Reading, MA — Reading Embraces Diversity (RED) strongly supports the Reading Public Library and the proposed new position within the library – Director of Equity and Social Justice. This town-wide position aims to foster and support a Reading culture of equity, diversity, and belonging. This new Director will be tasked with implementing initiatives that educate, empower, and connect the community around these issues. The Director will also serve as the town’s resource on related local, state and federal laws and regulations; seek out and facilitate grant funding for related programming; implement community needs assessment tools; provide professional development; counsel town departments and organizations seeking to make events more accessible and inclusive; and collaborate with state networks and resources.
This important position was first envisioned by the Select Board’s Ad Hoc Committee for Human Rights. This committee was a dedicated and diverse group of community members who met over the course of a year and a half to develop recommendations for our community related to equity and social justice issues. During this time RED worked alongside members of the Select Board, School Committee, Human Relations Advisory Committee and Board of Library Trustees; the Chief of Police; the Town Manager; Reading Public School (RPS) administrators and parents; religious leaders; and other community leaders to develop the committee’s recommendations. RED has had the privilege of working with many equity and social justice leaders around the state, and we are excited about the potential this position holds for our town.
We are also excited that the Library will be its home. The Library has taken a longstanding and prominent leadership role in educational programming for our community. The Library has shown a commitment to equity and social justice through its steadfast respect for all members of our community, the inclusiveness of its programming, and its willingness to facilitate important and difficult conversations in our town.
The Library staff and leadership have also been thoughtful collaborators with many of our programs and initiatives since RED’s inception. Together we have presented a series of “Upstander Trainings” to share tools with our community about how to actively stand
up to prejudice and hate. We helped develop and facilitate the Pulse of Reading conversations where our community grappled with the topics of race, privilege, and power. We collaborated on the “Kindness Rocks” project, which provided a creative outlet for expressions of hope and unity. We have attended state-wide human rights meetings with the Library Director and have met many times with members of the Library’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice committee who have been outstanding resources for RED’s planning and community outreach.
When racist slurs, antisemitic vandalism, or LGBTQ harassment occur in town, or when barriers are experienced by our residents with disabilities, some say, “This isn’t who we are here in Reading.” But when this happens in our community and we remain silent, this is unfortunately exactly who we appear to be. With this new Director position, Reading will gain a professional voice on issues in which we are deeply invested as a community but currently lack the institutional expertise to address. It comes with the full resources of our town government – something that a volunteer organization like RED could never have – and it opens the door to addressing systemic inequities and town-wide strategic planning. Creating this position sends the strongest message to our community and surrounding communities about our priorities and commitment to this work.
RED joins the Human Relations Advisory Committee (HRAC), CATO – the Coalition of Us, the Friends of Reading METCO, and countless other community leaders who are supporting this new Director position. RED encourages Town Meeting to approve the Library’s proposed budget and this new position which, we hope, will be a catalyst for positive change as we work towards the equitable, inclusive, diverse, and just community that we hope to be.
More information about this important position can be found here.