BRUNSWICK — February was an especially welcoming month in town.
During the two meetings it held, town councilors approved two separate initiatives advocating tolerance.
On Feb. 5, councilors approved a banner from Brunswick Public Art reading “Welcome New Mainers,” to be hung at Town Hall. Two weeks later, the town adopted a resolution from Sanctuary Brunswick called “Welcoming New Residents.”
Both were brought to the council by Councilor Jane Millett.
Although the banner and the resolution were proposed by different groups, Millett said Feb. 20 she “thought it was really amazing” she was approached by them at the same time.
She added she thinks the reason the groups selected her is her work with the Human Rights Task Force, which was formed in 2015 after Brunswick residents and Bowdoin College students experienced episodes of racial discrimination.
On Monday, Millett said the task force, which she sat on with Councilor Kathy Wilson and former Councilor Sarah Brayman, has not met in a while. Since it was formed the group has held meetings on specific social justice issues.
“We haven’t been tasked with anything else at this point, so I don’t know whether or not it will sort of go by the wayside,” Millett said. “I think a lot of the things we did were sort of to instigate other groups to be more active and more vocal, and I think they have.”
Millett said she thinks the banner idea had been “percolating for a while,” and that Brayman was first approached about it last year.
Before the final design was chosen, Susan Weems, president of Brunswick Public Art, offered other illustrations, including one that included the Statue of Liberty.
In the end, however, a depiction of faceless people of different races standing beneath the “Welcome New Mainers” message was chosen.
The original banner was painted by two artists from the Artists’ Rapid Response Team, Doreen Conboy and Susanna Lasker, in December 2015 for another organization, the New Mainers Political Action Committee. The piece to be hung in Town Hall is a 25-by-72-inch vinyl reproduction.
According to its website, the Artists’ Rapid Response Team is a collective of artists who collaborate with more than 40 Maine nonprofits to create “issue-oriented, socially engaged banners and props.”
Weems said Brunswick Public Art was interested in placing “human rights banners” around town, and her organization knew ARRT had created several that were appropriate.
She said the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick will also be displaying two human rights banners, one from ARRT and the other from the local Hannaford supermarket, which is also interested in an ARRT banner depicting vegetables.
Weems also said this is Brunswick Public Art’s first collaboration with ARRT, and that it’s taken “many months” to get to this stage in the process.
The “Welcome New Mainers” banner is currently being stored in the town manager’s office, since a television monitor in the Town Hall foyer may have to be moved before the banner can be hung.
Millett said she and Town Manager John Eldridge reviewed Sanctuary Brunswick’s proposed welcoming resolution, and suggested some changes before the final draft was brought to the council.
“I wanted to make sure it was a very positive statement,” Millet said. “I didn’t want there to be a lot of objection to it.”
The resolution states the Town Council “supports the civil liberties and human rights of all people without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, gender identity, ability, citizenship or immigration status.”
Rosalie Paul, one of the founding members of Sanctuary Brunswick, said the co-founders have been “peace and justice activists” for several years.
“We’re delighted that this passed with so much good energy from the Town Council,” Paul said. “The next step for us will be to probably have a few gatherings, community conversations where we may show a film about what it’s like (to immigrate).”
Overall, she said passage of the resolution is a good sign.
“I think what we are very eager to do is to consider this a sign that Brunswick is indeed a welcoming community, and that we have a lot to learn in order to really help the people that are coming,” she said.
This banner from Brunswick Public Art will be hung in Brunswick Town Hall. Town councilors also adopted a resolution welcoming new residents. Both initiatives were brought to the council at the request of Councilor Jane Millett.