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Dan Tremble is the chair of the Bangor City Council. This column was written by the city council: Clare Davitt, Sarah Dubay, Rick Fournier, Susan Hawes, Sarah Nichols, Angela Okafor, Gretchen Schaefer, Jonathan Sprague and Tremble.
As the Bangor City Council, we strive to recognize and celebrate our diversity every day, and in particular during June, marking both Pride Month and Juneteenth. As such, we renounce any efforts to create a “white state” in Maine, particularly in or around the Bangor region.
The recent article by the Bangor Daily News that white nationalists may be considering moving to the Bangor area is disheartening and an affront to the hard-won progress our community has made. As a council, we are bewildered and saddened by this news. While statistically Maine is the whitest state in the country, the City of Bangor encourages and embraces diversity, seeing our growing diversity as an advantage.
The City of Bangor recognizes that this area comprises, in part, the homelands of Indigenous Peoples including the four Tribes of the Wabanaki (Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, Maliseet), their allies and ancestors. Our community has struggled to reconcile with a history marked with racism and discrimination. Older Mainers or students of history will recall when groups such as the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan engaged in harassment and discrimination of immigrants. In 1984, Charlie Howard, a young gay man, was murdered in Bangor by three youths. This horrific crime left an indelible mark on the conscience of Bangor.
In recent years, the city has supported the LGTBQ+ community in a number of ways. In 2012, the council adopted a resolution in support of marriage equality; in 2013, the city was one of 278 employers that signed an amicus brief challenging the Defense of Marriage Act; in 2014, the city was recognized by Equality Maine for outstanding support of equality; and in 2020, the council added gender identity to non-discrimination policies and prioritized the use of gender-inclusive language in ordinances. This June, the city’s support of equality is proudly on display with Pride Progress banners.
Following George Floyd’s murder, the council recognized the need to bring more attention to the issues of diversity and inclusion within our community, and to ensure the voices of our BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of color) neighbors in all of the work we do. As a result, we created an Advisory Committee on Race, Inclusion, and Human Rights to guide the council on policies, ordinances and programs to support greater diversity and inclusion in Bangor.
In school, we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance with “equality and justice for all.” We are truly looking to make changes so those words ring true.
The City of Bangor knows that communities with greater diversity and inclusion do better economically. Diverse communities have greater resources for solving problems and generating new ideas, and immigrant populations in particular tend to be more entrepreneurial. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, close to 40 percent of businesses with employees are owned by women and minorities, and Hispanic-owned businesses represent the fastest growing businesses in the U.S. Many of these businesses are in high-paying fields such as technology and science.
Just as we have come to see that a vibrant arts community is critical to our economic success, so too is diversity. Attracting and retaining a workforce to support our community is made easier and more compelling when we have an open, welcoming, and intentionally inclusive community. A stronger workforce means stronger businesses and community organizations, more stable property taxes and greater opportunities for all our residents.
As members of the Bangor City Council we soundly reject the idea that Bangor, or any part of Maine is a good place for a “white state.” It is our strong belief that Bangor will and must continue to embrace and celebrate diversity. We believe racial justice, equality, inclusion and community support is an ongoing process and as community leaders, we are fully committed to a process that includes more inclusion, not less. There is still much work to be done.
The only thing not welcome here is hate.