For the second time in three months, a meeting of the Revere Human Rights Commission (HRC) was forced to adjourn when a small group of rowdy people became disruptive at the end of the meeting.
HRC President Janine Grillo Marra brought the meeting to an abrupt end when members of the public refused to heed her request to speak only when she was recognized on the podium. Although comments made by members of the public were inaudible on the live stream (the Journal reporter was not present), it was evident that some of the attendees were making comments out loud.
The meeting began with a preview of what would happen next when a member of the public came forward expressing a desire to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, Marra informed the woman that she would have the opportunity to speak during the public forum portion of the meeting.
Marra then gave the order to the meeting.
“Well, that was a funny way to start,” Marra noted.
In addition to Marra, fellow Commissioners Lynn Alexis, Fire Chief Chris Bright, Police Chief David Callahan, Chai Hossani, Rachid Moukhabir, Kourou Pich, Reverend Timothy Bogertman and Dr Lourenco Garcia were present, as well as the Executive Director of HRC. , Dr. Maritsa Barros, EdD, who was recently named the city’s Chief Officer of Talent and Culture.
After the commissioners’ roll call, the commission held what it calls in its agenda a “land recognition,” which, Marra said, “helps us remember the history of this land and to pay homage to him”.
Marra first presented a slide that read, “We would like to thank the traditional overseers of this land on which this meeting is taking place and honor what this land means to the culture and traditions of those who originally occupied this space. . Additionally, we welcome all Indigenous, Native American, and/or First Nations peoples who join us today.
She then presented another slide of a historical map of southern New England that showed the various native tribes that occupied the area before the arrival of European settlers.
Marra then rang a bell to signify the “Arrive and Settle In” item on the evening’s agenda. This part of the agenda is a reflective session led by Marra instead of the usual pledge of allegiance that precedes all other city councils and commissions.
Marra presented a photo of the sky with pink clouds during the exercise.
“See if you can be like heaven with your own experience, so whatever sensations, emotions, thoughts are here, see if you can be a welcoming host or hostess to that experience,” Marra said.
“Now let’s take a moment of silence to include what is happening in the world in Ukraine, those under attack, those who are fighting, the fear, the powerlessness, the domination,” Marra continued. “Let’s see if we can include everything in our hearts, because conflict, violence and division are not the way we are wired. Despite how things may appear, we are more fundamentally connected than we realize.
Marra then rang a bell to signal the next agenda item, in which the commissioners together recited the HRC’s mission statement, which states the following:
“The mission of the Revere Human Rights Commission is to promote human and civil rights and to empower all people in Revere by ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, have equitable opportunities, access equal and be treated with dignity, respect, fairness, and justice”.
After Marra presented a slide to educate individuals on how they can support the people of Ukraine, Barros then presented his Director’s Report. Barros’ topics and comments were as follows:
a. March is Women’s History Month:
“I want to remind us to celebrate women every day,” Barros said.
b. 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge:
“This challenge calls on individuals to develop a new habit of engaging and learning around issues and conversations about race and anti-racism. We will take up this challenge as city employees. There is information on our website,” Barros said. “We are starting to do our work in the city. There are opportunities for daily engagement as we begin to exercise this muscle of inclusive intelligence. It is a work of self-development.
“I want to thank you for the initiative and the effort,” said Garcia, commenting on Barros’ presentation. “I think it comes at the right time and at the right time. When people work together in partnership, we can accomplish a lot. Revere needs us to work with all people, of all races, identities and cultures. The goal is to support all families at all levels, especially those who have been marginalized.
“If we want to abolish racism in our city, we all have to play a part,” Barros added. “We need to educate ourselves on what it takes to be a racially equitable city.”
vs. Mission and vision (overview) for the coming months:
Barros then explained what she sees as the city’s vision for the future. She highlighted parts of the mission statement and the need to align the commission’s work to identify goals for the city’s Municipal Racial Equity Action Plan (REMAP).
“Fairness will not come without collective effort,” she said. “We have to overcome our differences.”
“Thank you so much for keeping us going,” Bogertman said.
“I’m excited for the job,” added Alexis.
“As a white person, I try my best to understand what racism means, because I haven’t really understood it,” Marra said. “It’s not about taking away from a group, but how we can have a better sense of belonging…and understanding how I, as a white person, may have contributed to systemic racism.”
The meeting then moved on to his “talking points:”
a. Reminders for the public:
Marra informed members of the public that they can submit agenda items through the HRC website.
Under “Other Business”, none of the members presented new business.
The meeting then moved on to its final agenda item, “Open Forum”.
Grillo began this part of the meeting by presenting the guidelines for the commission’s public meetings, emphasizing that the public forum should be conducted in a respectful manner.
“We want to know what’s working well in the city and what’s not working well, what we’re not doing,” Marra said.
Gina Salamone Castiello, who said she is a lifelong Revere resident, was the first member of the public to address the commission.
“You talked about conflict, fight and division. I think that particular group, the Human Rights Commission and the City of Revere, is the cause,” she said.
“You walk into Revere High and there’s a big Black Lives Matter banner,” she continued. “Critical Race Theory is pushed and incites violence in our community…I am totally against it, as are few other white people.
“My liberties are taken here in the town of Revere,” Castiello continued. “There is no systemic racism in the town of Revere…. Being of Italian descent, I am very personally affected by the removal of some of our celebrations such as Columbus Day. I seek to be respected and heard in my community. I’m looking for the town I grew up in to be normal, if you will. I welcome anyone who comes to our community with open arms. However, being a long-time taxpayer, I am not looking for preferential treatment, I am looking for equal treatment. Too many people get special treatment and I think this commission helps them along the way.
The next member of the public to speak, who gave only her first name (Claudia), then took to the podium.
“I am a resident and an employee of the city,” she said. “I hadn’t planned to speak. I think you are doing a great job. I have seen people wanting to participate more and apply for jobs in the city that may not have been comfortable before. I just want to say, ‘Thank you.’ It’s easier for people to be part of the Revere town team.
Castiello then returned to the podium.
“People are scared, they’re scared to speak up, scared of losing their jobs if they don’t agree with what this body stands for in our city,” she said. “It’s pushing critical race theory and creating a lot of division in our city.”
Castiello, who said she was present at the committee meeting in December, said she was later called ‘trash’ by a committee member and another attendee was called a ‘supremacist’ White”.
Commissioners Bogertman, Pich, Alexis and Moukhabir addressed the issues raised by Castiello and said they welcomed the conversation and his perspective. They also apologized for the negative comments he received in December.
Marra pointed out that the city’s demographics are changing and that 60% of the city’s residents are now non-white.
Another member of the public, Michael Sparks, a long-time resident and veteran, then addressed the commission.
“To me, it’s scary, a Black Lives Matter sign with a fist in high school,” he said. “Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization. They burned down most of the country for the past two years, then their leader took millions of dollars and built a mansion. I’m afraid this stuff will be promoted in high school and allowed…. It’s clearly coming from the United Nations… but it’s the United States of America. We are not run by the United Nations. Their ideas don’t have to envelop our ideas… I just mean that all lives matter.
After Sparks’ initial comments, a vitriolic exchange ensued between Sparks, Barros and Marra. When Sparks sat down, random outbursts from audience members (who were off-camera), similar to what happened in the December 2 meeting, then took place.
Marra gave the reunion what she called a “suspension.”
However, the meeting did not resume and was adjourned.