Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 3 – March 2024

NAVIGATION
“There’s no (linguistic) diversity in Vermont.”

by Isabella Paredes Mendoza

I came to Vermont in August 2021 to start my college career. I was nineteen years old, paranoid about Covid, and terrified to leave the place I always called home: Lima, Peru. I was about to leave my family and friends behind to dive into an unknown place entirely by myself. 

I had some expectations of Vermont. “The culture is completely different,” “people are as cold as the weather,” “you will rarely find other Latinos” were phrases I’ve heard from people who already lived in Vermont and other parts of New England; people who knew the state more than I did. But the most remarkable and perhaps hurtful remark was “You won’t get to speak Spanish anymore.”

Why? The person later elaborated on how Vermont was not diverse at all, and that in fact, it was one of the whitest states in the country. As of 2023, Hispanics and Latinos accounted for only 1.99 percent of the state’s population, making us one of the states with lowest Hispanic and Latino population as a percentage of the total population. This statistic was somewhat intimidating. All I knew was Latin America, and I was hoping to find some comfort and build alliances with other Latinos in Vermont. When you are so far from home, finding people who share cultural similarities with you can feel like a big, warm hug.

Once I moved to Vermont, I noticed that the “there is no diversity in Vermont” statement was prevalent. I used to see it as a harmless remark, until I started working on my documentary about language access. Then I saw the impact this prevailing statement had on Vermonters of color, particularly those who don’t speak English, or have English as a foreign language, and how it affected their opportunities to get access to healthcare, legal, and educational services.

That was the point where I realized it was more than just a statement— it was an ideology, an attitude. There are at least eighteen different languages spoken here in Vermont. That means there are at least eighteen different linguistic communities, ways of expression, and cultural identities. When talking to multilingual community health workers, social workers, and all sorts of active participants in the fight towards language access in Vermont, it was fascinating to discover how much this statement had permeated into different industries that offer essential services.

One of the professionals I had a conversation with started several projects of language access in the state, particularly in the healthcare industry. They mentioned that when pitching the project, highlighting how there is a strong language barrier between migrants and the healthcare industry in Vermont preventing them from getting medical care, they would often get the response: “But for who? there are no migrants in Vermont.” This situation was exactly like one I read in Teresa M. Mares’ Life on the Other Border, where after giving a long talk about migrant issues and acknowledging the presence, contributions, and struggles of Latino farmworkers in the state, one of the University of Vermont students in her public responded with: “What are you going to do in Vermont? There are no Mexicans in Vermont!” This is where the cycle begins: we are not seen, because we are not seen our needs are non-existent, and because there is nothing done to address our needs, industries remain exclusive and inaccessible to us, and then the cycle repeats itself.

As much as Vermont tries to be as accepting and embracing of different cultures, it still fails at acknowledging the existence of migrants, particularly migrants of color, and their linguistic needs. The same people who claim to be strong allies will choose to remain blind to injustices happening in their own towns. Yet I remain hopeful for positive change. What we need is active allyship, visibility being the starting point. This includes moving away from the “there is no diversity in Vermont” mentality, which often invisibilizes the presence of Vermonters of color, let alone our needs and contributions.

We might be small in numbers, but we are here.

About the Author

Isabella Paredes Mendoza is a media producer and college student originally from Lima, Peru. She moved to Vermont in 2021 to start her college career at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. Through her work, Paredes Mendoza explores cultural identity and youth culture, incorporating different elements of social justice.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isabella-paredes/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/isapm.media/

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

Our member spotlight is on Tony Tukai (he/him)! Excited to be part of a community of great individuals in Vermont, Tony was born in Kenya and relocated to Burlington in 2022. He currently works as the Outreach/Case Manager for the Homeless Care Program within the Community Health Centers.

In this spotlight, Tony offers insight into his background, his experiences, and the challenges and opportunities he has observed as a relatively new professional of color in Vermont.

news FROM THE NETWORK

Introducing: VT PoC’s The Things in Between!

Missed out on our past Financial Literacy Series webinars? No worries! We’re shaking things up and bringing the knowledge straight to your screens with our new video format!

Get ready to dive into The Things in Between! ✨ Our hopes for The Things in Between is to provide an accessible way to share information, while also discussing topics beyond financial literacy. In February, we spoke with Cathy Duffy from Baystate Financial to answer your questions about life insurance. Check out the playlist at the link below!

Our next video series will be about understanding personal credit! If you have any questions you want us to ask a professional about understanding personal credit, email outreach@vtpoc.net.

VT PoC’s 2023 Annual Report

2023 was an incredible year of growth and community for VT PoC, and we’re excited to share the work that we did with you. Find the full report at the link below.

Document cover for VT PoC 2023 annual report pdf

Camp Outright is looking for campers, staff, and leaders-in-trainings!

Camp Outright is a residential summer camp with a queer twist! It’s a vibrant camp that’s all about queer joy, finding your people, adventure, fun, and community. Apply to volunteer for a stipend, or apply to camp! Camper applications are open until March 13.

No rush needed to apply, they don’t operate on a first come first serve basis. They offer full and partial scholarships and they don’t turn anyone away due to a lack of funds.

State of Vermont Outdoor Recreation Survey

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative invites you to share your views on outdoor recreation in Vermont by completing a brief survey.

The mobile-friendly online survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes and asks questions about outdoor activities, opportunities, barriers, and opinions on priorities. Your input will guide and support decisions about where to focus energy and resources across the outdoor recreation landscape over the next five years.

To learn more, visit the Move Forward Together Vermont website and feel free to share the link to the survey with your organization and community.

2024 Vermont Prize Submissions Open Now!

Submissions are due by March 31. This year’s special guest juror is Phong H. Bui, an artist, curator, and co-founder and publisher of The Brooklyn Rail. No fee to apply.

All Vermont-based artists are eligible. Winner receives $5,000 and a party!

2024 Braiding Seeds Fellowship Applications Open Now!

The Braiding Seeds Fellowship is an 18 month long remote fellowship program for beginning BIPOC farmers based in the northeast and southeast of the US. The fellowship provides $50,000 stipends as well as resources in professional development, mentorship, business acumen, and individualized coaching!

This is officially the final year of our initial 5 year pilot program so we highly encourage folks to apply, both new applicants and returners! If you always had this program on your radar but never felt up for submitting an application, this is YOUR year!

CVOEO’s Community Action Network Tax Preparation and Assistance Season

From Thursday, February 1 through Monday, April 15, low-to-moderate income Vermonters can receive no-cost assistance with income tax return preparation through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), as well as help with rent rebates and homestead property declarations.

Please call to schedule an appointment for tax assistance or return preparation.

EVENTS

March 5, 12, 19, 26 (Every Tuesday) – Richard Kemp Center: Got Chess? (5:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
The Youth Chess Club is a dynamic and inclusive program designed to empower young individuals from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities through the timeless game of chess. Our program offers a safe and welcoming space where youth can explore the world of chess, cultivate essential life skills, and experience a range of valuable benefits.

March 6, 13, 20, 27 – ELL Classes: English for Beginners and Intermediate Students (6:30 PM – 8:00 PM)
Beginning English-language learners can practice written and spoken English with a certified TOEFL instructor. FREE. Please register for classes by emailing Barbara Shatara at bshatara@burlingtonvt.gov.

March 7 through 10 – The Field Center Presents: THE DRAWING WORKSHOP – Somagic {somatic+magic} Embodiment Through Drawing and Movement
A four-day drawing and movement intensive based in research and skill-building inside of personal practices and collective scores. Anya and Lilianna share their collaborative vision on a deep dive into the individual and collective body. Somatic mark making, fundamental techniques of drawing from observation, and cultivation or imaging and inner vision. Daily movement sessions activate the whole body as an envisioning creative being and open gateways to empathetic relating. Fresh home-cooked meals, an extensive library and record collection, steamy saunas, {optional} cold river plunges, fires, 48 acres of woodland, each other. We offer 3 full scholarships for BIPOC folks in each session.

March 7 – Am I Doing This Right? Business Basics Drop-In Sessions with Cristine Hammer – CWE Vermont – Virtual (5:30 PM – 6:30 PM)
You aren’t alone! Join CWEVT trusted experts in a relaxed, welcoming drop-in session to get your questions answered and connect with other clients! This is a ‘business basics’ session where you can check your thinking and get some insight into next steps if you’re feeling stuck. This is a great option for you if: You are registering your business or trying to name your business, you are exploring building your team of advisors and vendors, you are experimenting in sales and with your desired customer market, and/or you are otherwise in the early stages of business.

March 7 – Burlington City Arts: Migration and Contemporary Cultures in Vermont (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)
Our communities in Vermont include diverse cultures influenced by immigrant and refugee communities. We can think about some as cultures of diaspora, a word referring to a group of people dispersed beyond their traditional homeland or point of origin. What are some examples of diaspora culture here and now? How do creators bridge artistic, historical, and linguistic traditions to the new conditions and possibilities they encounter here? Pablo Bose, a UVM researcher working with immigrant-serving organizations, moderates a lively conversation with Negina Azimi and Abdullah Hafizi of the global arts collective ArtLords (originally based in Afghanistan) and exhibiting artist Paula Higa (Brazil/US). Following our program, we will stay open until 8 pm for an informal reception. Co-sponsored by UVM Global and Regional Studies. This event will also stream online. REGISTER HERE.

March 7 – Richard Kemp Center: Virtual Black Affinity Space for Youth (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
All are welcome to participate In recognition of the unique experiences, challenges, and strengths of the African Diaspora “Black Space provides a safe, supportive, and empowering environment where Black individuals can come together to share common experiences, build relationships, foster community, and promote healing. Click for meeting link.

March 7 – The Flynn Center Presents: PechaKucha Night Burlington (7:00 PM)
PechaKucha Night Burlington (or “PKN Burlington”) is a visual storytelling event that celebrates the creative power and diversity of our community here in Burlington, across Vermont, and beyond. Drawing its name from the Japanese word for the sound of “chit chat,” PechaKucha (pronounced Petch-aa Koo-chaa) is a worldwide phenomenon that began over 15 years ago in Tokyo, and that can now claim regular events in over 1,000 cities across the globe. Since our inception in 2010, we’ve hosted 35 (and counting!) PechaKucha Nights, featuring over 260 unique presentations. Cost: $10

March 8, 22, 29 – Dance/Rink Skate Drop-In Sessions with Joy Riders and Vermont Skate Society (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Bring your own skates or request a pair in advance (preferably 24 hr notice). Helmet & waiver required (bike helmet ok). All entry fees will be donated to the ONE Strings music program at the Integrated Arts Academy. Please let us know if you need financial assistance. Cost: $10/session, venmo or cash accepted.

March 8, 22 (Every 2nd and 4th Friday) – Richard Kemp Center: Youth Movie Night (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Youth Movie Night is a community-centered initiative aimed at promoting awareness, understanding, and dialogue on racial justice issues through the medium of film. This program creates a safe and inclusive space where youth from 8 to 18 can come together to watch thought-provoking movies with cultural themes, engage in meaningful discussions, and share food in a welcoming and collaborative environment.

March 9 – Feda Eid’s Solo Exhibition, “Rooted Revelations” at Firefolk Arts (3:00 PM – 6:00 PM)
Join us for an opening reception in Waitsfield, VT. Feda Eid (she/her) is a Lebanese-American visual artist living on occupied, unceded, territory of the Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Massachusett People (Quincy, MA). Her portrait / self portrait work explores the expression of heritage, tradition, identity, and the often tense but beautiful space between what is said, what is felt, and what is lost in translation. She captures these emotions through her bold use of color, textiles, adornment, and pop culture linking the past and present. As the daughter of Lebanese immigrants who fled the country’s civil war in 1982, Feda is guided by her family’s journey and her own childhood growing up as a Muslim in the US. Free entry / donations suggested.

March 9 – “Eat, Drum, Dance!” with Shidaa Projects (6:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
A celebration of Ghana’s Independence Day with special dinner, drumming, and dancing celebrations in Barre!

March 13 – FREE In-Person Homebuying 101 Seminar (6:30 PM – 8:00 PM)
If you are looking to buy a home this spring, now is the perfect time to get educated about the process! Join VHFA, New England Federal Credit Union, and Nancy Jenkins Real Estate at Spare Time Entertainment in Colchester for a FREE seminar to learn about the homebuying process and how our team of industry experts could help you. Spots are limited, so make sure to RSVP!

March 14 – Richard Kemp Center: Black Affinity Space for Adults (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
All are welcome to participate In recognition of the unique experiences, challenges, and strengths of the African Diaspora “Black Space provides a safe, supportive, and empowering environment where Black individuals can come together to share common experiences, build relationships, foster community, and promote healing.

March 14 – Vermont Womenpreneurs’s Burlington Biz Buzz (10:00 AM – 11:00 AM)
Our monthly Burlington Vermont Womenpreneurs meet-up at 10am is an opportunity for women business owners in Chittenden County to connect, learn of new opportunities and updates from one another. Drip coffee will be available at Vivid Coffee. Food and espresso drinks are available to purchase.

March 15 – Richard Kemp Center: Game Night (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
The Game Night is a unique and inclusive community event designed to foster unity, understanding, and celebration of diverse cultures while promoting racial equity and social justice. This is a welcoming space for people from all racial backgrounds to come together, have fun, and engage in meaningful conversations. You can expect Inclusive Games, Cultural Exchange, Racial Justice Discussions, Networking and Building, Community, Food and Refreshments and a Family-Friendly Environment.

March 15 – Taco and Wine with Las Hermosas (5:30 PM – 9:00 PM)
Meet a friend, bring your fam (we’ll have quesadillas for the kiddos) or just come and soak in the sweet scene at Vivid Coffee in Burlington, and be sure to pop your head into the kitchen to say hi!

March 17 – Myra Flynn: Live in Concert at the Plainfield Townhall Opera House (4:00 PM)
Join us for an incredible afternoon of live music with the talented Myra Flynn at the historic Plainfield Town Hall Opera House. Get ready to groove to Myra’s soulful tunes and captivating vocals as she takes the stage. This in-person event promises to be a night of pure musical magic that you won’t want to miss. So mark your calendars and come on down to the Opera House for a memorable night of music and fun!

March 17 – Las Cafeteras at Zenbarn (7:00 PM – 10:30 PM)
This St. Paddy’s Day get ready for the one and only LAS CAFETERAS!! A night of Afro-Mexican beats, rhythms and rhymes!! Vamos! Don’t miss this rare East Coast play for the LA-based Las Cafeteras! This is an all ages show and will sell quick! Cost: $25 for general admission, $30 for day of show.

March 18 – Am I Doing This Right? Business Basics Drop-In Sessions with Ronda Berns – CWE Vermont – Virtual (5:00 PM – 6:30 PM)
You aren’t alone! Join CWEVT trusted experts in a relaxed, welcoming drop-in session to get your questions answered and connect with other clients! This is a ‘business basics’ session where you can check your thinking and get some insight into next steps if you’re feeling stuck. This is a great option for you if: You are registering your business or trying to name your business, you are exploring building your team of advisors and vendors, you are experimenting in sales and with your desired customer market, and/or you are otherwise in the early stages of business.

March 15 – Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s FREE Homebuying Seminar (6:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
Would you LOVE to learn more about the homebuying process and how to navigate a challenging market? We will offer another FREE webinar later this month to help you achieve your dream of homeownership! 🥰 🏠

March 19, 26 – Fletcher Free Library Presents: USCRI Financial and Digital Literacy Class (12:00 PM – 2:00 PM)
USCRI financial and digital literacy skills program with the Opportunities Credit Union.

March 21, 22, 23 – Sam Jay at the Vermont Comedy Club (7:00 PM, 9:00 PM)
Stand-up comic, actor, and Emmy-nominated writer Sam Jay can currently be seen as the host of HBO’s Pause with Sam Jay, a weekly late-night series on which she also served as executive producer. Sam’s next stand up special, Sam Jay: Salute Me or Shoot Me, will premiere on HBO on September 23rd. She can currently be seen in her stand out role opposite Jonah Hill, Eddie Murphy, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the Kenya Barris-directed feature film, You People, now streaming on Netflix.

March 21 – Richard Kemp Center: Outreach and Education; Equal Protection and Reparations – Hybrid (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Join us at the Richard Kemp Center for outreach and education on systemic racism root causes, impact and discussions on solutions. This is an opportunity to learn and get acquainted with folks who are interested and engaged in doing the work of eradicating systemic racism. These sessions are intended to equip our community and provide space to do the work. If attending online, click to register in advance for this meeting.

March 23 – Career Empowerment Day (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
Champlain College, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, HireAbility, Mercy Connections, Vermont Adult Learning, and VT Works for Women are hosting our first annual Career Empowerment Day at the O’Brien Community Center (32 Malletts Bay Ave) in Winooski. This event will be an opportunity for Chittenden County residents to prepare for job searching, receive resources and information about resumes, cover letters, interview skills and financial information, AND have the opportunity to select work-appropriate clothing.

March 23 – Fletcher Free Library Presents: The Poetry Experience with Rajnii Eddins (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM)
Looking for a fun space to be creative and share poetry? Check out this local writing/sharing circle (held every 2nd and 4th Saturday). The Poetry Experience is hosted by Rajnii Eddins! Please spread the word and feel free to invite poets, writers, teachers, emcees, creative people and arts enthusiasts of all ages.

March 24 – The Flynn Center Presents: Peking Acrobats (7:00 PM)
For the last thirty two years, The Peking Acrobats have redefined audience perceptions of Chinese acrobatics. They perform daring maneuvers atop a precarious pagoda of chairs and display their technical prowess at trick-cycling, precision tumbling, juggling, somersaulting, and gymnastics. They push the limits of human ability, defying gravity with amazing displays of contortion, flexibility, and control, often accompanied by live musicians who skillfully play traditional Chinese instruments. The Peking Acrobats are part of a time-honored Chinese tradition, rooted in centuries of Chinese history and folk art. They seek to uphold this rich and ancient folk art tradition, bringing it to new technical heights while integrating twenty-first century technology. Cost: $19 – $49.

March 27 – Who Will Buy It? Creating a Customer Persona – CWE Vermont – Virtual (11:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
Knowing who will buy it—your ideal customer/client—is key in developing an effective marketing message and an efficient and economical marketing plan/campaign. In this workshop we’ll work on identifying your ideal target audience, talk about why it’s important, how it plays into making marketing decisions, including which social media to use, how to do market research, and spend time developing a client/customer persona.

March 27 – Poetry with Reuben (6:30 PM – 8:30 PM)
Lit Club at Radio Bean, hosted by Rajnii Eddins. Featuring poetry by loved ones of Reuben Jackson, followed by Open Mic.

March 28 through 31 – The Field Center Presents: THE SHAKE WORKSHOP
This somatic durational exploration is created and facilitated by Anya Smolnikova & Rose Cole-Cohen. Through multiple daily Group Shakes, guided movement, and supported rest, we will collectively shake up and nurture our sweet nervous systems. Each day will be structured around 2 one-hour long shakes, with a final two-hour Big Shake on Sunday. Guided movement, writing, and drawing sessions will be offered to process what arises in our bodies. Our practice will be supported by nutritious home-cooked meals, beautiful studios, steamy saunas, cozy fireplace, {optional} cold plunges, and more. We offer 3 full scholarships for BIPOC folks in each session.

March 28 – Dinner & Creative Connecting at Firefolk Arts with VT Womenpreneurs (5:30 PM – 8:00 PM)
Join Vermont Womenpreneurs and Firefolk Arts for an artful Biz Buzz meetup / dinner at Firefolk Arts in Waitsfield, and connect over shared stories and creativity. Food by Taíno Kitchen, beverages by Wild Sings the Bird, poems by Harmony Belle Devoe, and block-printing with Trillium Handcrafts. Cost: $25.

March 29 – Community Dialogues for Entrepreneurs: Destigmatize Financial Trauma Around Accessing Capital (10:00 AM – 11:30 AM)
Guided conversation about the real experiences we have as humans running a business. Entrepreneurs and business owners are invited to participate to build community, share learning, and broaden perspective around common themes and challenges women, femmes, and thems experience in current business communication, culture, and operations. Trauma around accessing capital we might discuss: sharing challenges and successes around accessing capital and business funding, building stress response stamina, language, and ideas for navigating this part of business growth, understanding financial trauma and ways to shift to empowerment

FUNDING & GRANTS

BIPOC Relief Fund Reopening Soon for BIPOC Small Businesses and Community Members

The BIPOC Relief Fund is currently closed for review and will reopen soon with limited funding available to BIPOC small business owners and community members. Stay tuned on our social media as we prepare for the reopening of the fund!

NOFA-VT’s Farm Share Program – Waitlist Open
NOFA-VT’s Farm Share Program reduces the cost (25-75%) of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share or farm stand credit for Vermonters in need of financial assistance, while ensuring farmers are fully paid. A CSA is a subscription (usually weekly) from a farm for a regular supply of farm-fresh veggies, dairy products, meats, bread, and more. Due to high demand, all applications for Spring/Summer application cycle will be added to a waitlist. If funding opens up, we will contact you regarding next steps.

Vermont Arts Council – Creation Grants
The Vermont Arts Council is now accepting applications for its annual Creation Grant, which supports artists or artist groups in creating new work. Grant funds may be used to compensate artists for time spent creating new work, to purchase materials, or to rent equipment or space for the process. This highly competitive program is reviewed by an independent panel of practicing artists and arts professionals. Both established and emerging artists are encouraged to apply. Application Deadline: April 9, 2024.

The BIPOC Artist Exchange and Activation Initiative
The BIPOC Artist Exchange and Activation Initiative is designed to showcase the contributions of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists to the New England art community. This program empowers BIPOC artists in New Hampshire and New England, inspiring local BIPOC artists by introducing them to artists from outside our community.

NEWS

UVM’s Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships announces wave of grants to tackle challenges faced by rural communities statewide
Vermont organizations representing a broad spectrum of diverse interests including community school building, clean energy, flood resilience, regenerative agriculture and health care access will be lifted by the first round of grant funding administered by the University of Vermont’s Leahy Institute for Rural partnerships (LIRP).

House passes bill aimed at increasing diversity in Vermont’s courts
“We’re trying to open the door so more people come into the lobby,” said Rep. Martin LaLonde, a South Burlington Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary committee.

Record warm winter all but guaranteed for parts of Vermont, New York
As we get further into mud season, the Northeast Regional Climate Center predicts above-normal temperatures will continue.

Ray Vega honors the legacy of jazz scholar and friend Reuben Jackson
On Feb. 16, 2024 the world said goodbye to beloved jazz scholar, educator, poet and former Friday Night Jazz host Reuben Jackson. Current host Ray Vega honors Jackson’s memory and legacy with a special tribute on this week’s show.

Telemedicine could become more accessible in Vermont, thanks to legislation approved by House
The Vermont House on Thursday gave its strong approval to legislation intended to make telemedicine more accessible.

Cabot residents to vote — again — on whether to close their high school
The binding article was added to the school district ballot through a community petition, marking the fourth time in the past 11 years that voters will weigh in on the question.

25,000 low-income Vermonters may lose internet subsidy in April: ‘Without that Wi-Fi, I’m sunk’
If Congress doesn’t act, a $14 billion federal program that subsidizes high speed internet for low-income households will run out of money in April. More than 25,000 Vermonters will be impacted — nearly half of whom are 50 or older.

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