My Turn, Kendal Mobley: Diversity efforts only the beginning

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2022

At the July 19 meeting of the Salisbury City Council, I spoke during public comment on behalf of Actions in Faith and Justice’s (AFJ) steering committee. We called upon the Council to remember and fulfill the commitments made in the Resolution of Reconciliation. Passed more than three years ago, it calls upon the Council to enact policies and practices that will promote equity and justice in all arenas of civic life, to monitor outcomes, and to offer an annual report, on or about August 6, on the progress of that work. Unfortunately, no such report had ever been forthcoming from the Council.

Following my comments, Anne Little, the city’s director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, offered a summary of the city’s recent efforts and current plans related to equity, diversity, and inclusion We are gratified that the City Council finally received a report on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Ms. Little’s report was filled with many positive first steps — including the creation of the city’s Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and several important new hires, such as those in the police and fire departments. Many of the accomplishments listed in her report represent an excellent beginning, but they are only a beginning.

AFJ remains committed to structural change that will empower new communities and voices in decision-making spaces. We remain committed to clearly stated objectives and measurable assessments that are the product of community-based advocacy. We believe the goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion must not be fused or merged into one; they must be conceptualized and assessed independently and empirically. In 2019, we recommended creating an equity council, co-convened by citizens who are representative of the entire community, to work in partnership with the city government. We believe it is the best, most democratic way to deliberate, craft policies, and measure outcomes.

No one can say what the impact of these first steps will be. We believe it is premature for the City Council to claim success or to congratulate itself on a job well done. Still, we celebrate these positive first steps and hope future reports will show measurable progress in equity, based on criteria that reflect improved quality of life for all communities in the city. We look forward to collaborating with the city of Salisbury on the rest of “the journey.”

Kendal Mobley teaches religious studies at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.