Yes, All Lives (Should) Matter

by Karen Nelson

With profound grief in our hearts for the recent killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, it is time to underscore the need to work BETTER TOGETHER. At the same time, the COVID-19 crisis brought decades of racial disparity in healthcare into plain view, as Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other people of color contract the virus and die at higher rates. I live in the intersectionality of both: racism and a health pandemic. These combined crises demonstrate the existence of institutional and structural racism and the need for government’s role in dismantling systems that harm communities of color. 

Do ALL lives matter? Emphatically, YES, but all clearly do not matter until Black lives matter too, instead of being targeted, killed and mass incarcerated. It’s not ONLY Black Lives Matter; it’s who we’re focusing on right now, fighting to be included in ‘ALL’. After the COVID-19 crisis is over, future federal allocations will be based on an accurate Census 2020 count to recover. This year’s count is critically important in helping us establish community equity. The estimates are for every person NOT counted, the county loses $1,400 per person per year for each of the 10 years between now and the next Census in 2030! That’s $14,000 lost per person. Let me put that into perspective. The 2010 Census missed about 2.1% of African Americans and about 5% of American Indians living on reservations. That resulted in approximately 2 BILLION dollars lost from just those two communities. We must do better in 2020.

So, how did the City of Appleton become so focused on diversity and inclusion? This position was created 22 years ago in the APD as Inter-cultural Relations Coordinator. In 1992, the APD swore in its first Hmong Liaison Officer. In 1997, Police Chief Rick Myers created the position as shared with the Appleton Area School District. They brought the idea to newly elected Mayor Tim Hanna, who agreed because he believed in being proactive. After only one year, both organizations realized they each needed their own full-time person. In 2007 the position moved directly into the Mayor’s office and the title was changed to Diversity Coordinator. In 2016, Inclusion was added to the title. Hired in 2017, I am the seventh lucky person to hold the job during its 20th Anniversary! 

January of 2018 was the kick-off and 2019 marked the one-year anniversary of the City of Appleton’s Dignity & Respect Campaign. I lead this initiative in partnership with Lawrence University’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Kimberly Barrett. The goal of the initiative is to support community organizations, youth programs, schools, and sports programs in making Appleton a better place for all to live with our differences.

We chose the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a call to action for the community to come together and rally around the issues of racism, bias, inequity and injustice in our society. The engagement of my City Hall colleagues and the community’s enthusiasm warms my heart. Every workshop had been successful with rooms filled to capacity and over 2500 people taking the pledge.

The City of Appleton is taking the D&R Campaign to the next level in 2020 with Advancing Racial Equity thru GARE (Government Alliance on Race Equity). In 2019 we formed a core team of City of Appleton Directors, including APD Chief of Police Todd Thomas. The mission of GARE is normalizing conversations around race and doing systemic work. We are committed to the task of working to achieve racial equity and advancing opportunities for all. In February 2020, the Appleton Board of Health recommended that racism be declared a health crisis with its passage by the Common Council of the Resolution.

Now, Mayor Jake Woodford and I proudly wear lapel pins that say, “I Will Do My Part.” If everyone does their part, the City of Appleton will be a better place at accepting ALL of our differences making us BETTER TOGETHER.

For More Information:

Dignity & Respect Campaign

For More Information:

The City of Appleton’s official Diversity & Inclusion FaceBook page

The City of Appleton’s Website:

for our 30 page book of Diversity Resources