Reporter file photo

Reporter file photo

City council discusses diversity, equity and inclusion at meeting

ONE MI and Do the Work MI are partnering with city on community event series.

It’s important for the community to engage in conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion, said Mercer Island City Councilmember David Rosenbaum at the council’s Nov. 16 virtual meeting.

“I spoke with a family last week that their elementary school daughter got a note handed to them that was antisemitic, and I know what that feels like,” he added.

Touching on its final item of regular business at the meeting, the council passed a motion to direct city staff to prepare a $60,000 appropriation request to include in the mid-biennial budget amendment on Dec. 7 in support of a 2022 community event series on diversity, equity and inclusion in partnership with ONE MI and Do the Work MI.

The series’ initial broad goals as shared by City Manager Jessi Bon, and noted in the agenda bill information, are expanding residents’ understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion; providing support for underrepresented families through these conversations; and offering a variety of events for different age groups and demographics. According to the bill documents, ONE MI and Do the Work MI will volunteer their time to facilitate the series and the city will provide financial and contract administration.

Mayor Benson Wong, who collaborated with Bon on the proposal, said he’s heard from community members that they wish to be involved in these sessions and discuss these tough issues.

“One of the things that struck me was that, certainly during the summer of 2020, we heard from the entire council, we heard from a lot of young people who wanted to engage and have these discussions,” Wong said.

In the proposal background section of the bill documents, it notes that Islanders spoke out in public forums against racism and discrimination in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the spring of 2020. Council has participated in cultural competency training and supported a range of community events such as Juneteenth and Sukkot, and issued public proclamations on Renewed Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Black History Month; and Women’s History Month.

Deputy Mayor Wendy Weiker said she is “fully supportive of moving forward in continuing to have these conversations around race and equity and diversity and inclusion.”

In a document in the proposal package for the Nov. 16 meeting, ONE MI is described as “a community organization focused on fostering positive identity for children of color, supporting families of color, and advancing equity in the Mercer Island community.” In the same document, Do the Work MI is described as “a group of white women committed to eliminating anti-Black racism by examining our whiteness, our role in perpetuating racist structures, and using our knowledge to promote racial equity and condemn and counteract anti-Black racism.”

Danielle Damasius of ONE MI said its partnership with the city and Do the Work MI is a natural evolution of its mission.

“The event series we’re building together is designed to create local connections to broader conversations around diversity and belonging, and understand how they can help us grow as a community. Islanders are increasingly feeling enriched by the diversity of our community and we’re really excited to be creating space for exploration and dialogue,” she said.

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