PORTSMOUTH — Almost exactly one year following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Portsmouth City Council introduced a discussion item devised to condemn and denounce acts of hate and discrimination in the city.
Council’s newest members- 4th Ward Councilwoman Lyvette Mosley and 6th Ward Councilman Dennis Packard- spoke on the matter during Monday night’s City Managers session.
The prepared document submitted to the City Clerk and received by the Portsmouth Daily Times focused on the recent and historical inequities that people of color face in this country.
“A resolution such as this has no cost to the public whatsoever, but the benefit is priceless,” said Packard in his description to the council, advocating for a sense of diversity exhibited at Shawnee State University.
Mosley attested to discrimination she has experienced through her life, describing the alterations she has made to her hair to look like her co-workers and her attempts at finding work in the city.
“People of color have been discriminated against because of the way they wear their hair,” she said, these adjustments leading to her diagnosis with alopecia. “If their hair is in its own natural form, the way they were born, they said that it is not professional.”
This discrimination has happened across the country and led to the passge of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020. While failing to be passed in the Senate, the CROWN Act has been enacted by other cities including Columbus last month and Akron in December.
Mosley originally thought this discrimination wasn’t happening in Portsmouth, it seems like the residents “got along.” Following an inquiry, however, she realized this was taking place locally.
“They have learned to adapt to that way of thinking, which it should not be,” she said of those who spoke with her. “We all should feel comfortable with who God made us and what he has given us.”
As currently organized, the resolution is made of six sections which include action to be taken by council and encouragement of action at the Statehouse through the Ohio General Assembly, Ohio Department of Health, and Gov. Mike DeWine.
“Under the leadership of Gov. DeWine, the State of Ohio has been a leader in its public health response to the pandemic, and should be a leader in addressing acts of hate and discrimination as well,” reads the resolution.
Specifically, the resolution is calling for the passage of two legislation pieces introduced during the previous assembly in the capital. Senate Bill 98 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 respectively called for the creation of the Ohio Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs Commission and defining racism as a public health crisis.
Vetoed out of the Senate Finance Committee March, SB 98’s primary sponsor Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Canal Winchester, called on DeWine to still create the AAPI Commission through executive order.
“We need to hear more from public officials about the need to unite and face this crisis together, rather than allow fear and stereotypes to divide us,” she said in a July release.“We need our leaders to reflect on their role and acknowledge how implicit bias impacts public health. We need leadership grounded in truth and committed to openly opposing racism in all its forms.”
The resolution, introduced by Sens. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus and Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, had the backing of the governor but did not see it come to a vote.
Council decided to move both the denouncement and the CROWN Act as separate items into the managers’ conference agenda for its next meeting Mar. 8.
“We say we’re trying to make our city inclusive and make people feel comfortable, then this is something we should do,” said Mosley in advocation for the legislation.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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