MILTON — Milton residents have more opportunities than ever to get involved in anti-racism work and discussions.
Here are some of the ways community groups, the Milton Town School District and the Town are working to get educated and to make an impact.
Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative
At a Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative (MIDI) workshop on March 3, called Seeing and Disrupting Racism, participants discussed how white fragility perpetuates racism. The workshop was co-hosted with the Peace and Justice Center (PJC) and was created for predominantly white audiences, though all were welcomed.
MIDI works with local officials and organizations to ensure the town is equitable and inclusive. PJC strives to work on the interconnected issues of peace, human rights and economic, social and racial justice by hosting workshops, creating internship opportunities and supporting other peace-focused events.
“These sessions, they are confidential. As a participant, I can’t share with you who was there, what happened. It’s a very confidential, safe space, where we learn and can come together to talk about racism,” said Lisa Rees, a member of the Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative.
MIDI keeps the meetings confidential so members of the community can attend without feeling like they will be ostracized for their beliefs.
“When you’re thinking about racism and being a white supremacist, those words are very provocative and a lot of people shy away from it,” Rees said. “MIDI provides opportunities for the community to come together in a safe confidential space. To work on our own selves and how we show up in society and how we as white allies can disrupt racism.”
In November 2020, an incident was reported of a woman backing her car into Phyillicia LaBoard, a Milton resident. The woman reportedly called LaBoard a racial slur, according to a press release from the Peace and Justice Center.
Rees has lived in Milton for 16 years and thinks the town still has a lot of work to do.
“We are raising awareness as a community that racism is a public health crisis,” she said. “It's systemic and entrenched in our society but we have come a long way. And how we can do that is in-person education.”
Milton Town School District
Amy Rex, the superintendent of the Milton School District, recently formed an Equity and Diversity Committee that consists of educators, staff and the community to look at school policies through racial equity tools.
Rex said her goal for the school district is to cultivate and engage citizens of the world. She wants to include more language learner programs to encourage diversity in Milton schools.
At Milton High School there’s also a Rise Up for Social Justice program that high schoolers can volunteer for.
Town of Milton
At the March 15 Selectboard meeting, Town Manager Don Turner asked the board for approval to apply for a $2,500 education grant from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which if awarded, would be put towards racial equity training for Town staff.
Turner said it's been a few years since staff completed a racial equity program, so it's time to reinvest. He hopes to include Town staff, as well as interested Selectboard and community members.
The board unanimously approved Turner's request, so the Town will now complete the necessary application materials. Turner said he will find out if Milton's application was accepted in early April.
"We will offer some additional training to staff even if we do not receive this grant," he stated in a March 16 email to the Independent.
Ivy Kirby is a student at the University of Vermont and a reporter with the Community News Service, a student-powered partnership with community newspapers. Bridget Higdon contributed reporting to this story.
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 11:18 a.m. March 29 to correct that MIDI does not offer internships. The organization also no longer holds regular meetings or offers a newsletter as its website currently suggests.