Dover Committee for Racial Equity and Inclusion member Lina Shayo

Dover Committee for Racial Equity and Inclusion member Lina Shayo, an attorney in Manchester, said people need to feel as if they are in a safe space when dealing with municipal government and elected boards.

The subject of racial equity and inclusion in the city of Dover was the topic Thursday night for a newly formed committee created to identify and make recommendations to eliminate potential relics of systematic racism in municipal operations.

Oscany Rodriguez-DeJesus, a member of the Committee for Racial Equity and Inclusion, said work needs to be done to foster the thought that it is not odd or dangerous to have an all-female or all-minority elected board representing the community. She said having diversity in representation would attract more people to the area.

“I’m so used to having a mostly White, mostly male majority representing my community and I think it might be interesting to see the flip side,” Rodriguez-DeJesus said.

Margaret Fogarty said she envisions building a community that is more capable of responding when racial issues come up.

“I can picture a community of people, whether it’s the employees of this municipality — or I have a sense of it being a broader multi-stakeholder frame — that we are increasingly confident, and willing and courageous to talk about how racism and exclusion show up in our community,” Fogarty said.

Dover is New Hampshire’s fifth-largest community, with an estimated 31,771 residents. City Manager Michael Joyal said the population is 91% White.

Committee members discussed working to acknowledge the fact that Dover’s settlement in 1623 displaced Native Americans. Luz Bay asked if the committee could do an acknowledgement at the start of every meeting.

School Board Representative Jessica Rozzo said there is discussion of incorporating Black history as part of regular lessons in K-12 curriculums, instead of focusing on it during Black History Month.

Dover city councilors formed the ad-hoc committee on Oct. 28 following their unanimous ratification of a June 2020 resolution, “Condemning Racism and Affirming City of Dover’s Commitment to Eliminating Racial Inequities.”

The committee’s inaugural meeting was held on Dec. 3.

City Councilors have charged the committee with reviewing data, holding listening sessions, and recommending “an action plan outlining existing and new steps to be taken to work to eliminate any potential relics of past systematic racism in municipal operations, including boards and commissions.”

“I feel like we all live and are connected in an ecosystem and it’s OK and important for us to make recommendations that are both looking at city of Dover operations but also looking at how the city of Dover relates to the community at large,” Daniel Pontoh said.

Pontoh suggested the committee start by collecting biographic data from the city’s human resources department and school district.

He also suggested it ask for school disciplinary and law enforcement data.

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