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.

Mayors’ Initiatives

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.

Best Practices

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.

Business Services in Cities

Examples of ways cities are using services provided by businesses to reach out to, engage, and benefit residents
have been provided to the Center by members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Business Council.

Resources to Support City Efforts

Across the nation, numerous national organizations work with cities to combat the social, racial, economic and other inequities that stand as barriers to inclusiveness and compassion in communities.  These organizations, many of which are interrelated and jointly sponsor programs, serve as resources for mayors and other city leaders, providing ideas for initiatives as well as direct assistance in implementing and operating them.  For the following examples, mission statements and services described are based on information provided on the organizations’ Websites.

Organizations 

  • Living Cities Founded in 1991, Living Cities works collectively with cross-sector leaders in cities to develop and scale up new approaches geared to achieving dramatically better results for low-income people and the cities where they live. The organization “harnesses the collective power of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to build a new type of urban practice.”  The Website lists an extensive and wide-ranging list of resources that have been developed and applied in numerous cities.  The Website also includes an interactive map of the cities in which Living Cities has worked, with details on the scope of that work and mayoral roles in it.
  • Government Alliance on Race and Equity – A national network of local and regional governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all people, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) provides technical training as well as resources such as racial equity guidebooks and action toolkits, which are available on the organization’s Website. A joint project of Race Forward and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, GARE has worked with over 170 government jurisdictions. Information is available from Julie Nelson at nelson@racialequityalliance.org.
  • Race ForwardFounded in 1981, Race Forward employs systematic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. The organization conducts original and broadly available research on pressing racial justice issues ranging from immigration to economic inequality. Services described on the Website range across media advocacy, policy and program development, strategic coaching, curriculum design, educational material production, public presentations and keynote speeches, investigative journalism, community organizing, leadership development and applied technology.  Information is available from Travon Anderson at tanderson@raceforward.org.
  • Center for Social Inclusion – United with Race ForwardCSI was established in 2002 to catalyze community, government, and other institutions to dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all. The mission is to craft and apply strategies and tools to transform policies, practices, and institutions in order to achieve racial equity. The organization’s programs address equity across areas such as broadband, food, energy, and transportation, and its Website includes examples of cities that have employed their strategies and tools. In 2017, CSI and Race Forward announced that they were uniting and integrating the two organizations under Race Forward.  GARE, described above, is a core program of CSI.
  • Racial Equity Here Living Cities, GARE, Race Forward, and the Haas Institute are the founding partners of a movement of hundreds of community organizations, local governments, foundations, schools and businesses across the country working together to advance racial equity. Information is on the Living Cities and GARE Websites. The Racial Equity Here Website provides tools to help organizations learn about race, racism and racial equity; act to advance racial equity by using a simple racial equity tool; and partner locally and across the country to drive a common agenda.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center – The Center’s Teaching Tolerance initiative, founded in 1991, provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. The program emphasizes anti-bias and social justice. Classroom lessons, webinars, grants, podcasts, and policy guides are among free resources available. Educators use materials to supplement curriculum, inform their practices, and create civil and inclusive school communities. More than 500,000 educators are currently involved in some aspect of the program.  Information is on the Center’s Website.

Publications

  • Racial Equity Core Teams ToolkitA Report published by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity provides a toolkit for developing Racial Equity Core Teams, which serve as primary leadership teams, including both formal and informal leaders, that are responsible for designing, coordinating, and organizing racial equity plans and activities across government jurisdictions or institutions that are  committed to equitable systems change.
  • Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: The ‘Racial Equity Here’ EvaluationThe Racial Equity Here initiative, described above, was launched in May 2016 with work in five major U.S. cities that were committed to improving racial equity and advancing opportunity for all. This Evaluation of the Racial Equity Here initiative is designed to offer recommendations for other cities interested in applying a racial equity lens to their policies and operations.
  • Advancing Equity and Inclusion: A Guide for MunicipalitiesThis publication was developed by the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), an organization of Canadian women from diverse communities, organizations, and universities working with city decision makers to create more inclusive cities and advance gender equality. While the Guide is modeled for Canadian cities, its recommended approaches to building equity and inclusion are applicable to all municipalities.