Local leaders learn to deal with race conflicts, other issues | Connecticut News

By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

UNCASVILLE, Connecticut (AP) – In addition to preparing for snowstorms or the new school year, Connecticut city leaders were asked on Tuesday to prepare their communities for another kind of challenge: how to deal with race conflict , gender identity, religion and national origin.

The lesson comes at a time when there have been an increase in hate crime incidents across the country and in Connecticut, conflicts over wearing masks and vaccine warrants, and pressure for greater racial fairness to the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.

“Sometimes people don’t realize it, but many of the equity issues on the ground are also related to the functioning of municipal government and the functioning of local schools,” said Richard Porth, coordinator. special projects for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. “So there is a role in all of this. And I think that’s a significant role.

The JCC, which opened the first day of its convention and two-day exhibition on Tuesday, launched a series of public regional discussions last year on the long-standing issue of racial fairness following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. This has led to the development of a “toolkit” for towns and villages to help them promote racial equity in their communities and other initiatives.

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The CCM, a private entity that represents the interests of municipalities, organizes monthly training sessions, periodic round tables and monthly actions for municipalities to meet.

On Tuesday, the CJC invited representatives from the Federal Service for Community Relations, a division of the US Department of Justice established in 1964 and known as “America’s Peacemaker,” to talk about their work. As impartial mediators, they work with community groups and help resolve conflicts and respond to allegations of hate crimes.

“There is no silver bullet that we can say to a community, ‘If you do this, you will resolve the conflict and eliminate the hate.’ That does not exist. I wish it were, but we can help you deal with it, ”said Michael David, conciliation specialist in the Community Relations Department. The organization offers a variety of programs, from helping communities come together after a deadly police shootout to helping citizens identify problems in their town, village or school and find solutions.

Some Connecticut communities are already doing some of this work on their own.

In Coventry, a predominantly white city of about 12,500 residents in eastern Connecticut, city council recently passed a resolution denouncing racism and acknowledging racial injustices past and present. The community is also planning “community conversations” about the race next year and to educate local residents on issues such as implicit and explicit biases.

“We just have to talk and feel comfortable talking with our neighbors,” said Annemarie Sundgren, the city’s social services administrator who is helping lead the initiative. She said the effort began after no students of color from the neighboring city of Hartford participated in the city’s school choice program this year. She said Coventry plans to survey local residents as well as residents of Hartford to find out more about their perceptions of the community.

Canton first coach Robert Bessel, who attended Tuesday’s presentation, said there had been no high-profile incidents of racial and ethical prejudice in his city, but he felt “he there was work to be done “in the community of approximately 10,200 people in Hartford County.

“There are some things we just need to talk about, to work on. How can we have more equity? How can we include more (people)? Said Bessel. He said that more confidence needs to be fostered in the city, as well as a “cultural shift” where people “stand up and say,” This is not happening here. “”

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