Six named to city’s Human Rights Committee

Six people have been appointed to the city’s new Human Rights Advisory Committee when the Salisbury City Council met on Nov. 14.

Mayor Jake Day appointed Billy Earl Amos, Maureen McNeill, Chalarra Sessoms, the Rev. John Wright, Amy Zaprowski and Dillon Prochnicki. Their terms will end in November 2020.

Once all appointments are made, a chairman or chairwoman will be chosen for the panel, suggested last summer by City Councilman Jim Ireton.

After 49 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a June shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Ireton told the City Council he felt a committee was needed “to guide those who feel they are being discriminated against and don’t know where to go for help.”

“Maybe we should stand up and say, ‘This is not a place where we want those things to happen,’ that we are extending protections,” he said.

“These are the things that move us forward — emotionally, professionally, morally — and give us a sense of ownership in our town,” Ireton said.

“It would be another notch in our belt that the city includes dozens of races and creeds in our city and of course the LGBT community,” Ireton said.

This week, Ireton told the Salisbury Independent he’s looking forward to the community having “an entity it can go to if they feel discrimination is happening.”

“Given the political winds that are blowing, this is a timely and necessary step,” he said.

City Council President Jack Heath said Ireton will be the liaison between the council and advisory committee.

“It’s a wide-ranging committee. Bullying falls in there and diversity. It’s a great source of information and I believe it will be one of the most active committees,” Heath said.

When he suggested forming the committee last summer, Ireton said there are people in town who “want to say these things aren’t happening and are either scared to say something about it or don’t know where to go for fear of retaliation.”

Councilwoman April Jackson agreed.

“You have the right to be whatever you want to be and you should not be discriminated against,” she said.

Councilman Muir Boda said he would also like city leaders to make a list of resources available “for kids who are struggling” and for conflict resolution.

During the Public Comments portion of the July meeting, a man who introduced himself as a new resident said the wise have observed that civilizations are judged by what they do, and don’t do, in terms of the vulnerable.

“I think this step is important. There is obviously a lot of detail that needs to be worked out … this is the time for something like this to happen,” he said.

Ireton said the city has “incredible diversity.”

“The diversity we see Downtown at 3rd Friday or 1st Saturday, that is what’s going on. Buildings are nice and they will come but there have to be people in those buildings … There is a group of Salisbury residents who have never felt like they were home,” Ireton said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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