Months in the making, Brookhaven’s 37-member Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission will meet for the first time in a Dec. 17 virtual meeting.
The group was created after the nationwide protests in early summer against racial injustice and police brutality. It will review the city’s vision, mission statement and charter, its policies and procedures, public engagement and communication outreach.
The diverse group of volunteers will also be looking at the Brookhaven Police Department’s use of force policy, oversight and accountability to identify, evaluate and report potential recommendations to the city council.
The Dec. 17 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Zoom. For details, see its webpage here.
The commission’s meetings will include a 30-minute public forum period, where each person will have three minutes to speak; if time runs out, the speaker list will carry over to the next commission meeting. The commission also accepts public comments via email at PublicComment@BrookhavenGa.gov.
The first order of business when the commission meets is to set the groundwork for how it will all work. The members will get to meet Mayor John Ernst and city staff. They’ll hear from the city attorney about how to operate a public body, said John Funny, chair of the commission. Funny also serves as vice-chair of the city Planning Commission.
Information about the demographics of people who live and work in the city will be relayed, Funny said. The more the group knows going in, the better, he said.
“They need to understand who we are,” he said.
The commission, made up of residents from various walks of life, education, occupation, religions, ages and experience, was selected from about 60 applicants. Among the members are David Alexander and Danita Knight.
Prior to the recent 100-plus days of protests in Portland, Oregan, Alexander said he lived through acts by White supremacists there.
The head minister at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta, he was involved in a group of community leaders who worked with the mayor’s office and the police to respond to certain events.
“It was a big deal in Portland,” he said of the racial and social issues.
Alexander moved to Brookhaven last year and found out several months ago from a congregant about Brookhaven’s new Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission.
“I thought it would be a good way to get my toe in the water,” he said about applying to be on the board.
There’s been a lot to complain about in 2020, said Knight, who works in communications and marketing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur.
“But you can’t complain unless you want to be part of the solution,” she said.
Knight read about the formation of the committee and just decided “to do it.”
“By nature, I’m a change agent,” she said, “so we’ll see.”
The city is paying $84,635 to Chrysalis Lab to provide facilitation services to the commission. That money comes from a total of $95,000 in general funds the city has budgeted for the commission, according to a city spokesperson.
“We’re going to let the professionals do it,” Funny said about a playbook on how to get work accomplished.
The commission will give the City Council periodic updates on its progress. The 37 members will be divided into groups to get more accomplished at one time, Funny said.
The public is welcome to get involved and can email email@example.com to show an interest.
The commission will meet once a month for a year and maybe longer if need be, according to City Manager Christian Sigman.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the $84,635 payment to Chrysalis Lab is in addition to the $95,000 operating budget rather than being paid from that $95,000 budget.