The South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race has been at the center of conversations around race, diversity and equity in the towns for more than 20 years. As the community has been shocked by one racial incident after another in recent weeks, the Coalition has been organizing to address these incidents along with other town leaders. In response to a question by Village Green (prompted by a discussion at the Maplewood Township Committee meeting led by Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams on March 21), the CCR has provided the following details on its long-range and short-term actions to address recent incidents:
Although the most recent incidents are fresh in everyone’s minds, they are consistent with our organizations’s longstanding concerns about how we face race and racism individually and in all our local institutions–particularly in the schools and in the police departments.
The Coalition on Race’s planned programming is and has been designed to work on those issues: Talking to Children about Race (which is happening this week); Coffee House Discussions on community policing; Schools Committee advocacy for equity for students and diversity hiring practices; Cultural Competency and Anti-bias education training, and more. We are committed to working systematically on the root causes that lead to the racism and hate we have seen on display.
As a first step to address the most recent school incidents, we are supporting the school district’s Town Hall Meeting with our participation in planning this and follow-up community discussions, our Facilitator’s Guide to run the table discussions at the event, and providing some of our trained facilitators.
We are scheduled to give a Cultural Competency/Anti-bias workshop to Maplewood Middle School teachers next week.
The Schools Committee is running a Conversations on Race for students in April.
Regarding concerns about police-community relations, we have met with Chief Cimino and Mayor DeLuca of Maplewood to take action on the following:
- find sources of anti-bias training beyond that required by the NJ Attorney General;
- to work directly with police department on providing a citizen-based introduction to the community to all officers so that cultural competency training is reinforced with an understanding of our specific community; and,
- in the future, to find ways to connect youth with the police in a setting like the LEEDS program, but one that is designed specifically for 8th or 9th graders.
Our trustees are also working on a plan to work with the police departments to support transparency regarding bias incidents and to review policies about encounters with suspects. We are scheduling a similar conversation with the South Orange police department.