CRANFORD, NJ — In an effort to unite residents, community organizers are forming Action Planning Committees, through the Equity and Inclusivity Initiative.
Mayor Patrick Giblin; Police Chief Ryan Greco; the Rev. Alfred Brown Jr. of First Baptist Church; pastor and Cranford Clergy Council representative; Superintendent of Schools Scott Rubin; Brian Chinni, chief executive officer and founder of TMI Education; Rich Panicucci, lead facilitator, TMI Education; Christopher Chapman, NAACP representative and Cranford resident; Arthur Hearns, local business owner and Cranford resident; and Sherry Williams, a Cranford resident, joined other concerned citizens to describe their commitment to the community.
“This is truly a collaborative effort among individuals and organizations in the Cranford community who are committed to ensuring an equitable and inclusive community for everyone,” they said as in a collective statement on Sunday, Dec. 27.
The group agreed that the purpose of the initiative is to include everyone while addressing three objectives.
“We want to create a structured and sustainable vehicle that promotes equity and inclusivity throughout our community,” they said. “The purpose of this initiative is to come together as a community to examine and identify current strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that will advance our efforts; determine a shared vision of inclusivity for our community; and formulate a strategic plan, inclusive of goals, objectives and actionable steps that will, ultimately, realize our vision for an equitable and inclusive community. In the end, we hope to increase knowledge and improve communication among different cultures throughout our township.”
The group said there are several Action Planning Committees: Education, which will also include reading groups; Just and Transparent Policing in a Democratic Society; Equitable Hiring and Promotional Practices and Better Recruitment of Minority-Led Business, which is geared toward making sure all groups are included in all aspects of the community and the town; Religion; Health, Safety and Support Networks; Political Representation in Town, which will make sure everyone is represented; and Resources and Administrative.
January meetings are scheduled for all but the Resources and Administrative Committee. All meetings are virtual, and anyone can attend. The success of these meetings depends on the full participation of the Cranford Township community. Everyone will have input in the process, through surveys, information sessions, review and feedback periods, municipal and Board of Education meetings and other related experiences.
According to a draft of the initiative’s mission/vision statement, each committee is geared toward helping to eliminate unfair and unjust practices toward black and brown people, other people of color and any group that is or has been slighted by society and has been traditionally and systematically kept at a disadvantage.
The draft stated that each committee will also help to make Cranford a community that is genuinely committed to making all people feel welcome, safe and accepted, by proactively and continually striving to be a leader when it comes to equity and inclusivity in real-life practice.
Representatives discussed the Strategic Planning Survey, which all residents can participate in.
“Specifically, the online survey will help formulate a list of civic grass root organizations within the township that are established and/or anticipate formations that are attempting to individually address the issues associated with racism, so as to connect similarly focused individuals and allow the township and other organizations the benefits of collective knowledge and different perspectives, so as to move toward the vision for an equitable and inclusive community,” they said as a collective on Sunday, Dec. 27.
“We hope to establish a committee that is fully representative of Cranford Township and supports the overall administrative and logistical needs of the initiative.”
According to information about the virtual meetings, attendees will receive an on-boarding video ahead of time to help each group set strategic planning expectations and goals. Two steering committee members will join in as facilitators during the first meetings.
There are six meetings scheduled for January, with two sessions offered for each — one from 7 to 8 p.m. and one from 8 to 9 p.m. Kicking off the series will be the Health, Safety and Support Networks meeting on Monday, Jan. 11. Those interested in participating in one or more of the committee meetings can sign up at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PVGGHYG.
Representatives are hoping this initiative will make a real change. “In short,” they said, “the purpose of this initiative is to come together as a community.”