete proposals are in Wednesday’s Spy article here.
Ward 3 Council Member Ellsworth Tolliver followed up on his previously submitted “Chestertown Resolution Against Racism,” stating that the 5-point proclamation is considered the fundamental guiding principle for the 16-month proposal. A lengthy discussion about the resolution followed, specifically addressing articles 1 and 5.
Article 1 states, “Deeply apologizes for slavery, the slave trade and the lives, the wealth and the freedoms that were stolen from enslaved people entering our port and our town.”
Article 5 states, “Commits to establishing a Human Rights Commission in Chestertown within sixty (60) days of this resolution. The Human Rights Commission will be empowered to investigate and resolve allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, by town agencies and by businesses. (Under revision) The commission will be comprised of at least fifty percent People of Color. The commission will issue an annual racial justice and equity report.
Both articles became subjects for discussion. For Article 1, the question became “what does it mean for a white resident in Chestertown to apologize for 18th-century slavery?” Article 5 drew concern over the wording The Human Rights Commission will be empowered to investigate and resolve allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, by town agencies and by businesses. This sentence is under revision by the council.
A public forum was opened after council deliberations. Call-ins were supportive with some caveats.
Paul Tue III, co-founder Social Action Committee for Racial Justice, said “I think it’s a great plan, but it should have brought the community in at the very beginning. You can’t do this without the community, it wants to be heard. Find out what the community wants rather than tell them what they need.”
HOYAs President John Queen said, “I agree with everyone as far as the plan goes. We have gotten into a situation the last few months where you are black or white and nothing in between. I think the plan has a lot of potential for partnerships.” Queen also admonished Council Member Tolliver for speaking for the black community’s totality without representing its many divergent voices.
The Video excerpts above are from the 3-hour council meeting portray the progression of the council’s discussion.
The video is approximately fifteen minutes in length.