Climate for Freedom
by Polly Attwood | published in The Concord Journal
30 years ago, a racial incident at CCHS, on the last day of school, prompted several reactions in the community. METCO parents were on the verge of pulling out of Concord; the schools took a long hard look at curriculum, and what they were – or were not – doing to ensure a safe and productive learning environment; and the Superintendent, in partnership with concerned residents, held a series of meetings in Concord.
These ‘Climate for Freedom’ meetings resulted in several new initiatives. These included changes in the curriculum to make it more inclusive, more in-service training for staff, the start of a Host Family program to help students and parents form strong ties between the communities of Concord, Carlisle and Boston; and the formation of the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council.
So this year, the Council marks its 30th anniversary. In those years the Council has developed considerably, refining its mission, and its understanding of how to work more effectively with and in the communities of Carlisle and Concord. About 650 households have signed on as members, and are represented by a Board of officers, organizational representatives and members at large. It sees its charge as being threefold: education, advocacy, and acting as a resource for the community in case of incidents of discrimination. Among other activities, the Council holds some annual events – the December Human Rights Day Breakfast, the January MLK Celebration, and, at the request of the Board of Selectmen, the Annual Holocaust Memorial Observance. 2008 will be the 28th annual Holocaust Observance held in Concord. A newsletter, ‘Climate for Freedom’ is published twice a year, and the Council participates in the July 4th Picnic-in-the-Park, as well as the December Shopping Night.
Every other year, the Council gives the Climate for Freedom Award to a group or organization in the community who have furthered the ideals of the Council – in a quote from the Founding documents – ‘The climate of the community is the responsibility of the community.’
In addition to these annual events, the Council works with the Board of Selectmen, the Police Department, the Public and the Independent schools, and supports other organizations in town – Prison Outreach, Prism, Spectrum, PFLAG, Concord-Clergy-Laity, METCO and Friends of METCO, Minuteman Arc, Adult and Community Education and the Hypatia Foundation. It has also contributed financial support, enabling more school personnel to attend the annual METCO Directors’ Conference, supported Peer Leadership events at CCHS, and provided scholarship/campership money for students to participate in sports, music or summer tutoring programs.
As well as the annual events, working with community groups, and supporting initiatives that help the cause of equity and fairness, the Council acts as a resource of information for residents and visitors to the community who are the targets of hate crime or discrimination. These incidents, while not frequent (or not frequently reported), are more numerous than they should be. Response to them will be explored more fully in the next article.
The Council’s address is: P.O.Box 744, Concord, MA 01742. Anyone wanting more information can call 978-369-6365 – leave a message – we will get back to you within 24 hours.
Polly Attwood, Co-chair, Concord Carlisle Human Rights Council P. O. Box 744, Concord MA 01742 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org