When George Floyd was murdered by a police officer on May 25, 2020, Tamy-Feé Meneide heard a call to action.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years in prison but activists like Meneide realized that their work is still not done.
She was hired as a critical partner in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) after Floyd’s death ignited a national demand for police reform and racial equity. Meneide was instrumental in the town officially acknowledging Black History Month for the first time this past February. She has also hosted an anti-racism forum with town officials in December of 2020.
Looking back to where the town stood in terms of racial equity before the murder of Floyd, Meneide believes the town has made strides in regards to race and racism.
“There’s been more of an awareness and education that I’ve seen,” she said. “I’ve seen and beared witness to folks moving into doing their own work and unlearning some of the harmful stories that are not necessarily the truth around the history of race and racism in the United States and having a sort of reckoning as it relates to their own upbringing, and how they show up, and whether or not their community is welcoming for all.”
Meneide added that while racial-advocacy groups existed prior to her arrival to the town, a lot more have been willing to participate and attend different events, “(t)o again, do their personal work and learning and unlearning some of the harmful lies that we have been told.”
Also, Meneide noted, the awakening experienced by Swampscott residents is on par with the changes experienced by other predominantly-white neighborhoods ― but there are still areas of concern.
“There are areas of concern until we all say that racism has been dismantled completely,” said Meneide. “There’s never going to be an end point to stop learning.”
She added that one of the things that has been most helpful for the community is holding public conversations for residents of Swampscott. Meneide stated that she has received feedback where residents have shown her how successful these events have been.
“I think as we continue to plan out what diversity, equity, and inclusion looks like in Swampscott that we will continue those learning forms, those community forums,” she said. “I think also providing spaces for other parts of the town to have honest conversations is kind of the direction which we’re going, whether it be the school communities, scholars and families, staff, or even our other municipalities … from the library, to the Select Board, to the police department or the fire department.”
While some of these conversations can be uncomfortable, they are necessary and are not just about fulfilling a requirement, said Meneide.
“If you are looking at DEI work as sort of check(ing) the box off, you did your monthly forum or you did your quarterly forum then you missed the mark,” she cautioned. “A lot of the work has to be on your own, personal work. Everybody is going to be in a different space, which is why forums are great in terms of shared discussion but they shouldn’t be the only way in which one is learning to dismantle racism as well as unlearn(ing) some of the things that they have taken as gospel throughout their lifetime.
“There has to be a willingness of individuals to put in the work to become more educated, become more aware, and then start to practice that education and awareness,” she said. “Because once you know better, you should do better.”
For Meneide, as long as Swampscott is centered around race, equity, and justice, the town will be on a path forward.
“It’s a matter of keeping the momentum going,” she said. “(That) is the bar of success at this point: for us to be able to continually impact change.”