Statement on the war in Ukraine

Arlington community members, 

Today, the Arlington Human Rights Commission, the Disability Commission, the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, and the Diversity Task Group of Envision Arlington issued the following statement on the war in Ukraine: 

We support Ukraine and everyone affected by the Russian invasion. As of this writing, more than 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring Poland, which has taken in 1.9 million refugees, as well as Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova.

While many Ukrainian refugees have been generously welcomed by other countries, there have been reports that non-white refugees have faced racism from border guards, other officials, and residents of neighboring countries in their attempts to find safety. Additional reports have documented the heightened risk of violence faced by LGBTQIA+ refugees entering countries with harsh anti-gay laws and the difficulties faced by people living with disabilities as they flee the war.

Everyone who has been displaced by this crisis deserves to be safely housed and fed regardless of their race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and/or gender. We deeply empathize with those affected by this crisis and we urge residents of Arlington who are concerned about the war in Ukraine to do the following:

Think globally and act locally: Twenty percent of Arlington residents were born in countries outside of the United States including Ukraine (445 residents) and Russia (1011 residents), and English is not the first language for 19 percent of residents. Our town is also home to refugees and asylum seekers who have fled violence in Central and South America, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The ArCS Cluster serves refugee families and individuals in Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville, and nearby towns by mobilizing local volunteers who provide practical help, emotional support, and financial assistance to people fleeing violence and war as they work to establish themselves in a new community. You can help by volunteering or making a financial contribution.

Support local efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees: Breadboard Bakery at 203A Broadway is donating proceeds from the sale of loaves of Sour Cherry Sunflower Sourdough bread to CARE’s Ukraine Crisis Fund, which is providing immediate aid and recovery, food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance to Ukrainians while prioritizing the needs of women and girls, families, and the elderly.

Arlington resident and musician Hazel Dean Davis is participating in “An Evening of Chamber Music for Horn, Clarinet & Piano” featuring music by Akimenko, Brahms & Reinecke on Saturday, March 26 at 7:30pm at Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church, 1555 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. Tickets are $15-$30. All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, Inc., which is providing medical supplies, health care treatment, and food and shelter to Ukrainian residents and refugees.

Reject bias against Russian nationals: The Boston Globe has reported that the owners and employees of Russian restaurants, bookstores, and schools have faced acts of bias from people angry about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These attacks serve no purpose other than to sow division and hatred. If you witness or hear such acts of bias, do not participate and intervene to stop it, if you can do so safely. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of bias, you can also report it to the Human Rights Commission here. Meanwhile, there are many people in Russia who are protesting the war and facing dire consequences as a result, which serves as an important reminder that making sweeping generalizations about a group of people is never a good idea.

Protect democracy: Democracy is fragile. It can be significantly weakened or undone by war, propaganda, apathy, or a combination of these factors. You can protect it by participating as a voter and, if you’re able, a civic volunteer. On April 2, the town of Arlington will hold elections for Select Board, School Committee, Board of Assessors, Town Moderator, and Town Meeting. Decisions made by these elected officials affect the culture, priorities, and management of our town, and include important expressions of civic values such as the creation of the Human Rights Commission and the Disability Commission in 1993, and the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission in 2017. These Commissions and other town committees rely on volunteers to get their work done. Learn more about opportunities to volunteer here.

Resources for further information: Experiences of refugees and displaced persons

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) publishes information about refugees that can foster greater understanding. Here are some that may be of interest:

  • Data portal on Ukrainian refugees that is updated daily. This includes the number of refugees, number of refugees accepted by other countries, and number of displaced people within Ukraine.
  • Resources: “National, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples”
  • Report: “Checklist to strengthen UN work at country level to combat racial discrimination and advance minority rights, March 19, 2021”
  • Discussion Paper: “2021 Global Roundtable LGBTIQ+ Persons in Forced Displacement and Statelessness: Protection and Solutions”
  • Report: “UNHCR’s approach to forcibly displaced and stateless persons with disabilities – 2022”
  • Resources: Gender-Based Violence experienced by refugees and displaced persons

Resources for further information: Learning about Ukraine and Russia

Neiman Lab: “Some resources for following the invasion of Ukraine: Lists, liveblogs, maps.” The Neiman Lab is a project of the Neiman Foundation, the mission of which is to “promote and elevate the standards of journalism and educate and support those poised to make important contributions to its future.”

New Yorker writer Masha Gesson’s columns about Russia and Ukraine. Masha Gessen is the author of eleven books, including “Surviving Autocracy” and “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which won the National Book Award in 2017. Gessen is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, the Hitchens Prize, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary.

“US Military Escalation Against Russia Would Have No Victors,” an interview with Noam Chomsky published by Truthout, March 1, 2022. Noam Chomsky is the founder of modern linguistics and one of the most cited scholars in modern history. He is also a philosopher, social critic, and political theorist. He is both an anarchist who believes in a radically different way of ordering society as well as a pragmatist who urged leftists to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

“It’s time to ask: what would a Ukraine-Russia peace deal look like?” An article by Anatol Lieven published by The Guardian, March 4, 2022. Anatol Lieven is a Senior Research Fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a visiting professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London. A former journalist for the Financial Times and the Times of London covering Central Europe, Russian, and the former Soviet Union, Lieven is the author of numerous books on these regions including “Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power?,” “Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry,” and “The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,” which was awarded the 1994 George Orwell Prize for Political Writing.

Resources for further information: Reading Lists

The First Book Marketplace offers books and educational resources at deeply discounted prices to educators serving children in need. It has curated a list of books, titled “Immigrant and Refugee Experiences” that spotlight the diversity, histories, cultures, and experiences of people who have left their homelands, either by choice or forcibly. These books are geared for children of all ages, but many would also be of interest to adults. Included among these recommendations is “Refugee,” by Alan Gratz, which tells the story of three middle schoolers who escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Cuba in 1994, and Syria in 2015. “Refugee” was a 2019 selection of Arlington Reads Together.

Statement on verbal attack and use of a homophobic slur against a town resident.

Dear Arlington friends and neighbors, 

The Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission condemns the recent hateful verbal attack and use of a homophobic slur against a town resident. The verbal attack was captured on video and posted to the Arlington MA Current Residents group on Facebook on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. It took place on Massachusetts Avenue near the intersection with Park Avenue. 

In a description of the incident that accompanied the video, the poster wrote: “[T]he guy behind me in line at the grocery wasn’t keeping a distance, and had his mask only halfway on. I asked him to put his mask on and he got supper aggro. He followed me outside, got all in my face and threatened to fight me, but backed off when I pulled my phone out.” 

Everyone in Arlington has the right to participate in public settings free from violence, discrimination, and abuse based on identified or perceived sexuality or gender identity/expression. This incident is a reminder that anti-LGBTQIA+ bias remains commonplace and much work remains to become a safe, supportive, and inclusive town. The LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission is committed to this work and welcomes all members of the town community to join us. 

Here are ways you can help. 

First, educate yourself. Verbal attacks like these are often minimized as having caused no harm. But being the target of anti-LGBTQIA+ bias or merely anticipating such bias in public settings has been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety among LGBTQIA+ people. 

The use of slurs targeting people based on their identified or perceived sexuality or gender identity/expression, as well as their race, gender, religion, disability, or ethnicity is designed to humiliate and dehumanize the target of abuse. It is also meant to instill fear among other members of the targeted group

Although LGBTQIA+ people comprise less than five percent of the U.S. population, nearly 20 percent of hate crimes reported to the FBI in the U.S. are motivated by anti-LGBTQIA+ bias

Arlington has a thriving, active, and resilient LGBTQIA+ community. Please join us and learn more at the next Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission monthly meeting on Thursday, August 20 via Zoom at 6:30pm

The town of Arlington values equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission supports these values by promoting the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals and groups in Arlington through affirming policies and programs, resources, advocacy and community building.