Equity Committee Finding Its Footing

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – The Hardwick Equity Committee is trying to be deliberate, careful, and thorough in how it organizes and what actions it takes. Its founding charge derives from the “Town of Hardwick Equity for All Resolution,” which seeks to address injustice based on “race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression of sexual orientation, immigration status, religious or political affiliation.”

The committee is currently comprised entirely of white people. Members described a “fine line” between “tokenization” and trying to get people of diverse backgrounds interested in the committee and its work because that interest is critical for the committee to achieve its objectives.

Chair Daryl Abraham said a major objective here was in defining two words key to the committee’s work: inclusion and equity. “I wanted to talk about equity and inclusion. I think as a committee, we need to come to an agreement on how we define these things. Equity is truly saying to do what we do [as a committee],” he said, “[for example] to root out systemic racism, we need to understand historically what’s been going on, and look at ways of ‘how do you solve these problems?’. Inclusion would be if you have an opening with a government agency and anyone can apply. To be equitable is to then say when we’re doing [our work], [getting the input of] people of color for instance, or the LGBTQ community… It’s very intentional. We need to have an understanding of what this means to us, and what this means to all the people in the community. Sometimes people see that as tokenism… But we do need to have an idea of what that means to us. We need to come up with some sort of statement.”

Treasurer and Select Board Member Ceilidh Galloway-Kane summarized that more generally as “Are we thinking about everybody [in our work]? And if not, how do we?”

Galloway-Kane said she had recently participated in a Zoom seminar with a woman from Essex who might be a good resource for the committee to reach out to in helping understand how to work best. Galloway-Kane said, “It would be really interesting because there are more and more [town] equity committees, to get an outside perspective on how to craft that potentially.”

The committee also seeks symbiosis with existing community organizations that share a similar focus. The hope is by working with groups such as Community Allies, Allied Vermont, Justice for All, 4 Tribes, and Hazen Union, to name just a few, synergies can be created that reverberate more than individual groups on their own. As Vice-Chair Myles Tandy framed it, “working on bridges we can build now.” Sorting out a logistical roadmap is part of the challenge, with the idea at this point that committee members might attend meetings of those groups or possibly invite representatives to its own meetings.

Select Board Member Lucian Avery was present and noted that the committee’s focus is distinct because it is an organ of the town. But what is still not completely clear is just what role the committee is expected to play, whether it involves individual departments or something more umbrella-like in nature.

The administrative aspects are still also being sorted out. The committee needs to provide a number to Hardwick Business Manager Casey Rowell for budgeting purposes, preferably by December. The estimate now is around $5,000 from the town’s budget which would focus heavily on training. Additional fundraising would be used as needed, and one anonymous donor has already expressed interest in helping fund the committee’s work.

Tandy suggested that the committee members read works about equity, and highlighted a book he was reading that spoke about indigenous people’s history.

Those interested in participating in the Equity Committee can contact the Hardwick Town Manager’s office at shaun.fielder@hardwickvt.org or 802.472.6120. The committee holds public meetings on the first Monday of every month in the Memorial Building at 6 p.m.