Over the past few months, the City of Albany Social and Economic Justice Commission (SEJC) has been developing the city’s Equity Impact Plan in order to influence systemic change and address institutional racism within Albany. The Albany Equity Impact Plan, discussed at an online Community Dialogue on Institutional Racism on July 16, 2020, aims to enact racial equity work through identifying and addressing racial disparities through key focus areas. Established in August of this year, subcommittees on key focus areas of Policing, Housing & Economic Development, and Education & Youth meet independently every month.
The bulk of SEJC meetings this fall have focused on the development of the Albany Equity Impact Plan with the support of Nicole Anderson & Associates Consulting. Nicole Anderson, an Educational and Racial Equity Consultant, is an expert in supporting communities to shape their equity and cultural proficiency, and is currently helping Albany create an action plan to address systemic racism and social equity within the city. Over the last few months, the SEJC has made a draft of a racial equity statement to address racial equity in the whole City of Albany. On October 6th, Ms. Anderson and her colleague Dr. Shelley Holt prompted Commissioners to think of one word to describe racial equity (e.g. fairness, equality) and combine their responses to create an initial racial equity statement draft. As a team, the Commissioners developed the following statement: “Racial Equity in Albany is when all community members, institutions, systemic structures and practices are held accountable to treat people with justice, fairness and equality then this will result in justice and peace.” The goal of the statement is to create a common language for the City to effectively address racial inequality in the community.
The Commission’s racial equity statement will later be used to construct an Anti-Racism Community Survey to evaluate and address equity discrepancies in each of the SEJC subcommittee focus areas. As Vice Chair Ge’Nell Gary recently said, “We’re trying to shape this [statement] to fit our community.”
The SEJC subcommittees have made individual progress in the past month in developing their own racial equity statements and survey questions. The Housing & Economic Development subcommittee, led by Vice Chair Gary and Commissioner Judy Kerr, and the Policing subcommittee, led by Chair Greg Downes and Commissioner Judy Kerr, both presented equity statements and survey question drafts at the last SEJC meeting. Current survey question drafts ask residents to agree or disagree with statements such as, “In the past 12 months I have heard reports of profiling by the Albany Police Department.” and “There should be more affordable housing in Albany.” Survey questions aim to evaluate racial equity in these focus areas and inform the SEJC Equity Impact Plan.
Over the next few months, the SEJC will use their findings to inform future policing task force work and make recommendations to the City Council to advance racial equity. The SEJC hopes to consolidate their work in racial equity statements and commuity surveys into a final Equity Impact Plan in May 2021.
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