February may be the dreariest month in the calendar from a weather perspective, but in Riverside elected officials managed to inject a couple of rays of light.
At the same meeting of the village board on Feb. 17, trustees voted to both approve Juneteenth as a paid holiday for village employees and OK a contract with Amita-Presence Behavioral Health to provide crisis intervention services through the village’s public safety department.
In a way, both issues are linked in that they had their origins, at least in Riverside, in the events of summer 2020. While the village largely escaped the direct turmoil, violence and disruption experienced by its neighbors to the east and north, the Black Lives Matter protests targeting police violence against people of color did spark some introspection and frank conversations about race and mental health as well as how local governments can help change attitudes in responding to those questions.
In the wake of a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Guthrie Park on June 19, 2020, this newspaper commented on the significance of that date, which was not lost on the organizers of the demonstration, which included a reading for the Emancipation Proclamation.
We suggested at the time that it would be absolutely appropriate to mark June 19 – Juneteenth – as a pivotal moment in American history, as significant as any other, by ending once and for all the institution of slavery.
That most white Americans were essentially clueless about the date underscored the need to confront a centuries’ long shame largely glossed over as some sort of aberration instead of a foundational sin.
The issue dovetailed with historic police violence against Black Americans, often in response to mental health crises. Speaking publicly and frankly about the need to change the way police respond to mental health crises in Riverside during that summer of 2020 was new and welcome. Last month’s partnership with PBH is the first step in changing that approach.
There’s a long way to go, of course. There is presently a convoys of trucks seeking to shut down the nation’s capital because people are upset about wearing masks and getting vaccinated against a plague and craven senators and congressional representatives openly root against America in favor of a Russian dictator attacking a neighboring country.
Locally, at least, we seem to be making progress.
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Across two pages in last week’s Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, we listed the 1,367 people living in our seven neighborhoods who made a donation to Growing Community Media in 2021. GCM is the nonprofit we created in 2019 as we looked to build a new and sustainable model for community journalism for the decades to come.
We see our reporting as being the glue that holds our towns close, the fact-based reporting that holds our leaders accountable, and the forum for civil debate that affirms our democratic ways.
That’s a lot. And, we believe, along with 1,367 of our neighbors, that it is an essential investment for the towns and city neighborhoods we cover every day.
Join in. The amount you invest does not matter. Being part of this does matter.
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