Chelsea Human Rights Commission Building on Last Year’s Success

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By Doug Marrin

The Chelsea Human Rights Commission (CHRC) presented its report for 2020 to the City Council at its January 19, 2021, meeting.

Chair Susan Morrel-Samuels

“Just like every other committee, commission, business, and household in Chelsea, our plans for 2020 were severely disrupted and altered by the pandemic,” said Commission Chairperson Susan Morrel-Samuels. “However, we did accomplish a number of things that I'd like to bring to your attention.”

Some of the past year highlights include:

  • Hosting a virtual Community Read Against Racism with the Chelsea District Library.
  • Reviewing thirty city policies to ensure that all procedures are consistent with the City’s non-discrimination ordinance, submitting a recommendation to the Council.
  • 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations featuring:
    • Keynote speakers via Zoom followed by discussion forums on MLK Day.
  • A week-long bingo card for individuals to mark service opportunities and donations.
  • A Wednesday night discussion of Restorative Justice and how it might be implemented in Chelsea.

Looking ahead to 2021, CHRC realizes there are still many uncertainties regarding meetings and gatherings.

“Moving into our 21 plan, again, we realized that we will have to be flexible because we don't know the timeline for resuming any kind of in-person gatherings,” said Morrel-Samuels. “In our plan, we have divided our proposals into both internal and external activities.”

Internal plans include reviewing the Commission’s bylaws and networking with human rights commissions in other communities. CHRC intends to establish a social media presence to provide more visibility for the group.

Externally, CHRC proposes that the City engage the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to provide training for the Commission, City Council, and other city boards and commissions.

“We have reviewed their materials, and I have spoken to the person who is in charge of training of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights,” explained Morrel-Samuels. “This is a training that is specifically designed for local governments as well as other types of organizations I think would be very appropriate for Chelsea.”

CHRC would like to continue the Community Read Against Racism and MLK Day celebrations. The group is also looking at ways to engage the community through participation at local events such as the farmers market and Chelsea Expo. And modeling after an event in Traverse City, the Commission hopes to host a Civility Week to promote civil dialogue and consensus building around community concerns.

After the presentation, Councilmember Albertson asked if there were any plans to partner with the schools “because there seems to be a lot of a lot of challenges in terms of throwing in racism and insensitivity at both the middle school and high school levels.”

“I know the schools are working very diligently to address some of the issues that you raised,” replied Morrel-Samuels. “And certainly, we would reach out as appropriate for any of these activities to involve school personnel or students. It's a little tricky because you know our ordinance specifically does not cover schools, which doesn't mean that we can't work with the schools on programs of community education.”

Councilmember Pacheco participated in some of the celebrations and told the Council, “I've been able to attend some of the MLK activities and the community conversation last night. Myself and Councilmember Kwas were both in attendance. And for a first-time event and conversation engaging that subject matter, it was really well received and well done.”

The CHRC written report and audio of the presentation and discussion are posted on the City’s website.

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