Last night, members of the WHRTF board and other community leaders from Community to Community Development, Stand.Speak.Listen, Lummi Indian Business Council, Northwest Youth Services, Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, Opportunity Council, and Black Lives Matter met with county and city officials to discuss the upcoming listening sessions. There was clear and open dialogue led by the BIPOC in the meeting, emphasizing the need to center BIPOC voices moving forward. It has been decided that no law enforcement will be present at tonight’s listening sessions per the request of C2C and SSL to give undocumented folks, migrant laborers and others the opportunity to speak out without feeling intimidated or in danger of law enforcement reprisals. Concerns of accessibility, such as having ASL and other language interpreters present, and access to devices or WiFi were also raised. Although some issues might not be resolved by tonight’s session, there is action being taken to prioritize accessibility for subsequent sessions. Tonight’s meeting will focus on the process of future listening sessions to address the issues raised last night.
We encourage our community to attend tonight’s meeting and future meetings. We encourage white folks to lean back and allow space for BIPOC to lean in and be heard. It is imperative that we all work to center and amplify BIPOC voices in our community. By attending these sessions we have the power to hold our officials accountable and to support Whatcom’s BIPOC community. With the decision to disinvite the police and prosecutor from this first meeting, Mayor Fleetwood and County Executive Sidhu have shown their willingness to work together. We are hopeful that moving forward, actions by local government will be more intentional and inclusive. It takes time to go deep. Let us not rush through these opportunities to change our community for the better.