The Martha’s Vineyard Diversity Coalition works to “lay the groundwork to eradicate racism” through Island institutions like the school and police departments, according to coalition trustee Sandra Pimentel. Toward that end, the coalition made strides in 2021 and looks forward to continuing the effort in 2022 and beyond.
“We really focused on relationships, pressing relationships, with the police, schools, and with the hospital,” Pimentel said. This relationship building helps the coalition spread their mission alongside supporting these institutions toward their goals against racism. “Our goal…is to build a beloved community on Martha’s Vineyard and to create a model others can look at and say ‘if you can do it, we can do it,’ particularly for small towns and communities.”
To accomplish these goals, the coalition has several committees, including the health disparities committee, the education committee, and the criminal justice committee. These committees are full of professionals in their fields, such as nurses in the health disparities committee and Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee in the criminal justice committee.
The health disparities committee focused on bringing equity and inclusion to the COVID vaccination program. In particular, Pimentel said the coalition made an effort to reach out to minority communities.
The criminal justice committee focuses on improvements for law enforcement agencies on Martha’s Vineyard. In 2021, a notable program they helped to bring in was the implicit bias training for Island police officers, which they completed in May.
The education committee was also busy during 2021. It collaborated with Island teachers to work on the “Elder Project,” which had young people learn how to interview African American and Native American elders “in order to document history and to promote intergenerational and interracial communication.” The goal was to create a “viable history curriculum” at the Island’s schools alongside preserving an oral history of these elders’ experiences. The education committee also worked with the students and teachers of Martha’s Vineyard and Oakwood School in California to make a video called “Change,” which promoted diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, the education committee worked to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.
Meanwhile, the education committee raised $16,000 for the Island’s libraries. The libraries collectively purchased 200 books “to help lay the groundwork to eradicate racism.”
“There are so many projects,” Pimentel said. “I just get so excited about it.”
For 2022, Pimentel said the coalition will continue the activities they have been doing, such as working with the police and the continued push for diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. However, there will also be some new efforts, such as a plan to invite the Cambridge Police Department to share their model of handling people with mental disabilities. The Cambridge model has a social service worker built into the department who will be called on to apply their expertise and can help prevent people from getting hurt.
Pimentel told The Times a big event the coalition is planning is a “celebration of diversity called ‘Truth and Joy.’” This event is planned for Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25. Friday will be the “truth” part of the celebration, which is “a way of educating and updating the community on the history,” particularly about the Island and the Campground. Saturday will feature an event similar to a fair, displaying food and tables. However, that night will be the first “celebration of joy and unity,” and the coalition hopes to get all interested organizations and businesses involved with the coalition’s goals and to “celebrate together as an Island.” Saturday night’s event is being planned in collaboration with MVY Radio and the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association.
“We can feel good about things. We hear about all of the bad things and we all feel kind of overwhelmed right now, I think, with COVID and all of the things that have been happening nationally for the past few years have been difficult. I think this will help us feel good, which we don’t do often enough,” Pimentel said, chuckling at the last bit of her quote. “The entertainment will be very eclectic, fun, and really a great performance.”
Besides the additional programs and the celebration to kick start the coalition’s energy again, Pimentel said there was one main goal for 2022: building trust between individuals, organizations, and the coalition. The coalition uses a workshop model and it has not been the same virtually. “Hopefully, with COVID being minimized, we can build community trust between agencies, between people, between institutions and work with people as effectively as we can,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel also said the coalition hopes to increase collaboration with other groups on the Island. The challenge is having everyone working together and understanding what capacity each group can do for all to reach a common goal, she said.
“We try not to do things ourselves,” Pimentel said. “We try to help people and agencies get the resources they need to do their jobs”