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Featured Letter: Anti-Bias Task Force event to promote diversity, understanding

The Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force will present a program called Synergy at the Southold Recreation Center April 28. The task force’s mission is to “promote diversity, unity and understanding within Southold Town.”

I am currently the chairperson of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force. Pledging ourselves to be both proactive and to react to bias as it occurs both nationally and locally, our members have collaborated with other Suffolk County communities and organizations to encourage informative dialogue among various community groups and their law enforcement officers in search of improved relationships. We call the initiative “Synergy.”

At the request of the Southold task force members, we will join them to create a program similar to those held in Hauppauge, Riverhead and Southampton, where representatives of law enforcement agencies joined community members in an open and respectful cross-cultural conversation.

The program is an opportunity for community members to engage in a constructive dialogue with police officers from multiple departments. Past gatherings have included high school students, immigrants and interpreters, community leaders and community members who sat in a circle, talked and learned about expectations, needs, fears and appropriate ways to dialogue.

We will begin the session with an outline of the rules. We want all those in attendance to be heard. Experience has taught us that there are some from all factions of the community who have had interactive difficulties with each other; there are others who have not, but still may have reason to share at our session. All disagreements will be regarded as food for conversation and can be used to create strategies that are even better than either side has thought of before.

Borrowing from the Native American tradition called the talking stick — where only those holding the stick can talk — we will seek to ensure that everyone is respected and all input is valued. Empathic listening will be the main objective to plan for future successful interactions.

Additionally, all who present a concern will be encouraged to offer a suggestion, for a solution or a management strategy. The hope is that such exchanges will begin the healing of community to law enforcement relationships to bring about better, safer, collaborative and cooperative unity.
Please take this opportunity to join us as we ensure the forces — the police and Anti-Bias Task Force — are with us all.

James W. Banks
chairperson, Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force