Village launches new committee to focus on racial equity

McFarland High School student Laëtitia Hollard organized a Black Lives Matter gathering June 3 at Arnold Larson Park to push for an end to racism. Hollard is a co-founder of the MEP.

A committee to create racial equity is set to meet by the end of the year as part of a month’s long effort between citizen advocates and McFarland village officials to address social change.

McFarland High School student Laëtitia Hollard and others who helped spearhead the effort were at the village board meeting last week when the committee was approved. She acknowledged the support of the village in getting the committee formed.

“We have had a lot of great, difficult conversations in the last couple of months and I want to see where this work will continue with the new diversity, equity, and inclusion committee,” Hollard told the village board on Sept. 14.

In June, Hollard organized a Black Lives Matter rally at a McFarland Park in response to the death of George Floyd and other Black men and women who died at the hands of police. Several hundred showed up at the rally and signed a petition asking the Village of McFarland and the McFarland School Board to work toward diversity and equity initiatives and encourage the involvement of people of color. Petitioners also asked for the village to join Dane County’s Community Restorative Court.

They also asked for the creation of a special committee, that was approved last Monday by the board. Nine McFarland residents will be appointed to the special committee that has a goal to advance racial equity, social justice, diversity, and inclusion in the Village of McFarland.

Members will review village practices and policies, encourage village officials and community members to learn about diversity, equity and inclusion, and identify ways to move toward the goals. The committee will also find ways to get more people from diverse backgrounds involved.

Village of McFarland Administrator Matt Schuenke will appoint members soon, with many coming from the grassroots effort to get the committee started. The village board will approve the appointees. Schuenke said the village will also actively recruit committee members of diverse backgrounds.

Census information from the Village of McFarland in July 2019 reported that around 95.1 percent of the village’s population was white, 2.2 percent Black or African American, 1.1 percent Asian and 1.4 percent Hispanic or Latino.

Schuenke said the village has been trying to diversify its workforce and government boards and committees, which have a majority of white male members. He said the village has been successful in adding more women to its village workforce recently.

Other municipalities—Cottage Grove, Oregon, Monona, Shorewood Hills and Waunakee—are making similar efforts to bring awareness to racial equity, inclusion and racial injustice. The resolution, approved at the Sept. 14 village board meeting, also commits the village to fund and train village employees in racial equity, social justice, diversity, and inclusion and review police training and the use of force policies.

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