I AM CONCERNED ABOUT THE COMMUNITY MEAL CENTER IN NEW LONDON, CT

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Guest Post: (By Roland C.A Dunham, ll) Dear Editor: Being a Black man who is civically engaged with the New London Lions Club it concerns me to hear the mistreatment of a Black woman who sits on The Board of the New London Community Meal Center. The New London Lions Club has a rich history with the New London Community Meal Center and I wish to carry on the tradition under the right conditions. Historically, The New London Meal Center would ask The New London Lions Club for assistance in fundraising, preparing meals and other projects to improve the quality of life for the people who need it the most in our respective communities. The first thing that comes to my mind is our Club Past President Milton Cook who was the exemplary of ‘Black Excellent’! Being a person who benefited from The Community Meal Center both as a patron and a volunteer, I am aware of the institution’s importance in the Black Community as well as the community at large.

Recently, The Board at The Community Meal Center began to consider a name change. Hearing these changes concerned me because The Board didn’t officially seek assistance from the New London Lions Club about the matter or even ask our opinion given our staunch support over many years. My concerns grew once I came to a Zoom Meeting with The Mayor, The City Counselors, The New London NAACP and The Board Member: Previous Vice President Debbie Basnight, the whistleblower on the Board’s racism, harassment, and other shady and questionable practices expressed and supported with evidence and facts. The question is what are we going to do about it as members of the Black Community?

Before anyone retorts with what are you doing about the situation, I have supported The Meal Center Board with 3 Young Black Professionals and 1 Black Latino Professional to help with diversity and inclusion on a predominately White Board with hardly no New London Community representation at this time! At this moment, The Board, and some of their members have not acknowledged the candidates that were presented by previous Vice President Basnight. And there have been growing allegations in regards to The Board not wanting anyone who advocates for and from New London represented on The Board! My question to them is why and what gives you the right to do that when you don’t live in the New London community? As the elections are slowly approaching I would strongly encourage The Black Community and New London citizenry to attend to make our presence known in the New London Community Meal Center.

In conclusion to this op-ed, I am observing how the leaders are handling the matters that concern me as a voter! How can you consider yourself a leader in the community and not be supportive of the elders in our community such as Past Vice President Debbie Basnight? We who voted for you are not the people who come to take photo opts from our neighboring towns to act as if they are philanthropic. Their behavior is repugnant and their disingenuous actions are not welcomed. I echo the same demands that my elder before has stated:

  1. Keep the name of the sign the same and enforce it procedural in the By-Laws.
  2. Remove The Board Members: Linda Berard, Christine Schmidt, Brain Enright, Robert Casey, Annmarie Bartelli, and Lois Chenard that were involved in either racism, harassment, and other shady and questionable practices.
  3. Make sure The Board represents the New London Community Only and that it be enforced procedural in the By-Laws.
  4. The building is to go back to the ownership of the Mt. Olive Church: The Historical Black Church where the three Black women come from that started The Community Meal Center and they choose The Board, traditionally.
  5. For the election to be placed in the newspaper so that people of the New London Community can be informed so they can prepare and act accordingly.

I hope Black People, the people who support Black People in New London, and The New London citizenry are willing to act within the interests of fairness, inclusion, and justice by acting accordingly! We as Black People cannot outsource our issues because we are the people that we are waiting on, not the people that we call, “Black Leaders”!

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