The Farmers’ Market Advisory Council voted to dissolve the Broadening Inclusion Group in a meeting Monday evening attended by over 150 people.
The Broadening Inclusion Group, a subcommittee of the council made up of volunteers, received widespread criticism over a statement posted on the market’s Facebook page addressing the death of George Floyd and other Black people killed by police. The statement also condemned Black-on-Black violence, which was the source of the criticism.
Council member Janice Lilly made the motion to dissolve the Broadening Inclusion Group. She said she thought the best decision is to start anew.
“I believe the name ‘Broadening Inclusion’ unfortunately now is probably not usable because of the statement that was published and the fact that it’s been on social media,” she said. “That statement has caused a lot of pain and a lot of conflict.”
She said some vendors also wanted to see the group dissolved.
The vote was 6 to 1 with two council members marked as abstaining because they did not respond over Zoom.
Council member and chair Cortland Carrington moved to suspend the Broadening Inclusion Group until the council writes a charter detailing how the subcommittee should work.
“I believe the B and I mission is too important to abandon and my concern is that by dissolving it, it appears that we’re abandoning it,” he said. “I believe we need input from civic leaders and citizens alike as we equip it with a right and proper charter.”
The motion failed with three council members in favor and six opposed.
Before the council voted on each of these motions, council members were allowed to comment on the motions. Council member Lynn Schwartzberg commented on her concerns about the Broadening Inclusion Group’s statement and the importance of listening to others.
“It concerns me very deeply that the reactionary behavior of our community can cause such upheaval,” she said. “I think one of the biggest challenges as a society that we are living in right now is that we must all learn to listen to one another because we are all completely different people. We all come from completely different places, and we all see the world differently, and we must learn to close our mouths, which I will do now, and listen.”
Council member Suzanne Mann said she also wanted to hear from the public but drew criticism in the chat when she characterized the public’s reaction as “emotional.”
“This is moving very fast,” she said. “We react so quickly and it’s an emotional reaction, and I would like to have a little more cerebral activity.”
Community members were then allowed to comment. About 30 community members publicly commented, including community activists and three IU professors.
Jada Bee of Black Lives Matter B-town and others called for not only the disbanding of the Broadening Inclusion Group but the market itself.
“Y’all need to think real clearly about whether you have the ability to steward this town in this matter because you do not,” she said to the council. “Every single one of you, along with the Broadening Inclusion board should resign, disband and turn the market over to the vendors who are more capable of deciding what is happening.”
Some called for market coordinator Marcia Veldman and Paula McDevitt, the Parks and Recreation Department administrator, to resign as well.
Carrington said two council members have already resigned from the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council.
The calls for officials to resign were not just in response to the motions and the Facebook statement written by the Broadening Inclusion Group but to the controversy surrounding the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market after the council continued to allow Schooner Creek Farm, a vendor with ties to a white supremacist organization, to sell at the market.
Abby Ang, founder of No Space for Hate Bloomington, also commented on white supremacy at the market and the Broadening Inclusion Group.
“A Broadening Inclusion Group is meaningless when there are white supremacists at the market,” she said. “I’m angry about the tone-policing that’s been happening, telling people that they’ve been reacting emotionally when racism and white supremacy have been long-standing, ongoing issues at the market.”
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