Several City leaders and members from the black faith community in Everett joined Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Councilor Gerly Adrien on June 2 for a virtual online vigil to remember George Floyd and to discuss the changes that need to begin to address structural racism in Everett – whether it be with the police, education, or other areas of opportunity.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria hosted the meeting and called on Rev. Myrlande Desrosiers of the Everett Haitian Community Center to being the night with a prayer. After that, he said that he could never fully understand what black residents are going through, but he stands with them ready to change.
“I talked with our own police about the record of this police officer in Minneapolis, and there were many, many disciplinary actions against him and it wasn’t dealt with appropriately,” said the mayor. “If he was in our city, he would not have been in uniform. We do not tolerate that behavior. When we do hear of unjust racism, we deal with them and always will deal with them. I find I share a lot of the same values that the black community shares. I consider some members of the black community to be some of my closest and dearest friends. Being a white man…it’s a hard issue to talk about. I don’t know what to say to black friends of mine or the black community…It is time we step up and make the changes they deserve.”
Councilor Gerly Adrien said there are many reasons why black and brown residents are so angry over the injustices brought about by George Floyd and the systemic racism that gives birth to such things. That includes the amazing difference in average net worth of black and white families in Greater Boston – with black families averaging $8 in net worth, and white families averaging $247,500 in net worth.
She said so many times white residents get defensive or water down the issues of racism built into education, finance, policing, health care and other systems in Everett and beyond.
“We need to stop defending policies that may be racist or reacting to it and start fighting with us – making sure we are fighting for structural changes,” she said. “Stop telling us that we’re wrong or don’t have it right or we don’t understand. We can see racism in housing and health care and education. We need changes black people have been calling out for over decades. Stop sabotaging or dismissing the work and help us get justice.”
Police Chief Steve Mazzie said it has been a tough time for the Everett Police, as it has been for most every police department lately. He said the Everett Police will stand up to serve everyone of all races and make changes that root out problems that may, or could exist. He also said it is time to stop the finger pointing and begin getting down to finding real solutions.
“I want everyone to know the Everett Police Department believes everyone is important and everyone matters and we believe in giving everyone the respect they deserve and help as many as we can,” he said. “There is too much finger pointing and it goes on at the federal level, the state level and the local level at times. I think people need to stop pointing fingers. They need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty doing the hard work. Everyone needs to be involved. We need to identify stakeholders and partnerships if we want to make real, long-lasting solutions. If not, the symbolic solutions don’t work and won’t last. It will take a community to get it done.”
Bishop Robert Brown, of Zion Church Ministries – and a long-time advisor to the Everett Police, said it is time to stop talking and start walking if there will be change. He also addressed the difference of attitudes between the young and the old regarding change – saying he had been there through the Civil Rights Movement, has been mistreated and believes there is a way out working together.
“I have seen many things because I am a black man,” he said. “I may be a preacher and I may be a bishop, but I have been racially profiled. I’m been slammed up against a wall in mistaken identity. If anything, I of all people should be extremely angry. To some degree, I am, but no necessarily for the reasons many of you may believe. Until we stop talking and start walking, there will be no change. Young people may have a different viewpoint here, but you don’t necessarily know the whole story. I’m glad I’m the last speaker because I’ve lived it.”
Other speakers included Council President Rosa DiFlorio, Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Everett High’s Dr. Omar Easy, Minister Jean Daniel, and State Rep. Joe McGonagle.