DEIB Committee reflects on accomplishments


DEIB Committee reflects on accomplishments
Members of the town’s DEIB Committee. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – The town’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Committee has big plans for this year.

Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Shrewsbury formed a 25-member Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, which met for a year before delivering its final recommendations in November 2021. Among other things, the task force recommended the town create an official DEIB Committee. The committee was officially formed in August 2022, and the first meeting was held on Jan. 9, 2023.

The group aims to “support and foster an inclusive and equitable community that enhances belonging for all residents,” according to the committee’s charge. The committee is also expected to facilitate discussions, organize community events, and “foster civic engagement with the goal of increasing diverse participation in town boards, committees and Town Meeting.”

The committee’s seven members (as of May 2024) — Chair Cinthia Mesquita, Adeola Mbaneme, Bindu Gupta, Freddi Koss, Pankaj Adaval, Holly MillerShank and high-school representative Kubra Mohammadi — have worked together over the last year to accomplish these goals.

Although the DEIB Committee started with plenty of ideas to bring to the community, it was difficult to jump right into hosting large-scale events. With few residents familiar with one of the town’s newest committees, the group instead spent time introducing itself to Shrewsbury and attended several events throughout town.

“Last year, we spent a lot of time trying to piggy-back onto things that were already happening. We were at Spirit of Shrewsbury — we were there to bring awareness that we’re here, and we’re really trying to get involved in some other things so people know who we are,” Mesquita told the Community Advocate in April. “We’ve had a little bit of a slow start, I think, and we were still trying to figure out… the things that we wanted to do.”

The committee now has a monthly half-page spot in the Senior Center newsletter and recently started “Neighbor to Neighbor,” a production on Shrewsbury Media Connection that aims to showcase the group’s objectives and goals. The DEIB Committee has also held several forums. The “Coming to the Table” forum, held in February, featured STOP Program organizer Ridha Alam and Crane Lake Camp Director Efraim Yudewitz. Another forum was hosted in late April to gather ideas for upcoming DEIB Committee events.

“I think sometimes… the term ‘DEI’ is so politicized that people are afraid to even talk about it. But I think at the heart of it we all want the same thing — we all want to have this sense of community and have our kids grow up happy and safe,” Mesquita said. “I feel like, for me personally, creating that sense of community is important. We can all be different. We can all have different opinions, but at the heart of it, it’s about bringing people together, finding that common ground and working towards creating a community we’re all proud of.”

“The work of the DEIB Committee aligns with the vision outlined in Shrewsbury’s 2030 Strategic Plan, to be a vibrant, inclusive, collaborative community where all can thrive,” said Select Board member Beth Casavant, who frequently attended the group’s early meetings. “DEIB members have spent the last year attending community events, gathering feedback about the direction of their work from residents, and offering a safe space to have challenging conversations. They have found their footing as a committee and are finding ways to celebrate Shrewsbury’s diversity and bring people together through their ongoing work.”

With one year under its belt, the DEIB Committee has ambitious plans.

On June 20, the committee will host the town’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration at the Summer Market. On June 26, the DEIB Committee will hold the town’s first-ever Pride event at Dean Park. The community is invited to each of the groundbreaking celebrations.

“It being the first [series of events], it’s challenging. But I feel like it also gives us something to build on, and make it better for next year. There’s a lot that goes into it. We’re all learning what it takes to put together an event. It’s a tremendous amount of work,” said Mesquita.

The DEIB Committee is seeking volunteers. While the committee is still in the process of getting an official Shrewsbury email, residents can contact Communications Coordinator Taylor Galusha, who will forward the information to the committee. The group hopes to start a database of volunteers.

“I’m definitely happy with the work that we’ve been doing… I also feel like it does take so much planning to run these events, and we want to make sure we’re doing our best for each one. It may not be a huge thing, but for us it’s a huge thing. We’re very proud of the events we’re putting together, and we’re committed to the work we’re doing,” said Mesquita.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to build on it.”

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