At its meeting on July 7, Council President Phil Boncore announced Winthrop would be forming a Human Rights Commission (HRC).
Town Manager Austin Faison is in the process of drafting a mission statement and is immediately seeking community members to serve on the committee.
The role of an HRC is to educate communities on inclusion and diversity, provide resources on civil and human rights, ensure that all residents have easy access to government services, and support arts and culture. It also handles complaints of discrimination and is empowered to intervene before they turn into costly lawsuits.
Many local towns and cities have already established human rights commissions, including Beverly, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Danvers, Malden, Medford, Salem, Somerville and Wakefield. Revere is also considering creating one.
The idea of an HRC in Winthrop was first discussed as early as 2018. A group of concerned residents pressed the council to create an official committee dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Despite emails, calls, op-eds and social media posts pushing for its development, it was never brought to a vote.
Residents renewed their discussions about a possible HRC following the death of George Floyd, buoyed by the growing public support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the presence of a number of new councilors.
“The community seems to have a desire for [it],” said Town Manager Faison in an interview with the Transcript published June 22. “I think that would be a useful step, to begin learning about and embracing all of the cultures that are represented within the community and the region.”
In the week prior to the council meeting, the Transcript ran two community letters in support of an HRC.
“Such a committee would help deal with any form of alleged discrimination,” wrote Donna Segreti Reilly. “I trust that the council would create an HRC and appoint qualified members to oversee it.”
“It is not enough to be a silent bystander in this fight for equality and inclusion; we must take action,” echoed Reverend Terri Bracy. “The establishment of an [HRC] would be a good first step.”
During the public comment period of the meeting, several residents called in to praise the council’s decision.
The matter was moved to the Committee on Appointments, Commissions, and Committees.