Human Relation Commission helps bridge the gap between the city and community

Dr.+Patricia+Welch+Saleeby+talks+to+the+commission+about+disability+awarness%2C+Monday%2C+Nov.+5%2C+2018%2C+at+the+Human+Relations+Commission+Meeting+at+City+Hall.+%28Nick+Knappenburger+%7C+%40nickknappenburger_de%29

Dr. Patricia Welch Saleeby talks to the commission about disability awarness, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, at the Human Relations Commission Meeting at City Hall. (Nick Knappenburger | @nickknappenburger_de)

By Janae Mosby, Staff Reporter

The Human Relation Commission has been serving the Carbondale community since 2003 and their mission is to help the citizens of Carbondale with issues they have and to bridge the gap between the city and the community.

The HRC is a city council appointed commission that serves as an advisory board to the city.

“The first real mandate for the Human Relation Commission was in response to police behaviors towards minorities. We had students who were unjustly accused and arrested because they were Black,” vice-chair of the HRC and professor in the Department of Africana Studies Dr. Joseph Brown said.

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After that, the community demanded that there be an oversight  for those issues. The targeting of young, black men for being Black has always been part of the reason for the HRC’s existence, Joseph Brown said 

The commission is a place where many different people come together to discuss the issues of justice, equity and fairness.

“The main purpose of the whole commission is to give those who feel like they don’t have a voice, a voice,” chair of the HRC Stephanie Brown said.

The HRC holds meetings on the first Monday of every month, and during these meetings, social groups around Carbondale are welcome to talk about events they are holding, Stephanie Brown said.

“We have six or seven groups that actually report in at every HRC meeting, like Racial Justice, Carbondale Race Unity and Neighborhood Alliance. Those are just a few,” Commissioner Anita Brown said.

Citizens of Carbondale can also attend the meetings to address any issues they are having concerning the city.

“We, as a board, will listen to their complaints, help them file complaints and take it to the city council,” Stephanie Brown said.

The HRC helps to build relationships between the people in Carbondale and to offer support if someone encounters an issue with race, color, religion, sex and a number of other issues, Anita Brown said.

“The commission is supposed to create opportunities and an environment where people feel safe, where people feel listened to and where advocates for the marginalized can come and speak,” Joseph Brown said.

Also, the HRC wants to encourage people who are working on social justice issues and give them a place where they can meet and talk to each other, Joseph Brown said.

Last month, the HRC hosted a meeting for all the community civic organizations. The purpose of this meeting was to help the HRC understand what the organizations’ missions were so they could help accomplish it.

“At our last meeting, we had an open town hall forum where we invited community groups to come and talk about what they are doing in the community so they can get to know us, but also so we can get to know them,” Anita Brown said.  

A member of the Carbondale Police Department attends the monthly commission meeting along with giving a report.

“We request that we get semiannual reports from the Carbondale Police Department and any other police department that interacts with people in the Carbondale city limit,” Stephanie Brown said.

These reports contain any complaints and any interaction with the general public. The HRC looks over these reports to see if there are any concerning trends, Stephanie Brown said. 

The HRC is working to make Carbondale a better place for the people living in the area by implementing special programs.

“It is my goal as the chair to make sure we are providing educational and other programs that prompt equal rights and opportunities for all people,” Stephanie Brown said.

No issues have been brought to the commission concerning COVID-19, but they are taking precautions to ensure the members safety. 

“It’s been a challenge with COVID because we were meeting face-to-face once a month and we didn’t meet for a while. We’ve only had a couple of meetings on Zoom that resumed in the late summer,” Anita Brown said.

Though they are not meeting face-to-face, the HRC is still working on bringing awareness to racial issues and social inequalities. They hold open discussions for people to come and voice their issues.

Other issues in Carbondale that the HRC is currently focusing on are reducing violence on all levels, racial unity and helping the economically underserved whether it was because of COVID-19 or other reasons, Anita Brown said. 

“Even though we are not meeting in person, we still want people to feel like they have a voice,” Stephanie Brown said.

In the future, the HRC is hoping to get involved with the next nationwide chief of police election. 

The Human Relations Commission is also looking for SIU students that are interested in joining the commission as student representatives.

“We have to hear from the young people because the young people on our campus really are our present and our future,” Joseph Brown said. 

Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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