Conference of Mayors President Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL. The six-acre site includes 800 six-foot monuments that symbolize thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the United States.
About the Center
In the troubling days following the violent and deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville in August 2017, more than 325 mayors signed a Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry, a 10-point pledge to work toward inclusive and compassionate cities drafted by the Conference in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League.
It was the mayors’ immediate and compelling call for action that quickly led the United States Conference of Mayors to commit to the establishment of a Center that would support mayors’ efforts to make cities across the nation more equitable, more inclusive, and more compassionate. Conference of Mayors President Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia (SC), announced plans to establish the Center in his inaugural address in Columbia on May 7, 2018 and again on June 9 in his President’s Address at the organization’s 86th annual meeting in Boston. The Center was formally launched by Mayor Benjamin in Montgomery (AL) in a November 13-14 Conference of Mayors event that included a discussion session with Brian Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Early support from Walmart, followed by the Coca-Cola Company and Comcast, was critical to the establishment of the Center. Their support sends a message to city leaders and business leaders that three of the world’s most successful and influential companies recognize the importance of direct action to confront bias and hate with compassion and inclusion. The Conference of Mayors recognizes that the leadership of the business community will contribute to the success of individual mayors’ efforts, and to the overall success of the Center itself.
A Conference of Mayors delegation of mayors in Montgomery, AL for the launch of the Center for Inclusive and Compassionate Cities, with Bryan Stevenson (front row, center), founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as well as Montgomery’s Legacy Museum that displays the history of slavery and racism in America.
- Benjamin Launches Center for Inclusion and Compassion in Montgomery, Equal Justice Initiative Founder Bryan Stevenson Inspires Mayors For Action (To the Mayor, November 14, 2018)
- National mayors group hopes to combat bigotry with compassion, Montgomery Advertiser, November 15, 2018
- Conference of Mayors holds summit in Montgomery, Montgomery Advertiser, November 14, 2018
- Center Background Document (PDF Download)
Support For Immigrants And Minorities
In July 2019, during a period in which fear and anxiety in immigrant communities across the nation had grown as a result of a range of aggressive anti-immigrant initiatives at the federal level, and fear and anxiety across broader minority communities was being stoked by racist and nativist rhetoric from many sources and by the failure of many at high levels in government to confront it, the Conference invited mayors to describe actions taken to reassure immigrants and all minorities feeling targeted that their city government stands with them, to protect their rights and help counter the racist rhetoric they may feel is directed at them. Following are examples of statements issued and initiatives launched in cities across the nation.
- Stockton, CA: Mayor Michael Tubbs states, “In Stockton, we welcome immigrants because we are a city built by immigrants. Each day Stocktonians of all backgrounds work side by side helping to build a stronger community and living out the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” – that out of many we are one.” The City has produced a Resource Guide for Immigrant Stocktonians.
- Washington, DC: Mayor Muriel Bowser states that, “regardless of immigration status, immigrants in DC are our neighbors, coworkers, small business owners, family members, and valued members of our community, and we will continue working together to provide the supports and opportunities that every person in our city deserves.” The Mayor’s Web site provides an exhaustive list of services and other resources available to immigrants.
- Rochester, MN: Mayor Kim Norton and Police Chief Jim Franklin issued a statement on July 11 in response to threatened ICE raids. The Mayor stresses regular communications with members of the City’s diverse communities, the City’s relationship with the Diversity Council, and increased community relationship building activities (Safe City Nights) sponsored by law enforcement throughout the summer.
- Evanston, IL: Mayor Stephen Hagerty issued statements in June in English and in Spanish and in July regarding expected ICE activity.
- Nashville, TN: Mayor David Briley published a Spanish-language (English subtitled) PSA that logged more than 110,000 views shortly after its release on July 12. A statement targeted to the immigrant community was issued on July 22 following a highly-publicized incident in which an ICE attempt to arrest residents was blocked by community members.
- Santa Fe, NM: Mayor Alan Webber issued a statement on the threat of coordinated nationwide ICE raids in which he referred to them as “fundamentally un-American and antithetical to our values. Even the suggestion is enough to foster fear among all our people, not just immigrants. It hurts our law enforcement, hampers our economy, traumatizes families and children, and casts a shadow on the whole community.” A summary of Santa Fe’s response is HERE.
Over the years, mayors across the nation have implemented a wide range of policies designed to strengthen the goals of inclusiveness and compassion for their cities. All mayors are invited to provide information to the Center on their initiatives, to be accessed by other mayors on this Web page. The reports that follow summarize efforts underway in a number of cities; each identifies a person in the city to be contacted for additional information.
- Auburn, WA: The Blue Ribbon Committee for Auburn – The Healthiest City in Washington – 2020
- Austin: Mayor’s Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities Task Force
- Baton Rouge: Cradle to K
- Braintree: A Town Meeting the Needs of All Residents
- Chapel Hill: Chapel Hill Building Integrated Communities
- Charleston: Charleston Illumination Project
- Dallas: Dallas #BeGolden Initiative
- Denver: Sentencing Reform for a Safe, Welcoming, Open City
- Fontana: Kindness is Powerful, Pass it On
- Gresham: Hate is Not a Gresham Value
- Gresham: Celebrating Compassion Through Public Art
- Louisville: Mayor’s Give a Day Week of Service
- Madison: Civil Rights Initiatives
- Oakland: The Oakland Promise
- Oakland: Responding to Homelessness in Oakland
- Richmond: Eviction Diversion Program
- Richmond: The Capital of Inclusion
- Santa Fe: Living Our Values
- Tampa: Autism Friendly Tampa
- Tukwila: Wi-Fi Access for Underprivileged Youth in Tukwila
- Union City: Union City’s Compassionate City Status
- Westland: Compassionate City Initiative