Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Commission discusses concerns and Pride month

Ellensburg City Hall where the DEI Commission meetings take place

Ellensburg City Hall where the DEI Commission meetings take place

Elliott Watkins, Staff Reporter

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Commission of Ellensburg discussed LGBTQ+ centric issues at their meeting on Tuesday, May 10. 

To begin the meeting, the agenda was approved by the commission members; it included the staff briefing from City of Ellensburg Human Relations Director Lisa Young, a discussion about the hate crime that recently happened at the Ellensburg High School (EHS), a review of DEI proclamations for the month of June regarding Pride, subcommittee reports and public comments. 

The DEI was established in 2020, and has seven committee members. Those members are Mayra Colazo, Tylene Carnell, Kandee Cleary, Daniel Amos, Teresa Divine, Sara Omrani and City Council Member and Commission Chair Nancy Goodloe. 

“We have people in this town that have lived experiences that are different from what others perceive experiences in this town to be. It is time that those living experiences are recognized,” Carnell said.

The staff briefing from Young emphasized the importance of breaking down implicit biases in the community. According to Young, there are many workshops she plans to attend and two she has attended that showcase the systemic biases people face when seeking employment. 

After the staff briefing, the commission discussed the ways they could respond to the EHS hate crime (see “Ellensburg High School takes precaution against threats towards LGBTQ+ students”). The DEI wrote a letter to the city council and the EHS school board asking to become a united front against discrimination in the community. 

The DEI declared they believe the acts of hate at EHS were more severe that bullying, and should be classified as acts of discrimination and intimidation.

“The DEI Commission supports the parents, families, and student victims targeted in the Ellensburg School District (ESD) incident, as well as those targeted in other incidents in Ellensburg,” the DEI Commission said in their letter.

The letter stated: “We call on the Ellensburg City Council, the Ellensburg School District, and Central Washington University to unite in a public statement against bullying, in our community, in the school district, and on the CWU campus.”

The letter also invited community members to help create more welcoming opportunities for diverse peoples and acknowledge the differences in our community as a strength. 

The meeting transitioned into a conversation about implementing LGBTQ+-friendly events and celebrations during Pride Month. The DEI discussed pride ideas they could execute at the Farmer’s Market in Ellensburg throughout the month of June. 

According to Public Information Officer for the City of Ellensburg, Nicole Klauss, the work that is being done by the DEI commission is extremely important, and based on a series of listening tours that a subcommittee of city council members did in 2020.

“They learned about all of the work that there is to be done surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion in the city,” Klauss said. “This commission was formed as a result of what they learned and is now tasked with working on all of those things.”

According to Goodloe, student involvement would be game-changing for the DEI commission and inclusivity in Ellensburg. 

“That will be the key to the success of the DEI commission and what we do … whether or not we can find a good way to bring community members together that want to be allies and want to support what we are doing,” Goodloe said. 

According to Klauss, there is a website that the DEI is involved with that allows community members to express their thoughts.

While the DEI commission is still establishing itself in the community, DEI members encourage the people of Ellensburg to show up to meetings, and to reach out at beheardeburg.com with their experiences related to DEI issues in Ellensburg.

“If you want to find out specifically about the meeting topics, you can go to our website ci.ellensburg.wa.us and we have a page that has all of our agendas and minutes for the commission,” Klauss said.