The “Resignation” of Director Green

Regarding the “Resignation” of Director Tyeastia Green, Burlington Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Department

February 21, 2022

First let me say that Tyeastia Green is not only a dear friend but also one of the most qualified and intelligent professionals I know. The Director is very capable and loyal to a fault. In fact therein lies the rub. This is not a person that is fickle or antsy. Director Green is tired. Tired of being hurt. I know fully and completely the meticulous effort that she put into building a world class department and consistently delivering on her commitment to transform the City of Burlington through the hard work of eradicating systemic racism. Director Green did the best job she could, given the non-stop flow of obstruction, harassment and gas lighting from the mayor. Director Green also endured an onslaught of white-lash from many community members who never stopped with their attacks and criticism.

It is painful but not surprising that Tyeastia Green has “resigned” as the first Director of the Burlington Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Department (REIB). I have direct knowledge of the internal struggles that have existed between Director Green and the mayor over the past two years. So do many of you.  At every turn the mayor has presented obstacles for progress of the Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Department just as he has for the work community-wide. Director Green’s departure is a direct result of mayor Miro Weinberger’s actions… and inactions.

The list goes on…

  • He did not reinvest divested money into “social justice, racial justice and economic justice, including a community based cultural empowerment center” as outlined in the June 2020 resolution.
  • He undermined or circumvented multiple critical components of the implementation of the “Racial Justice through Economic and Criminal Justice” Resolution (5.12, 06/29/20).
  • He refused to stand up a city Equal Opportunity apparatus, to provide civil protection for an unprecedented number of Black and Brown folks being hired by the city as a result of the work of the REIB.
  • He reallocated the balance of the one million dollars passed in the FY 2021 city budget that was intended to prioritize the eradication of systemic racism.
  • He severely delayed the advancement of city plans to implement the cultural empowerment center (now the Richard Kemp Center).
  • He has not provided adequate funding for the Health Equity and Community Outreach portion of the REIB Department.
  • He pitted the cultural empowerment center against housing and clean water on a community survey for ARPA funds distribution.
  • He has failed in leading the city and signatory partners forward in the work related to the Declaration of Racism as a public Health Emergency.

At the same time, the mayor has persisted gaslighting with the same old tired nonsense that has been spewed throughout our national history. He ignited his base with fear about “public safety” and “Law and Order” to get reelected. He then creatively pivoted with the rhetoric of making racial justice his “highest priority.” The dog-whistles continue, suggesting that one of the safest cities in the United States has somehow become a very dangerous place to live. He (with help) created this Juxtaposition. Not Director Green. Not the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance. But it was many of the people of the Queen City of the progressive Brave Little State of Vermont that signed on to it. We can only hope that we all begin to see this all for what it is. Some won’t. We saw the signs of this when Miro sought to bench Director Green a year ago. Why? He didn’t want her to have oversight of the CNA contract to conduct an assessment of the police department.

Most disappointing is the system that protects the city from taking any responsibility or being held accountable. This is the system that we have been working so hard to change. Open meeting laws, gag orders and slick politics cover the inner workings of this administration enabling them to threaten and bully good folks like Tyeastia Green. Through manipulation and other machinations the mayor would have you believe that Director Green simply decided to move on to better opportunities or perhaps “it wasn’t a good fit.” For far too long we have seen the system (and the people who run it) fail well-qualified Black folks – especially our women.

The city and the mayor dropped the ball in a huge way and everyone is watching. The mayor can’t unsay that racial justice is his biggest priority. Nor can he offer any credible explanation as to why this amazingly talented REIB Director is leaving us. It would serve us all better if the mayor mustered the courage to come clean with all of us as opposed to moving forward in a lie. We’ve all seen what happens when our elected officials persist in a relentless lie. People believe it and act on it.

It is our response to situations like this that define us as a society. Do we believe the lie and pretend like the abrupt departure of Director Green is nothing more than a whimsical decision that somehow caught the mayor by surprise? What other stories will we want to tell ourselves?

Our concerns should extend far beyond those of what will become of the REIB (though the question is important). Consider where we are going as a city (and as a state). Reflect on the message that Tyeastia Green’s so called resignation sends across the state and how Miro (or people like him) have and continue to act with impunity. The message that this sends is that this is OK. Employers across the state are watching and learning and they will be further emboldened to hide their contempt, mistreatment and forcing out of Black employees behind process and spin.

Pragmatically we know that the ability for Vermont to achieve economic growth is directly proportional to the long-term sustainability of Black and Brown folks’ employment in this state. Unfortunately we don’t see this happening in Vermont.  What we do see here is latest episode of an ongoing stream of Black folks on a return trip through what we’ve come to understand to be a revolving door though once promised as a doorway to a place of freedom and unity. On one hand our policy makers express concern about their inability to grow the workforce. On the other, an entrenched system continues to protect the people who oppress, exploit and disrespect Black folks resulting in their departure.

This is also on assault in the work of racial equity and justice. Across the state and nation we are seeing organizations and agencies efforts towards racial equity and justice being upended. As the nation continues to struggle towards a third reconstruction, many of our White brothers and sisters live in fear of loss of political and economic power and perceived relevance. Worse are those who attack the work while hiding behind contractual stipulations, administrative procedures and settlement agreements. Yes, some will read this as a playbook for obstructing and dismantling the racial equity and justice efforts underway. Others will accept this as a license to mount an assault on the civil liberties of Black and Brown folks across Vermont – all of this with impunity. We have seen this before. White people of this nation revealed their worst selves through hate supported by others through their silence while accountability was nowhere to be found. We have seen this pattern for far too long as a nation. We’re better than that.

The mayor has caused pain and disruption in Tyeastia’s life. Shame on him for having the audacity to try to get out in front of this with a smoothly crafted release, downplaying what has culminated from almost two years of exploitation, oppression, mistreatment and disrespect. What Miro has done here was not just done to Tyeastia.   It is an affront to all Black and Brown folks. His actions send sent ripples across the state and nation that have huge impacts on indeed all of our lives.   So no, this is not just about Tyeastia. This is about Black folks’ continued struggle under a system that refuses to change. A system that self-heals, auto-(in)corrects and morphs when it is exposed, in an effort to preserve itself. This system controls the narrative because it unfortunately creates the narrative. This system was designed to dissuade us from even communicating with one another at times when a high profile Black woman, fighting for racial equity and justice inexplicably and abruptly reigns. It bullies us when we seek to speak truth to power.

The truth is that this is yet another case of a White man with political and economic power, running another Black woman out of Vermont!   The truth is that Director Green did not fail us. The mayor and the city filed Director Green. It is also true that like the Phoenix we spoke of in 2020, Tyeastia will RISE with resilience as the strong Black woman that she is (with our help and prayers). At a time of her choosing she will take her professionalism and high standards of excellence to a place where she knows she is respected and appreciated. And we will be less for it.

The plans for the creation of the REIB Department, revisiting the Racial Equity Strategic Plan and the creation of what would become the REIB standing committee came from the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance. We have worked tirelessly with the city as a partner in trying to advance this work. It is unfortunate (but no secret) that we have not found a viable and consistent partner in Miro. Neither did Director Green.

Miro has created severe damage. His inability to do the sincere work required dismantling systemic racism in the city of Burlington and his uncontrollable propensity to consistently create further harm leave no other option than he step down. His flagrant unchecked handling of matters relating to racial equity and justice do us all a disservice. His recklessness is damaging the lives of real people and creating suffering for generations to come. He should step down for the good of the city and Vermont.

Sadly,




Rev. Mark Hughes
Executive Director,
Vermont Racial Justice Alliance

 

 

 

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