Select Board Candidates Respond to Questions about Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Wellesley

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World of Wellesley is committed to fostering an anti-racist and anti-bias community where diversity, equity and inclusion are fully embraced. Since the Select Board serves as Wellesley’s executive body we believe it is important to know the perspectives of the 3 candidates; Collette Aufranc, Ann-Mara Lanza, and Odessa Sanchez in relation to these values.  
 
On February 1, 2021,  World of Wellesley submitted the following 3 questions to all 3 candidates running for the Select Board. All 3 candidates were given the same due date of February 10, 2021.
  1. Wellesley’s 2019 Unified Plan lists diversity as a core value. What are your top priorities for making Wellesley a community that welcomes a diversity of people and households?
  2. What actions should the Select Board take to address systemic racism in Wellesley institutions? 
  3. Do you support or oppose ballot question 1 to honor Indigenous Peoples Day and cease to celebrate Columbus Day? Why?
The responses from Collette Aufranc and Ann-Mara Lanza are below. Odessa Sanchez chose not to respond to the 3 questions presented.
 

Colette Aufranc

Wellesley’s 2019 Unified Plan lists diversity as a core value. What are your top priorities for making Wellesley a community that welcomes a diversity of people and households?

Recently, Wellesley applied for a grant through the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to develop a Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan (REMAP). Unfortunately, our grant request was not approved, so instead the town has begun exploring how to embark on this process ourselves. We have approved funding for a consultant to aid in establishing a representative task force or working group. This is a priority for me and I was very supportive of the funding for this initiative. Building a strong foundation at the outset of this work is crucial to ensure that the steps we take are meaningful and the actions we pursue are successful.

Wellesley is not alone in exploring ways to address racial inequity. We can learn from, and leverage the experience of, similar towns and community partners. The Select Board will soon hold a forum to learn more about the REMAP program and have invited an MAPC representative and a manager from a peer town that is currently developing a REMAP plan. This is the first step in developing a strategic plan to engage with residents of diverse backgrounds, hear their concerns and be responsive. Wellesley Public School’s (WPS) recently-hired director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has spent her first year doing the foundational work necessary to build a strategic plan for inclusiveness in our schools. As we go through a similar process on the municipal side, forming a strong partnership with WPS will be a priority.

What actions should the Select Board take to address systemic racism in Wellesley institutions? 

To identify appropriate actions to take, we must first support the formation of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) task force. We have learned from early discussions with other municipalities doing this work that critical factors to success include forming a group with as many voices as possible represented, especially those seldom heard in town government, and supporting this team as it identifies what matters to address in their work, and along what timeline. The Select Board should provide on-going support to the DEI working group, and be guided by their outcomes and responsibilities.

Do you support or oppose ballot question 1 to honor Indigenous Peoples Day and cease to celebrate Columbus Day? Why?

As I have listened and learned more about the movement to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, I have come to understand why a national holiday of celebration is long overdue. Moreover, I have come to better understand how Columbus Day has become synonymous with colonialism and the end of a way of life for indigenous people. While I am very sympathetic to the Italian American community’s desire to maintain their celebration, I feel that America is evolving and we should celebrate all immigrants for the sacrifices they make and the benefits they bring. I would support celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in October and finding another day to celebrate all immigrants.

 


Ann-Mara Lanza

Wellesley’s 2019 Unified Plan lists diversity as a core value. What are your top priorities for making Wellesley a community that welcomes a diversity of people and households?

I strongly believe in the value, b’tselem elohim, that all people are created in the image of God.  Every person adds something unique to the fabric of our community.  We need to approach all of our neighbors with this understanding and to be ready to engage in dialog.  There are many important components to our human diversity.  Two years ago, I co-led a community conversation on transgender equality.  Race and racism can also be difficult for some to discuss, and still we must have these conversations. As a leader in our community, I will continue my efforts to create opportunities for difficult conversations.  We must understand that addressing racial injustices, past and present, isn’t about blame or shame; it’s about understanding that we live together, in a society, with hundreds of years of systemic racism and oppression.  Last summer, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) students courageously shared their difficult experiences living in Wellesley, and asked for support.  This is an opportunity to show our better selves: to demonstrate what we value.  Instead of turning away from these difficult stories, we need to turn in, acknowledge their experiences, and work hard as a community to ensure that Wellesley is a wonderful place for all families to raise their children.

What actions should the Select Board take to address systemic racism in Wellesley institutions? 

Addressing systemic racism is a big challenge, but one that Wellesley is strong enough to handle.  Once again, we must recognize that addressing racial injustices, past and present, isn’t about blame or shame.  We need to start with education, looking at all of our institutions through a critical antiracist lens. We need to examine our policies from this perspective.  As a member of the Select Board, I would start by asking questions of each of the Select Board’s departments such as, “What is the historical record of our actions with people of different races?” and “What diversity trainings have we engaged in?” I would also initiate discussions on these topics with other town boards and departments.  Both the schools and the library have taken steps this year to increase their understanding of diversity.  We can learn from each other, while we push each other to do better.

Do you support or oppose ballot question 1 to honor Indigenous Peoples Day and cease to celebrate Columbus Day? Why?

As the mother of an Italian-Jewish family, an active member of the Racial Justice Initiative at Temple Beth Elohim, and a strong believer in the democratic process, I have given this issue great thought.  In June, 2020, Town meeting voted hold a referendum on IPD.  I am on record as speaking in support, and voting in favor, of IPD at town meeting.  For me, it’s an issue of racial justice.  The history of Native American displacement and erasure is difficult for me to ignore.  As immigrants, we were given a hand up when we needed it.  Now, we have a chance to pay that forward. There are members on my campaign committee who see this issue differently from me. We respect each other.  They support me because of who I am; because, among other things, I listen.  While non-binding, this vote will allow the Select Board to hear directly from the community.  Effective government depends on active participation from citizens – everyone please vote.  As a member of the Select Board, I would listen to the outcome of this referendum and take action accordingly.