Racial equity activism in Bayfield is chugging ahead, slowly but surely, with a new community group focused on tackling racism and inequality through collaboration.
The Bayfield Racial Equity Working Group, or BREW, is taking steps to form a town-approved citizens group. The effort falls in line with many other American communities stirred by worldwide racial justice protests this summer. In a small town, BREW member Jessey Ramirez hopes community connections and careful planning can advance equity efforts.
“We all want to approach this slowly and methodically, and to get it right from the get-go. We don’t want to rush anything,” said Ramirez, a Bayfield resident.
The effort comes after ongoing weeks of sidewalk demonstrations at Bayfield Town Hall and the formation of another group, the Los Pinos Anti-Racism Project, which was established in January. Many of these efforts were spurred by several deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers around the country this year.
If approved by town trustees, BREW, which includes mainly people from Black, Indigenous, Hispanic or other racial groups, would work with town staff members, the Bayfield Marshal’s Office and community collaborators on racial equity issues. The group would hold listening sessions and other racial awareness events.
Ramirez hoped BREW could help erode stereotypes of Bayfield as a community where racism is allowed, a perception spurred in part by the town’s history with the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate flag’s presence at Independence Day parades.
Both Ramirez and Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington said some community members have felt unsafe or unaccepted in the town, particularly those who are in LGBTQ or non-white communities.
“They described some of their experiences in Bayfield and how racism has affected them in our town,” Tarkington said. “It hurt my heart as mayor.”
Before getting to work, BREW needs to finalize its structure and goals and be appointed as an official citizens group, she said.
“The Town Board is completely on board with what they’re doing,” Tarkington said. “We just have to make sure their mission statement and the direction they want to go is in line with where the town would like to see it go.”
The group has been in development for months and is still completing details, such as its mission statement and who’s in the group, as well as ensuring members have a variety of relevant skill sets.
That’s part of the intentionally slow effort, Ramirez said.
The group’s formation is competing for town staff’s attention, along with other time-sensitive projects. Staff members are also disbursing coronavirus relief money, hiring a finance director, filling an empty trustee position and finalizing the 2021 budget, Tarkington said.
“We have so much going on, but it is a priority,” she said.