Deerfield Select Board to turn focus to inclusivity following election

  • Deerfield Inclusion Group members Annie Curtis, Deborah Yaffe and Hannah Yaffe speak to the Deerfield Selectboard earlier this month about issuing an anti-hate statement. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2022 7:50:19 PM

DEERFIELD — While the Select Board prepares an anti-hate statement, it also plans to hold a meeting dedicated to the town’s inclusivity once October’s special Town Meeting and the November general election are finished.

Two weeks ago, the Select Board signaled its intention to establish an ad-hoc Human Rights Committee following several meetings in which residents requested the board address instances of hate speech being found around town. In the wake of that meeting and in anticipation of a busy few months for Town Hall, the board plans to hold a November meeting inviting the public to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“We just need a little more time to do it, and with all the stuff on our plate, it’s consuming us,” Select Board Chair Trevor McDaniel said. “That’d be great to have a dedicated, specific time to this topic.”

Conversations about the town officially adopting an anti-hate statement were sparked by the Deerfield Inclusion Group — formed by residents to promote diversity, equity and inclusion — when it asked the board to publicly denounce all forms of hate following a string of incidents in Deerfield over the last two years, including homophobic slurs being carved into picnic tables at the Tilton Library, two different instances of swastikas found in town, and the destruction of Black Lives Matter yard signs. Several members of the Deerfield Inclusion Group attended last week’s meeting as well.

The Select Board revised a draft of its anti-hate statement and plans to give a full reading of the statement at its next meeting. The board also discussed including the statement in a variety of places, including in the annual town report, on the town website and in the entryway of Town Hall.

“I feel very strongly that it needs to be out there,” said Select Board member Carolyn Shores Ness. “I think we should have some effort to have it placed around.”

While the town works through Oct. 24’s special Town Meeting and Nov. 8’s general election, it is also preparing the groundwork for an ad-hoc Human Rights Committee, which Shores Ness said will be more productive in creating change than an anti-hate statement alone.

“We need sincere, actionable stuff, and you can’t do that in two minutes just discussing it,” Shores Ness said. “I don’t want to do something and just say, ‘We did it, let’s move on.’”

McDaniel encouraged residents to reach out to the Select Board through their town emails to suggest topics and ideas for their November discussion.

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