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New Department, Commission Pursue Racial Equity In Jackson

John Willis photo
Courtesy photo
City of Jackson
City of Jackson Chief Equity Officer John Willis

The Jackson city council has approved the creation of a new city department and a new commission to address racial equity.

The new Racial Equity Commission and the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be led by John Willis, the city’s Chief Equity Officer. He plans to start with an assessment to identify what needs to be done.

Willis says there’s an important distinction between equality and equity. “If I come into a room and there’s 100 people, and I bring 100 shirts, one size fits all, that’s equality," Willis states. "However, if I bring in 100 shirts and everyone gets a shirt in their size, then we have equity.”

Willis believes Jackson is one of the first cities in the state to have a racial equity commission, station that "there are other cities already in the country that have great commissions like this, that have great equity work that’s being done. We’re working with those cities to network, to make Jackson a place that’s welcoming for all people.”

There’s an application to serve on the commission on the city’s website. They’ll review policies and make recommendations aimed at promoting racial justice. The commission will include will include five residents and three others nominated by the Mayor and approved by the council.

Three months ago, Jackson declared racism to be a public health crisis. The council created its Chief Equity Officer position and passed an LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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