WENHAM — The Town of Wenham is pleased to share that the Human Rights Committee has officially commenced its work and is making strides to promote diversity, equity and acceptance in the community.
Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, a group of residents came together in both Hamilton and Wenham seeking to create a human rights committee to affirm the community’s dedication in both towns to upholding human rights and to denounce bigotry, hatred and oppression.
Shortly thereafter, the group determined they would be most effective at their goal if they were able to create a committee at the municipal level in each town. Residents from the Town of Wenham approached the Board of Selectmen seeking to create a Human Rights Committee, and the committee was officially formed on Nov. 4, 2020. Their first meeting was held this January.
“I think creating a committee focused on human rights at the municipal level sends a really clear message that the town will protect all civil liberties of all its citizens, visitors and town employees,” Chairwoman Martha Brennan said. “And even more importantly that it affirmatively denounces bigotry and discrimination, and that these are core values of our town. We want people to feel welcomed here and not just tolerated.”
The committee serves as an advisory committee to the Board of Selectmen, with the purpose of affirming that the Town of Wenham is an inclusive community that has, as one of its core values, the freedom from discrimination, disrespect, bigotry, other forms of microaggressions, macroaggressions, hatred and oppression. The committee also seeks to reaffirm the Town’s commitment to upholding and defending the rights of all individuals to enjoy the free and equal exercise of their rights and privileges, as guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
To that end, the committee strives to ensure that all persons enjoy the equal opportunity to participate in local affairs, including with respect to housing, employment, education, government, public accommodation, access to Town services, insurance, credit, banking and health care, regardless of race, color, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, disability, marital or familial status, military or veteran status, socioeconomic status, and/or ex-offender status.
“It is a proud moment for the Town of Wenham, to see this committee created and getting started on this important work,” Selectman Chairman Gary Cheeseman said. “This all has happened as a direct result of the efforts of members of our community seeking to re-affirm the values and expectations of our community here in Wenham. We deeply appreciate their time and support as an advisory committee to our board moving forward.”
Members of the Human Rights Committee are as follows:
- Chairwoman Martha Brennan
- Vice Chair Tova Crystal
- Clerk Janet Burt
- Liaison to the Hamilton Human Rights Committee Jeremy Gross
- Committee member Sam Nordberg
- Committee member Patricia Purdy
- Wenham Police Department Deputy Chief Kevin DiNapoli
- Interim Town Administrator Ex Officio member Tom Younger
- Student Liaison Emma Dixon
The Human Rights Committee’s first order of business has been to create a system through which citizens or visitors may report any concerns or complaints about real or perceived discrimination or unequal treatment, and to create a procedure for handling those reports. The commission has created an email address where they can be contacted with these reports: [email protected]
The committee will also strive to act as a point of contact for the promotion of celebrating and educating the community about diverse cultures, by working with other organizations and groups to create educational programs. The committee will further be reviewing language in the town’s bylaws and other written materials to consider adding and adjusting language to reflect the community’s commitment to diversity and equity.
The committee will hold virtual public meetings once a month for the foreseeable future, and information on each meeting will be posted on the town meeting calendar linked here. For more information about the committee, click here.