As the year closes, the Rutland Area NAACP is proud to reflect on the progress and impact we have made in our community. Many of you who are reading this have played a part in this effort through your membership in the Rutland Area NAACP and in the ways you have upheld justice in your local situations. Thank you for those efforts. It takes all of us working together to affect the kinds of changes we all value.
This year, the Rutland Area NAACP has made significant strides in advancing legislation that promotes social justice and equality, including school branding, mascot legislation and environmental justice. We have also continued to fight for police accountability and an end to qualified immunity, and have partnered with organizations like the ACLU and Ben & Jerry’s to bring about change.
Our commitment to community engagement has been a top priority, as we have worked to get out the vote and engage with candidates running for office to help them better understand the issues that are important to us from the perspective of the BIPOC community, and to ensure that their views align with these values. We have also partnered with the Attorney General’s office to build a hate-free Vermont, and have cultivated relationships with local colleges and universities, including Bennington College and Castleton University, to support and empower the next generation of leaders.
In addition to our advocacy work, we have also made a positive impact on the lives of BIPOC in our community through initiatives like our hair clinics, which have provided much-needed hair care services to over a hundred children. This has led to the creation of two permanent salons in Bennington and Rutland. With the help of donations, we have also been able to help sponsor their start-up expenses. We also prioritized leadership development support by connecting BIPOC folks within our state with opportunities and sometimes financial support.
However, make no mistake: the Rutland Area NAACP continues to witness the effects of systemic injustices in various systems, particularly education, criminal justice, and healthcare. In 2022, the community of Bennington witnessed the tragic, needless deaths of several young Black people, which has had a significant impact on the small Black community of 1.4% in a county of over 30,000 people. The nature of their deaths, rooted as they were in the continuing unjust treatment of Black and Brown people in our communities, has caused mistrust in these systems and a lack of confidence in how people of color are treated and welcomed. In Rutland, a Black man lost his life to a gruesome murder, now being charged as a hate crime. This is in juxtaposition with the disproportionate punishment of people of color in the criminal justice system, that we are witnessing first-hand both quantitatively and qualitatively. Additionally, our school districts have seen a rise in cases of hazing, harassment, and bullying that have not been effectively addressed. This puts the safety of our children at risk in public schools, where children should be free to grow and learn without restraint of hate and vitriol being spewed at them.
We remain committed to fighting for justice and equality in all that we do, and we are grateful to our partners and members for their support and dedication. Together, we can continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve.
We consider our members and the community at large as partners also. In these continually challenging times, we need the support of our community more than ever. That’s why we are asking you to consider giving the gift of membership to the Rutland Area NAACP, to yourself and to the significant others in your life. This membership will not only help us continue our important work, but will also allow more people to be part of the solution, and to make all our voices heard in the fight for justice and equality.
Additionally, we welcome any donations that you may make to support these efforts. Every person counts and every dollar counts, as together we continue to pursue our shared mission of promoting justice and equality for all.
Thank you for your support and for standing with us in the fight for justice. Together, we can make a positive difference in our community and beyond.