Ashland Group, AREA, Promotes DiversityDec 31, 2020 11:34AM ● By Cynthia Whitty
Left to right: AREA co-founders, Margaret Musoke and Cara Tirrell. (Photo/supplied)
When George Floyd was murdered last spring while being arrested by several police officers, many people were horrified by the callous disregard for his life. Ashland residents Cara Tirrell and Margaret Musoke said, “Mothers everywhere heard their sons crying ‘Mama.’” Tirrell and Musoke heard a call to action. They decided they wanted to come together as mothers and friends and make a difference.
In June, Tirrell and Musoke invited together other mothers, fathers, friends, and neighbors who wanted to find a way to make Ashland more inclusive. “We invited a group of POC (People of Color), educators, and allies,” Tirrell said. “From those first meetings we chose a name for our group, AREA: Ashland Residents for Equity and Action, and decided on a mission: ‘A group of People of Color and their allies in Ashland working together to ensure that their voices are represented in local civic organizations, government, and schools. We support and promote People of Color-run businesses in Metrowest as engines of economic development that benefit the community at large. Through community action we want to make Ashland a safe and inclusive community for all.’”
The group then established two subcommittees, one toaddress the public school’s curriculum and one to promote representation of people of color on Ashland committees and boards and in local government. The first subcommittee introduced a curriculum in September with the school system that includes anti-racist education and historically accurate information as well as hiring practices for educators who reflect the diverse community at large.
The second subcommittee developed a forum for residents to learn about opportunities for POC to have a “seat at the table.” Tirrell noted, “POC on local boards and committees only further benefits the Ashland community.”
As more Ashland residents have joined AREA, the group has been hosted several meetings with Ashland’s Assistant Superintendent Michael Caira and Warren School Principal Peter Regan. In addition, several members of AREA have researched, attended, or joined town boards, including the Affordable Housing Trust Committee, Parent Teacher Organization, Ashland Education Foundation, Inc., Ashland Cultural Council, and the Dog Park Committee. AREA has also approached the Ashland Business Association, compiled a list of BIPOC- (black, Indigenous and people of color) owned businesses, and will continue to promote these businesses in Metrowest.
“We have reached out to town administration and will continue to connect with boards and committees to support our mission of inclusivity,” Tirrell said. “AREA plans to pursue 501c3 [nonprofit] status, since obtaining funds and grants will allow more anti-racist programming and education in Ashland.”
The members of AREA include Margaret Musoke, president; Barbra Sekesogundu, vice president; Cara Tirrell, secretary; Moala and Raymond Kitayimbwa; Alan and Sandra Galiwango; Nancy De Romero; Lisa Abbascia; Makeda Keegan; Senti and Susie Kironde; Amaris Pena; Abby Powers; Bernadette Lunkuse; Tonya Yaskovich; Rajashree Ghosh; Claudette Rowe; Serena Lillie; and Ashley Place.
To find out more about AREA, visit ashlandequity.org.