Edmonds Diversity Commission: Reflecting on 2016

By Maria Montalvo | Dec 08, 2016

The Edmonds Diversity Commission began its work in 2016, a year fraught with conflict over the concept of diversity and the place it represents in the American dialogue. This is the second of the commission’s quarterly updates in the Edmonds Beacon, and we invite you to reach out to commissioners or city staff to learn more about our activities and mission.

The commission was charged with understanding where we stand as a city in terms of diversity and inclusion, and promoting an environment that accepts, celebrates, and appreciates diversity within the community.

The Commission is meant to:

• serve as a resource for city government and the community by providing information, education and communication that facilitates a better understanding and celebrates our differences;

• provide recommendations to elected officials to address diversity issues, promote diversity programs and provide guidance to create a more accessible, safe, welcoming and inclusive government and community; and

• assist the city of Edmonds in supporting and challenging all areas of government and the community to eliminate and prevent all forms of discrimination.

Many have asked us on the commission: What does that mean? What are you supposed to accomplish? What is the question we are attempting to answer or challenge we are attempting to address?

Some people see a problem; some do not. Most perceive diversity through a different lens. Some say we are attending to the concerns of a few; some others say the few have rarely been attended to. Others ask why aren’t we doing more and responding in an outspoken manner to current events.

How does a commission take action that creates positive outcomes and collaborate with people with such diverse opinions?

The honest answer – as well as we can.

We know the question is not if we should promote a more diverse community, because we are growing more diverse. It is a matter of how we exist together. When communities like ours take a stand (through the City Council and the mayor) and agree to look at ourselves with a critical eye to create safety and opportunity for all of our citizens, we are taking on a challenge that can increase divisions while trying to minimize them.

We must balance our sense of urgency to make a difference with a need to be patient in finding the right combination of events, outreach and learning in order to actually move the needle. Discussions about race, national origin, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical abilities, marital status, or socioeconomic status can only do so much when they take place among like-minded people or within small groups.

In 2017, we may shine a light on a topic that is interpreted as both urgent and frivolous by neighbors on the same street.

The commission hopes to become a platform for Edmonds to ask difficult questions, learn about each other and feel comfortable raising issues without judgment. The more we learn from each other, the more we can work together to recommend potential policies, tools, and events that have the potential to make a difference in practical ways.

And thus, the most important part of this Commission is Edmonds – us, the citizens of our town. Please contribute to the conversation.

Join us for Edmonds Diversity Commission meetings at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the Edmonds Senior Center. Next Saturday, Dec.10, the Diversity Commission is hosting a community discussion on topics related to diversity, and we would love to see you at the Plaza Room of the Edmonds Library.

For more information, email Misha Carter at misha.carter@edmonds.wa.gov.

Maria Montalvo is a member of the Edmonds Diversity Commission.


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