City Council voted Oct. 20 to release a public letter condemning racism. Councilors all agreed that it reflects their views and the stance they want to take as elected officials representing citizens.

“It is imperative that the city of Belfast continues to work to ensure that our community is inclusive and welcoming to all, and that our message is clear: any act of racial injustice will not be tolerated here,” the letter states.

It comes after the city held a listening session about race last September where Black members of the community talked about their experiences in Belfast and elsewhere in the state. The meeting had a panel of three Black young adults, two from Belfast and one from Aroostook County.

The young adults all had stories about circumstances where they were discriminated against in the community and how their schools did not address instances of racism in a meaningful way. Rio Dubois, 16, who lives in Waldo and Islesboro, spoke publicly about an incident in a fast food restaurant where he and some racial minority friends were yelled at by an older white man.

The virtual meeting also gave white members of the community a chance to ask questions and reflect on what they were hearing from the panelists. Community members all praised the panelists for speaking about their stories.

“We have far more in common than separates us,” Waldo County Deputy Sheriff Jason Trundy said at the Sept. 29 meeting. “If we’re willing to leave these stereotypes behind and just connect with one another as human beings, I think that is the answer to some of this.”

Councilors agreed that it was important to make public a letter stating the city’s stance on racism because of the current heated climate about racism nationally. Councilor Mike Hurley said just because Maine is predominantly made up of white people does not mean there are no race issues in the state.

Councilor Neal Harkness called on the community to address the issue with actions and not just words. Mayor Eric Sanders said the listening sessions were some of the most meaningful events in his life. “The path might wind, but by God, it keeps going forward,” he said regarding progress on the issue.

A full transcript of the letter can be found on the city’s website.