The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance recently announced the legislative agenda it plans to advocate for in Montpelier.
The Racial Justice Alliance works to empower ADOS (Black American Descendants of Slavery) and BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) Vermonters in five key areas through policy, community engagement and outreach. The group gained prominence in Vermont last year following the George Floyd killing and controversy surrounding the Burlington Police Department. The Alliance’s 2021 statewide legislative agenda is based on three concepts to address systemic racism that Steering Committee member Ashley Laporte says is called ACT. “A-C-T is the Racial Justice Alliance’s point of view on critical priorities that the state legislature must act on this year to begin the necessary work to dismantle systemic racism in Vermont and to build a better future for American Descendants of Slavery and other people of color in our community. As we enter into the new biennium the COVID-19 pandemic rightfully sits at the center of the state agenda. But as we tackle this crisis we must continue to make progress tackling the crisis of systemic and structural racism in Vermont.”
Laporte explained that ACT is an acronym representing the three main issues the group says must be addressed in Vermont. “The A stands for acknowledging and reconciling historic systems of racism. The C stands for creating new structures for American Descendants of Slavery and other BIPOC economic and cultural empowerment. And the T stands for transforming state systems. With these three areas of focus we give ourselves a fighting chance at holistically addressing the systems of inequity in our state. If we are to change the lives of Black folks here we must seek transformative not incremental solutions.”
The alliance plans to craft a resolution calling for a moral budgeting process that assures equity. They also want a statewide resolution passed declaring racism a public health emergency. They want the legislature to continue an amendment process to change a clause in the Vermont Constitution to assure that slavery and indentured servitude are prohibited.
Alliance Executive Director Mark Hughes says they are poised to secure substantive accomplishments. “I am stoked about what it is that we’re doing; about who it is that’s doing it; about who it is we’re doing it for. I believe that we as a state can make quantum leaps within this next biennium as we begin lift up ADOS and BIPOC people as we begin to do the work clearing obstacles for economic opportunity; as we begin to focus more on taking a closer look at what cultural empowerment is and what it takes to get it and yes housing and land ownership.”
The Racial Justice Alliance conducts outreach across Vermont and studies and publishes Vermont racial data in policing, housing, poverty and unemployment.