Sanford leaders work to address inequality in the community

The Race, Equality, Equity and Inclusion Comittee formed in wake of Trayvon Martin’s death

SANFORD, Fla. – Community leaders are reflecting on the death of Trayvon Martin, but in their reflection, a call to action has risen and they’re looking to have tough conversations about racial inequalities.

Leaders say they are looking to get results for everyone in the community no matter their race, color or ethnicity.

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This comes 10 years after protesters first marched in Sanford’s streets following the death of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012.

Among the crowd calling for change was Dr. Velma Williams who was a sitting city commissioner.

“It was very, very stressful during those particular times,” Williams said. “I knew it was important for me to take a stand, but I had to be wise in my deliberations.”

In those tough talks, Williams says she has been able to help form a “Blue Ribbon Panel” to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities of color.

Fast forward 10 years and Williams says that work takes a new form.

“We still have a long ways to go,” she said. “I do feel that the appointment of this committee is a plus... because it sends a message... that they are listening.”

Williams is now a co-chair of the Race, Equality, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

It was approved last February and formed this past November.

It’s goal is for the 16 members comprising the committee to go into the community and ask the hard questions.

“(Are) there embedded injustices in the community? What are those injustices and what do you want to about them?” said Andrew Thomas, Sanford’s community and engagement director.

Thomas oversees the committee and says it’s backed by Sanford city commissioners. The board agreed to provide $35,000 worth of funds to the committee for technical assistance, conducting surveys and other costs.

Part of the committee’s resolution is as follows:

“The city of Sanford recognizes racism and social inequities unfairly disadvantages specific individuals and communities and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources… The collective prosperity of the City depends upon the equitable access to opportunity for every resident regardless of the color of their skin or social status.”

For many in Sanford, Martin’s death was a wake-up call that action needed to be taken.

“It has forced all of us to be more realistic and focus on and accept that there is a problem,” Williams said.

Committee members are now in the process of surveying where inequalities lie in terms of housing, health care, employment, education, law enforcement and more.

“If you look at Sanford now compared to then you will see some stark differences and if I start with one is this committee that was formed to continue to look it,” Thomas said. “But we are looking and saying we can always do better and we are looking at how if it’s good, how can we make it better?”

Next month, a forum called “Sanford Speaks” will be held during which residents living in the area can voice their concerns about any inequalities they may face.

The committee says everyone is welcome as they look how to make real change together.

To find out more about how you can voice your concerns, click here.

About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.