Lyme-Old Lyme Partnership for Social Justice forms to address education reform, affordable housing and more
A group of nearly two dozen people have formed the Lyme-Old Lyme Partnership for Social Justice, announced Thursday.
Per a news release, the mission of the volunteer group is to "educate residents on important topics of social justice and call attention to opportunities where citizens can support local, state and national social justice efforts."
The group has formed four task forces: education reform, affordable housing, police accountability and New London partnerships.
Members Steve Jungkeit, senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, and John Kiker, a church member who serves as second selectman in Lyme, said the idea for the partnership originated from the desire to keep the momentum going after two racial justice rallies this summer.
Rallies were held in Old Lyme on June 6 and Lyme on June 14. Lyme-Old Lyme High School senior Sadie Frankel, who has worked with Kiker for the past couple years and written pieces for the Lyme Democratic Town Committee, organized the second rally and is involved in the newly announced partnership.
"We want to be able to make sure that this effort just continues, and we're just sort of struggling right now to make sure that it does," Kiker said. He added, "There's people that are engaged, there's people that want to make some change."
Kiker said the partnership is holding an educational event about affordable housing on Sept. 23, starting at 5:30 p.m., at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.
The group also plans to arrange monthly seminars and/or meetings, appear before town boards and commissions, and form a network of residents willing to contact elected officials on issues.
Jungkeit spoke of the lack of diversity in Lyme and Old Lyme, noting that there weren't many people of color in attendance at the June events and that the Partnership for Social Justice membership is mostly white so far. He said the group would love more input, and anyone interested in getting involved can email LOLPartnership4SJ@gmail.com.
Frankel said she's seen several times that the lack of diversity in Lyme-Old Lyme "leads to alienation of whatever diversity we do have, and uncomfortable comments towards people of color." She added that the textbooks in the schools are very "whitewashed," and that students learn a lot more about white European history than African or Asian history.
Along with addressing curriculum, the partnership's Task Force on Education Reform is working with school administration and the Board of Education to recruit teachers of color and to create a diversity committee of students, staff and parents. Kiker said the school system has been very open to hearing ideas.
On police accountability, Jungkeit said there hasn't been a problem with police in Old Lyme but it's "necessary to have those conversations with police, in the interest of not accusing them of a problem that hasn't occurred but of ensuring that a problem doesn't occur."
Jungkeit has been working with Project ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement), an initiative out of Georgetown Law intended "to prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm and to create a law enforcement culture that supports peer intervention."
He said it's about both preserving the welfare of police and preventing the harm of others.
"It's a hard job," Jungkeit said. "It's a hard job to be a policeman, a policewoman, and we recognize that, and I think this is a way to build into the culture of a police department that kind of intervention and that kind of accountability, so that it just reduces and minimizes harm."
As for the Task Force on New London Partnerships, Jungkeit said the goal is to "eliminate the barriers that exist within our county." The church partners with the New London Homeless Hospitality Center and Madry Temple Church but is looking for other ways to build bridges with New London.
The Lyme-Old Lyme Partnership for Social Justice also is affiliated with the Old Saybrook March for Justice.