I am a nearly 42-year old Black woman who still bears the scars of once being a girl always left out. I cannot speak for every Black person on Bainbridge Island, but I think part of mattering is knowing that we are part of the conversation and being thought of at all.
Most Islanders are new to the language of diversity, equity and inclusion, but find themselves now needing to be knowledgeable and comfortable speaking on all things related to race. Add to that being parents and where do we even begin?
None of this comes naturally, and we are bound to make mistakes as we stumble blindly through these ever-changing times. The fact that we are beginning to have these conversations and start to frame what actionable change could look like should be cause for hope.
COBI recently became a member of The Government Alliance on Race Equity, which is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. It is at this momentous intersection of history, social justice and necessity that we find ourselves searching for a new city manager.
Our new city manager needs to believe that creating a better community begins with a commitment to equity and inclusion and have a proven track record and experience doing this work. Bainbridge Island can and should be at the forefront of something so crucial to the fabric of our society.
So how do we build a community where everyone feels welcome? Not only based on race, but also finding affordable housing options for all Islanders. Yes, a welcoming sign is great, but what else?
The Bainbridge Island School District is addressing anti-racist education and what that looks like in their district improvement plan. We begin each of our city meetings with the Native land acknowledgement. What if there was a statement at the beginning of each meeting saying that all city business would be conducted through that lens of equity we keep talking about? All of it.
Every time I hear affordable housing mentioned in terms of equity and diversity it reminds me of just how complex these issues are. We need more affordable housing options, because it’s the right thing to do and the only way to achieve equity. Many Islanders of all races are currently being priced out of being able to live here, which in turn means they are priced out of our school district. We need to plan for equity now for all residents.
The past few months have also brought so many glimmers of hope. This Island is pretty amazing when it puts its mind to something. Keep marching. Keep talking. Keep reading and turn all of this thought and talk into action.
I am asked what we can do on a daily basis. What can we do? I know we are all in pain. We are afraid. Hate hurts. Get informed, take action, take care yourself and get engaged.
Love in action. What is the love in action as the late Rep. John Lewis spoke of? It’s knowing we have so far to go yet recognizing the progress we have made as we work together to make this Island a welcoming place for all of its residents in the future.
This particular Black woman is hurting, but fired up and hopeful that we can come together and work toward lasting change.
Let’s do this. The time is now!
Ashley Mathews is a political activist in Bainbridge Island.