By The Members of Stand Up for Change: Navarro County
Dear Mayor Denbow, City of Corsicana, Parks and Recreation, Corsicana Main Street et al:
Recently, the City of Corsicana proper in cooperation with Corsicana Parks and Recreation and the Corsicana Main Street organization announced plans for the celebration of the 175th year of Corsicana.
As an organization formed to help combat a long list of community issues, Stand Up for Change: Navarro County, is dedicated to repairing relationships and the longstanding disenfranchisement of marginalized groups within our community. We would be remiss not to point out that the current steering committee painfully lacks the diversity and inclusion that is truly representative of the demographic of Corsicana.
In a statement delivered at the June 27, 2022 City Council meeting, Mayor Denbow was quoted as saying, “The City of Corsicana practices inclusion and the recognition of diversity every day in the hiring practices and in the day to day management.” We believe that the events surrounding the 175th anniversary of the city is a wonderful opportunity to put those words into practice. It is well known that addressing unconscious bias takes conscious effort. It is our goal to identify places where unconscious bias has created unintentional separatism and apply a conscious effort to fix it.
There were several quotes in the 175th Anniversary Announcement that stand out. “The City of Corsicana is rich in its heritage of oil, cattle, cotton, and railroads.” As well as, “[…] we remember our past as well as look ahead to creating a future that is representative of all Corsicana.” Both are attributed to Sharla Allen, the Parks and Recreation Director. We are in agreeance that the city is rich with heritage; however, the selection of planned events is narrow and exclusive and two of the industries mentioned (cotton and railroad) relied heavily on the labor of enslaved people. How is it that the descendants of these very people were not considered when planning a celebration of the city’s history? The second quote is certainly a promising statement regarding representation of the entire community, but it is still unclear whether effort was made to consider who should be asked to represent each facet of our diverse community when the committee appointees were chosen.
Amy Tidwell is quoted as saying, “…we are thrilled to see how this celebration will connect our residents, businesses and community leaders.” This is another promising statement of inclusivity, but again – in practice it seems as though little to no effort was made.
According to recent census data, Corsicana proper is home to 23,700 people. Approximately 39.4 percent of the population is White (non-Hispanic), 33.92 percent is Hispanic, 17.4 percent is Black, 2.75 percent is Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 2.4 percent is Native American Indian, 1.29 percent is Asian, and the remaining +/- 3 percent is of various non-white demography.
It would be a strong show of good faith if the steering committee for a city-wide, year long series of celebrations were reflective of these percentages. There are 22 people appointed to this committee. In order to be representative of the entire community:
9 of those representatives should be white-non-Hispanic.
8 of those people should be Hispanic.
4 of those people should be Black.
And any additional number of representatives on this committee should come from other ethnic groups which can be found in quantifiable percentages in this community. As you know, this is not the case. The above breakdown is the kind of overt effort that is needed so that entire subsets of the population are not left consistently unrepresented, and whether intentionally or not, completely left out.
Representation matters. Research shows that diversity and inclusion in schools, the workplace and in society have both tangible and intangible benefits. In order for the City of Corsicana to grow in terms of economy and innovation, it is clear that a change in current practices must be made. Stand Up is committed to ensuring that decisions and practices are made that uphold a standard of representation at all levels of society.
Mayor Denbow pledged that, “In the future we will continue to work toward cooperation and transparency in all city issues for the benefit of all citizens.” Since the steering committee is not currently reflective of the community, the following questions were raised:
1. How was the committee selected/formed?
2. What businesses and organizations were contacted while building the list?
3. When did planning begin for the anniversary celebration?
4. How will the City of Corsicana avoid insular and selective appointments in the future? We look forward to the promised transparency as these questions are answered by those who had a voice in forming the steering committee.
It is our opinion that there need to be events that celebrate all citizens. In the list of events that the 175th Anniversary Celebration plans to co-op, there were many oversights. For example, there was no mention of events commonly celebrated by members of our community including, but not limited to: Pride, Juneteenth, Día de los Muertos, Indigenous People’s Day, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and so forth. Even the sheer omittance of the types of events these community members would enjoy taking part in is disheartening.
It is our opinion that the steering committee should be disbanded and rebuilt to be reflective of the demographics of the city using the data provided above. Without the entirety of the community involved, the entirety of the community cannot be celebrated. Pushing the people who were left out into sub committees is not an adequate solution.
It is our opinion that going forward, more diverse people should be hired by the city at all levels including a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) expert in order to prevent these types of faux pas from happening in the future. We ask that you join us in making a conscious effort to steer Corsicana into being a more inclusive community going into its 175th year and beyond.
The Members of Stand Up for Change: Navarro County
A big THANK YOU to our supporters:
The Hull Creative Arts Foundation and the Lampier Family.
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