Board Nominees and Elections ('*' - Board Recommendations, all nominees unopposed)
President - *Traci Wilson-Kleekamp
Vice-President - *Tony Parker
Secretary - *Susan Dietsch
Treasurer - *Kendra Jackson-Thornton
Executive Director - *Chad McLaurin
Voting invitations will be extended to those who have been actively engaged with Race Matters, Friends either through meeting attendance or online or collaborative effort. The voting ballot will be circulated for 72 hours, starting Thursday, July 16 - Saturday, July 18 (exp. midnight).
If you feel that you qualify to vote, would like to vote, and do not receive an invitation by July 16 - please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line VOTE. All responses must be submitted by midnight, Saturday, July 18th.
If you would like to submit to a position on the Board, please contact us at email@example.com with subject line BOARD to be considered as a candidate.
Race Matters, Friends Sends Open Letter RE: Violence at Local Protests
Dear Boone County Commissioners and Columbia City Council:
cc: Mr. Knight, Mr. Glascock, Chief Jones
We respectfully write to you with our concerns for justice and transparency, and hope you meet us with open minds.
On June 3, 2020, for the third time in less than a week, a man drove his car through a group of protesters on the streets of Columbia. The vehicle assaults in Columbia have now garnered national coverage as referenced in a June 2, 2020 Buzzfeed article that covers the increasing number of these assaults in 17 communities as of the date of the publication. As of today, June 8, 2020, one week after the first of two other such incidents in which protesters were injured, the public has not been fully updated on the identification, charges, or arrests of the drivers.
Our organizations call upon the police to prioritize the arrests of any person(s) who use(s) a vehicle to intimidate or injure protesters - and complete transparency to the public about their response. These are two crucial steps to building community trust. We hold similar expectations of the prosecutors, that these individuals willing to endanger - and actively assault - our citizens be prosecuted for the serious breach of law and decency that it is.
We, the citizens of Columbia, should not be forced to choose between our safety and our right to peaceably assemble as provided for in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Our organizations hold that without investigations, those who oppose peaceful demonstration will be emboldened to commit further acts of violence. If intimidation or an assault with a vehicle occurs, our Police Department and City should make it unequivocally clear that they regard this act as an extremely serious violation, and that they will do everything in their power to protect protesters and hold those responsible accountable.
As Aliki Barnstone writes in the Missourian, June 5, 2020: “If the perpetrators are not held accountable, more of them will be emboldened to ram their vehicles into peaceful protesters and, perhaps, kill someone. This is a concrete example of the way in which “silence is violence.”
We seek a direct response from you, our public officials, as well as routine public announcements, press releases, and/or press conferences as events unfold. Further, we ask for publicly visible discussion and responses as follows:
Columbia Police Department -- Please specifically address policies and protocols used to define and determine whether an incident such as we've seen are hit-and-run, vehicular assault, or hate-crime. Next, what do these policies and protocols dictate the police response to be? Lastly, given the current protest environment throughout the nation, we would like to know if when vehicles are used as weapons against protesters, does this qualify as a hate crime? What specifically qualifies as a hate crime?
We are profoundly concerned that the City of Columbia and Columbia Police Department did not publicly state that intimidation and harm to protesters will not be tolerated and that violators will be subject to arrest and prosecution. We call on you to inform the public immediately and fully, and to assert that incidents involving people who drive vehicles into protesters will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
We appreciate your prompt response to this exceedingly grave situation. Thank you.
Race Matters, Friends
COMO for Progress
Race Matters Friends Responds to Vehicle Stop Report (2019 data)
On May 29, 2020, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office released its annual vehicle stops report (VSR), which, according to the office, “breaks down the data as it relates to race, number of stops, search rate, contraband hit rate, arrest rate, and more.
According to the data, racial disparities for Columbia, Boone County, and the State of MIssouri have increased yet again in 2019. The Attorney General states that data collection in 2020 will assist analysis of the identity of drivers for next year, acknowledging that the drivers of increasing racial disparities cannot be concluded by collecting data.
The summary remains focused, as is local law enforcement, on the inability to discern the intent of individual police officers and only measures the increasing disparity.
● Columbia Police Chief Geoffrey Jones “…promised accountability within his department and to work towards change .” (Columbia Missourian, 1 June 2020) ● Mayor Brian Treece: “It’s our responsibility to break down systems of institutional racism .” (Columbia Tribune, 1 June 2020)
However, Race Matters, Friends asks:
● Where is the accountability? ● Where and how is the City of Columbia breaking down institutional racism in the criminal justice system and in local policing?
We see no evidence of either, particularly while known anti-black officers are still employed in the department. We are not getting any answers.
Adjustments were made to disparity rates to reflect population changes from 2014 going forward (using population estimates from the American Community Survey). While the disparity rates are lower in each of those years, they are only slightly so, and do not change the overall trend.
These disparity rates indicate that in 2018, Black drivers were 4.32 times more likely to be stopped than white drivers in Columbia. While disparity rates have increased over time for Black drivers, they have declined slightly for white drivers.
Black drivers are more likely to be searched during stops, while contraband was found at only slightly higher rates for Black drivers. The 2019 contraband hit rate for white drivers was 45.75 and 50.05 for black drivers.
In Columbia, traffic stops are used as investigative tools as much, if not more than, for traffic enforcement. Columbia’s traffic stop disparities are a direct result of choices in policing strategy.
Police stop Black drivers (commonly referred to as “hot-spot policing") in the hopes that they will stumble across a suspect or a driver carrying contraband such as a weapon, drugs and alcohol, or stolen property.
We believe this practice is the equivalent of searching for a needle in a haystack, which results in devastating consequences for our community.
The figure below was taken from an August 19, 2019 presentation by RMF member Tara Warne-Griggs to Columbia's Vehicle Stop Committee. Itshows the impact in terms of arrests and contraband found.
The VSR continues to ignore the fact that the data consistently reflects the systemic racism of state, county, and local laws. While implicit bias is widely recognized as a factor affecting the discretion of individual officers, the broader impact of policies and procedures on minority drivers who are ever increasingly impacted by law enforcement are not addressed.
While the role of individual officers’ unconscious (i.e. implicit) bias and their choices are certainly factors for which all law enforcement agencies are morally responsible, the continued deflection away from the inequitable burden of non-white citizens in contact with law enforcement further perpetuates the larger systemic disparities of racism.
RMF's Call to Action:
We have drastically restructured our volunteer and membership drive and management processes. The responses generated from the uptake form serve as a robust tool from which to quickly sort and cull a list of specific volunteers for specific events and projects.
Since the onset of our campaign for community policing, RMF has consistently demanded accountability on tax dollars spent and invested in the Columbia Police Department (CPD).
We know that two-thirds of the City of Columbia’s budget is spent on public safety, the lion's share of which is policing. This leaves a miniscule sum (1.8% of the General Fund) available to the City/County health and human services department, where per capita spending has not increased since 1980.
We demand that an increasing amount of the city budget be diverted away from activities that harm our most vulnerable citizens and directed toward resources that will help them.
At 1.8 percent of our city’s budget, Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) displays how little we are protecting and valuing our least advantaged citizens. While funds given to social services are contingent on measuring the impact of those services, the police department is not accountable for the value that we receive in return for allocating the majority of our tax dollars to their support.
The historical and inequitable return in investment that continues to unfairly allocate the majority of our tax dollars to CPD needs to be interrupted.
We insist and demand an increase in per capita spending that meets today’s (2020) needs and beyond, that responsibly invests in health and human services.
In our view, the ever-increasing expenditures on defensive policing continue to produce an array of disparate outcomes and impacts on our citizens of color whose needs as a community have been historically neglected by political priorities that target the most privileged members of our city.
The City of Columbia must do better, and the time is NOW.
African Americans in Columbia are less transient than the white population here. The ancestors of today’s African American Columbians built the campuses of The University of Missouri, Columbia College, and Stephens College under the oppression of slavery. Although a minority of our population, they have historically invested capital in Columbia to a greater extent than most white citizens living in Columbia today.
What do we owe them to restore and repair decades of social exclusion, neglect and political antipathy?
In closing, RMF is still awaiting responses from Chief Jones, the Mayor and Council from our March 2, 2020 letter of concerns, with the full understanding that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a setback for everyone in terms of timelines.
We remain ready to #do.the.work!
About Race Matters, Friends
Race Matters, Friends is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to anti-racism education, community consciousness-raising, and social equity.
Since 2015, the group has been a persistent advocate for Community-Oriented Policing.
We, the citizens, are the power structure, and have the capacity and ability to re-imagine a just, equitable, and safe future for Columbia.
RMF Debuts New Volunteer Sign Up Process!
The more we look, the more challenges we identify. Luckily, interest in working in cooperation with Race Matters, Friends is also growing!
We need a robust and organized volunteer base, ranging from offering general assistance event-by-event to semi-regular volunteer positions for membership and managerial roles!
Whatever your levels of comfort, confidence, skills, or capabilities, we have a need for your dedication in order to best DO.THE.WORK!
Race Matters Friends is providing a link to our Google Drive for uploading any media - photos, video, audio recordings - associated with the protest activities occurring in Columbia, MO.
Please help us get the word out!
Disclaimer: please do not share information to the above link that you might not want made public at some point.
If your material contains sensitive footage, please email the attachment and brief explanation - including how you would like the footage treated - to firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMO: RMF Community Response to COVID-19
RE: CoMO Speaks; Common Needs for Public Health & Safety; Mitigating Pandemic Challenges; and a Return to Our Lives
COLUMBIA, MO., 14 May 2020 -- Race Matters, Friends (RMF) would like to take this opportunity to disrupt yet another example of either/or binary thinking in addressing community problems. There are inherent conflicts with both Mike Trapp and Fred Parry’s indulgence in throwing the City/County Public Health and Human Services Department under the bus during a crisis as elected officials, ostensibly representing the very agencies undermining public health officials.
RMF sees white men (i.e. white interests) mostly engaged in power struggle rooted in shameless self-interest and ideological grievances instead of focusing on repairing/resolving/focusing on the immediate challenge: COVID-19 and ENTIRE Community Response. Their position is clearly a power struggle to control who can reopen for business, pitted against a lack of (affordable) accessibility to testing for the public, and effectively establishing de facto policy on who is entitled to remain healthy or permitted to mitigate their own exposure and risks..
The pro-business/anti-business dichotomy is a dangerous and pathological binary that glosses over any meaningful strategization or feasible solutions while engaging in topics that affect ALL Columbia residents. We perceive the ”reopen business” campaign as a political power grab in the midst of a public health crisis. A larger tragedy in our view is a lack of institutional partners with entities such as University Physicians, the MU School of Medicine, Boone Hospital, the Harry S. Truman Veteran’s Hospital, the University of Missouri and it’s R1 research credentials. Why are these public institutions not visible and publicly cooperating to support and advocate for our Public Health and Human Services Department? This, in our opinion, is public policy malpractice.
Even though we are/were not involved in the creation of CoMo Speaks, we applaud its message. It appears by its content that CoMo Speaks is not an argument about keeping people from work and earning an income, contrary to circulating criticism. We all realize that a lot of local business owners and workers are hurting. We agree with Como Speaks’ inclusive message about making sure all people can return to work - safely. However, we are not suggesting that we get back to a normal that doesn’t exist anymore. We want our community to return to work and other semblances of normalcy, all while protecting their health and safety. People before profits.
In the meantime, RMF is preparing to host an online discussion via Zoom (TBA -- open to the community) to explore workable solutions and propose the following ideas/topics for consideration. These are ideas we are processing for a public discussion:
The City has off-shored investments that have been set-aside as emergency contingency funds. These funds also draw interest to support city budgets. From our understanding, this balance approaches $400M (based on reports from city staff). Although we understand the negative impact that withdrawals would have on city budgetary practices, the budget is not the crisis.
The pandemic and its impact on the business community and citizens alike are the immediate crisis to be addressed. Addressing the immediate problems facing our community should be paramount to the survivability of business and citizens alike. Science-based solutions by those qualified to lead us through this challenge will best balance the needs of the business community and community at large. Ultimately, the City can return to restoring the contingency funds in the near future, and over a longer period of time. This will be best re-established by taking a shared approach to this problem.
These funds should absolutely be tapped as we are facing a public health and economic emergency situation. We propose the following actions be considered by the City of Columbia.
Place a moratorium on all property owners, commercial and residential, collecting rent in exchange for the City funding the most basic of their costs.
All citizens of Columbia who earn less than $30,000/yr per IRS filings be afforded a $500/mos stipend to help meet basic living requirements towards food and shelter, and to help augment for those bills and services beyond the control of the City . We recommend exploring options to treat the stipend as non-taxable income for Federal and State interests where possible. Similarly, the City should be looking for sources of revenue from State and Federal programs where available.
All citizens earning $30,001 - $40,000 be offered a $500/mos stipend, modified by a graduated scale. For example, [1 - (net income/40000)] x $500 as a gradually reduced percentage from $500/mos baseline as applied above. This translates roughly to a decrease in $75 allotted per $2,000 increment above $30,000 (capped at $40,000) - reduced from the baseline of $500.
Our justification of a $30,000-$40,000 net income target is predicated on the strong likelihood that low-income households are most vulnerable to insolvency as they are likely unable to set aside enough funds into savings to reasonably cover their expenses. We feel that this is not an excessive request, particularly as it will help stave off malnourishment of members of the community, individuals and families, to include children whose only dog in this fight is survival.
Place a moratorium on all fees for public services: utilities, water, gas, etc. on a graduated scale as above;, recommending $30,000-$40,000.
The City has the means of production to operate without the necessity of capital beyond that of strictly unavoidable costs, which can be covered from the contingency funds. This might also take the form of a targeted, graduated fee structure much as previously described to minimize the impact on the contingency funds balance and target those with the highest need for intervention. We think CoMo Speaks expresses a multivocal hope that aspires for all of us to get back to our lives in the most effective manner to the best interest of all parties.
Tonight, the Columbia School Board will most likely give a raise to a superintendent who answers to white supremacists and mediocrity in the name of progress. A superintendent who is not very honest and passive-aggressively deceptive because he can not manage any critical assessment of his so-called leadership -- especially around the issues of seclusion and restraint and recordings of IEP plan meetings. Columbia Schools’ Public Relations person and Custodian of Records are the same person -- and, to our minds, plays a dual role in misrepresenting the facts (with the support of EdCounsel) to play divide and conquer. The exact game Fred Parry et, al are playing with attorneys Eng & Woods.
CPS BOE and Superintendent Stiepleman have struggled on issues that matter to parents whose children have been marginalized.
There are some important items on CPS' agenda tonight (a lot under the consent calendar) -- but I doubt a single CPS board member has the courage to speak truth to power and hold Dr. Stiepleman accountable for a series of problematic responses in 2019. I believe the CPS board and their employee Dr. Stiepleman have struggled to be transparent on issues that matter to parents whose children have been marginalized and harmed by their institutional practices. Instead of engagement, they accused a rightfully angry public of trying to ruin their lives. Pathetic. Heads up.
There is a draft COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN on tonight's agenda and contracts for various kinds of training relative to cultural competence in a broad sense. My interpretation? It is a token infusion of equity with behavior management programming mixed in for a performative effect to give the appearance of "we are doing something". Simultaneously, and more importantly, we still have no data or idea of how CPS measures the effectiveness of these contracted or free training services.
RMF Says NO to Contract Extension for Columbia's Dr Stiepleman 2020.05.11
Race Matters, Friends President Traci Wilson-Kleekamp sent a video note to Helen Wade, President, Board of Education, Columbia Public Schools before the most recent board meeting, 2020.05.11. In this video, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp summarized Race Matters, Friends position of ongoing disappointment with Dr. Stiepleman's performance, administrative process, and lack of transparency and accountability. Ms. Wade responded to the email, noting that she would share the link with the board members.
RMF does not support a contract extension for Dr. Stiepleman
The contract for Dr. Stiepleman's position renewal was posted to the 2020.05.11 agenda items for the Board of Education to deliberate. The contract was not uploaded until Friday, 2020.05.08 which violates the requirement for 48-hour business day notification to the public.
As presented, the contract did not include Dr. Stiepleman's current salary or proposed pay increase.
RMF has a long-standing grievance over Dr. Stiepleman's performance and character. This appears to be yet one more of many examples of Stiepleman's obfuscation of transparency, and attempts to circumvent public engagement and accountability.
RMF does not support contract renewal with SESI/Catapult Learning
No contract was uploaded or made available to the public before being scheduled for the March 11 meeting. When this was challenged, CPS administration moved discussion to a May 12 Work Session at 07:30 am rather than provide details of the contract.
RMF proposed moving the discussion to the June Board meeting.
Catapult Learning has proven to be a liability to our community, and in the eyes of RMF and other prominent advocacy groups, unfit to oversee the safety and develop of our most vulnerable student population.
This became a matter of concern at the state level in relation to proposed House Bill 1568 with accounts laying out some rather draconian measures implemented by the contracted organization.
Concerns with this organization hinge predominantly on a heavy-handed approach to management of the students, extensive use of Seclusion Rooms - which at their best are problematic. The seclusion rooms had failed to be properly permitted or built to standards for anything approaching safe - let alone the the organizations use of seclusion rooms as practical holding cells for children to spend extended hours in isolation.
RMF requests that the CPS Board of Education consider the ongoing concerns
That the CPS Board establish an official Equity Advisory Committee that includes representation of community and neighborhood organizations, parents and guardians.
This committee should be afforded powers to influence school policy based on input to the Board, to be reported monthly at the scheduled board meetings and published reports made available to the public.
This committee should be sheltered from any interference from the school administration, of whom they will be critiquing.
That the CPS Board establish an official Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) with the same scope, function, and rights requested of the above Equity Advisory Committee.
That the CPS board establish a COVID-19 Work Group to include a subcommittee on Compensatory Education for identifying and correcting trends of students with IEP/504 who have not received Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
FAPE is a component of IDEA laws and regulations, Federal and State, that requires the provision of compensatory services for qualified children if they are regressing or failing to progress. Schools are required to provide compensatory services.
Thoughts from Traci Wilson-Kleekamp
Various members of our team have attempted to meet and collaborate with school officials since the complaint brought by Kandas Barnes was filed last year when her daughter was misidentified and arrested for being in a fight. We later learned that the School Resource Officer involved in the case did not act professionally.
Two other young ladies expressed the bullying they experienced at Smithton and were essentially erased by the Board's apathy and deficit-orientation about Black students. We feel that CPS administration and Board are aware of these challenges and evidenced by the Black vs. All demographic reporting for each school on their public-facing site. Rice Tracy and Peggy Placier attempted to communicate their concerns with Dr. Stiepleman to no avail.
In RMF's opinion, Carla London, Chief Equity Officer with CPS is not qualified to assess or implement changes to policy, or make an impactful difference to the blatant disparities in treatment of black and special needs children in the school system. When critiqued in a Facebook post, she brought allegations of me having stalked her children as one of her children had come across the public post. Ms London filed two restraining orders against me, utilizing school resources and legal teams - at the expense of the public. Both charges were dismissed.
We are in the midst of a pandemic. School is closed. School administration and Board members have had time to reflect on the many issues brought to their attention. Moving forward differently takes courage, but is what the public and public stewardship demands.
Confidential Survey: Child's CPS Experience
Happy New Year! With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday coming up Monday, January 20, I want to encourage everyone to find ways to be "active" in 2020.
First, RMF has been on break since December. We reconvene on January 29 at Bethel Church, 201 Old Plank Rd. If anyone is aware of free meeting space in the Central part of town please let me know. We would like to host centrally located gatherings whenever possible.
We have received a number of emails about the treatment of children in Columbia Public Schools. I am sharing again the confidential survey RMF has created in an effort to proactively respond strategically to what we believe are persistent abuses of children of color and children with special needs. "Confidential Survey: Child's CPS Experience."
Lynn Maloney steps down from RMF Executive Board
10 November 2019
Vice President, Lynn Maloney Steps Down from Race Matters, Friends Executive Board... Offers Closing Thoughts
It was five years ago, and just two nights before Thanksgiving that a group of us came together and created Race Matters, Friends (RMF) as a group to confront racism in Columbia, MO. A year and a half later, we became formally recognized as a 501(c)3.
This week I chose to step away from the organization’s Executive Committee. What I have learned about racism, activism, and the city of Columbia has affected me deeply, and I am proud of the work RMF continues to do as I step back to integrate all that I have experienced.
What I am chewing on right now is the reaction of the Columbia Public School district to RMF’s request for information regarding the district’s social equity work. As racial disparities for discipline are commonly recognized as a reflection of the school-to-prison pipeline, RMF engaged several school administrators and was assisted by the ACLU in requesting records about the CPS’ equity practices.
From May of this year until the present, we requested records. We had conversations with students, their parents, and administrators in person and via email. The Chief Equity Officer has demonstrably failed to perform her duties, as outlined in a detailed job description, which was recently removed from the CPS website.
The upshot? The Chief Equity Officer, Carla London, filed a police report and protective order for herself and her children against our president. The judge dismissed both protective orders. Friends have asked me what happened, understanding that this was bizarre. Others, have simply believed the validity of Ms. London’s unsubstantiated claims. Please read the documents filed by Ms. London, attached here. You will find no evidence of wrong-doing as accused. What you will find, is a series of emails between RMF and the Chief Equity Officer asking for questions to be answered.
RMF’s inquiry into racial equity at Columbia Public Schools came after the President of the Missouri NAACP asked us to advocate for a mother whose child had been wrongly arrested by the police department. Since that time we have learned of four cases pending against CPS regarding harmful disciplinary practices.
Black millennial scholar and PhD student, Sharon Aniyam joined RMF at our Executive Committee Retreat last weekend. RMF benefited from hearing about her racial justice activism in the UK. She also helped us integrate the work of our retreat in this podcast,which she created as part of her research while visiting the US. Listen here: Retreat Reflections with Race Matters FriendsAn episode of The Millennial VSCOholar, By The Millennial VSCOholar with (Sharon Aniyam, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp and Lynn Maloney)