BRISTOL -- The Bristol Diversity Council met to discuss the upcoming second Community Conversation, as well as the potential for Bristol declaring racism a public health crisis in the future.
At the end of the meeting, Alicia Washington was declared the new council chair along with Erica Pearson as the new vice chair.
During the meeting, Washington led much of the conversation surrounding the steps approaching how Bristol could declare racism a public health crisis. She also handed out a packet of information from the Salud America! organization.
“As you guys all know, a couple months ago we were tasked with watching webinars about making the declaration for racism as a public health crisis,” said Washington.
Washington said that a lot of the information identified in the packet ties into conversations that the council has had surrounding inequities.
“Our purpose and our goal is to focus on inequities in the city,” said Washington. “This gives us a good foundation of how to do that: collecting data, websites where we can download information and see what is happening in Bristol.”
Washington said she hoped the council would divide its efforts and focus on finding specific sets of information to see where the major inequities could be found in Bristol. She also noted that with the coming second Community Conversation coming Wednesday at the Rockwell Park Amphitheatre, council members will be able to hear concerns from Bristol residents and then be able to apply that information to future decisions.
“We’ll be able to have a good grasp on how to go forward,” said Washington. “Not just about this declaration, but about the inequities moving forward.”
The chair identified areas the council could focus on. She noted that the council could help with suggesting policies that may address inequities but that unless individuals on the frontline of challenges were trained in diversity issues, it may not be as effective in addressing a problem. Diversity training would be paramount to some of those efforts, whether it be in education, housing or a variety of other areas.
Council members volunteered to collect various forms of data to ideally condense at the following August meeting along with the concerns brought forward by citizens.
Council member Alice Ferguson said it was important that when council members met with residents at the Community Conversation event that it was important they did so with open minds.
“We need to listen because not everyone is going to tell their story… ,” said Ferguson. “My point is trauma has no ears. You have to understand that not everyone can speak to everyone and while I may be comfortable speaking because I've done it for 20 years (as a survivor of trauma)...it does not come natural to most people, so when they find a comfort level with you, listen to that.”