Wellesley announced at the Board of Selectmen meeting this week that it is submitting an application for a grant designed to help the town come up with a racial equity plan.
The Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan, offered through a collaboration including the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, will only be awarded to a handful of municipalities, according to Wellesley Assistant Executive Director Amy Frigulietti.
The goal of the program is to provide cities and towns with “technical assistance to create racial equity action plans and to take meaningful action to advance racial equity,” according to MAPC. Recipients will be announced by Sept. 10.
Word of the grant application came on the same night that a group of recent Wellesley High grads, mostly people of color, shared takeaways with the Board (starting at the 8:30 mark of the Wellesley Media recording) from the recent “Wake Up, Wellesley” series of discussions promoting racial equality. The discussions have featured students, academics, school administrators, and others.
Alex Stoddard said one takeaway from the discussions was the need for schools to accept that students’ experiences can’t be dismissed during discussions and in school work, especially when it involves politics. “So much of the experience of a person of color is political,” he said.
Julia Jordahl-Henry said she appreciated Wellesley Public Schools administrators taking time to meet with the group and believes they care about racial equality issues. But she noted that reaction to that session by those who spoke to her and her family was disappointment in the administration falling back on “talking points instead of really trying to hear and understand our questions and come up with their own personal answers.”
Among several points shared by Yasmine Jaffier-Williams, a recipient of a WHS Class of 2020 Senior Cup, is that “people need to start investing in this work, period.” She noted that the students have done a lot of the heavy lifting to date, and that it’s emotionally taxing for them, especially as they retell stories.
The students said they’d like to see the town invest in more police bias training and increase efforts to diversify the force’s make-up. They also encouraged the town to engage more youths in local government, which could include participatory budgeting and reaching out to them where they live (like on Instagram, via a student intern). Researching ways to improve the town’s hiring process could also be important, they said.
The students would also like the town to consider creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee, perhaps under the Board of Selection. Natick is currently exploring such a group.
Meanwhile, the deadline for that Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan application is Aug. 20. Let’s hope the town was able to infuse input from this group into its submission.
Board of Selectmen Chair Marjorie Freiman called the students trailblazers. “As much as you are saying you don’t have the expertise, most important social change comes from young people. You have activated a conversation that will have wide and broad ramifications,” she said.