Trumbull residents speak of profiling, progress and inclusion at forum

Trumbull resident Challa Flemming speaks Jan. 13, 2022 at a meeting of the Trumbull Equity Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

Trumbull resident Challa Flemming speaks Jan. 13, 2022 at a meeting of the Trumbull Equity Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

Zoom screen capture

TRUMBULL — Since Tarice Gray and her family moved to Trumbull in August, most people have been warm and welcoming. But, in one notable incident, at least one person was not.

Gray, who is Black, spoke Wednesday during a special meeting of Trumbull’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, dubbed EDIT. The purpose of the meeting, which took place virtually, was for town residents to speak out about moments that made them feel included in Trumbull, and moments that made them feel excluded.

The story Gray shared involved her husband, who is also Black, going for a walk in November. He had stopped and sat on a bench to take a phone call, Gray explained. When he stood back up, Gray said, her husband was stopped by police who asked what he was doing in the area.

“He was emotionally distraught and he was very confused,” Gray said of her husband. “Police said someone had called to say he was looking in their cars and maybe trying to steal them — which he was not.”

Police let him go, but Gray said she and her husband remain shaken by the incident. She said, since it happened, she’s been trying to find a way to get some sort of accountability for people who make these kinds of phone calls to police.

“This is a hard road and kind of a discouraging welcoming party,” she said.

The story was one of several incidents of racial profiling that were discussed during the meeting. Rita McDougald-Campbell, who is Black, said she’s lived in Trumbull since 1993 and “most of my time here has been quite pleasant.”

But, she said, hearing Gray talk about her husband’s experience “really put a lump in throat and made my stomach drop.”

That’s partly because her own husband faced something similar when the family first moved to town.

“He was jogging around the neighborhood and was stopped by two police officers,” McDougald-Campbell said. “My point is that, 28 years later, not much has changed.”

EDIT co-chair Andrea Fonseca said the purpose of the meeting was to create a public forum where people could speak openly about what they had experienced in town. Though only a few people shared their thoughts, many on the meeting said they appreciated hearing people air their experiences.

Town council chair Ashley Gaudiano thanked EDIT for having the forum.

“I think these are really important conversations to have,” she said, adding that she knew these stories are hard to tell and to hear.

Despite the issues raised, many of those who spoke also had positive things to say about Trumbull.

Resident Challa Flemming, who is Black, raised some concerns about inclusion. For example, she said, she would like to see more cultural and historical celebrations in town, for events like Juneteenth and Hispanic Heritage Month. But, she also noted some progress in Trumbull since she first moved to town in 2012.

“I see more people around town that represent a diverse number of backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities,” Flemming said.

She said she’s also seen more diversity among those charged with governing the town.

“Seeing representation within town committees, boards and commission is something that’s meaningful to me,” Flemming said.

But, as the stories shared at Wednesday’s meeting attest, there is still so much to be done.

“I think it’s important for everyone to understand that the stories you have heard from the few people who have spoken tonight are probably much more widespread than any one us know, and often they are just silenced,” Flemming said. “I hope that this committee is able to move forward with actions that can help this town to be a more inclusive place.”