Diversity Commission hears from community about inclusion; announces plans for youth forum

More than 20 citizens attended the February meeting of the Edmonds Diversity Commission, encouraging commissioners provide input to city staff and elected officials regarding policy discussions about diversity, inclusion, and discrimination. Issues raised by community members ranged from personal safety to immigration to racist acts.

During the Feb. 1 meeting, new Diversity Commission chair Ed Dorame invited community members and commissioners to engage openly and respectfully to create an effective dialogue around issues taking on an even stronger meaning to many Edmonds residents.

The public comments highlighted how many local groups exist or are organizing to ensure Edmonds’ already diverse community respects individual differences and experiences. In this meeting, these groups also wanted to understand the City of Edmonds’ position, and the active role it plans to take on diversity and creating a welcoming environment.

Among those speaking were representatives from the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition, the Meadowdale High School Equity Group, United Methodist Church and local businesses, as well as private citizens.

The meeting’s agenda officially included detailed discussions about the first commission event of 2017 (a youth forum) and recommendations from the commissioners who developed the work plan for that event. Vice Chair Maria Montalvo presented a summary of the 2017 Work Plan, which outlined three main areas: Events, Outreach & Policy, and Partnerships. Each area will be addressed by the commission concurrently and with equal priority throughout the year, since all contribute to the Diversity Commission’s mission statement:

Promote and embrace diversity through action, education, and guidance; foster an understanding that includes, accepts, respects and appreciates each individual member of our community by:

  • providing information, education, and communication that facilitates understanding of diversity and to celebrate and respect individual differences;
  • recommending to the Mayor and City Council opportunities to promote diversity programs, and providing guidance to ensure an accessible, safe, welcoming and inclusive government and community; and
  • supporting, challenging, and guiding government and the community to eliminate and prevent all forms of discrimination.

Over the course of the meeting, several attendees and commissioners identified that there are a number of groups in Edmonds who are committed to issues of diversity and inclusion. The greatest benefit can be realized when many groups begin to work collaboratively and compound their impact, “like a honeycomb,” said Commissioner Diana White.

White also provided a planning update about the upcoming 2017 Youth Forum, “Your Voice Matters,” to be held in March. Middle and high school students will be invited to a facilitated discussion about inclusion in Edmonds. The event aims to create an environment where young people can speak in their own language about their experiences and their lens on the concept of inclusion.

One local resident and business owner, Amelia Wood, pointed out that using the word “different” instead of “diversity” might be more impactful to the youth in Edmonds. “Diversity is a word that already comes with a lot of meaning,” said Wood, “And young people often experience being different. It’s a feeling and a word that they understand.”

“When we talk about ‘feeling safe’ in our community, we have to remember that the feeling is inside the individual,” said Commissioner Tung Bui. He went on to say that the Diversity Commission can organize events that are learning opportunities but also celebrations of the cultures here in America. “Once we create a common past, from shared experiences, we can live together with a better understanding of each other.”

More information about the Youth Forum and other upcoming events will be provided on the commission’s website and on social media in coming weeks.

The Edmonds Diversity Commission holds its public meetings on the first Wednesday of every month (6- 8 p.m. at the Edmonds Senior Center). Information about the meetings, city-sponsored and other diversity events in Edmonds, and the application process can be found at the commission’s webpage: https://www.edmondswa.gov/diversity-commission-home.html.

— Story courtesy Maria Montalvo, Diversity Commission vice chair.

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