Chestertown Equity Advisory Committee
Chestertown Unites Against Racism
November 9, 2021
Present- John Queen, Vic Sensenig, Kate Livie, Bishop Ronald Fisher, Thomas Hayman Maegan White, Reverend Robert Brown
Absent-, Jenn Baker, Ruth Shoge
Executive Action: Minutes from October, 2021, were approved by Vic Sensenig, seconded by Bishop Fisher.
Chairman: Meeting began at 7:08 PM.
Queen reported on the progress of the 2nd installment of the book club, which has been completed. Otero Jackson was the facilitator and the event was well-attended. This will be the last official event hosted by the EAC.
Federal Housing Complexes in Kent County
John Queen and Councilman Herz reported on the awareness provided by the EAC for the Town Council on discrimination in local Federal Housing complexes like Brook Meadows. Queen reported that six families were brought to testify to living conditions and unfair practices.
Additionally, Washington College partners have reached out with additional resources. Committee member Maegan White said it was good to see this issue being addressed by the Mayor and Council—that Washington College students are interested in ongoing accountability.
Thomas Hayman commented that he felt the council was receptive to addressing the issue and learning more.
John Queen reported that Bill Ingersoll was already addressing it, and Sam Shoge and John Queen both have spoken to him directly about the issue.
Tom Herz thanked John and said he was writing a letter to Congressman Harris about it as it was a federal issue that the town can’t directly oversee. He encouraged follow-up with Bill Ingersoll on how to approach the issue, and encouraged EAC and the public to reach out to Bill as a first step. Hertz further reiterated support at the Town Council level.
Queen went on to more fully detail the issue. Renovations were slated in 202 but not started, a dozen residents were displaced with no follow up.
He also commented that currently 7 African American families are seeking legal representation against these discriminatory practices, but that there are others as well. Queen stressed the need for legal representation, someone with a full understanding about federal regulations for subsidized housing.
Thomas Hayman remarked about the availability of DHCD grants and programs like it with home ownership funding as an alternate solution.
Queen replied that ownership is a concept not commonly viewed as achievable in the Black community.
Bishop Fisher remarked that he was sorry to hear fewer African American local residents know about the process and grants that support home ownership. He said his church has hosted workshops on that subject in the past and would be happy to connect it to the EAC/ local residents as a resource.
Vic Sensenig offered college resources on the issue, and said that there might be some potential for classes on the subject.
John Queen suggested considering wrapping up now that the election has concluded, at some point between November – January.
Livie commented that she felt proud of what the committee had accomplished and that some of the elements of the 16 month plan might have been too ambitious given the timeline. She further commented that many of the initiatives, like Juneteenth, will be ongoing and that is more important than checking every box on the to-do list.
Maeghan White said she was proud of the relationship between WAC and the Town of Chestertown, and that the community needs to been an environment where people feel like they can come forward. She felt it was the Town’s responsibility to make sure whatever happens next, that the leadership is prepared to be better equipped in the future with whatever issues might come up.
Bishop Fisher commented that he felt the EAC had overcome many things in light of change sni leadership, and he appreciated all of the people and friendships he had connected with through the committee. Because of the EAC Fisher feels that he has other avenues to reach out and vice versa, but obviously groups like this focusing on racial equity are needed.
Vic Sensenig echoes Bishop Fisher, stating that the work was unfinished, but this kind of work will always be ongoing. He stated that he was proud of the group’s accomplishments, and taking steps in the right direction for Chestertown.
Reverend Brown thanked John, and the committee for providing unity, working together. Brown was cautious about directly “passing the torch” in the committee as currently structured, and wants the passion for the work not to come to a halt.
Thomas Hayman echoed Reverend Brown, and would like to see this kind of effort continued, but wondered how much the committee actually actively advised the Town Council, and rather, worked alone without much Council support.
John Queen remarked that the vision of the plan was really focused on community organizing, and appreciated the way the Committee had been a forum for comments, discussion, organizing, and debate with EAC leaders. He agreed that it was time to pass the torch, but how best to keep the work going? Would that be to refer these issues to the Town’s Ethics Committee.
Hertz responded that wasn’t really the intent of the Ethics Committee, which mostly focuses on complaints regarding the Town Council or staff.
Livie suggested the town develop an on-call standing committee, much like the Bay Bridge Advisory Committee that provides guidance to the Commissioners on the Bay Bridge issue when the topic comes up on the state level from time to time. Rather than an ad-hoc committee like the EAC, this permanent committee could be called upon as needed for guidance and as a sounding board.
John Queen agreed, and commented that he felt the community needed a way to address and deal with changes within its own groups and neighborhoods, and that power lies in people. Looking back at the EAC’s accomplishments, in particular, he felt the more open conversation about the local 20th century lynching and the signage installed at the waterfront was significant.
Vic Sensenig asked about next steps, any final comments for the EAC.
Tom Herz commented that when the EAC was formed, he was glad to have a place to go and learn about issues without an axe to grind, but it seemed natural for the initiative to be reaching an ebb point.
Queen remarked that his plan was to wrap up the committee’s work with a recommendation for next steps as a contingency plan. He suggested that a permanent committee (instead of ad-hoc like the EAC) might be the right strategy, and that it was in the Town’s hands to vote to develop a standing, on-call committee of this nature.
Bishop Fisher thanked group and John Queen for his leadership.
John Queen thanked the committee for their leadership and input.
Public Comment: Agenda
Individuals or groups will be provided 2 minutes (NO EXCEPTIONS)
No public joined the meeting.
John Queen voted to adjourn at 8:10 PM. Vic Sensenig seconded.