John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Discrimination Category

Introducing the 2021 Human Relations Commission

In January 2021, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) appointed new members to the Human Relations Commission (HRC), which was established by the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance passed by the BOS on November 28, 2018 (read “Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments”).

The Members of the 2021 NT HRC

The Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, a copy of which you can download here, safeguards the right of citizens to obtain and hold employment and public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions."

The Commission will handle complaints through a fact-finding conference with the parties of the dispute in order to reach a resolution without the need to hire lawyers or go to court.

Voting Members of the Commission

Kevin Antoine, JD: The inaugural Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College, Kevin is the Chair of Newtown Township’s Human Relations Commission. He has more than 16 years of experience in diversity and inclusion, non-discrimination and civil rights compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.

Angelic Acevedo: A physician by training and originally from Puerto Rico, Angelic is a member of the Newtown Elementary Diversity Committee and has volunteered with her church in Plainsboro, NJ and other non-profits. She also leads the Princeton Pike chapter of the Organization for Latino Achievement, an employee resource group that her employer, BMS, sponsors. As part of this group, Angelic facilitates employee development activities for Hispanic minorities as well as liaises with other resource groups to champion events that help reinforce an environment of inclusion.

Nicole Adams: “Since I came across an article that referenced race relations in Newtown and specifically named the Commission as a change agent in this work in the community, I was immediately intrigued and interested,” said Nicole in her application. Nicole brings a diverse background to the organization. She has the unique experience of growing up in a very diverse community and comes from a multi-racial and interfaith family (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Black and White).

Ivan Winegar: Ivan is a retired resident living in Newtown since 1990. “In my retirement, I have been active with the African American Museum of Bucks County (on the Education Committee), a member of the Interfaith Community of Lower Bucks (working on providing opportunities for racial and ethnic groups to get to know each other better), a member of the Peace Center of Langhorne (participating in many of their activities)," said Ivan in his application.

Aamir Nayeem: “Being the son of Muslim immigrant parents, I'm unfortunately aware of the discrimination that ethnic and religious groups face regularly,” said Aamir in his application. “Although I haven't personally faced much harassment or discrimination living and going to school in Newtown, I'd like to be a part of the solution and make sure that others don't have to deal with it either.” While a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Aamir was a member of the Muslim Students Association's executive board, which hosted events and discussions helping educate others about Islam and helping students deal with the rise of Islamophobia.

Non-Voting Members of the Commission

Non-voting members of the Commission are ex officio members whose background and expertise broaden the diversity that serves on the Commission.

Kara McCarthy: Kara is a 2005 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Sociology. She also has a Master's in Social Services from Bryn Mawr College. She worked for a year as a social worker in two Catholic schools in West Philadelphia. “My goal is to continue to be a participating member of this community and to continue to join in the conversations that the Human Relations Commission has started on handling racism in Newtown," said Kara in his application.

Samantha Gross Dorf: Currently working as the Executive Assistant to the Provost of the Bucks County Community College, Samantha is co-chair of the Race, Ethnicity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Group to the President and lead of the student food insecurity group. These two additional roles at the college allow Samantha to serve the coliege in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion.

John R. Gyllenhammer: John is Deputy General Counsel and Chief Counsel for Health Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. During his 25 years in legal positions at Drexel University and George Mason University, John has had extensive involvement with anti-discrimination laws and regulations applicable to employees, students, patients and members of the general public.

Thank you Kevin, Angelic, Nicole, Ivan, Aamir, Kara, John, and Samantha for volunteering to serve on this important Commission!

Recent Meeting of the Newtown HRC

At the February 17, 2021, Newtown Human Relations Commission Zoom meeting, Karen Downer, President of the Bucks County NAACP, spoke about her organization's approach to working with local police departments in Bucks County. For a summary of her presentation, read "Celebrating LOVE is LOVE and Diversity in Newtown."

Posted on 29 Mar 2021, 01:41 - Category: Discrimination

Celebrating LOVE is LOVE in Newtown!

Love is Love Commemoration

On March 11, 2021, several local human rights activists and elected officials met via Zoom to commemorate the passage of Newtown Township's LOVE is LOVE Resolution.

The goal of this meeting was to discuss ideas on raising awareness of the discrimination against the LGBTQ+ minority youth in our community and building "allyship" to combat it. Several activists, elected officials and students were guest speakers. See the video/transcipt of the meeting below.

Speakers Included:

  • Marianne Alt – Kidsbridge Tolerance Center
  • Kevin Antoine, JD – Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College
  • Council Rock students
  • Gayle Evans – Director of Community Programming, Peace Center
  • Kristin Mallon – sponsor of the Council Rock North School Gay Straight Alliance
  • Marlene Pray – founder and director of the Rainbow Room
  • Barbara Simmons – Executive Director Emeritus of the Peace Center
  • Robert Szwajkos – Newtown Borough Council member
What I Learned

Some takeaways for me include:

  • Information about the Equality Act
  • The importance of "allyship" - the practice of emphasizing social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalized outgroup. Allyship is part of the anti-oppression or anti-racist conversation, which puts into use social justice theories and ideals. [source: Wikipedia]
  • Making Newtown more LGBT+ Minority youth friendly perhaps via education for adults/parents.
  • Pursue collaboration with Peace Center, Bucks County Community College, Rainbow Room and Youth4Unity, Newtown Parks & Rec Dept, Newtown Twp & Boro Human Relations Committees,  CR North Gay Straight Alliance, etc.
  • Establish an official LOVE is LOVE Day in Newtown
  • And so much more...
What's Next

It was suggested that we do more of these meetings. That sounds good to me. It was also suggested that we have Town-sponsored event such as a Town Hall meeting. Also suggested was working with local businesses to support a friendly LGBTQ+ minority youth atmosphere. 

Let's all think about next steps. Meanwhile, please keep in touch by joining the Newtown Area Anti-Discrimination FB Group

Video/Transcript

Love is Love in Newtown Commemoration: this Love is Love in Newtown Commemoration video file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Kristen Mallon:
[Missing text]... We are looking forward to talking about what we can do to move forward to ensure the rights to representation and equality for our LGBTQ and other minority students and young people in the area. So thanks for doing this.

John Mack:
Ok, maybe Bailey will go next.

Baily Coghlan:
Hi, everyone, I'm a senior at Rock North, and I am involved in a lot of advocacy groups through the school, and I'm a member of the student government of the sort of student side of the diversity committee at school, as well as a part of the GSA. And I I'm really excited to be here. And, you know, it was just such a monumental excitement to be able to really engage with the civic process last year, this time last year. And I'm really excited to discuss how we can move forward with advancing LGBTQ rights.

John Mack:
Thanks for joining us. I'm glad you were able to do that. John from the Human Relations Commission.

John Gyllenhammer:
Yes, good evening, everybody. I'm John Gyllenhammer, I'm a non-voting member on the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission. And so I just want to participate in tonight's event and learn more about what's going on and see what I can do to help.

John Mack:
Ok, Marlene is next.

Marlene Pray:
OK, thank you so much. Thanks for pulling us together and inviting inviting me, John. So I'm Marlene Pray. ... I'm actually here representing two organizations. Karen Downer, the president of the NAACP of Bucks County, is in another meeting of the NAACP, which I left early to come over here. And I'm on the executive committee in this, the co-chair of the Education Committee for the NAACP of Bucks County. So I'm here just offering the support and voice and presence of our chapter here for this conversation. And certainly a priority on uplifting the voices and the presence of students of color and youth of color and also solidarity with LGBTQ plus students. So that's the NAACP side of things. I'm also the director and founder of Planned Parenthood's Rainbow Room. And we are in our 19th year here in Bucks County. We are the Queer Youth Center for Bucks County for Youth. And we have a lot of youth from Newtown and from Council Rock and in fact Council Rock students were instrumental when we opened the Rainbow Room. I worked closely with them 19 years ago to get us started. We're currently meeting just like this virtually. We assume we're having an absolutely amazing time. So if you know any young people between 14 and twenty one, please let them know they're welcome and want it, whether they're LGBTQ or allies or questioning. Last night's program was focused on anti-racist action and solidarity. So good timing to be here representing both of those voices. And I there's lots I can say about some of how the problem came about. And I do have an absolutely gorgeous video to share of some clips from the problem. So we all wait and do that after whatever you want to think.

John Mack:
But I do think it's important that we let people just introduce themselves and find out exactly a little bit of what people are doing. So, Marianne.

Marianne Alt:
All right, thank you, John, for inviting me. My name is Marianne Alt and I've been a resident of Newton Township for twenty two years. I had two children go through the council rock school system, and I've been involved in social justice work for a while now through my church and now in my role as lead facilitator at Kids Church Tolerant Center.

Marianne Alt:
So Kingsbridge is a nonprofit in Ewing, New Jersey, and they have been educating youth for twenty five years on how to stand up for themselves and for others by being empathetic citizens and standing up to bias and discrimination and bullying in all its forms. And so we go into classrooms. Right now we're doing it virtually, but we engage youth in small groups and we provide tools and strategies and the practice of those to be able to be upstander instead of bystanders. So I'm just really honored to be here at this time to help celebrate Love is love and to lift up the LGBTQ plus youth and the EPOXI youth that are often marginalized. And I think this this work is really great. I'm really excited that you are able to get this resolution passed, even if it didn't have a specific date and that you had such a fantastic celebration with the prom. So I look forward to seeing that video.

John Mack:
Michelle?

Michelle Keillor:
Hi, I'm Michelle Keillor and I am an English teacher at Council Rock n I'm one of the co advisers for the GSA club, and I would just like to thank you all for coming and thank you for inviting us. I think this is just such a noble cause and anything that we can do from north to help bring any type of support to students, members of the LGBTQ community. We're here to help and excited to be a part of this. So thank you.

John Mack:
Thank you. Parker?

Parker Cohen:
Hi, I'm Parker Cohen, I am a legislative assistant with State Representative Perry Warren. I was actually in Harrisburg when Senator Santarsiero and and Representative Ollman were doing their darndest to get things passed. We were honoring a Council Rock student on the floor that day for another reason.

Parker Cohen:
I'm also been living in the area for 20 years. I'm active in social justice and have to graduates of Council Rock one. Jesse Cohen, he was one of his balance suits. So I'm very pleased to be here and have been a long time ally and and have frequent conversations of of being allied in the family.

John Mack:
Great. Barbara?

Barbara Simmons:
Hi, everyone, I'm Barbara Simmons, recently retired from the Peace Center. After 30 some years and but still involved in peace and social justice issues, currently I'm in my 20th year of teaching at Arcadia University's International Peace Program. And I what I'm seeing is that students who are transitioning are having an extra hard time being isolated with covid right now. So I'm having I'm seeing the fragility of my students in a way that I had not seen over the last 20 years. And I'm also an ambassador to Walking While Black Love is the Answer, which is addressing racism, there's an effort to address police brutality and racism. But the part that I'm excited to be involved with is working with the Youth Fellowship leader to help bring programs of addressing the healing of racism to to youth across the nation. So so I'm managing to still work about like thirty five or 40 hours a week, but it's so less stressful now. So I'm glad to be here tonight. This issue is very, very dear to my heart because of my son and watching him deal with both racism as well as homophobia. And so I'm a fan of Marlene Pray's Rainbow Room and all the work she's doing and and also everybody that's that's here trying to create a safe space for our youth in Newtown Township. And I wish across all of Bucks County.

John Mack:
Thank you. Ok, who's next... Gayle?

Gayle Evans:
Hi, thank you, and I do miss my colleague Barbara very much in the office, I am the director of community programming for the Peace Center. Most of my work is in the area of racial equality. I do a lot of trainings and diversity, cultural humility, also restorative practices and dismantling racism in many workshops throughout the county as well. And we also have a bullying awareness and prevention program that I work with as well. I think I'm taking a personal interest in and out this meeting this evening, and I am excited about it and I feel like it's a long time coming. Of course, I am actually a part of a family that is six generations in Newtown borough in Newtown township, which is very unusual as an African-American family. My great grandfather came to Newtown in the 1940s and my family has remained. I have six daughters. My oldest graduated in two thousand from Council Rock and my youngest is a senior at Council Rock South. We Now live in Holland and I've seen a tremendous amount of changes in Newtown from the time I was a little girl until now. We actually had a fairly robust black community in the borough for quite a while, which through gentrification no longer exists. And so I'm happy that this is where we are today. I am also very well aware that we have a lot more work to do, but I am very appreciative of the opportunity to see and be with so many people who are forward thinking and looking forward to hopefully more changes coming within the area as well. So thank you.

John Mack:
Thank you. Anju?

Anju Madnani:
Hi, everybody, my name is Anju Madnani and I did attend one more meeting with John Mack that was very, very informative and I rarely attend these meetings because of the time problem. But my kids, they graduated from George School and have faced some racist problems in Newtown ...the Starbucks incident. And since then, I have started taking interest in these meetings and definitely want to improve the environment because I had personal experience with that. Probably you guys know my daughter and my son, one white couple yelled at them when they were trying to put the poster up for George Floyd. And then later my daughter, she sent a letter to them explaining black history, and it was published in Newtown, Patch. And also just for the update, my daughter and she took LSAT and she got perfect score and she got accepted in Columbia School so she would be going to Columbia. So... But thanks for inviting me.

John Mack:
Thanks for coming... Mr. Fisher?

Dennis Fisher:
Evening, everybody. Good to see everyone here. We keep adding people as time goes on for sure. I serve on the Board of Supervisors of the township with with John. And I was happy to be happy to be supportive in John passing the passing the resolution last year. Time sure flies. It was a very eventful year, I my background is I've always been interested even as a as a child. Interested in diversity, and even though I come from central Pennsylvania. I had 40 over 40 years of experience and in providing behavioral health services in Philadelphia in the last the last 20 years, I was a director, part of a training unit and director of a training unit. And one of my specialties with a co trainer was intercultural competency. And I I got to that point by going to Temple University and taking part of something called the Advanced Certificate Program and culturally competent human services. So I have an interest in this for a long time. I mean, just all kinds of cultural diversity and actually preparing on Saturday morning to do one for my church. So we just keep on keeping on and trying to go to a better place.

John Mack:
Thank you, Dennis. Kevin?

Kevin Antoine:
Hi, everyone, I'm Kevin Antoine on the chief diversity officer over at Bucks County Community College and recently the newly elected chair of the Townships Human Relations Commission. So I think, like Marlene, I'm here in two capacities. I've been doing this work for a long time, 20 plus years in higher ed in both the CUNY and SUNY systems in New York. And even prior to that, I did a one year fellowship at Harvard School of Public Health and Health Disparities. And before that, I was a legal analyst for the administrative office of the US Courts. But I'm originally from Mississippi, so I going to take the mystery out of it. So I think I was in had somewhat of an expert knowledge before I entered into higher ed and started doing this kind of work. But I just want to say that the levels of ordinance is very important because we are still living in a time where almost half of the states in the union don't have any sort of protection for LGBTQ students. And so a lot of times it is left up to the municipalities to sort of take the lead. Pennsylvania is one of the states, even though the court interpreted the human relations law to include that provision, we don't have it specifically codified in legislation.

Kevin Antoine:
So I think having passed an ordinance like this, you know, number one, it shows the kind of boldness and leadership that's necessary when you have to get out in front of your state and do this. And, you know, I look forward to helping out and collaborating wherever I can, you know, and hire it. We've had policies that have protected LGBTQ employees and students for at least a decade or so. And that aspect, higher ed, is a little bit ahead of the curve in that. But we we've had to rely on our own policies because in a lot of the cities and states, like I just said, you don't have that protection. So the colleges have to have those sort of policies to protect their their faculty, their staff and their employees. So I just want to tip my hat off to John and Dennis and the council that has taken the lead on this and showing the state where the future is in Pennsylvania, that you've got to have all populations protected so that everybody can participate and do their they do their civic duty. So I look forward to working with everyone, I think.

John Mack:
And yes, as you know, the township even before the LOVE is LOVE [resolution was] established [the supervisors voted] in the anti-discrimination ordinance, which created the Human Relations Commission in Newton Township. And I think we were the first Bucks County township to do that to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ minority and .. Ethnic minorities .., the right to employment and housing [and education]. So thank you for your work on the commission.

John Mack:
Alexa? Ask Alexa!

Alexa Shnur:
I am Alexa ... My pronouns are she/her. I'm one of the presidents of Council Rock North GSA or Gay Straight Alliance, Gender Sexuality Awareness Club. And so I work with ... And Bailey and some other students to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth and just a general space safe space for allies as well. In our school we work a lot on outreach and trying to work with the middle school Council Rock South at some of our next schools. Just sort of developing visibility is a really big thing. And talking to teachers a lot about like how to make a classroom a safe environment, because often that's the best route to go. So I'm really looking forward to working with everybody. I was here last year at the town hall - the town supervisor meeting. So I'm glad to be here a year later looking to see what we can keep doing. So I think it a really important step, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do with this. So thank you for having me.

John Mack:
Thanks for your participation. And last year you really helped us get through this. That really was instrumental. Thank you, Rebecca. Do you want to say something?

Rebecca Bancroft:
Well, yes, I'm Rebecca Bancroft, I'm a twenty seven year resident of Newtown, Borough. I've raised three kids that went through Council Rock North. My youngest graduated last year. She's a freshman at Penn State and my middle child is a senior at Penn State and the oldest is a nursing graduate, Penn State.

Rebecca Bancroft:
Also, I am also a candidate for mayor of New Borough. And I'm trying to put on my radar these kinds of things, not just as a community member. I keep up with this type of stuff, but now I you know, I want to step up into...[lost audio]

John Mack:
We lost Rebecca. Ok, she'll come back. Joel, you want to say something?

Joel Raab:
How hi, can you all hear me? You know, what was going through my mind is just the wonderful work that all of you are doing. John invited me to be on this. I want to learn more about it. I work in the country music and radio industry. And if there's an industry that needs more diversity, I can't think of one that needs it more than country music. And we're dealing with our own issues there. So I love hearing what you guys have to say. And thank you again for inviting me tonight.

John Mack:
Thank you for coming. Steve Cickay...Grandpa, can you hear me?

Steve Cickay:
Yeah, hi, thanks for inviting me. I kind of like to ditto Joel's comments. It's really nice to hear all the good work you people are doing. I'm just an ordinary citizen, first time grandpa recently, and I'm just a strong advocate of pretty much all progressive causes. And and to be honest, I'm just really depressed about where we are at twenty, twenty one talking about some of these issues that should have been settled years ago. But I guess that's a cause for inspiration, to work harder and make the world the way we all know it should be. Love is love.

John Mack:
Thank you, Steve. Mr. Bob, sorry you had a problem.

Robert Szwajkos :
Thank you, John. I'm a member of the Newtown Boro Council. I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of our youth last year at the meeting where ... Newtown Township joined... Now I think, 64 municipalities across Pennsylvania that have these ordinances. I have to give Marlene Pray all the praise in the world for starting Rainbow Room, which is a safe haven for our youth. At our council meeting this week, our chief of police reported that our police handled a potential teenage suicide. We don't know the facts of it, we don't know the gender or whether it's a straight or LGBT youth. But the fact is our our youth are under tremendous pressure. And if we don't stand up and help these kids, we have a problem with ourselves. And we're not giving our children the all the support they need. So I want to thank Marlene and John and Newtown Township Council for passing their ordinance last year. It was a privilege to be a part of that. And thank you all.

John Mack:
Ok, I'm going to skip over Jeff Werner. Thanks for attending, Jeff. He's he's a reporter for a local news... Bucks Local News. Thank you for attending. If you want to say something I don't know, you usually take a neutral position, right?

John Mack:
Ok, the next person I don't know, I don't recognize ... I'm not sure who that is. You're going to introduce yourself. [It's Amy Lustig].

Amy Lustig:
I'm here as a resident. I'm twenty four year resident of Newtown Borough. I have two kids who've gone through Council Rock North, one who is currently a sophomore there. My background is in secondary education, social services, and I've always had an interest in a continuing interest in social justice. And I'm here as a fan of many of the people on this conversation and of the work that all of you do and really just as an ally and looking forward to the opportunity to learn more.

John Mack:
So thank you. Thanks for your time. Tara...

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
John, thank you for sending me the updated link that was helpful. So I'm Tara Grunde-McLaughlin. I'm a Boro resident and on Newtown Boro Council. I have four kids, all Council Rock. Two have graduated. One is in high school and one is in the middle school. And I know sometimes when we have these conversations, it feels like you're just having the conversation and what actually makes a difference. But it is from this dialogue that change grows. And so I'm glad to be here. And thank you, John, for convening all these luminaries of of our area who have really made so much difference for so many people. And I'm hoping that this conversation can help take us a next step in making the experience in our community better for our young people, particularly young people of color and LGBTQ young people who have been challenged. So we we as adults, as Bob said, to make it better for them. So thanks.

John Mack:
Thank you Tara. Rebecca. You you got frozen there and if you want to finish what you were trying to say, I'm sorry.

Rebecca Bancroft:
I don't want to take up a lot of time. I don't know when I got lost, but I am running for mayor. And just stepping up and being in wide open arms, I want everyone included and, you know, anything that I can do to teach myself and those around me, I'm eager to to do so. I'm really grateful to be here tonight. And and this looks like a great company, so thank you.

John Mack:
Ok, thanks, everybody. It's really great to get to know people, and that was one of the main goals that I had. I didn't know a lot of people in this area, and it's great to know what people are doing so well. And you want to try to share your screen.

Marlene Pray:
OK, so the youth have been begging for a prom - the youth of the Rainbow Room literally for years. And we've had a few dances. But ... This was the first time we ever did a countywide prom. So we started planning probably in October of twenty nineteen and we picked a date. We we really actually picked the date having nothing to do with Valentine's Day. It was a date that worked for our calendar and it worked for the Michener Museum, which immediately rose up and said, we will host it and we will not charge you. So we got their glass ballroom, which is just an absolutely beautiful space. You'll see it in the video. And we picked the date of February 15th because we needed it to be on a Saturday and that was a Saturday. And as we were planning and getting ready for it, I thought it would be really cool to reach out to some of the municipal and elected leaders that represent kind of starting in Doylestown Borough, where the county seat and then spreading out across the state to ask them if they would issue a resolution or a declaration or some sort of symbol of support that I could present at the prom to the Rainbow Room. So I contacted the mayor, the council, the our commissioners and Senators Santarsiero and Wendy Ollman, who then bumped it up to to the governor and the lieutenant governor.

Marlene Pray:
And we got a flurry of, like, amazing little recognitions that came in, including that for that day, celebrating that day. And ... It was called Love is Love a Queer Prom for all. That was the name that the youth came up with. And governor Wolf made a little video on Twitter saying, Happy Love is Love day, everybody, and sent me a personal note, which was wonderful. Fetterman hung a rainbow flag from the Capitol and then sent it to us, which I presented at the prom. And actually, yeah, so and then a couple other the county commissioners issued a resolution. Lovely matter letter from the mayor. Bob [Szwajkos] got the Newtown Borough Council to do a little resolution. And and John in Newtown thought kind of let's do something in Newtown to recognize love is love. It got a little bit muddled in the in the translation of some people thinking it was like this alternative Valentine's Day. Totally not! Everybody should celebrate Valentine's Day if they want to or not, if they don't want to. So anyway, so then we have the prom. It was fantastic. John was still working hard at like, let's do something, a new town to recognize this in the township. And that's where I got invited in to just help advocate for it and bring some youth to jump into the the advocacy moment. So it's awesome to be back here a year later recognizing your effort, John, and the people here that contributed to that.

Marlene Pray:
And it also got expanded in Newtown. Newtown Township ... Even though it was sparked by the prom they also included youth of color, other youth that are marginalized and oppressed. I think they use the word minority, but recognizing other youth. And that's critically important as well.

Marlene Pray:
So in addition to having this day and whatever moves forward with it, it's exciting to think about other ways that we could uplift youth who often don't have as much of a voice and certainly do not have the same protections and support in our community, youth of color and LGBTQ youth. So with that, which was much longer than a quick minute, let me see if this works.

[video of prom showing]

Dave Bria at Prom:
I want all of you to celebrate being in "us" for once instead of the "them."...HAPPY PROM!

Marlene Pray:
Oh, how beautiful are they, right?

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
We all need to go get our Kleenex boxes. Oh, my God. So amazing.

Marlene Pray:
So that was one hundred and sixty five youth from fifty seven different schools. We sold out. We had a waiting list. It was so painful to not have everybody be there. And of course, a few weeks later Covid happened and that many of those youth reported that was the best night of their lives. So I'm so glad to be able to share it with you all and for you to honor the love and beauty of our incredible queer youth and youth of color through what you're doing. So I'm going to be quiet now.

John Mack:
Ok, you know, I did invite a number of people to give a little short presentation. Kevin Antoine, you prepared something... To share with people.

Kevin Antoine:
Sure, just briefly, I just wanted to talk about why it's important that LGBTQ rights are protected, because we've been over this story in America for a long time and that started out with indentured service, started with the slaves, women. And it's it seems like every particular point in history, there's a population that's targeted to be treated not like full Americans. And I would say that for the latter part of the 20th century and an early part and not the not to forget all the other populations, but certainly the ones that have been left out now is indeed the LGBTQ population, because they're not even mentioned in any of the Civil Rights Act, because a lot of the protection has come from the litigation, from case law or corporations that have just taken the lead that have been progressive about it, like I was talking about with higher ed at higher Ed knew it had to protect its population on the campuses, especially if they were in states that didn't afford that protection.

Kevin Antoine:
And so I wanted to also briefly talk about the new Equality Act that's before the Congress right now, because that is ... Monumental. So they're the two preceding civil rights laws, which the first were the ones right after the civil war, the reconstruction acts. And then we had the sixty four Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. And now that we have the Equality Act, that is going to amend all those previous laws and include LGBTQ populations to be protected by these federal civil rights laws. And that's monumental because what's going on right now is this is a patchwork kind of thing going on that the case that the Supreme Court had in last year, the Bostok Case that finally said LGBTQ populations were protected under the 64 Civil Rights Act, Title seven, but ... The Civil Rights Act has 12 titles. Title 7 Is just one, they are only protected in employment. They still are not protected in public accommodations, education, housing, employment, all the mean housing.

Kevin Antoine:
And so the Equality Act with one stroke of the pen if Biden signs and we can get it, get it to the Senate and President Biden signs it with the stroke of a pen. All those laws can be amended on the one hat, instead of going law by law, title by title 12 times to try to amend each one to to finally make all Americans, no matter who they are or what color you are or what your identity is, what language you speak, would all be protected under the umbrella of the equality.

Kevin Antoine:
And I just wanted to say it's about the equality yet because there are so the opposition that's against it points out and they point out correctly that the Equality Act broadens our understanding of what public accommodation is, public spaces and that sort of stuff. Right now, we kind of view that just as government space, the sidewalks and that sort of stuff. But what the Equality Act does, it harkens back to the original Civil Rights Act or the Reconstruction Act of the eighteen eighteen sixties - eighteen sixty seven, sixty six sixty five...where public accommodations was treated broadly because we had a whole new population of people that have become free, that have become citizens.

Kevin Antoine:
And what used to happen is that the private company or the private hotel or the private business could just say, this is my private space, you're not welcome here. And so what the Civil Rights Act, the initial Civil Rights Act amended that to say that if you had a gathering of 30, 40 or 50 people, that was a public gathering. So you can't you couldn't be exclusive. So the Equality Act actually harkens back to that. It actually broaden the Civil Rights Act of 64, which actually narrowed that concept. But the Equality Act now makes that makes that a lot broader so that you could have protection. And why that's important - Remember the case about the bakery that they didn't want to do the wedding cake because that was their private space? The Equality Act will make that a public accommodation. If I'm coming in at a shop, it's open to the public. And one thing that I never understood about that case is how does a business have a civil right? I mean, I can say if you're going to somebody's home and they could deny it, I'm not doing that. Businesses, corporations aren't people. They aren't they aren't protected under the Civil Rights Act. So I never really understood the ruling in that case.

Kevin Antoine:
But, you know, I just want to reinforce how progressive the Equality Act is and for these states that still don't have any sort of civil rights protections for LGBTQ now because they receive federal funds, you know, you get your highway money, that sort of stuff. Now, even in some state instances, if the Equality Act is passed that protects you, that umbrella protection will be there.

Kevin Antoine:
And so, again, I just want to again tip my hat off to John and his fellow supervisors for really putting in the legwork and getting this done. He didn't quit because they didn't pass the first time. A lot of times when the opposition when they win the first round, they want to stonewall you, wait you out so that you lose your courage, that you don't bring it up again. So I like the fact that John and his companions and his brothers and sisters in arms stuck it out and got it through. And what that does is it serves as a beacon for some of the other townships in the area, maybe for some of the other counties and particularly at the state level. I mean, if if we have to do it in Pennsylvania, borough by borough, township by township, county by county, we'll do it that way. But I'm going back to what somebody said earlier. You know, this is two hundred and twenty one. I mean, we shouldn't have to be doing it like that anymore.

Kevin Antoine:
A lot of these things should have been settled with, you know, like I said, I grew up in Mississippi and my parents sent my older siblings up to the public high school to integrate it. So I was sort of like a witness. I watched all of that, but I thought all of that was done. You know, that's the thing. We're still working on stuff that should have been remedied 30, 40, 50 years ago. But we we still have to do the work and you still have to stay vigilant. And sometimes it takes this action at the local level to serve as a beacon for states to come in and do the right thing. So I just really wanted to, you know, just to say that I'm impressed with the work that the supervisors have done in the Newtown township.

Kevin Antoine:
I just wanted to end with a couple of facts. And one of my research that I brought up that I just want to relay real quick, so. We only have 22 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, LGBT, LGBTQ status. Only six states explicitly interpret the protection on the Sex Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation and twenty one states have no protection whatsoever. Can you imagine that in twenty twenty one! Twenty one states!

Kevin Antoine:
So mainly what you have is that you have the northeast coast, you have the Northeast, you have the Great Lakes and then you have the West Coast, California, Oregon and Washington. A couple in between between there. But the rest of the country is that whole gray area to the south and the Ohio Valley and those areas - no protection. No protection! And so so we got to get allies - as we learned from some of the other civil rights movement and the women's rights movement. We can't do it by ourselves. So we have to grow our allyship to remedy this problem. But let's do all that we can, whatever it takes to ensure that this Equality Act passes so that for the first time all of the titles within the Civil Rights Act, all 12 of them at one time, will be amended to include this protection. So that's what I really wanted to say tonight, John. Thanks for letting me have the forum to say it.

John Mack:
I'm really looking forward to your work with the Human Relations Commission. I know you pull no punches. You got to be careful about "whatever it takes." I don't know if I'd like that [phrase...], but let's just do it now. I didn't ask Marianne, but did you want to say something more about Kidsbridge and what you're trying to do?

Marianne Alt:
I appreciate the time I think the the biggest thing that I would want to comment on is that we have a very interesting dichotomy in the sense that so many students now... Maybe 10 years ago, we spent a lot of time just being able to say the word "gay" with students. Right. And getting them used to it and having them not laugh and so now we're in a place where so many students are like, what's the big deal? About so many things, including LGBTQ rights. However, there is still this dichotomy of the bullying and the the pressure on LGBTQ youth to conform and to not be who they are. And so it's it's a weird place, I think. And you talk to kids and you you see that they are in a place that is so different than we were before and yet we still, I think, have people coming from a place where the adults in their lives aren't there at all.

Marianne Alt:
And and so just to be aware of the range of information and the range of perspectives that still exist, we have made progress and we are making progress. And it's so refreshing to talk to children who are just like little, of course. Love is love. Well, of course people can love what they want. We wouldn't have heard this 10 years ago. We wouldn't have heard it. Maybe seven years ago. And yet we are still having people being discriminated against and really in painful ways. And so that's the biggest thing that I think I want to say, that our youth are still really at risk and and need our help and need our support and our KidsBridge does the education piece. We're not involved in the in the legislative piece. But we need all the pieces. And so I think, Kevin, what you were saying about the allies and and everyone doing what they're able to do is so important. So thank you for pointing that out and thank you for letting me speak about the KidsBridge.

John Mack:
Thank you Marianne. Speaking of the youth, I'm glad we have Bailey and Alexa here. Maybe they would like to put some personal perspective on this. So Bailey, you want to want to go first if you have something to say?

Baily Coghlan:
...I think that a lot of really important points have been brought up so far. And, you know, some of the things that really stuck out to me are, you know, the existence of queer prom and this pressing issue of Equality Act ... So we're talking at a township level and we're talking how we can improve our township and we have all these things happening at a national level. And, you know, as a queer person, the sort of overarching negative argument against the Equality Act that you just tend to hear is like, you know, we should let regions decide this issue for themselves.

Baily Coghlan:
So then it moved on to state legislatures. And in the Pennsylvania legislature, the House wouldn't even hear such legislation to urge a resolution to affirm LGBTQ youth. So then we're like, OK, we're going to move this to the township level and we do. But what happens when you move down to the township that doesn't affirm LGBTQ youth? It's not like we stop existing in these communities. ...I deeply fear, you know, giving up in the sense that... We always sort of have to keep pushing the bill and pushing social justice values to advance meaningful and important equality within our communities and equity among sort of all people. Because ... If something doesn't pass, it doesn't mean these people stop existing, doesn't mean these problems stop existing. It just means they go unaddressed. And it means that we leave behind a lot of people in what we should be defining and holding as a community. That's why I think Queer Prom was so important, just in affirming and having that visibility that Alexa brought up earlier, that really projects an image that says it's OK to be gay. Believe it or not, in twenty twenty one. But, you know, not only it's OK, but this is something to be celebrated. This is something to be proud of. And it's just so important to see that messaging as a questioning youth or as a youth in a situation that's not ideal. To know that where you may be right now doesn't have to be where you end up. So I think we just always have to continue to push for better, not just better for ourselves, but better for everyone around us.

John Mack:
Yes, don't give up. Alexa, did you have something more to say?

Alexa Shnur:
I didn't really prepare anything, but, um, I, I agree completely with Bailey. I think that visibility is a really important thing. I'm not as educated on the on what each local level of government can do. And I don't know how far like I don't know how we can necessarily fix the things that kids or teenagers just know and believe because of their environments. But I think that as a first step and just as a first step, visibility is really, really important. I think the queer prom is really an incredible thing, just to have that safe space, to have that visibility. And I think that the like levels of resolution, this resolution was a really important step. And you're putting the invitation like, how can we make this into like a day of recognition? And that is also my question, because I really I thought it was really, really significant for us to be there and for us to be able to share experiences and to have that written down. And I think that that visibility is really essential. And that's why I'd like to expand it. And I think having a day of visibility, which is sort of what we had started to discuss and what you shared in the invitation is like that next step, I think, is going to be really important.

Alexa Shnur:
But like Bailey said, it's not the end of the fight or not the end of the work to be done. Even when Mariannes was talking about like kids in schools and, you know, getting used to the word gay. We have made so much progress in so many ways, but like even in that way, we haven't gotten there yet. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard the word homosexual instead of like gay or even LGBTQ. So like we still have so much work to ... I'm sure that we could share experiences, like we'd be happy to. I know. Yes, I would be happy to work with anybody who wanted to reach out. I I'll stop talking so that other people can share. But just we're here and we are we do continue to do the work at our school level where queer kids and allies are always fighting and always continuing the work. So if we can work with people who are part of bigger organizations, that's amazing. And I'd really like to see this continue to grow because I think it's a really important step and I'm just looking forward to see more come from it.

John Mack:
Thank you. I mean, yes, part of the reason I wanted to do this is I didn't want the resolution to just die and nobody ever hear about it anymore. And that's when I started establishing perhaps some specific date is important. I might ask Tara and Bob...I believe he Newtown Borough council did pass a similar resolution, but that it had a specific date. Is that right?

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
I do not have the resolution in front of me right now. It is a year old. We did do the love is love day. I believe it was a day, but I did not attend tonight's meeting, prepared to speak on this. My recollection and my perspective of it is not that it was not one and done. So if that's what you're asking was it was not one but one and done like this one particular day and that was it. And it was over that that was not my understanding of it. So if that's what you're trying to get at.

John Mack:
No, no, no, no. I mean, like, you know, Mother's Day, you know, every year you celebrate Mother's Day.

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
Yeah. And it was the 15th and because that was the day, you know.

John Mack:
So Bob did you have any other information about that?

Robert Szwajkos :
I don't recall, but this borough has since 2011 had an anti-discrimination ordinance and we passed out flags to all the council members in our thank you for that effort. So we've been ...the Borough has been on board for almost 10 years now, and when called upon, we are there to help our youth and adults facing any type of discrimination, so. This town has been here since 1683, and it is a welcoming community and we will continue to be a welcoming committee and if it takes another resolution. We'll get one on board right Tara?

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
Or do the actions of the places where it is less than welcoming to work on, what can we do to help make it more safe.

John Mack:
Well, you know, I've heard many ideas for what we could do in the past. I mean, somebody suggested a parade, gay pride parade like they have in New Hope and whatever is across the river from New Jersey.

Robert Szwajkos :
Let me give an update on the parade, OK? Because of Covid last year - I'm counsel to New Hope Celebrates so I can speak with some authority - we canceled the parade. We had hoped to have it last fall. But as we know, the quarantine continued. As of this morning, we have not made any determination if we're going to be able to have a New Hope Celebrates Pride Festival, which includes the largest and only interstate parade in the United States. We go from Lambertville to come to Pennsylvania.

Robert Szwajkos :
And our youth through Rainbow Room and other organizations are in attendance, and they're the highlight of the parade because of their smiles and the overwhelming support of the community. So I don't think we need another parade. I just think we need a parade. And as soon as the quarantine lifts, maybe in the fall we will have another parade and the youth will be leading us there.

John Mack:
I was in that parade, I forget what year it was, and it was a lot of fun, really.

Robert Szwajkos :
Well, we invite all the elected and candidates to march in front of the parade. We accommodate them and we've had everybody from Ed Rendell, the Kathy Boockvar, to Patrick Murphy, Steve Santarsiero, Perry Warren. I mean, the support has always been overwhelming and is greatly appreciated not only by the New Hope community, but by the Bucks County and Hunterdon County communities.

Robert Szwajkos :
In addition to the celebrations we do and the events throughout the year, New Hope also as FACT Bucks County, which is an HIV AIDS organization. And earlier this evening, they held their second video Bingo. We raised over 60,000 dollars a year and pass that out to the community in blind donations to the people and families dealing with HIV and we're the normally the resource of the last resort. And we work through family services who are tremendous and helping us. So not only are we a welcoming community, we're a charitable community. When we get back to in person, we'll invite all of you to bingo, which is an experience. Normally they're sellouts. We have over 350 people at our bingo. Unfortunately, because of alcohol, we can't have youth there.

Robert Szwajkos :
This region is a welcoming and a defensive and when necessary, offensive community to protect everybody. So I want to thank everybody online tonight because we need all of you. David Bria, who is the president of Yardley Council, came through Rainbow Room. I've known him and I can't be prouder of our youth who have come through that organization and are tremendous leaders and who have risen to elected positions. The mayor of Doylestown is gay. ... We are out in open and proud and we will defend everybody, and it's not just limited these youth, but everybody in our community, so that we demonstrate old Quaker values that everybody is accepted here. So I want to thank everybody and everybody who's worked hard with John making this possible and Marlene making that prom an absolutely amazing event. They they ran out of spaces for chaperones so some of us couldn't attend. So, Marlene, we need a bigger hall and more more adult chaperones to dance. OK.

John Mack:
Thank you, Bob. Yes, Dave Bria was an inspiration to me to develop the anti-discrimination ordinance. I interviewed him way before I became a supervisor. I still have that podcast because I think Yardley was one of the first communities locally to pass such an ordinance. And so we copied what they did, basically working with Dave Bria. He was invited and I assume he couldn't make it tonight, sorry to say.

John Mack:
Kristen, did you say enough about the council work with Gay Straight Alliance? Is there anything else you might want to add?

Kristen Mallon:
Oh, I could talk about them all day. In fact, I raised my hand not just to toot my students' horn because I really can't say enough about Bailey and especially Alexa, who has been such an active member for years now. But I want to share a story, maybe as an idea for other ways that we can move forward and continue to support LGBTQ youth.

Kristen Mallon:
I would argue, and I think Michelle Keillor will back me up on this, that probably the the thing that we did that affected the most change culturally Council Rock North two years ago was the teacher forum. So the GSA worked to put together a forum where they broke down into pairs or trios. And we're talking kids here. Ninth to twelve graders got together and stood in front of small groups of teachers to teach them about LGBTQ issues and how to make their classrooms more LGBTQ friendly, addressing everything from using proper terminology to pronouns, to them being open to questions about this. It turned things around so much, teachers who never felt like they could openly support LGBTQ skinny LGBT. Oh my gosh, I sound like some of our teachers, our queer youth, they have pride flags in their room now, right? They had pride stickers in their room now. Right. Though, there's always room for progress, but they are trying more to incorporate queer history or queer people into their curricula. We're, of course, still working on the student half, but it has really helped to create this culture shift. And so first, I just want to applaud them for that, because to this day, I think that's one of the most significant things that we've done. And they're currently working on building a GSA with the middle school as actually the areas of GSA and the middle school to supporting that. So these really you need to talk to these kids like they came up with it. They're geniuses. They do everything.

Kristen Mallon:
But what made me think about is when I think about myself as a teacher, whether it's in my capacity at GSA or as a teacher, how many kids come to me with and I'm sure Marlene can talk about this in the Rainbow Room experience, but the issues they have within their homes and even with parents who want to be supportive but don't know how to be supportive. Sometimes I wonder about the education piece for parents and promoting some sort of community spaces for the education piece for parents so they can maybe learn about queer issues and how to support their children without putting that burden on the children, because that's a lot to ask the children, to be the educators to their own parents.

Kristen Mallon:
So whether it's parents, whether it's other community members, this is something I would love to work with Marlene on or something. But some sort of like education piece for adults because it can be a generational issue. Younger people are more well versed in these topics. So this is something that came to mind. And I could talk more and more about the amazing things that these kids have done. But just moving forward, ... I think that whether we're promoting the programs that already exist better make them more visible or create new programs so that we not only create visibility for the youth, but can help adults be better supporters of our youth. So that's that's the thing I wanted to share. Thank you.

John Mack:
Well, that's interesting because you talked about education for adults and I see Kevin has some queer studies course at the college. Of Course, I represent Newtown Township and the people you were talking about making the school, I guess, more LGBTQ friendly, but you can't leave out minority students because my fellow supervisor, David Oxley told the story during the discussions we had about this resolution, about how his daughter was bullied in school because her hair was different. Now, you know, that's the kind of a different situation because she can't do anything to hide her hair. And so that was kind of a very moving. I never thought about that. ... What I wanted to say is how can we make, you know, Newtown more LGBTQ friendly or educate a Newtonians? And just some crazy idea came into my head when you talk about education. I know that the Newtown Parks and Rec has a lot of people come in and give classes to adults and children. And, you know, I'm just thinking out loud here. Maybe something like that could could work somehow. But anybody else have any other ideas for how we can move forward and address some problems that are maybe specific to Newtown?

Kevin Antoine:
Let me chyme in real quick. A couple of things that we're doing at the college can probably can be expanded into the community. We we're talking about how we could celebrate love is love on a particular day. And I was thinking about, you know, we have Pride Month in June and an LGBTQ History Month is in October. We could celebrate it either both of those times or or one of those months. So we had our first, from what I'm told, because I had gone back to college a little over a year. But we did two programs for Pride Month in June and we did the LGBTQ History Month program in October. I didn't know about the Love is love ordinance at that time, why I would have reached out and invited.

Kevin Antoine:
So I think doing some collaborative stuff where we're including the different populations, I think we'll maybe even attract more because you brought up the incident about the black female and and her hair. What she faced is also similar to what LGBTQ students may face. It may not be hair, but it's their identity, but they're treated the same way. So I think one of the things that I find is that when you do the training was helpful is that you do several specific incidents or different incidences of unfairness, but they're all treated the same. It's just that they're being treated they're being treated like that for different reasons, but they're all still being treated unfairly. And I think when you when you train that way, it it builds allyship because you're learning something and the other population is learning something.

Kevin Antoine:
I was in one of the trainings in and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I used to always wonder why you would always know what's the deal about putting the pronouns, how you want to after your name and stuff. I couldn't grasp the concept. And then one of my buddies told me, he said, Kevin, it just shows you an ally. And you're not necessarily saying, you know what, you are who you are, that when I see that, I see an ally. So that was something new to me. So I so I think as we design the different trainings, we can do specific trainings for specific populations. But I think we're going to get more mileage when we design the trainings that include different types of discrimination that people will be against, because that way you're going to be you're going to build your allyship.

John Mack:
I see Gayle you have your hand up.

Gayle Evans:
So as a black woman and as a person who grew up in the Newtown community and watched, didn't watch, but I've heard stories. I have an uncle who helped write Council Rock's school song. My mother was a Council Rock student when the seniors went on a trip to Washington, D.C., and my mother was not permitted entrance into the zoo in Washington. And so had to stay behind with an uncle. And and so I've been a witness to watching and witnessing the slow growth that has happened in the Newtown community. And they say the wheels of justice are slow. That is true. But you have an expectation that the community that you live in would move a little bit faster in understanding acceptance and tolerance. And I recall the School District Council Rock was one of the last school districts to allow Martin Luther King's Day to be a holiday.

Gayle Evans:
And so it is truly monumental what has happened here. But what often happens as well is that we look at things in isolation. And when a young girl and I have six daughters and trust me, they've had their hair touch more times than I can count on a million fingers and toes that there is, there's a dehumanization about that. And unfortunately, when we talk about isolated issues we're not getting a full grasp of what the problem is.

Gayle Evans:
And so I do agree with Kevin that allyship is extremely important. It certainly is. But we live in a society where we haven't come to understand what racism is, which is one of the original sins of America. And now we have an expectation that individuals are now going to somehow understand completely the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. And so and we're isolating those. And we know that black trans women are one of the most victimized groups of people in America. And so we're not having conversations about that. When we look at who is here this evening, we're having a public conversation about what many people believe to be private conversations within their own homes. We're not talking about it. We're not introducing it to children. We're not introducing it to the community members that need to that need to know.

Gayle Evans:
We are oftentimes preaching to the choir. I do that on a frequent frequent basis. And so finding how to reach across the aisle - and I truly mean across the aisle - I guarantee you that most of you have a neighbor that you can identify who is in complete disagreement with you when it comes to understanding the needs of people of color, the needs of people who identify somehow differently than you or I do. People who are anti Semitic, people who are anti-Muslim. It runs the gamut. And so I'm hopeful that when these conversations are occurring that we are inclusionary and not excluding groups of people that need to be a part of this dialogue. Because when we do that, we cannot build allyship. We need to be talking about all of those marginalized populations and not to disregard - Believe it or not, there are poor people to live in the community as well. And we need to remember to include them as well when we're having conversations about how we're going to move forward and how we're going to do that collectively and the voices that need to be at the table when you're having the conversations.

John Mack:
Right! Alexa?

Alexa Shnur:
Well, thank you so much for bringing that up. That's a really, really important point. And like making sure that our perspective doesn't just include... If we're talking about LGBTQ+ awareness and protection, we can't only be including white upper class LGBTQ+ people, especially considering how important, as you mentioned, like trans women of color have been to like queer rights. And just in general, we need to make sure that our community is our full community is included in these conversations. And I definitely agree with that and making accessible whatever steps going forward.

Alexa Shnur:
...You mentioned like Parks and Recreation Department and the like. I was thinking I just like parent groups of parents of queer youth. Mallon was talking about just like students coming to her. And I know so many people who, even if their parents are accepting, they just don't they haven't made that final step. I'm really glad to be here and to see so many awesome like ally parents. And I think that if we were to if we are able to make spaces in our community for parents to go as well ...like kids educating their parents on issues that are so close to their hearts can not only be exhausting, but also can be really emotional and really difficult, make it hard to get through. But creating like a space that's accessible, because I know that we do have LGBTQ organizations locally that do parent groups, but they're not free. They're like more therapy groups. If we were able to have like a space like workshops I saw in the in the the chat box, something like that would be really amazing.

Alexa Shnur:
But I just I think the point is I was brought up about just like making sure that everybody's included in those conversations. I think that accessibility is really important. And that's also why I think that visibility beyond the document is really important. It's just a first step because there's so much that needs to be done. But as exciting as it was for all of us who are in the room to know that that was written on paper. If I asked a random student in the GSA who wasn't there, I don't know if they would know that their community had said something so significant. So if that's something that we can make public and use as a way to make accessible other resources industry sorts of education, because there are so many lovely people here who I know are willing to, you know, put in time, I know that I'd be happy to put in some time to help educate at a community level. I just I think that there are a lot of steps that we can take and be really accessible and can be a slow first step, because I think our community might need a little bit of a slower first step, but I think it could still be valuable.

John Mack:
That's some good points. I just wanted to mention that our Human Relations Commission has been trying to get the word out and educate people and had various meetings with a special guests like Karen Downer and others talking about these issues. And Karen was talking about working with the police department. And I know that the Commission will continue to do that.

John Mack:
The Commission is supposed to hear anybody who is discriminated against on the basis of housing or employment [or education] in the town of township, whether they be citizens of the town or not, if it occurs within a business in Newtown. .. Nobody has come forward. I mean, the civil rights movement began with somebody sitting in a bus where they were not supposed to sit and bringing that forward Martin Luther King bringing it forward as a case to really fight around. I'm not saying that I'd like to see somebody discriminated against in housing or employment in Newtown, but I just want people to be realize that that's what that ordinance really is about. And we need more people to understand what the commission can do if they feel that they are discriminated against in employment or housing.

John Mack:
Also, the ordinance makes it illegal, I believe, to do gender modification therapy, where some gay person, their parents ...you can't have a practice where you try to psychologically change a person's gender identity forcefully. And this was something that Dave Bria brought into the ordinance for us.

John Mack:
The other thing is we have a Facebook group called the Newtown Area Anti-Discrimination Group where we try to post a lot of things and continue the discussion that we are having here tonight. I don't know how many of you may be members of that group. We have one hundred and seventeen members right now. It's called just called the Newtown Area Anti-Discrimination Group. And it's not just for Newtown Township. We wanted to include Newtown Borough [and other nearby communities] because of their work in this area as well. So I want you to keep that in mind. If, you know, when we end this conversation, we don't have to really end discussing these ideas. I think that group could be helpful.

John Mack:
And Alexa and Bailey, I... Look forward to how you can really continue to help us, because when you guys came before the Board of Supervisors a year ago that really made an impression. And so. Just keep up the good work.

John Mack:
It's getting a little bit late. Marianne, did you have something?

Marianne Alt:
Yes, and I will keep it short. I just want to piggyback on what Gayle was saying about the intersectionality of things and how no group should be left out. I just want to throw a challenge out to this group and and citizens of Newtown in general, that as long as we have a mascot that is a person on our Council Rock North high school, that I think we are not doing our jobs and we are letting all of ourselves down. And I know that's not specifically LGBTQ, but it is racism. And so I, I just want to say I hope that that can be part of the conversation, too, because as we were saying, as adults, we we need to protect our children and and help them protect themselves and advocate for themselves. So that's all I wanted to say.

John Mack:
Tara?

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
Thanks. There's a lot of really good things in the chat, and I see about two lines at a time and then so if I want to see whatever's written, I'm sitting here trying to listen, look, process and write. And I'm wondering if there's a way that we might be able to say what's in the chat past, the time frame this Zoom meeting exists.

John Mack:
I think I have been recording it.

[Housekeeping discussion.]

John Mack:
You know, expand what we've been talking about to the general community, so or any other ideas for promoting what we're talking about? I would really appreciate I got some ideas here. And we should continue this, hopefully on Facebook...

Barbara Simmons:
John, could I could I say I guess two last things. One is, any time you can have a town hall meeting on these issues, it's going to be important to just put it out there. You don't know. You might have a small group, you might have a medium sized group. But to start that process for these important conversations, and I think overall there's a bigotry that we don't want to see in Newtown. We just don't want to see it. And I saw that with the problem with George school students that came into town and were treated with hostility.

Barbara Simmons:
And so we like to think we're not racist. We like to think that we're really kind people. And so we've just not wanted to really try to do anything about that particular situation. The Asian kids have faced it elsewhere. We really need to, I think, step up the kind of workshops and town halls that could help people to understand how do we make people feel welcome when they come into our community. And so, you know, I feel like I've I've been talking to to people and trying to make things happen. And people say, yes, we need to do this and then nothing happens. And it's been a big frustration of mine.

Barbara Simmons:
And so so I just think that if we could be holding some town hall meetings and saying, what are some of these issues that are happening in our community, let's let's let's talk about them or just saying tonight's going to be education on X, Y, Z, whether it's LGBTQ issues or issues of anti Asian sentiment, anti-Muslim sentiment, racism. You know, if we if people know that it's happening, even if they can't get to it, there's this feeling of, OK, new towns paying attention. And that's important.

John Mack:
I understand that we haven't had very good luck with town hall meetings. We had a town hall meeting with the police chief to discuss, you know, the practices of the police department in terms of racial incidents and that was not very well attended. Of course, this was during Covid restrictions. But we've had meetings that discuss tax increases by Zoom where we had 90 people online. So maybe if we have a town hall meeting and we say it's going to be about [raising] taxes, you'll get a lot of people come and then we switch. You do a switcheroo that would get a lot of people to attend those meetings.

John Mack:
Now, whether that makes an impression, if you just call a meeting, I'm not sure there has to be some specific issue and I don't know what it is. Well, you know something at the township level. Yeah, I'm still interested in doing something like that and maybe through the Human Relations Commission, Kevin, I hope that you might be open to that somehow.

Kevin Antoine:
Yeah, I am. That's I think we can. Make it up.

John Mack:
Maybe there's some kind of joint thing between the college and the township, since you're already having some of these courses and other things going on, you know, the college is an integral part of the township. It's, you know, one of the reasons people come through the town and into town. And it's just not about the residents, it's about the visitors to the township. And so it might be interesting to do some kind of a joint thing where we have what did you call it, a "alliedship"?

Kevin Antoine:
Allyship. Is that a real work place that in Scrabble? I don't know.

Tara Grunde-McLaughlin:
It would be I think you said with a D, John. So not allied with Ally. Ally..

Gayle Evans:
Yeah, I'm sorry, I just like to say one more thing and then I have to go put a grandson to bed. But but what I would like to say is that, you know, the Peace Center has been offering workshops for nearly 40 years on dismantling racism, diversity, cultural humility.

Gayle Evans:
And we routinely do trainings and workshops with organizations, with businesses, with schools were in hundreds of schools having conversations with kids about celebrating diversity, talking about kindness and all sorts of things. And I will say that I had the pleasure of working at the community college for 19 years prior to moving to United Way and the Pew Center and have always worked on behalf of marginalized communities. And so what I do know is that and we can all agree the civil rights movement didn't didn't happen in one night, wasn't one meeting. It wasn't one town hall, it wasn't one meeting in the church basement. And it wasn't and it took some time even for Rosa Parks to achieve her mission.

Gayle Evans:
And so we have to understand that just trying something once and people don't show up doesn't mean that we can stop, because what I know as a woman of color and anybody else who identifies differently that you can see on the outside, you don't have the option of changing who you are each day. So some people have the option of walking down State Street in Newtown and just knowing who they are. I don't have that luxury. My kids don't have that luxury. Many people I know don't have that luxury. And so if we're going to say because people don't come out to a town hall meeting to talk about this issue, we're doing a disservice to everyone in the community. And so we need to be absolutely committed. My my pastor would say you can't have one foot in and one foot out. Either you're all the way in or you're all the way out. But if you're all the way in, that means giving the time, giving the commitment, putting the energy in. And it doesn't mean that when you're stopped at the door, I think about what would have happened if my grandparents said, you're not welcome here. I wouldn't be here.

Gayle Evans:
I'm grateful, I'm grateful for the education I got, but I have some things that I can complain about as well. And so what I don't want is for new families moving into the community to have to complain or people who want to move in the community and don't feel welcome. I can tell you that Newtown can represent itself as being welcome. My church is on State Street in Newtown, Macedonia Baptist Church. And I can tell you that many people who attend our church that are people of color do not feel welcome in Newtown. And so and that's today, not 10 years ago. Not 20 years ago, not 30 years ago. That's today. And that tells me that we have to be committed to to the change. I know. Say, if we're going to walk the way to start walking, that's all right. And so I'm offering myself I'm offering services of the Peace Center to do workshops. We would love to collaborate. We've done workshops at the community college. We've done them all over the county. We've done some national things. So you have resources in your in your back yard that we're that are there and ready if you're willing to accept them,

John Mack:
Well, look, let's get back to that idea of Parks and Rec with that's where a lot of workshops occur. I mean, they're teaching you things how to do yoga with goats. I mean, you know, so they're open to anything. But I think the Human Relations Commission is important. And I can't just say to the Parks and Rec department, let's do this. We need a voice. And if you have workshops that you want to bring to Newtown, you know, this summer camp for kids, there's maybe opportunities already got the whole program worked out. It's it's very extensive. So I don't know if you could do it this year. That's, you know, the issue. So these things take planning and maybe that's something that we can do. I'm sure there might be many parents who would like their children to know about diversity and you know, how hurtful it is to be discriminatory. I think many parents would welcome that as this as an activity that the Parks and Rec department offers.

John Mack:
Just a thought, you know. ...if people don't think it's a good idea, let me know.

Barbara Simmons:
It's great to have it offered for businesses as well. I think we need to have a focus on it that really I love the idea of always doing workshops for Parks and Rec. But I think that as a community, we need to make a commitment to these kinds of workshops and town hall meetings. It's a little bit different flavor when your your supervisors and your borough officials are saying we need to make some changes. We need we need to engage in learning so that our businesses are more welcoming, our community is more welcoming. And so I just as much as I like Parks and Rec, I don't want to dis them. I think this has to take a little bit of a different path.

John Mack:
I know before this meeting, we were discussing other things to celebrate this, for example, getting businesses to put stickers in their windows a little. Signs saying how welcome they are to LGBTQ or whatever, and I know that Newtown hopes to bring new businesses to Newtown and support the businesses that exist here and but it's a two way street, they have to support the values of our residents. So it'll take a little bit of doing to bring businesses into the fold, perhaps. And I know I could start with Bob Lutz at the Green Parrot. We've often discussed this and the Newtown Business Association - We could try to get something going there.

John Mack:
I just need to think through this a little bit more with more some more concrete ideas, so please try to join up with the anti discriminatory group, Facebook group. And that's the way I think we can keep in touch.

John Mack:
Anything else, closing remarks? I want to thank everybody, and I'm really, really sorry for screwing up. I'm just glad that people were able to eventually get online and have this really wonderful discussion. It was really great. Thank you very much.

[Various goodbyes]

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Posted on 14 Mar 2021, 01:20 - Category: Discrimination

Newtown Human Relations Commission Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which ended on October 15, 2020, the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission (NTHRC) hosted a presentation by guest speaker Dr. Leticia Ferri, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Global People & Business Resource Group Lead. Dr. Ferri spoke at the October 21, 2020, NTHRC Zoom meeting about “Being Latino in the U.S.”

Dr. Ferri focused on the Bristol-Myers Squibb People & Business Resource Group, which she leads. 

Of particular interest was the financial impact of Latinos on the U.S. economy (see, for example, the GDP chart below) and among the electorate. 

"The future of the U.S. workforce." claimed Dr. Ferri, "speaks Spanish." She presented data that suggested 74% of U.S. workers in the not-too-distant future will be Hispanics. Thus, "an aging America is counting on Latino contributions - in the amount of $101.8 Billion per year - to Social Security. In addition, 31.5 million Latinos are eligible to vote in 2020!

Latino vs. Hispanic

Commission member Angelic Acevedo defined the difference between the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic.” The former is derived from the Latin word for “Spain.” People from Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas are considered Hispanic. Latino is a short version of the term “latinoamericano,” the Spanish word for Latin American. It includes people with Portuguese roots, such as Brazilians.” In Europe, French, Italian and Romanian people are also considered “Latinos.”

You can view the presentations by Dr. Ferri and Ms. Acevedo here.

About the Newtown Human Relations Commission

The Newtown Township Human Relations Commission was established by the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township on November 28, 2018, by the enactment of the Newtown Township Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, in order to ensure that all persons, regardless of actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and are afforded equal opportunities for employment, housing and the use of public accommodations, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions.

Join The Newtown Area Anti-Discrimination Facebook Group

The Newtown Area Anti-Discrimination Facebook Group was inspired by the Newtown Township Anti-discrimination Ordinance and the Human Relations Commissions of both the Township and Borough. Members of this group discuss Newtown area discrimination issues and post relevant information, learnings, etc. to share with other members. This is NOT an official Newtown Township or Borough Facebook Group. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the members and do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of any governmental entity.

Posted on 26 Oct 2020, 01:09 - Category: Discrimination

Letter & Petition to Council Rock School District

A letter and petition written by two former Council Rock School District (CRSD) students was sent on July 15, 2020 to the Council Rock School Board, the Superintendent of Schools, and various school principals.

[See the letter embedded at the end of this post.]

The letter urges the Council Rock School District (CRSD) to "do better and actively prepare their students to become upstanding citizens who will fight for progressive change." CRSD, claim the authors of the letter, falls short of its very own mission statement: “Council Rock School District, in partnership with its community, empowers all students with the knowledge, habits, and attitudes to become life-long learners and to lead and serve in a diverse global society.”

"We know that by now you are well aware of the protests occurring throughout the country in response to the ongoing police brutality and systemic racism that have been woven into the fabric of the United States since the first enslaved peoples arrived here in 1619," state the authors..

The letter notes that "on social media, many of our classmates have spoken against the Black Lives Matter movement and refuse to acknowledge systemic racism," which indicates a need for CRSD to "actively prepare their students to become upstanding citizens who will fight for progressive change."

Action Steps

The letter lists several "action steps" that CRSD should follow to achieve that goal, including:

  • Ban all Confederate flags on campus
  • Change the name of Council Rock North’s mascot to something inoffensive
  • Add more Black/indigenous/LGBTQ history to the curriculum for American history courses
  • Make an active effort to hire and train a more diverse, non-white teaching staff
  • Allow students to create Black and POC student unions

Creating a K-12 curriculum to combat racism was on of the pledges I took as a paricipant in the June 4, 2020, "Enough is Enough" vigil at the Garden of Reflection hosted by NAACP Bucks and the Peace Center.

Read the Letter, Sign the Petition

See the letter embedded below (or download the pdf file) and sign the petition here.

Posted on 17 Jun 2020, 01:38 - Category: Discrimination

Newtown Supervisors Plan a Town Hall Meeting with Police

A the June 10, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, I suggested to Newtown Police Chief John Hearn that the township host a public "Town Hall" meeting where police officers and the community - especially residents who feel they have issues with the police - can get to know one another and have a meaningful dialog. In essence, a bigger, more inclusive, version of "Coffee with a Cop". This is something similar to what the Chief has done on a monthly basis when he was a Captain in the Philadelphia police force.

Listen to the Zoom meeting discussion:

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Supervisors Plan Town Hall Meeting with Police

Hearn was selected to be the Newtown Chief of Police back in Februray 2020 after an exhaustive process that involved screening over 20 applicants (read “Meet Newtown Township’s New Police Chief”).

In my review of Hearn's application, I noted the following:

  1. He has experience preparing budgets for special events
  2. He takes an analytical approach to making decisions based on facts
  3. He believes technology can minimize the cost of training
  4. In his previous position he assigned officers “areas of influence” where they are required to knock on doors and visit businesses and introduce themselves
  5. He held special “traffic safety blitzes” and emphasized education vs. tickets
  6. He implemented a “walking with a cop” program
  7. He held monthly town halls with citizens

Back in March, 2019, when I first wrote about this, I noted that of particular interest to me were items #6 and #7 on this list. Since then I have often brought up the subject of a town hall with the Chief, but not until the #blacklivesmatter demonstrations and, in particular, the June 4, 2020, Vigil at the Garden of Reflection, did this move to the top of my list. It is part of my Vigil pledge to “begin community dialogue … about combating racism and making our community safe for everyone.”

I will be working with fellow Supervisor David Oxley, community leaders, Chief Hearn and Township Manager Micah Lewis to plan for this live Town Hall meeting, which we hope can happen in July 2020, conditions permitting.

NAACP’s Challenge

Every police department in Bucks County must publicly speak out against racism and the unjust killing of black Americans by law enforcement. That was the challenge issued Tuesday, June 9, 2020, by members of the Bucks County NAACP, which sponsored the June 4, 2020, Vigil in the Garden of Reflection (see end of post).

Here’s the response by Newtown Police Chief John Hearn made at the June 10, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Zoom meeting (view the full video archive here):

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Township Police Chief Hearn's Message To the Community

Posted on 13 Jun 2020, 01:11 - Category: Discrimination

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