At our most recent Township Committee meeting, we unanimously approved Ordinance 1-2021, creating a new township board, the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Advisory Board, to be known as the IDEA Board. As implied in its title, the objective of this board is to create a platform for unity and provide a forum for our residents to convey their insight to our town leadership on issues related to diversity and equality. This board’s energy will be focused on cultivating a diverse, respectful, just, safe, inclusive and welcoming community.
The “idea” of the IDEA Board was born on the heels of the Town Vigil that was held last summer. Several of the organizers were motivated to engage with town leadership seeking to do more. These conversations culminated in the creation of this new board. Member Elyse Bittner provided insight and several quotes from her fellow IDEA Board members.
“It all kind of organically happened,” said IDEA member Kelly Redkoles. “It started with me reaching out to Mayor Manzo about doing the vigil for George Floyd in June.”
Margo Brooks Carthon – another resident – expressed how happy she was about the turnout.
“I had several conversations with people, and we all asked, what more can we do? What can we do as a community?” said Margo, after the vigil. From there, Kelly, Margo, and other residents including Jen Andiorio, Sarah Zuba, and Sarah Weaver, were connected by the mayor, all sharing an interest in creating a diversity task force.
“We knew Pitman was creating a diversity task force and based on the current environment, there seemed to be an urgent need to get this going in our town as well,” Kelly said.
“By the fall of 2020, more residents became involved, culminating with the creation of this committee,” she continued.
IDEA Board member Jen Andiorio said she became involved because “there are things happening right here in our town that we need to address. At the George Floyd vigil, speaker Deionne ThrBak said, ‘It starts with you.’ So I thought, what can I do?”
“It really has been interesting and important that we have these deep conversations about difficult topics across groups,” Margo said. “It will help us have more empathy and understanding. We can’t just stand by when we see something happening.”
Margo explained that as a community, we have different perspectives and experiences, and that by getting to know one another, we can find mutual respect.
“I want to expand my knowledge on diversity,” Margo said. “We all have these blind spots. This group gives us an opportunity to see our own blind spots and know if they’re causing us to hurt others, even if unintentionally.
“We have to see the best in one another. I am excited that we are here.”
Thank you, Elyse, for that insight from your members. As Mayor, I speak for all the Township Committee members in saying we echo the excitement noted, as we take pride in creating an official platform for this dialogue.