House Passes Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Proposal for a Joint Resolution that Racism is a Public Health Emergency

(Burlington, VT) — Today the Vermont House of Representatives passed the second reading of a proposal by the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance (VRJA) for the legislature to resolve that racism is a public health emergency. This development arrives amid a wave of local and state leaders declaring racism a public health crisis or emergency across the country.  

“These declarations are an important first step in the movement to advance racial equity and justice and must be followed by allocation of resources and strategic action,” says the American Public Health Association, whose mission is to improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status.

Early in the legislative session, VRJA announced its top legislative priorities for 2021, expressing deep concern surrounding the unprecendented impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism on Black American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS). The Racial Justice Alliance called on the Vermont legislature and Vermonters to ACT, building its advocacy around three main tenets: Acknowledging and reconciling historic systems of racism, Creating new structures for ADOS economic and cultural empowerment, and Transforming state systems to better serve ADOS Vermonters.

“I’m optimistic that the legislature will move the resolution before adjourning. I think they get it,” said Mark Hughes, Executive Director of VRJA.  Earlier this session the Senate passed a third reading of a constitutional amendment, prohibiting slavery and indentured servitude under any circumstance. The legislature also recently passed a health equity bill that will soon be headed to the Governor’s desk. 

Reverend Dr. Christopher Von Cockrell, Board Chair of VRJA, said: “The Alliance continues the work of outreach and education on systemic racism, providing community support and holding up our rich culture. This joint resolution is an opportunity for the legislature to make the commitment to hold themselves accountable to allocating resources and seeing the work through.”  

The joint resolution, which is being treated as a bill, will advance for third reading tomorrow, after which the Senate is expected to quickly act.


About the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance

The mission of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance is to secure sustainable power, ensure agency and provide security for American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS), while embracing their history and preserving their culture.

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, 802-505-5587

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