Creating Safe Communities Meeting Report from AFR

Report to the Community

Published November 22, 2019 on the Arlington Fights Racism website.

Statement by Arlington Fights Racism:

On Sunday November 17th at 3pm, around 50 people gathered at First Parish Unitarian Universalist for “Creating Safe Communities,” an event organized by Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) and co-sponsored by Arlington’s Diversity Task Group, The Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project and The ArCS Cluster: Supporting Refugees. This was  the first of several discussions as AFR works to reach even more residents of Arlington, with the goal of understanding the state of our community today. Participants included everyone from longtime residents to the very newest, with the majority of attendees representing those groups harmed by Lt. Pedrini’s words. Several members of the Arlington Human RIghts Commission, and one member of the Select Board also participated.

The event was facilitated by Dr. Rick Pinderhughes of Visions,Inc. (https://www.visions-inc.org/), the same organization that is conducting the bias evaluation of the Arlington Police Department. When town leaders learned that AFR organizers had brought Dr. Pinderhughes in with their own resources, they demonstrated their support by paying his fee on our behalf.  They also sent a letter of support and in respect of our wishes, they were not present at the event.

Dr. Pinderhughes opened the event by explaining the norms and guidelines of this community forum and how to create a “brave” space. Participants then broke out into four groups of approximately ten to fifteen people,  in order to give everyone a chance to speak. Some came to tell their stories of how they have directly experienced racism, prejudice, and bias in our town. Some came to express their fears and concerns for our future and that of our children. Some came to share stories of people they know who did not yet feel safe to tell it themselves and some came to respectfully listen, to gain a greater understanding of their neighbors. All were promised that their words would be held in anonymity, that they could speak without fear of reprisals. The group then came back together and Dr. Pinderhughes asked for closing thoughts on how to address these harms. Recommendations included: holding public shows of support for the marginalized, continuing to push town leaders for open and transparent communication regarding the work being done with APD, requiring Lt. Pedrini to publicly address those he has harmed, requesting that town leaders acknowledge that the restorative justice process in this case was seriously flawed to avoid setting precedents for other towns, and requiring the town to create a clear policy for all town employees about hate speech on social media.

As this is an ongoing process in understanding how the members of our community have been harmed, we do not expect fast and easy answers to our problems. AFR will continue its efforts to build trust through reaching out to the community. We currently plan to hold the next event in March. We hope that you will join us.  Please visit our website at ArlingtonFightsRacism.com for more information and updates as well as to subscribe to our email list.