The Revere Human Rights Commission (HRC) held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, November 3.
Chairperson Janine Grillo Marra and fellow commissioners Kourou Pich, vice-chair Chai Hossani, Lynn Alexis, Rev. Timothy Bogertmen, Fire Chief Chris Bright, Molly McGee, and Dr. Lourenco Garcia were in attendance.
Although the session proceeded smoothly for the most part, it eventually was disrupted by outbursts by members of the audience, a scenario that has proven typical of the commission’s meetings for the past year, requiring Marra to gavel the meeting to a recess and to request a police officer to clear the chamber.
Marra opened the meeting by reading the part of the state’s Open Meeting Law pertaining to the recording of public meetings. Two audience members stepped forward to indicate that they would be using their I-phones to record the meeting.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a harmonious evening and a nice sharing and learning for everyone here,” said Marra, who also read the section of the statute pertaining to the rules and limits on public participation at public meetings.
Marra next proceeded to the regular “Land Acknowledgement,” in which Marra presented a map of the southern New England area indicating the various Indigenous peoples who occupied the land prior to the arrival of European settlers. The Pawtucket tribe lived on the land of present-day Revere.
At Marra’s urging, the group took a moment of silence “to honor and respect the original overseers of this land.”
Marra then led the commission through the “Arrive and Settle” portion of the meeting, giving the group and those in attendance an opportunity for a brief meditative session.
“Presence is the greatest gift we can bring to the world — presence of body, heart, mind, and spirit,” said Marra.
The commissioners then recited the HRC’s Mission Statement together:
“The Mission of the Revere Human Rights Commission is to promote human and civil rights and empower all people of Revere by ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, have equitable opportunities, equal access, and are treated with dignity, respect, fairness, and justice.”
After the commissioners concluded with the reading of the Mission Statement, a person in the audience said the Pledge of Allegiance out loud, drawing a reminder from Marra that future outbursts would not be permitted.
Marra noted that the month of November is Native American Heritage Month, which led directly into the principal agenda item of the meeting, a presentation by the commission’s guest speaker, Strong Oak Lefebvre, the Executive Director and Co-founder of the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition, Inc., who discussed the concept behind the Circle Practices of Indigenous People: Truth and Reconciliation (Website: https://www.VisioningBear.org).
Lefebvre made a Powerpoint presentation which began by noting that the first European settlers, who had come from a society of scarcity, essentially destroyed the environment wherever they colonized. In addition, she noted that the land that was awarded by the king to the first settlers represented only about one percent of those who came to the New World
She also showed slides with photos of the boarding schools to which Indigenous children forcibly were sent throughout most of the 20th century to assimilate them into white society.
She explained how the Circle Practice enables everyone to share their stories and hear those of others in an effort to resolve conflict and to reach a consensus on solutions to issues, whether they be among family members or a community.
Some of the members asked questions about the Circle Group practice and Lefebvre responded.
Marra then asked whether any members of the audience had comments or questions.
A person stepped forward and offered comments that initially pertained to the specifics of the subject matter at hand, but then devolved into the sort of general criticism of the HRC that has been typical of those who have been disruptive of the HRC’s meetings over the past 12 months.
After Marra told the speaker that her comments were out-of-line and asked her to return to her seat, she continued to speak loudly from the gallery, leading Marra to ask the police officer that she be escorted from the chamber.
Marra was forced to call a recess when other members of the audience (of which there were only a handful) continued to be disruptive. The officer was able to clear the gallery and restore the peace.
After the meeting resumed, a person who was on Zoom addressed the commission, but soon was cut off by Marra when she engaged in profanity. Another person who was on hand in the chamber and who had not been cleared from the gallery also addressed the commission.
The commission had no other business and voted to adjourn until its December meeting.