Seneca creates new diversity, equity, and inclusion task force to build relationships

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SENECA, SC (WSPA)–The city of Seneca is taking a stab at diversity and inclusion with a new task force.

The Seneca Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, is serving as a “think tank” to bridge communication between minority communities and leadership in the city. Leaders want to get everyone involved in creating equal opportunities for all races, ages, and socioeconomic classes.

“The current task force was developed in the wake of a previous group that we used to study our law enforcement’s role… impact in our community with regards to our cultural differences. That was started in the wake of the untimely killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” said Scott Moulder, City Administrator for Seneca. “So, we knew we wanted to evaluate and assess our police department, our law enforcement role in the community, and it’s relationship primarily….how they’re viewed and how they viewed the community,” he said.

Now that has become a permanent working group filled with residents and business owners, looking at ways to address cultural differences and similarities overall.

“There is no political agenda in this task force, because it is all residents, business owners, of Seneca.  So they have personal stakes. They have families, they have properties here in the city,” said Shelby Henderson, Director of Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum.

Henderson is one of the members in charge, working to be the pipeline for the community, by giving everyone a platform to let their voices be heard.

“The more we learn about each other, the more we understand how to be accepting. And I think acceptance is one of the things that’s going to be proactively important in the community being one community at the end of the day,” Henderson said.

“We most absolutely heard from our community. We actually had a number of them who came to council meetings and expressed their concerns and support for the members of their community,” Moulder said.  “We heard them. We knew that we may not have had quite the same issues that many of the agencies do across the country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own issues, and that’s what we really wanted to learn, is what issues do we have that maybe we don’t know about,” he said.

The task force will submit proposals and recommendations to city leaders for consideration, in hopes of developing initiatives for all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes. They want to address not only systemic issues, but other things, as well.

“You know, put that fear aside and allow us to really dive deep into our relationships and find a way to put that social media rhetoric, put that national hate aside, and figure out what that relationship is here locally and try to establish more of an understanding and a commitment to one another to learn and to better our community,” Moulder said.

“The task force wants to hear from the community members about concerns, things that need to be advocated for. Discussions that may seem difficult,” Henderson said.

Henderson said things may not happening overnight, but the city has already made great strides.

“We take action. There’s a lot of things that people don’t automatically see. They’re not going to see the result in 24 hours or 48 hours, but things are being done,” Henderson said.

The group wants to look at ways to tackle equal opportunities in workplaces and also those with disabilities. City leaders said children are also getting involved and creating initiatives. The group hopes more people will join in on the effort that will create a welcoming space for everyone.

“Between now and five years from now, I feel like the city of Seneca is going to be more inviting to everyone. I think there’s going to be a sense of place for all of the communities,” Henderson said.

The city already has two events planned for this year. It will host Oconee County’s first ever Juneteenth Celebration on June 19th. They’re also planning a Hispanic Heritage month celebration for later in the year.

The group meets at least once a month virtually, to hear the concerns of the community and brainstorm ideas. To see how you can get involved, contact Seneca City Hall at (864) 885-2700.

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