By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – Adeola Mbaneme and Ruth Febo, co-chairs of Shrewsbury’s recently formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, updated Selectmen April 13 on their progress.
The task force was created August 11, 2020, to address racial equity concerns raised by residents in Shrewsbury, particularly following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
DEI quickly organizes itself after formation
The DEI was charged with examining and evaluating existing policies and procedures currently in place within the town of Shrewsbury related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We had our first meeting on October 19,” remarked Febo. “After a few meetings it became clear that the task force wanted to move forward with a focus on racial justice and anti-racism while still looking through the lens of other DEI categories that affect marginalized groups.”
Mbaneme continued, explaining that the group formed several subcommittees focusing on, among other things, employment, health care, education, housing storytelling and public safety. Each subcommittee was to find the gaps relevant to racial inequities. They were further required to collect qualitative and quantitative data to support their findings.
Task force members meet with community leaders
Subcommittees began working with the town government through conversations with officials and employees. Task force members researched current practices and gathered stories from individual Shrewsbury residents about their experiences with racial inequality.
Mbaneme noted that the task force has specifically had conversations with Town Human Resource Coordinator Christina Anderson, SELCO official Tracy Schultz, Shrewsbury Public Schools Human Resource Director Barbara Malone, Fire Chief James Vuona and Police Chief Kevin Anderson.
Task force meets logistical hurdles, eyes future
Hard at work, Febo said April 13 that organizers have been surprisingly successful in getting all task force members together in a large remote platform.
She commented that much of the data they are finding in their work, though, is out of date.
The DEI is considering putting together a survey for the community, but they are encountering further logistical issues with distribution avenues due to COVID-19.
Still, problems aside, Selectman John Lebeaux, who helped form the task force last year, complimented the group on the work that it has done so far. He is optimistic about the future.
“I firmly believe that, as a result of this, we are going to get better,” he said April 13.