Women for Community Justice gathering touches on equality for all

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

SALISBURY — For a community to reach its fullest potential, everyone must have the same goals and work together to make them happen, according to a gathering of the Women for Community Justice.

Reality is never that simple and it can be difficult for people to agree on the best ways to enact change. The organization, founded in 2016, has a vision statement of:  “A trusting relationship between community and government at all levels (local, state, federal) based on equitableness, transparency, data and cultural/racial respect.”

Members attended the Salisbury City Council meeting last week and read a prepared statement regarding the expectations for the new full-time police chief.

“We are wanting the new police chief to represent all people in Salisbury regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, identification or socioeconomic status,” member Jennifer Burroff-Smith said.

The call to action was brought upon by the recent climate of racial violence that includes the deaths of George Floyd and Tyre Nichols.

“We thought it was important to write this letter with the impending hiring of a new police chief, kind of for obvious reasons because there is so much violence we see around the nation and Salisbury has not been immune to it,” member Jill Schneider Smith said. “We want to see someone who’s going to meet with representatives from all different communities, all different socioeconomic groups and see what their concerns are.”

Both women joined WCJ around three years ago. Schneider Smith works as a pastor and Burroff-Smith as a social worker. Both praise WCJ for its diversity and its drive to do right for the rest of Salisbury and Rowan County. Being aware of what other people experience makes fighting for all people’s rights that much easier.

“Several years ago, when I heard Black moms and dads have to have a talk with their children, sons about being pulled over by the police, I never heard that, I never worried about it. I always presumed all police were safe,” Schneider Smith said.

WCJ members say communication is important, so local governments need to keep people informed of what is happening at a policy level. To its credit, Salisbury has been taking a stand to be the model for how to adapt to a more proactive way of thinking.

“I think Salisbury has shown more intention of being more diverse with their city council. As far as trying to get more people to vote, targeting certain areas, and being more intentional about county and city workers,” Burroff-Smith said.

WCJ members are planning events to get their message across. On Thursday night, they will take part in a community forum hosted by the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP at Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church. On March 15, they will have a demonstration at the Rowan County Administrative Offices.

Burroff-Smith has two biracial children and she hopes that the work she does now helps them flourish as they get older.

“Everyday I fight for them. That’s one of the reasons why I’m very passionate about Women for Community Justice and making a difference,” she said.

WCJ members are prepared to take their time to combat the problems that surface across the country. Burroff-Smith said once she found a group of people who shared her values and her desire for a greater future for all, everything began to fall in place for her.

“I finally found my people, people that want to make a difference and better the lives of others,” she said.