Vermont Council on Rural Development summit on Vermont’s future features green and social justice agenda

The Vermont Council on Rural Development held a summit last week on the future of Vermont, and the series of discussions ranged from developing a climate economy to educating kids on equity and inclusion.

The event was broken into 20 subgroups that met each with its own task. The big question the group posed was “what do Vermonters need to do in the next three years to be successful for the next generation.”

One breakout session, “Combating Racism & Building Safe and Welcoming Communities for People of Color,” was moderated by Xusana Davis, the state’s first executive director of racial equity. Four other panelists included Adam Grinold, executive director for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, Jen Kimmich, general manager of The Alchemist, Arnold Thomas, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and Mia Schultz, president of the Vermont NAACP.

Wikimedia Commons/Mirta Toledo

A summit on the future of Vermont held last week by the Vermont Council on Rural Development included speakers who said children must learn to become “global citizens.”

Each speaker claimed Vermonters have a problem with racism.

“I think that for people of color, [any person] coming into any predominantly white community needs to gear themselves up for whatever comes their way,” Thomas said. “Recognizing that often the [experience] that comes of it will be negative and demeaning, they have to put an armor to prepare themselves for that.”

Davis echoed that sentiment.

“You can’t just move to Vermont and live,” she said. “You have to cage your heart in preparation for hate and wear this private armor and hear from people with lived experience. … We have members of dominant groups who just live where they want to live because they want to live there, and considerations don’t necessarily hinge on where will I be safe.

” … We are still grappling with a legacy of racism and of slavery in this country that is still very real — and yes, both are still very real,” she said.

Schultz said when people ask her about how Vermont is for people of color, she does not recommend that they come.

“The thing is, in my role I get … a BIPOC person from outside of Vermont saying ‘is it safe to come to Vermont, is it safe to move there.’ Sometimes I’m like, ‘I’m not qualified to answer that question.'”

Grinold said some Vermonters believe the state does not have a problem with race.

“Historically, we as Vermonters, I think, really falsely pride ourselves on being an open community where everybody is welcomed right away. But to the outsider — it’s often an outsider, right? — they don’t feel part of that community, they feel different and separate.”

Kimmich spoke of reaching out to young people to address racism, and making big changes to the school curriculum to accomplish it.

“I can’t overemphasize education and just [making] a complete curriculum overhaul,” she said.

Kimmich added that the arts community could be used to spread such messages of equity and inclusion.

“We’re really committed to using the arts as a vehicle for bringing our community together, [and] providing as much exposure as we can, to teach youth and to everyone in our community, whether it’s through artists or musicians or poets,” she said.

Schultz suggested children must be educated in a way to buy into the notion of a global society, yet admitted that communities are pushing back against such agendas.

“What we’re seeing right now is kind of a pushback. I’m seeing a lot of pushback in our selectboards across the mainstream — but in Vermont in particular, as well — where we’re seeing pushback in the actual implementation of these equity statements and these inclusion statements that we’ve crafted so well,” she said.

Schultz added that school boards are “being infiltrated with the pushback in ways that we’re trying to remove discussion about critical race theory, remove discussions that are really needed in order to cultivate the children who will be global citizens.”

Of the other breakout sessions for the multi-day event included “Advancing Creative Economic Solutions to Climate Change,” “Encouraging Local Democracy and New Leaders,” “Planning for the Future: Vermont Futurists Roundtable,” and more.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Mirta Toledo

5 thoughts on “Vermont Council on Rural Development summit on Vermont’s future features green and social justice agenda

  1. Interesting, such great and insiteful comments below. Interesting that people of faith in the group do not point to real cure for hatred and racism.

    Meanwhile we fight. Yes there is racism in Vermont. No. Vermont is not racist. Both are true. One position is vastly more accurate than the other, to the point where lies and exaggeration have to paraded around.

    We could be leaving how to love our neighbors as ourselves. Huh, who taught us that? What civil rights leader studied these grat works of wisdom? And where is Vermont going? We follow Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky thinking it will bring us peace? love? Both these men despised truth, love and whom represented it. Saul dedicated his works to pure evil, Marx continually kept his kids in abject poverty nearly starving them for long periods of time in his. Quest for fame and power.

    Vermont has choice.

  2. I left Vermont in Nov 2019. Moved to a conservative state. I moved into a suburb where the neighbor husband is black, wife is white and kids are mixed race. Kids feel comfortable coming over and playing on my playground without asking (leaving thier candy wrappers and breaking my grandsons toys but whatever), husband waves, smiles and says hi always, wife is openly hostile. “Welcoming” is NOT about color.

  3. This article sounds like the leader is a racist, looking for racism — kinda like the people in the 50s, that saw communists everywhere.

  4. No one asked us if we wanted our state to join the UN Sustainability Agenda that has greenwashed this state into a “prossie” for the Feds, beholden to every experimental program they want to ‘try out’ on Americans, and legless, now, utterly carried by the Feds, having cut out the guts of a self-sustaining state with the, as Melissa says, outsiders bringing their codes and statutes and rules and fees to join _____________ anything or have anything or do anything, because without order there is chaos.
    And Vermont was sooooo chaotic even the cows drowsed in the pastures, and the sheep lay in the shade, and frogs jumped in the ponds…it was soooo chaotic, and really really really needed to be fixed. More like Long Island, or New Haven, or NYC.
    We sold our souls and we elected the officials that saw to it and sealed the deal, ongoing here in situ.
    Wholesale coup de gras by private interests for private gains, and pushing out all of who are here because the real chaos out there has never BEEN here.
    Because we know our neighbors and we aren’t strangers to each other, and we’ve always understood that we are all connected to one degree or another in this State, literally.
    So all this nanny nonense from socialist liberals because we are children and couldn’t survive without them – and their inductive heat units instead of a good ole woodstove burning last years blow downs – oh yeah. THIS is the Vermont I grew up in, and really wanted changed to.
    Yeah.
    NOT.

  5. Historically, people moved here to escape the policies in their former States. Preceded to post no trespassing signs every 10 yards on their property, got themselves elected to school boards, councils and task forces, then proceeded to initiate every policy that drove them out of their former States. Obviously, these people are hellbent on changing everything that made Vermont a decent place to live and raise a family. The socialist Vermont utopia will be akin to the disastrous results in California. Possibly the outsider cold shoulder is precisely because of what outsiders do – change things so radically we don’t recognize our State anymore. The Trust fund kids and the new radicals coming to destroy our towns, destroy us, and make us all pay for it.

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