Race and Equity

June 12, 2018

Arielle King is a first-year law student at Vermont Law School (VLS), where she completed her Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP) Degree last year. Originally from Albany, New York, King graduated from Bard College at Simon’s Rock with a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies with concentrations in Political Ecology and Urban Studies. There she researched and wrote her senior thesis entitled, Government and the Voiceless City: A Case Study on the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis and State-Community Relations. This piece of scholarship, and the trip to Flint that preceded it, have significantly contributed to King’s understanding of Environmental Racism and its crucial role in the formation of this nation. Arielle is a co-founder of the VLS Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS) where she served as Treasurer last year and serves as 1L Senator this year. She is the VLS Student Bar Association (SBA) Parliamentarian for this academic year.

Shela Linton, part of the Equity Solutions team, has worked for nearly 2 decades as a grassroots advocate for socially just education, public health, family services (DCF), and housing. She has facilitated dozens of forums on topics including: bullying, harm reduction, race relations, police relations, and universal health care. For 4 years she organized for the Vermont Workers Center – advocating for a democratic society where all people's fundamental needs are met. Her current initiatives are: the “I am Vermont Too, photo story project” which challenges racial micro-aggressions; “Soul Food Sundays” a People of Color only safe space; and the first statewide People of Color Caucus. Shela has a BA in Psychology and an Associates in Chemical Dependency. She is a 2011 graduate of Governor Snelling: Vermont Leadership Institute.

Kendra Colburn, part of the Equity solutions team, comes from both New England’s white working poor and, more distantly, its WASP elite. She has worked in the building, metal, and farming trades and as a project manager, freelance writer, editor, and facilitator, and has organized around environmental, food, racial, and socioeconomic justice since 1997. Kendra has a BA in American Studies from Smith College, where she was an Ada Comstock Scholar and co-chaired a student group advocating for low income peers. Kendra works and lives in the Upper Valley of Vermont and connects with her community around intersectional equity through Cross Class Dialogue Circles, racial justice workshops, and consultation. She’s proud to be in the 2018-19 cohort of Leadership Upper Valley.

Jarvis Antonio Green moved to the Upper Valley of Vermont/NH in 2011 from New York City and founded BarnArts Center for the Arts in Barnard, VT. He is the Founding Producing Artistic Director of JAG Productions and the former Director of Theatre Arts at ArtisTree Community Arts Center right outside of beautiful Woodstock, VT. Jarvis received his training at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City, Anderson University and South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts.  Directing credits include: Choir Boy, Fences, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill  (JAG Productions), Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Fiddler on the Roof (ArtisTree Theatre Company), The 39 Steps, Master Class, Porgy and Bess in Concert, Oliver!, Grease, Little Shop of Horrors (BarnArts Center for the Arts), Suessical the Musical (NCCT).

He has also had an extensive career on the stage including My Heart is the Drum (World Premiere), Once On This Island, The Who’s Tommy (Village Theatre), Twelfth Night (RAW Shakespeare Company), Our Town, Clybourne Park, Twelve Angry Men (Northern Stage), The Wizard of Oz, Pirates of Penzance (Pentangle Arts), Ragtime (New London Barn Playhouse), Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, A Chorus Line, La Cage Aux Folles, A New Brain (Capital Playhouse), Smokey Joe’s Café (Bellevue Civic Theatre), The Buddy Holly Story (5th Ave Theatre), Stardust (Harlequin Playhouse), The Play’s The Thing, Black Nativity, Our Town (Intiman Theatre).

The Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist. The church of his childhood was the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Monmouth County in Lincroft, New Jersey. From this church and from its minister, Reverend Harold Dean, Leon learned about the sweetness of life. He learned about compassion, peace and possibility.

He received his undergraduate degree at Tufts University and his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh. He was interested in traditional drumming of Ghana and the Republic of Zaire, the Kora tradition of Senegal, the Gamelan traditions of Java and Bali in Indonesia, the African American and jazz tradition(s) in the Americas and, most recently, in Bluegrass and Country Blues.   He sings and plays several instruments— including guitar, piano, conga, gangogwe (West African double bell), didjeridu. He is just getting started on the dobro and octave mandolin.

Leon entered the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. He studied under Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker for three years before moving to St. Paul, Minnesota to serve Unity Church—Unitarian. He was in St. Paul from 2008 to 2012.  He served the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring in Maryland from August of 2012 until June of 2017.  In September of 2017, he began his service to the North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, VT.   He is writing a book on spiritual growth and radical forgiveness in an age of racial violence and social strife.

Asma Elhuni currently serves as the Upper Valley Interfaith Project lead organizer. As the recipient of the university’s 2016 MLK Humanitarian Award, Asma tries to listen to and uplift the voices of groups often times marginalized by society. Previous posts include interning for Rep Brenda Lopez at the Georgia Assembly and serving at the Outreach Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Georgia and an organizer for the United Students Against Sweatshops at Georgia State University. 

Nathalie Batraville is a research and teaching fellow at Dartmouth College. Her scholarship examines the sexual politics of race in the wake of the transatlantic slave trade using Black feminist, queer of color, and decolonial literature and theory. Since completing her PhD at Yale in 2016, she has been working on a monograph titled Black Feminisms Beyond the State: Poetic Figurations of Liberatory Sex and Politics in Haiti that conceptualizes liberation beyond independence by rethinking postcolonial power in Haiti. She has also designed at Dartmouth a series of workshops called Project X that supports Black collective action on and off campus. 

Jameson Davis currently serves as a member of the Hartford Selectboard. He is  also a Master of Environmental Law and Policy Candidate - Vermont Law School, a Student Bar Association Masters' Senator, a graduate of the African American Board Leadership Institute,  the Chairman of the Data Collection Committee for Attorney General Advisory Panel on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile and Criminal Justice System of Vermont. Jameson lives in Quechee, Vermont.

Kevin "Coach" Christie

KEVIN "COACH" CHRISTIE of Hartford, Windsor County, Democrat, was born April 7, 1950, in Hartford, CT, and moved to Hartford, VT, at age 23, in 1973. He attended parochial schools through high school and graduated from Eastern CT State University (BA, 1972), active in student government and the performing arts. He moved to Quechee, VT, to open a business (1973-1980). He is married to Mary C. Christie and they have two daughters, Amber and Angela. Started coaching track at Hartford High School and then started coaching football and teaching at Hartford Technical Career Ctr. in 1986, his MEd in Ed. Admin./Supervision in 1990. He was named Vermont Teacher of the Year. In 1994 became Technical Center Director/Principal at Randolph Technical Career Center in Randolph, VT, to 2001. He began his Doctoral Degree in Ed. Admin. and is almost completed. Then a Service Director and Therapeutic Case Manager for youth in foster care the last six years, he has served on Human Rights Commission, Boys & Girls Club, Vocal Soloist, VT. Special Olympics, Ed. Advisor, Correctional Facility, Chair Gov. Rehab. Advisory Council, VT Symphony Chorus, Nat. Rep., AVA Resolutions Comm., Hartford Housing Authority. Held certifications; Principal, K-12, Superintendent, Technical Center Director, Auto. Tech. Teacher, NOCTI, ASE Cert. He is a Notary Public, serving on the Hartford School Board since 2007 and was the Chair. Attends Saint Anthony's Church in White River Jct.

Kesha Ram served four terms in the Vermont House of Representatives on behalf of Burlington. In 2016, she ran for Lieutenant Governor, becoming the first woman of color to receive a double digit vote count in a statewide race. In 2018, she graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with a Master in Public Administration. She has worked for the City of Burlington as the Civic Engagement Specialist and for Steps to End Domestic Violence as the Legal Advocacy Director. She also serves on the boards of Emerge Vermont, the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Currently, Kesha serves as Chair of the Vermont Attorney General’s Immigration Task Force

Ali Dieng is the new Burlington City Councilor for Ward 7. Ali is the Family Outreach Coordinator and Parent University Manager for the Burlington School District Expanded learning Opportunities. In this role, Ali works with families, assisting them with paperwork and processes to access after-school programming for their children.

Ali also provides cultural competency workshops for after-school staff and teaches drumming to students. As Parent University Manager, Ali coordinates with a multitude of community partners to create engaging classes and workshops for parents and families of children in the district that encourage parents to engage in the school and community and provide them with concrete knowledge and skills to improve their quality of life and ultimately their children’s success.

Ali has worked for Burlington Kids in various roles for the past eight years, since moving to Vermont in 2008. He is also involved in the community as a member of Rights & Democracy and a board member at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. Ali is from Mauritania in West Africa where he studied law at the University of Nouakchott, taught elementary school, and engaged in grassroots youth organizing.

Shanta Lee Gander is an artist and multi-faceted professional in leadership, marketing, management, event planning, and other areas. As an artist, her endeavors incorporate writing prose, poetry, and articles, as well as photography. Shanta’s projects include a photography collaboration, Perfect Imperfection with photographer Liz LaVorgnaShanta has an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College. She currently serves on the Sandglass Theater board in Putney, VT and sits on the Brattleboro Selectboard. She has previously been the president of the Arts Council of Windham County (ACWC) board and has designed and implemented Oak Meadow's social justice course.  Shanta shares a consulting business with her husband, Gander Consulting, L.L.C. and has co-designed  ACWC's creativity forums, Nourishing the Inner Artist: Conversations about Art, Creativity, and Imagination, a 2018 series.

The national conversation about Race and Equity is re-energizing a conversation about the inner transformation associated with becoming conscious of the subconscious. The relationship between the development of racial awareness and spiritual awakening is evoked by the often used expression “get woke” to describe the process of becoming aware of society’s implicit subjugation of people of color and other marginalized groups in America. Likewise, becoming aware of the essential blind spot which allows the genocide and slavery at the roots of U.S. history to go unrecognized is essential to both any personal freedom and the understanding of any effective way forward.

Workshops

 

Rethinking Whiteness: From a Tool of Oppression to a Means of Empowerment – Arielle King

Based on the teachings in Cheryl I. Harris’s well-known legal scholarship, Whiteness as Property, this workshop will lead attendees on a journey through American history to examine whiteness, white privilege, and oppression. Through understanding ways in which whiteness has manifest as a barrier for land ownership, economic prosperity, and access to human rights for other races through policy, workshop attendees will hopefully gain a better understanding of what white privilege really is. In order to emphasize the reality of this phenomenon, we will use the Flint Water Crisis as the main case study. Ultimately, the goal is that in conjunction with the other workshops attended throughout the day and the conversations about solutions for how to be a good ally, new methods of advocating for social justice will resonate in the hearts of attendees and transcend into effective, inclusive but not invasive action. This workshop is led by Arielle V. King, a student at Vermont Law School with a background in the study of environmental racism and the Flint Water Crisis.

 

Beyond Being Nice – Shela Linton & Kendra Colburn

What does it take to transform our own relationship to racism and other interlocking systems of oppression? How do vulnerability, personal reflection, and accountability translate into action for change? Come engage with Shela Linton and Kendra Colburn of Equity Solutions. Together, we’ll practice sharing our stories, recognizing our own positions within systems of power, and making essential connections from the personal to the structural.

The Equity Solutions team is a cross-class, cross-race, gender-interesting collaborative of teachers, trainers, social workers, community organizers, consultants, business owners, and directors of organizations. We bring expertise from our work to address inequity, as well as from our lived experiences as people who are or have been living on the harmful end of oppressive systems. Our expertise also comes from our membership in a community with a wide range of incomes and challenges.

Over and over in this work and in our lives we’ve seen that stigma, conscious and unconscious bias, and structural barriers keep people from benefiting from opportunities and resources that should be available to them. In response, we have developed strategies and techniques to overcome these obstacles. Together we bring decades of experience in community organizing, organizational development, training facilitation, and advocating for ourselves and others to survive and thrive.

 

 

Atlantic Is a Sea of Bones: Black Theatre, JAG Productions, and the Legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade – Jarvis Green

This workshop invites us to reflect individually and collectively on the afterlives and the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. We will draw from the ways in which Black theatre artists and Black queer and feminist artists more broadly have taken up this question. Finally, we will learn how JAG Productions creates spaces of engagement and of creation that allow us to honor this history, heal ancestral trauma, and open up new visions and possibilities for Black life and the Black Atlantic.  

JAG Productions, Vermont’s one Black theater company exists to produce classic and contemporary theatre and serve as an incubator of new works that excite broad intellectual engagement and catalyze a shift to more compassion, empathy, and love through the lens of the African American experience. We believe in creating theater that challenges hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality and identity, and that it is vital for the future of our families, communities and our nation.

 

The Divide Between Black and White—Exploring the Mystery Beyond Our Stories – Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

Are we our brother’s keepers?  Are we our sister’s keeper? To what degree are we responsible for one another? Although this question was first raised thousands of years ago, it still is asked today.  The way we choose answer it governs the nature of our society. How does race, how does class, how does social location make it hard to answer these questions gracefully.  Through popular film, we will begin to answer these questions. We will begin to explore the mystery beyond our stories. Come join us.

 

 

Recognizing Bias: Overcoming White Supremacy From The Inside Out – Asma Elhuni & Nathalie Batraville

When the barrage of negative stereotypes linked with black, brown and native peoples in modern media and cultural imagery is left uncritiqued, a subconscious negative bias towards people of color is the inevitable result. This bias provides cover for a variety of institutional and legal structures that disproportionately disadvantage people of color. Over time bias and unjust social structures form a self-reinforcing cycle. But the cycle can be broken through fearless analysis of beliefs, biases and blind spots. 

 

Drawing on her organizing history in Georgia and here in the Upper Valley, Asma brings a Muslim feminist critique of the creation, preservation and expression of white supremacy and calls on us to imagine radically new ways of holding ourselves, friends, and society accountable. Nathalie is a scholar who works on Black feminism and the legacies of slavery.

 

 

 

 

 

Serving While Black (Public Servants, Perpetual Teachers): A Panel Discussion by Elected Officials Of Color in Vermont

Across the United States at every level of government more Black men and women are running for office than ever before. Unfortunately, these individuals often face hostile situations during campaigning and once they have been elected to office. This break-out session will explore just what it means to be an elected official of color in a predominately white community in the Trump Era. We will discuss how issues on the national stage manifest in daily interactions locally. What are ways that leaders of color can better serve their constituents and how can constituents help their leaders serve? When is it acceptable for these leaders to prioritize and advocate for issues that exclusively affect people of color over issues that effect the greater community? Is that an acceptable strategy at all? This session is a collective conversation between panelists and conference attendees, so please come prepared to actively engage in dialogue throughout. Panelists are: Vermont State Representative Kevin “Coach” Christie; Hartford Selectboard Member, Jameson Davis; Past Vermont State Representative Kesha Ram; Brattleboro Selectboard Member, Shanta Lee Gardiner; and Burlington City Counselor, Ali Dieng.