July 27, 2020
Revere City Council Appointment Sub-Committee Appointee Presentation
My advocacy for Revere spans across neighborhoods, sectors, and generations of Revere residents. Currently, I am the Director of the City’s Department of Healthy Community Initiatives and Co-Leader of Revere on the Move, a citywide coalition of community members, health providers, and city agencies. My work with the City includes launching a healthy markets and dining initiatives, playground builds, growing and expanding an annual seasonal farmer’s market and community gardens, advocating for bike lanes, along with many other local initiatives supporting public health, local economic development, and access to green space. My work with residents, businesses, and stakeholders over the past 8 years has increased access to opportunities for active living, healthy eating, civic engagement, and youth leadership.
On October 31, 2012, I began working for the City of Revere as a part-time Neighborhood Organizer to lead policy, systems, and environmental initiatives with Revere on the Move. I have a Bachelor in Science from Hofstra University in Community Health and Education and at the time of this position 10 years of public health and non-profit management experience. My other part-time position was as a volunteer to coordinate and chair the Office of New Revere Residents, ONRR. My positions, experience, and skills over the past 20 years have been in non-profit management, launching high-impact programs and building resourceful organizational systems.
I was recruited on Feb. 22nd, 2012 at the ONRR public hearing in the Council Chambers by former Mayor Dan Rizzo after I shared my experience as a lifelong Revere resident and the struggles with hate, discrimination, and racism towards my family, friends, and community and how I used that anger and became a community organizer in my teens in bringing communities together, as I currently do through my work and volunteer efforts.
The highlights of my work in leading the ONRR between 2012 – 2015 include:
- The original presentation I gave to Dan Rizzo on March 6, 2012, regarding the establishment of the ONRR. With a few edits, this same presentation from 8 years ago can be used as a framework for the HRC now.
- On May 30, 2012 the ONRR planning council began drafting its first survey to gather community input to host a series of workshops on topics
- On September 26th, 2012 the ONRR held its first community forum “Educational opportunities for adult residents from ESOL to higher education”.
- May 7th, 2013, the ONRR organized an “Interfaith Service for the victims, families, and responders of the Boston Marathon tragedy”.
- On July 1st, 2013 we recommended trainings for leadership development of the Mayor’s Advisory Boards
- July 8th, 2013, the ONRR held its first retreat and
finalized a vision and mission for the group –
- Vision “All together Revere”
- We see a city that is welcoming, inclusive, and reflects our cultural diversity. We promote an active role and recognize the contributions of Revere residents from all over the world.
- Mission “The Office of New Revere Residents is an open door center that provides connection to information, resources, and referrals. The Office is a catalyst promoting cultural competent policy, practices, and programming throughout the city. Our goal is to support the wellbeing of our residents by serving as a facilitator in the successful integration into the civic, economic, social, and cultural life of Revere.”
- December 16th, 2014, held a meeting to discuss “How to bring the many communities of Revere together”
- February 17, 2015, “several Muslim women found threatening letters” in the Shirley Ave./MGH area
- February 23, 2015, ONRR co-hosted Coffee with A Cop following the hate crime event that occurred during Feb. 17th
- April 11th, 2015 ONRR hosted “Meet your Muslim Neighbor” event at the First Congregational Church
Dan Rizzo brought me on in 2012 to lay the foundation and lead the ONRR as a volunteer so why has it become an issue for Mayor Arrigo to officially appoint me to be the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission in 2020?
Over the past 8 years I have strengthened this work, stakeholder partnerships, community leadership and coalitions, and much more through my city position, volunteer work for the city, and volunteer work with the city’s non-profits and resident initiatives.
In early 2015, I was accepted into Tufts University’s Master in Public Policy program as a Neighborhood Fellow. On April 15th, 2015, I resigned from my role with the ONRR and suggested to Mayor Rizzo that a paid part-time position be created to continue the work of the ONRR. This did not happen and the work of the ONRR discontinued all together. The relationships and contributions of many of the planning council members to this city and our residents continue today due to the leadership development of members and many more who have become involved in the city through our initiatives and coalitions and local non-profits such as the establishment of the non-profit MACIR – Morrocan Americans Connections in Revere, strengthening membership at Women Encouraging Empowerment, and much more. I’m certain that many of these former ONRR members will also apply to become Commissioners of the HRC.
Over the summer of 2015, I split my full-time salary and brought on Julie DeMauro, former Safe Routes to School Coordinator as the Healthy Community Initiatives Active Living Coordinator, so I could continue as a part-time Manager of HCI and focus on the administrative and healthy eating work of the department and begin my full-time graduate school courses. During this time with the ROTM task force we helped pass and implement the second bike lane in Revere on Broadway.
In 2016, I began working full-time again while attending graduate school full-time and ran another successful year of implementing ROTM mini-grants, our seasonal farmers market, community gardens, increasing funding for the department, and much more.
Also, in 2016, I was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo as a commissioner to the Massachusetts Asian American Commission. In 2018, I served as the Secretary of the AAC. Currently, I am serving my second term with the AAC as a Commissioner.
In 2017, while working full-time, recovering from a cancer diagnosis, and completing courses over the summer, I graduated from Tufts University, with a Master in Public Policy from the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program with a focus on gateway cities and the food economy. That summer I was also promoted from Manager to Director of HCI. Over the next year, my staff and Revere on the Move assessed and strengthened our active living and healthy eating work as a legacy community of the statewide MA DPH Mass in Motion program which we have been part of since 2011.
In 2018, I was featured in CommonWealth Magazine in “Gateway Cities discover the power of food. Fresh veggies, koshari turn food deserts into oases” by Ted Siefer. At the beginning of the article it reads “she’s embarked on a path for which she may be uniquely suited—using food to improve the wellbeing of the city, whether through promoting the city’s vast array of immigrant cuisines or making fresh, local produce more readily available (a challenge she witnessed from the trenches working in her family’s convenience stores). It’s also about getting the city’s disparate populations to interact with each other a little more. “We don’t necessarily have any community spaces in the city, where people can gather and learn from each other and share,” Rana says. “There have been issues of discrimination and prejudice, so through these different activities we’re planning we’re aiming to bring people together through food.”
The re-establishment of the Revere Human Rights Commission, HRC, is critical. The UN defines human rights as “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”
We are a diverse city, we need to celebrate our diversity and also as listed in the HRC ordinance section 9.28.010 we need to implement “the policy of the city of Revere, including its employees, agents and officials, to protect the constitutional, civil and human rights of all people within the city and to promote understanding among individuals and groups in the city through improving the quality of discourse and eliminating unlawful discrimination.”
Section 9.28.020 part D states “There shall be an executive director who shall be appointed by the mayor subject to city council confirmation. The executive director shall receive and forward complaints and communications to the chairperson of the commission. The executive director shall be responsible for carrying out the policies and decisions of the commission.” Note that the Executive Director carries out the policies and decisions of the commission. For everyone’s clarity, the Executive Director does not make the policies and decisions, the commission does.
9.28.030 – Functions, powers and duties of the commission.
The function of the commission shall be to implement the policy of this chapter by the exercise of the following powers and duties.
- To initiate activities designed to educate and inform the city about the effects of prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry through the following actions:
- To study the problems of discrimination in the city, to issue publications, results of research, and to make recommendations to the mayor and the city council as, in its judgment, will promote good will and minimize or eliminate prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination and disorder occasioned thereby,
– This is the first step in effective policy planning and making – data collection.
- With the ONRR we conducted surveys, we published our findings and made recommendations to the Mayor and implemented workshops, held community forums, and established the Revere Community School as our biggest endeavor.
- We have
the Master Plan that was just completed at the end of last year. My department
was integral in the community engagement aspect of the plan and making sure
that all residents had an opportunity to participate in the process either in
person or online. In each of the recommendations in the areas of
- Public Facilities
- Are embedded next steps for the HRC and for the city to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work.
- Public Facilities
Community Health Needs Assessment, iCHNA, and Community Health Implementation
- Nonprofit hospitals are required to conduct a CHNA every three years under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as the Massachusetts Attorney General’s guidelines. In the fall of 2018, Mass General Hospital embarked on the first ever regional North Suffolk CHNA, which includes the cities of Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop.
- My dept. and I not just participate but also help lead this process every 3 years for the city. We use this data, research, and recommendations in all aspects of our work to continue to make Revere a healthier place to eat, live, learn, visit, and play.
- I am also one of 21 members of the MGH Community Advisory Board where we select priorities and strategies to fund from the triennial Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and Implementation Plan (CHIP). Currently, we are advising and making recommendations for over 10 million dollars of community benefit funds that help fund CHIP initiatives identified in the 2019 CHNA for Revere such as housing, economic stability and mobility, behavioral health including substance use disorders, community violence and safety, obesity and food insecurity, elder and aging health issues.
- Between the Master Plan and the CHIP we are well equipped on current data and recommendations to move the HRC and its purpose forward – “To initiate activities designed to educate and inform the city about the effects of prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry”
- Part A of the ordinance – To improve the life of the city by enlisting community-based groups in educational programs and campaigns to increase mutual self-respect, harmonious inter-group relations, and the peaceful enjoyment of life,
- Over the past few months, beginning in March, under the leadership of Charlie Giuffrida the outreach coordinator and myself as the wellness coordinator for the city’s COVID_19 response we launched and implemented the Revere Covid-19 Community Response Network and created a multi-sector and multi-lingual approach to community needs such as food, mask, and safety supplies, wellness and neighbor checks, mental health and trauma, financial assistance and housing, youth, and much more. For the first time we have a coalition of residents and community leaders working side by side in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic the major languages spoken in Revere. We have also leveraged over $500,000 in funding and in-kind support for the city’s emergency response efforts through this network. We converted the Rumney Marsh Academy into a central food distribution center and continue to deliver and provide thousands of meals and produce boxes, and 10s of thousands of masks over the last 6 months.
- This is a prime example of the groundwork laid over the previous 8 years with stakeholders, community organizations, leaders, and residents from all walks of life.
- To work with the municipal government agencies to increase compliance with local, state and federal laws and to raise the level of awareness and sensitivity to human and civil rights through workforce-wide required training programs,
- We have a great opportunity right now with our regional planning council to advance racial equity in our city. The Metro Area Planning Council, MAPC, will be offering technical assistance and regional guidance to cities and towns in the region through the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan (REMAP) program. The program is a collaboration with their partners at the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (FRBB). An application will be released soon, and Revere should apply. Selected municipalities will receive technical assistance to create racial equity action plans and to take meaningful action to advance racial equity. Along with the Master Plan and CHIP this technical assistance will be crucial for Revere.
- To speak
out with other city officials against all forms of discrimination, hate
motivated violence or civil rights violations;
- We do this. The Mayor, the city council, and leaders across the city came together to speak out against the recent hate crime which targetted a Muslim couple. We came out against the murder of George Floyd. We have come together many times and we need to continue to do so and speak out against hate.
Tonight I have laid out some key recommendations for the structure of the commission and several points from the ordinance. It is clear from the ordinancehow decisions are made by the commission and how action is taken by the Executive Director in implementing the decisions made by the commission.
In addition to the data, research, and upcoming opportunity to apply for the REMAP program my vision for the start up of the commission include
- Conducting listening sessions
- Administrative setup and grant writing to support staff, stipends, and initiatives of the commission
- Outreach to encourage applications for commissioner positions
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Trainings and Workshops
- Cultural celebrations
- Guest speakers
Our City Needs a Space for Challenging Conversation
- We need to bring people
together to learn about each other’s cultures and history
- The HRC will Identify the appropriate facilitators to guide conversations and open, safe dialogue about shared values and un-shared perspectives
Local government has the ability to implement policy change at multiple levels and across multiple sectors to drive larger systemic change.
We should devise solutions to the current stress caused by decades of immigration and rapid demographic change by modeling what good change management looks like and leading our city through this period of adjustment with honesty, nuance, respect and empathy.
If you are looking for someone who is comfortable with the status quo and who will not challenge commonly held beliefs and ideas if they are not representative of our entire community, that is not me. And that is not the type of person we should have leading our HRC.
On Monday, a beautiful memorial service took place for legendary civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, a lifelong champion of human rights. May he rest in Peace, Power, and Love.
I share with you the following words from John Lewis on being human from his book Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America – “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”
Our City needs unity and healing, and I believe you all have the power to choose that tonight.