The increasing diversity of our City presents opportunities to be celebrated and challenges to be met with compassion and action. My own immigrant grandparents faced many of the same challenges as today’s immigrants, but they also had some advantages that most of Burlington’s newest immigrants do not, like speaking English, white skin, and a far easier path to legal citizenship.

Many New Americans want and need to participate in our civic discourse, but there are barriers and obstacles to doing so.  It is our responsibility to find new ways to reach out and make sure all community members can fully participate. Some actions we have taken and need to continue to do more of include moving meetings to more convenient and comfortable locations, providing translations of ballots and City website, and creating a new department of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

Joan’s support of our diverse community:

  • Prior to COVID, I worked with African immigrant leaders to organize a meeting, bringing immigrants together with school commissioners and councilors at the King Street Youth Center to hear concerns in an environment that is familiar and comfortable.

  • Brought together women from Eritrea seeking a venue for pop up dining events with the owners of ArtsRiot, bringing Ethiopian and Eritrean food to the South End.  These women have now expanded their businesses to include a variety of catering and pop up events throughout the region. All of us benefit from their success creating opportunities to taste one of Africa’s finest culinary cuisines!

  • Supported the establishment and funding of the City’s first Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Director and quickly expanding the position to include two more support employees.