Do The Work

Platforms and Initiatives (Policy)

We’re exited that the legislature is back in session because we still have work to do. We’re asking policy-makers to help us do the work! 

Implementation and Follow-through  

The most important aspect of the work that we are doing is implementation. We’re asking the legislature to ensure that the Health Equity Advisory Commission (HEAC) and Land Opportunity Access Board (LAOB) both be fully funded to enable capacity building, community engagement and grantmaking capabilities! 

It is also our hope that an approach that provides sufficient and sustainable financial resources for the Cannabis Business Development Fund be adopted by the legislature this session.  The fund must consist of general funds, excise tax contributions and an incentivised revenue sharing model for non-equity businesses.  We ask that a community-based Cannabis Equity Board be empowered to create and  manage the Cannabis Equity Program and a Community Social Equity Program for qualified candidates and impacted communities.  

Budget and Federal Funds

The data tells us that the most prominent aspect of systemic racism besides its insidiousness is that it perpetuates a political and economic divide along racial lines. We know that by definition existing federal, state and municipal institutions, policies and programs prevent racially equitable distribution of funds, precluding them from equitably making it to Black and Brown folks and communities (this means statewide). We also know that the vast majority of Black and Brown folks live in cities and towns in Vermont. What this means is that any single threaded geographic approach to allocate surplus and federal funds will fail to address the challenges of systemic racism in Vermont.


The commitment that we have to addressing systemic racism in Vermont must be reflected in direct investments in Black and Brown folks.  This means in communities that are rural as well as in our cities and towns.  The approach of addressing broader social inequities such as regional demographics can and must coexist with addressing the legacy of slavery – systemic racism. Any change in economic policy must first take into consideration the racial economic inequities reflected in the unprecedented wealth gap laid bare by the global pandemic. Policies that fail to do so ignore the origins and exacerbate the economic impact of systemic racism in Vermont. 

We recommended to this administration the use of President Biden’s Executive Order on “Advancing Racial Equity” to formulate a Whole of Government Approach to equity in the context of the HEAC. The single threaded rural strategy response falls woefully short of the essence of our intent and the Executive Order.  We will urge the governor to release an Executive Order prioritizing the eradication of systemic racism and directing the allocation of economic and other resources to eradicate it.  

We’re asking the legislature to leverage approaches that provide direct funding to Black and Brown-led organizations that are doing the work of outreach and education, community engagement and support, technical assistance, direct services, youth services, advocacy, cultural empowerment and more in our communities. It’s time to move past the failed policy of entrusting this work to legacy organizations.  Everyone would be served better if the legislature were to incentivize these organizations to lift up the work of and partner with Black and Brown-led organizations in the delivery of these services. 

The legislature would also do well to create an apparatus for relationship management, in an effort to cultivate relationships and institutionalize these Black and Brown-led organizations into the budget process.  A state pivot to this new approach will be a small step in the right direction of economic equity and will ensure that programs and services that mitigate the impact of systemic racism will be culturally available, effective and efficient in Black and Brown communities.. This approach is crucial as we continue to do the work of transforming institutions, policies and programs to a place of anti-racism.   


Economic Justice 

At the heart of systemic racism is economic inequity. This means that some people are undervalued and many are underserved.  With the wealth gap in Vermont widening and the population of Black and Brown folks increasing, we owe it to ourselves to work on all fronts to ensure economic justice.  Solutions to address economic justice must be both tactical and systemic. We urge the legislature to take up and take testimony on our Economic Justice Policy (H.448).  This policy suggests a number of approaches that will take Vermont in the right direction towards economic justice. We request appropriations for the  Richard Kemp Center and the Roots Social Justice Center as an immediate step in addressing the economic impact of systemic racism.  

The continued work and partnership in eradicating systemic racism requires an ongoing commitment to R-113 (Racism, a Public Health Emergency).


We also urge the legislature to take up and allow testimony on the Reparations Bill (H.432). We understand the imminent emergence of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was introduced largely in response to our initial reparations bill (H.478) in 2019. We however believe that systemic racism is the legacy of slavery and unless solutions are premised on its origins the work to dismantle systemic racism will never be effectively accomplished.  It was for this reason that we put forward a reparations bill (H.387) last Biennium. As H.R.40 has been put forward every session since 1989, so too shall we continue to call for the introduction of a reparations bill in Vermont.

Equal Protection 

We’re asking the legislature to introduce a constitutional amendment that inserts an Equal Protection Clause to the Vermont constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. constitution, the second reconstruction amendment was created to provide citizenship, equal protection, due process and certain privileges and immunities for the formerly enslaved in 1868. Over the past 155 years the Fourteenth Amendment has faced backlash and resistance and has scarcely fulfilled its  promise of equal protection to Black Americans. The Fourteenth Amendment is now further threatened with an impending fatal SCOTUS decision on affirmative action. There have also been recent (and there exist various pending) decisions that are “weaponizing” the Fourteenth Amendment against those that it was enacted to protect, challenging corrective and reparative economic policies. Our values in Vermont are to protect our citizens in instances where the federal constitution, precedent and policy fail. All Vermonters must have equal protection under the law.

Voter Suppression (Freeman Clause)  

Our research unearthed the “Freeman Clause” in the Vermont constitution while working to abolish slavery from the constitution (PR.2).  Freemen is a term once used to characterize a population of people in Vermont that would be considered qualified to be candidates for county, state and federal elections as well as the  eligible electorate.  The implications are that there were some who were unable to run for office or vote in Vermont.  A constitutional amendment removed all but one iteration of this language in 1994 under the auspices of “de-gendering” the constitution. 

We requested the last occurrence of the “freeman clause” be removed as a part of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery (PR.2).  The Senate Government Operations Committee stalled on its efforts to do so but discovered and removed all instances of the “freeman clause” from 17 V.S.A. at the time of deliberations and testimony on the constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.  

The “freeman clause” is a legacy of slavery and represents the remnants of voter suppression in the state of Vermont.  We’re asking legislators to remove the last instance of voter suppression, with a constitutional amendment.  The clause should also be removed from 24 V.S.A Appendix and Senate Rule 84. 

Community Health and Wellness Pilot Program

The notion of  “Public Safety” has historically been politicized as a gaslight to breed fear and division and create contempt for Black and Brown folks in our communities. More policing doesn’t always translate to safer communities for all. We understand the historical context and continue to witness the harm that policing often brings to Black and Brown communities. This is true for different reasons when considering police response to folks challenged with addiction, mental health challenges and those living with disabilities. Community health and wellness programs and services must be decoupled from policing and investment made in our Black and Brown communities to ensure access to housing, education and economic opportunity. We began working towards divesting from the existing failed model and reinvesting into programs and services that promote community health and wellness with the proposal of a cultural empowerment center (Richard Kemp Center) in Burlington.

We ask the legislature to adopt our proposed approach to addressing the health and wellness of our community which involves a community-based pilot program (in partnership with the Health and Mental Health Departments, DCF and the States Attorney’s Office, led by community members who know the people and have experience with the systems. This proposed pilot program will provide a network of community leaders who will support, mentor and advise our community members who are at risk or justice impacted.  This proposed pilot also includes a community-based initiative that provides the programs and services to support youth removed from their homes in our Black and Brown and marginalized communities. Our numbers show that the problem is severe! This program would also provide culturally informed services to support foster parents.

Oversight and Independence

We ask the legislature to initiate a series of Joint Government Operations Committee Meetings with extensive community involvement to create an independent Police Oversight Board with statewide jurisdiction and investigative and subpoena powers. We also ask the legislature to end qualified immunity!  Qualified immunity weaponizes our principal federal civil rights statute (42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983) which is  rooted in the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act (created to provide the Fourteenth Amendment enforcement power). “Qualified immunity has failed utterly as a matter of law, doctrine, and public policy. As a legal matter, it has no basis in either the text of Section 1983 or the common‐law background against which the statute was enacted.”

Our work in the establishment and implementation of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel (RDAP) has not provided the intended outcome.  It was and remains our intent to implement an oversight apparatus for the entire “criminal” justice system.  We urge the legislature to revisit the RDAP enabling statute with language that provides oversight functionality.  

Our original intent was that the Executive Director (now office) of Racial Equity would be established as a permanent independent entity.  This session we ask legislators to revise the enabling statute to institutionalize the position of the Executive Director of Racial Equity and ensure that the office be relocated organizationally to ensure its independence.

Looking Forward

Eradicating systemic racism requires that we do the work intentionally.  Our recent  constitutional amendment (Proposal 2) removed the exception clauses that have permitted slavery in the Vermont constitution since 1777.  This served to further magnify the legacy of slavery – systemic racism, already laid bare by the global pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. The Joint Resolution that Racism is a Public Health Emergency (R-113) committed the legislature to “sustained and deep work of eradicating systemic racism throughout the State, actively fighting racist practices, and participating in the creation of more just and equitable systems.” 

Now it’s time to do the work!

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