Ferndale School Board and City Council Make Anti-Racism Proclamations, and Plans

Ferndale School Board and City Council Make Anti-Racism Proclamations, and Plans

(Crystal A. Proxmire, June 20, 2020)

Ferndale, MI – Both the Ferndale Public Schools and Ferndale City Council have demonstrated their intentions toward equality in recent weeks with the passing of proclamations against racism and promises of action in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Councilperson Kat Bruner James, who is a civil rights attorney, talked about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the protests that have been happening around the area and around the world, and what that means for Ferndale.  She said the protests have been creating change.

“Now that we are in this moment,” she said at the June 8 City Council meeting, “we’re making a commitment to anti-racism bolder and clearer than we have in the past.”  The meeting began at 7:08:46 in order to provide silence for Floyd’s death.  Floyd had been pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee for that length of time preceding his death.

James co-wrote the six-page long proclamation along with Mayor Melanie Piana.  They researched similar efforts, and provided a draft of the document online before the meeting so people could give feedback.  Based on the feedback, they took a typical proclamation and beefed it up with more context and a plan of action.

“This is a policy statement,” James said.  “This is something we want to be held accountable to, and we want our staff, and our community, to know this is our intent.”

The proclamatin includes some context of the ways the city has been working on the issue:

~The city’s organizational values of equity and inclusiveness

~Involvement in the Ferndale Inclusion Network

~The Mayor’s involvement in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights Equity and Inclusion for Government and Education Council

~The Police Department’s involvement in Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT), a project of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion

~Recognition of Sgt. Baron Brown as a 2018 Diversity Champion by the Race Relations and Diversity Task Force

Moving forward, the City has listed many tasks.

“Ferndale City Council directs its staff in all City departments to work with Council and the public to make recommendations for implementing anti-racist policies in all facets of our organization. Within 90 days of the adoption of this Declaration, Council requests a status report on these efforts through the City Manager’s office.

Council recommends the following, but invites additional recommendations from staff:

That the Human Resources department review recruiting, hiring, retention, and support policies and practices that promote equity and inclusion among city staff;

That the City Manager’s Office, with participation from other departments as necessary, study and develop a Racial Equity Policy, using the guidance provided in the Racial Equity Toolkit, promulgated by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights; and

That the City Manager’s office, with participation from the Ferndale Police and other departments as necessary, research and make recommendations to Council for creating a community advisory board for the Ferndale Police Department, as recommended by the 21st Century Community Policing model. The recommendation should contemplate size and selection process for board members and provide input on defining the general purpose of the board, which should include the following:

Reviewing citizen complaint dispositions and use of force reports;

Conduct racial impact assessments of current policies;

Monitor implementation and accreditation of the 21st Century model and related programs;

Review multi-jurisdictional cooperative law enforcement agreements for consistency with City of Ferndale values; and

Advise FPD leadership and/or Council on other recommended actions to build community trust and promote antiracism.

We will continue to advocate locally and through the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for relevant policies that improve health in communities of color, and supports local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

We will further work to solidify alliances and partnerships with other organizations that are confronting racism and encourage other local, state, regional and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis.

We will support community efforts to amplify issues and experiences of racism.

We will actively and authentically engage all members of the community, especially people of color who have been historically marginalized in nearly every American communities.

We will continue on-going racial equity training with the goal of reaching all mayor, city council leadership and staff.

We encourage racial equity training among all community partners, grantees, vendors and contractors.

Further resolved, that the Ferndale City Council supports all additional efforts in Oakland County and the State of Michigan, and nationwide to address racism and public health disparities due to racial inequities;

Further resolved, that the Ferndale City Council call upon the Governor, the Speaker of the Michigan House, and the Michigan Senate Majority Leader to join with us to becoming an anti-racist government and to enact equity in all policies of the state of Michigan.”

The proclamation declares racism a public health crisis, and also adds recognition for Juneteenth, which honors the date that slavery ended in Texas, June 19, 1865.  This holiday has been a traditional day of celebrating freedom and sharing stories of slavery so people do not forget.

The Ferndale School Board also passed a proclamation at their June 15 meeting.  According to the District, they are the second school district in the nation to pass such a proclamation, with Akron, OH being first.

In addition to affirming the need for equality, the proclamation set forth actions:

“Contained within the resolution, the Board of Education charged its  Committee of the Whole to research and integrate racially and culturally relevant elements into the curriculum and within the school buildings.

-The Board charges its  Committee of the Whole to research and develop a racial equity policy for the district to explicitly ensure our Black, Latinx, and other marginalized students are not disproportionately affected by racism. -The Board directs the district to discontinue the celebration of Columbus Day and recognize and honor Indigenous Peoples’ contributions and the impact that history has had on their heritage within our curriculum.  -The Board authorizes the Superintendent to work directly with the Ferndale, Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge Police Departments, who provide services within our schools, to review our standards and expectations to further promote a culturally affirming climate, which our school buildings and students deserve. -The Board directs the Superintendent to work with our almost 350 employees to begin forming race and other identity-based Employee Resource Groups focused on supporting and increasing staff climate, morale, and camaraderie.”

Ferndale is one of many communities that has seen protests since Floyd’s death on Memorial Day.  One of the protests attracted over a thousand people who marched from City Hall to Geary Park.  The city is also home to Citizens for Fair Ferndale, a group that currently is selling Black Lives Matter lawn signs with the proceeds supporting the Detroit Chapter of BLM.

The proclamations passed unanimously in both governmental bodies.  Ferndale Mayor Pro Tem Raylon Leaks-May thanked fellow council members for their work, and added she hoped it would “be the model for other communities to follow.”

City Council is requiring staff to return with a progress report in 90 days.  Read the full City of Ferndale proclamation, and the Ferndale Schools proclamation.

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