By Mara Brooks, Editor
After an initial period of silence, community members are coming forward in support of Lydia Clemmons and the Clemmons Family Farm, with one notable exception: the town itself.
In the last week, public statements of support for the African American cultural center were issued by the Vermont Interfaith Power and Light and the Charlotte Energy Committee, Rep. Mike Yantachka, the United Church of Christ, and several Charlotte residents.
“Dr. Lydia Clemmons, the Clemmons family and the Clemmons Family Farm… have long been valued members of the Charlotte community,” wrote Rep. Yantachka on July 8. “For their credibility to be dismissed in the vandalism and harassment case at their farm is reflective of the inherent bias of our social structure.”
In June, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) made public its investigative findings that Vermont State Police discriminated against Dr. Clemmons on the basis of race and gender. The report stemmed from a three-month period in 2017 where Dr. Clemmons contacted police multiple times to request protection from then tenant Gregory “Grey” Barreda, whom Dr. Clemmons was in the process of evicting. News outlet Seven Days broke the story on June 23.
“We were alarmed and saddened to learn of the Vermont Human Rights Commission’s recent determination that Dr. Lydia Clemmons… was illegally discriminated against by the Vermont State Police based on race and gender,” read a July 7 statement by Pastor Abigail Diehl-Noble, Rev. Susan Cooke Kittredge and Rev. Kevin Eric Mills Goldenbogen of the United Church of Christ. “We [are] compelled by our Christian faith to be witnesses against injustice in all its forms, to state our support of Dr. Clemmons and Clemmons Family Farm, and to condemn the discrimination and threats to which they have been, and are being, subjected.”
Sally Mack, the Clemmons’ neighbor, posted a personal statement on Front Porch Forum on July 12.
“We have lived one house away from the Clemmon’s [sic] Family Farm for nearly 30 years,” Mack wrote. “We have been so blessed by having this lovely family as our neighbors and enjoy their wisdom, expertise, culture, and the beauty in which they have created with their numerous buildings, barns and homes and the African Art and culture that they have brought to our community.”
The Vermont Interfaith Power & Light (VTIPL) and Charlotte Energy Committee issued a joint statement of support and announced fundraising efforts to purchase solar units for the farm through a tithe program connected with the Bristol Community Solar project.
“Those who tithe add 10% to the cost of the units they purchase for themselves to help pay for units for the Farm,” the statement read.
At several recent Selectboard meetings, Dr. Clemmons openly opposed a scoping study placing a proposed Town Link Trail in proximity to the Clemmons Family Farm, citing ongoing security concerns. In an interview with The News, Dr. Clemmons said her fears about the trail were based in part on potential threats stemming from the Barreda matter.
At the June 28 Selectboard meeting, member Lewis Mudge raised the issue of the commission’s findings along with his personal desire to take a public position on the issue.
“Because it’s been kind of crickets from the town with regard to a pretty big statewide news event, I still would like to take a personal position,” Mudge said. He referred to earlier discussions with the board that “it would not be advantageous for the town to take a position” on the issue due to “potential adjudication.”
There was no further discussion on the topic from other board members and the subject was quickly changed. When contacted by The News at print time, Mudge indicated he was not yet able to comment.
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow did not respond to The News for comment on the commission’s findings.
“When someone harms us, we hope for the empathy and assistance of our friends and neighbors,” wrote residents Susan and Vince Crockenberg last week on Front Porch Forum. “We Charlotters have the opportunity to provide that now, for Lydia Clemmons and the Clemmons family.”