Are we welcoming and inclusive?

GUILFORD — On Oct. 12, I had the privilege of facilitating a gathering sponsored by the Brattleboro Community Justice Center to discuss: “Is our community welcoming and inclusive to you, your family, and friends?”

I can't adequately capture the honesty, compassion, and spirit of those who attended this gathering, a “circle of understanding.” The process has its roots in many indigenous cultures, including Native American, and it supports the belief that gaining a deep understanding with one another forms the foundation for building positive relationships, thus allowing us to work together as a community.

Participants shared their personal experiences, both positive and negative and thoughtfully expressed injustices experienced by those facing deportation and by those because of racial, ethnic, gender identity, physical and mental capabilities, and other personal characteristics.

But what also became clear was that missing from our circle were people from some marginalized groups and backgrounds and those who could not relate their needs to the words: “welcoming and inclusive.”

If we are to make all people feel at home in our community, we must learn to reach across divides and to extend a truly welcoming hand. In our group, some felt that this same conversation should continue, while others felt we should also spend time meeting with cross-sections of our community to better understand what they are interested in discussing.

We agreed that we needed to bring future conversations to the various sectors of our community rather than expecting people to come to us.

To this end, we plan to hold future conversations in neighborhoods and venues throughout our community.

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