Editor’s Note: The following statement was released by the Putney Equity and Inclusion Committee in response to the defacement of the Black Lives Matter mural painted on the road in front of Putney Central School.
We, the members of the town of Putney Equity and Inclusion Committee, came together to create a community where all residents and visitors receive equal treatment and opportunity.
We are your fellow community members. We are Black, white, gay and straight, young and old, mothers, and fathers. We come from different backgrounds, have disparate incomes and have different ability status. We love our community. We want everyone to feel a sense of belonging here, safety and joy.
In response to graffiti targeting black and brown community members, the Equity and Inclusion Committee supported the Black Lives Matter road mural proposed by the Windham County NAACP in its July 30 statement. The goal was to create a conversation, to use art as a way to come together and say clearly that none of us are free until all of us are free.
The Putney Select Board voted in support on Sept. 23, with a powerful resolution that named this moment, stating “this Board and its Public Officers wishes for our community to show solidarity, to honor a movement to bring justice and equality to Black and Brown members of our community and beyond who have been fighting for freedom for far too long.”
The resolution stated that “the mural will be refreshed by volunteers with authorization of the Select board through December 2020.” This is with the understanding that as snow plows begin road work, that it will wear away the mural.
The sentiment behind the mural will not be erased by snow or by acts of vandalism and hate. We can see the discomfort and the anger of our neighbors and visitors through the tire marks intentionally defacing our work towards equity. We can talk openly about the real lived experiences of our friends and family that are targeted with acts of hate each day.
We are coming together as a community to say clearly — Black community members belong here. Black children in our community need to feel safe. Black parents need to feel supported.
We need to know that when we invite black friends and family into our community that they will be safe, affirmed, and welcome.
As confederate flags and other symbols of white body supremacy are driven through town, as racist graffiti goes on our roads, as people take to social media to attack each other and deny the history and current anti-black racism that is being expressed in our nation and in our state and in our town, we must come together to create a community that is committed to safety, justice, honesty with self, and honesty with each other.
The Equity and Inclusion Committee is asking for community leadership and support to care for the mural. We cannot do this work without you. We are asking that folks focus on voting and the national and state elections in the coming weeks and join us the weekend after the election to care for the mural on Sunday morning, Nov. 8.
As the town of Putney resolution about the Black Lives Matter Mural states ...”we are no longer bystanders ... while we cannot go back in time to undo the wrongs and pain our town, state and nation have brought on Black and Brown people, we can resolve that from this point forward, we stand in solidarity and will work to root out systemic racism and eradicate it.”