FREEPORT — The Town Council is looking for members to fill seven slots on the recently approved Social and Racial Equity Assessment Ad Hoc Committee.

The committee, approved by the council in late October, was formed to review municipal procedures, human resources policies and other areas of town governance to assure the town avoids implicit biases. The committee will be authorized to act until its mission is complete, with a deadline of Oct. 20, 2021, unless extended by the Town Council. A councilor will also serve on the eight-member committee. 

Information is available on the town’s website and Facebook page, and those interested must fill out an application by Dec. 31. Members will be appointed by the Town Council. 

“There’s focus on making sure the committee members that we end up with truly do reflect both racial and economic diversity within our community,” said John Egan, chairperson of the Freeport Town Council, at the October meeting. The town is not rushing appointments to the committee to ensure a variety of people have the chance to apply, he said.

Black Lives Matter protest in Freeport. Courtesy / Kate Olson

The town was motivated to create the committee by the Tri Town Equity and Inclusion Coalition, a local group that convened over the summer. The group comprises residents from Freeport, Pownal and Durham who came together in the aftermath of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

Our goal is to be a community-focused initiative raising awareness and catalyzing anti-racist actions across institutions to create an inclusive and equitable community for everyone,” said Kate Olson, a coalition member from Freeport.

The group went to the Freeport Town Council to communicate how important it is for the town to inspect its own procedures as a way to support racial equity in the community.

Olson reached out to Freeport resident Gimbala Sankare to speak at a Black Lives Matter protest in Freeport over the summer to highlight his voice as a Black man in the community. Sankare joined the coalition, but he was not available to answer whether he plans to join the ad hoc committee.

“I grew up in NYC and fully experienced the full extent of systemic racism and policing,” Sankare said. “Just because I have not experienced it here in Freeport does not mean it does exist nor does it mean it doesn’t exist in the state of Maine, either.”

The Tri Town Equity and Inclusion Coalition will be offering stipends to members of the committee to offset costs such as transportation and child care to make it possible for people across the economic strata to participate. More information can be found on the coalition Facebook page.

“As citizens of Freeport we can at least commit to understanding where there might be policies and practices that are not equitable and I think an equity assessment such as this one would be a beginning – a commitment to learning and if needed, to changing,” Olson said. She plans on applying to join the committee.

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