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Worcester NAACP pulls out of city’s Tercentenary Committee

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Updated: Mar. 07, 2022, 11:55 a.m. | Published: Mar. 07, 2022, 11:55 a.m.

The president of the Worcester branch of the NAACP is “agitated and enraged” by the departure of the city’s chief diversity officer. In a statement posted to the branch’s Facebook page on Sunday, Fred Taylor, Sr. said the departure of Stephanie Williams left the hopes of the city’s Black and Brown communities, “frustrated, denied, and delayed until another time.” The city announced Williams departure Friday afternoon stating she is moving on in her career. Williams has been in her role for nearly a year and a half, joining the City Manager’s Executive Cabinet as the leader of the Executive Office of Diversity and Inclusion in November of 2020. “The time for symbolic gestures and resolutions has passed, today we are forced to stop and re-evaluate,” Taylor wrote in his statement, “Effective immediately, the Worcester NAACP is withdrawing as an institutional member of Worcester’s Tercentenary Committee.” Worcester is celebrating its 300th anniversary with events through out the year including a Tercentennial Weekend in June. The branch was honored to be invited to participate in the committee, Taylor said on Talk of the Commonwealth Monday morning, and he is “really not happy to walk away from it because it’s historic.” However, addressing diversity in housing, getting jobs, and social justice is more important than celebrations and parties, Taylor said on the show. In his statement, Taylor pointed out that Williams’ departure marks the third departure in the role in quick succession. Malika Carter was the first chief diversity officer hired by the city in January 2016 and she left the role in July 2017. Suja Chacko was hired in the role in March 2018 and was in her role for less than two years. Taylor said the departures raise questions about why Williams left. He asked in his statement if it meant she felt unsupported, undervalued, ignored, or marginalized. “Are we serious about diversity and equity in Worcester?,” Taylor asked, “Why is there such difficulty in keeping someone in this position?” The city said it will begin the recruitment and replacement process soon, but Taylor said the branch is demanding that the city not rush to hire replacement just to check a box. “Our community needs answers first,” Taylor said, “We don’t want symbols we want true change.” On Talk of the Commonweath, Taylor said he hasn’t talked to any of the women who departed the role about why they left, but his intuition and the departure of all three of them tell him something else is going on. The city’s press release about William’s departure included a statement from her that does not address directly why she’s leaving. “Worcester is such an amazing city and I am pleased to have been able to contribute to some of the great work being done here,” Williams said. City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. said that while they are said to see Stephanie go, “we stand committed to our goals of promoting a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion in the City workforce, and we are better off for having had Stephanie’s experience to help further our mission.”

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