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Support Ukraine, oppose bias: Town groups seek action; watch ACMi videos

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UPDATED April 22: The Arlington Human Rights Commission, the Disability Commission, the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission and the Diversity Task Group of Envision Arlington on Friday, March 18, issued the following statement on the war in Ukraine: 

We support Ukraine and everyone affected by the Russian invasion. As of this writing, more than 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring Poland, which has taken in 1.9 million refugees, as well as Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova generously welcomed by other countries, there have been reports that nonwhite refugees have faced racism from border guards, other officials and residents of neighboring countries in their attempts to find safety.

Additional reports have documented the heightened risk of violence faced by LGBTQIA+ refugees entering countries with harsh antigay laws and the difficulties faced by people living with disabilities as they flee the war.

Everyone who has been displaced by this crisis deserves to be safely housed and fed regardless of their race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation and/or gender. We deeply empathize with those affected by this crisis, and we urge residents of Arlington who are concerned about the war in Ukraine to do the following:

As Putin’s war rages on in Ukraine, roughly 300 journalists do what they can to stem the tide of Russian disinformation. They call themselves “Ukraine PR Army.” Among other things, they translate false Russian news items into English and broadcast the truth throughout Eastern Europe. ACMi News gets an exclusive update now from Nastya Popandopulos, the coordinator of Ukraine PR Army:

Think globally, act locally

Twenty percent of Arlington residents were born in countries outside of the United States including Ukraine (445 residents) and Russia (1011 residents), and English is not the first language for 19 percent of residents. Our town is also home to refugees and asylum seekers who have fled violence in Central and South America, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The ArCS Cluster serves refugee families and individuals in Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville and nearby towns by mobilizing local volunteers who provide practical help, emotional support, and financial assistance to people fleeing violence and war as they work to establish themselves in a new community. You can help by volunteering or making a financial contribution.

Support local efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees

Breadboard Bakery at 203A Broadway is donating proceeds from the sale of loaves of Sour Cherry Sunflower Sourdough bread to CARE’s Ukraine Crisis Fund, which is providing immediate aid and recovery, food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance to Ukrainians while prioritizing the needs of women and girls, families and the elderly.

Arlington resident and musician Hazel Dean Davis is participating in “An Evening of Chamber Music for Horn, Clarinet & Piano,” featuring music by Akimenko, Brahms and Reinecke on Saturday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m., at Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church, 1555 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. Tickets are $15-$30.

All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, Inc., which is providing medical supplies, health care treatment, and food and shelter to Ukrainian residents and refugees.

The Boston Globe has reported that the owners and employees of Russian restaurants, bookstores, and schools have faced acts of bias from people angry about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These attacks serve no purpose other than to sow division and hatred. If you witness or hear such acts of bias, do not participate and intervene to stop it, if you can do so safely. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of bias, you can also report it to the Human Rights Commission here.

Meanwhile, there are many people in Russia who are protesting the war and facing dire consequences as a result, which serves as an important reminder that making sweeping generalizations about a group of people is never a good idea.

Protect democracy

Democracy is fragile. It can be significantly weakened or undone by war, propaganda, apathy, or a combination of these factors. You can protect it by participating as a voter and, if you’re able, a civic volunteer.

On April 2, the town of Arlington will hold elections for Select Board, School Committee, Board of Assessors, Town Moderator, and Town Meeting. Decisions made by these elected officials affect the culture, priorities, and management of our town, and include important expressions of civic values such as the creation of the Human Rights Commission and the Disability Commission in 1993, and the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission in 2017. These commissions and other town committees rely on volunteers to get their work done. Learn more about opportunities to volunteer here.

See the ACMi video interview with the Rev. John Morris of St. John the Baptist
Ukrainian Catholic Church in Salem:

Resources for further information: Experiences of refugees and displaced persons

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) publishes information about refugees that can foster greater understanding. Here are some that may be of interest:

  • Data portal on Ukrainian refugees that is updated daily. This includes the number of refugees, number of refugees accepted by other countries, and number of displaced people within Ukraine.
  • Resources: “National, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples”
  • Report: “Checklist to strengthen UN work at country level to combat racial discrimination and advance minority rights, March 19, 2021”
  • Discussion Paper: “2021 Global Roundtable LGBTIQ+ Persons in Forced Displacement and Statelessness: Protection and Solutions”
  • Report: “UNHCR’s approach to forcibly displaced and stateless persons with disabilities – 2022”
  • Resources: Gender-Based Violence experienced by refugees and displaced persons
Resources for further information: Learning about Ukraine, Russia

Neiman Lab: “Some resources for following the invasion of Ukraine: Lists, liveblogs, maps.” The Neiman Lab is a project of the Neiman Foundation, the mission of which is to “promote and elevate the standards of journalism and educate and support those poised to make important contributions to its future.”

New Yorker writer Masha Gesson’s columns about Russia and Ukraine. Gessen is the author of 11 books, including Surviving Autocracy and The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the National Book Award in 2017. She is a distinguished writer in residence at Bard College and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, the Hitchens Prize, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary.

“US Military Escalation Against Russia Would Have No Victors,” an interview with Noam Chomsky published by Truthout, March 1, 2022. Noam Chomsky is the founder of modern linguistics and one of the most cited scholars in modern history. He is also a philosopher, social critic, and political theorist. He is both an anarchist who believes in a radically different way of ordering society as well as a pragmatist who urged leftists to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

“It’s time to ask: what would a Ukraine-Russia peace deal look like?” An article by Anatol Lieven published by The Guardian, March 4, 2022. Anatol Lieven is a Senior Research Fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a visiting professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London.

A former journalist for the Financial Times and the Times of London covering Central Europe, Russian, and the former Soviet Union, Lieven is the author of numerous books on these regions, including Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power?,” “Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry” and “The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,” which was awarded the 1994 George Orwell Prize for Political Writing.

Resources for further information: Reading Lists

The First Book Marketplace offers books and educational resources at deeply discounted prices to educators serving children in need. It has curated a list of books, titled “Immigrant and Refugee Experiences” that spotlight the diversity, histories, cultures, and experiences of people who have left their homelands, either by choice or forcibly.

The Biden administration is imposing sweeping sanctions on Russia in response to atrocities in Ukraine that the White House has called “war crimes.” ACMi News is keeping in touch with a married couple in Ukraine who said they will take up arms if necessary. ACMi News recently spoke to John and Natasha Sennett, who live in the old city section of Kyiv:

These books are geared for children of all ages, but many would also be of interest to adults. Included among these recommendations is Refugee by Alan Gratz, which tells the story of three middle schoolers who escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Cuba in 1994 and Syria in 2015. Refugee was a 2019 selection of Arlington Reads Together.

This statement of opinion was published Friday, March 18, 2022. It was updated March 25, April 3 and April 22, to add an ACMi video.

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