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Human Rights Commission

Maureen Buzby, Chair
Shawn MacMaster, Vice Chairman
(781) 979-4140

The Melrose Human Rights Commission was established in the early 1990s by the Office of the Mayor to provide a mechanism for resolving disputes among Melrose citizens that may involve an element of racial, religious, or ethnic prejudice, and to develop programs for promoting a spirit of diversity and respect for others regardless of their differences. The Commission exists to serve the citizens of Melrose and strongly encourages the participation of the city’s residents in programs supporting the Commission’s basic goals.
Join Us Every First Tuesday of the Month
Members of the Melrose community are invited to join the Human Rights Commission at its regular meetings on the first Tuesday of the month. Time: 7:00 p.m. Place: Mayor's Conference Room, City Hall, 2nd Floor. Please note: the Commission does not hold regular business meetings during the months of July and August.
Like the Melrose Human Rights Commission on Facebook
Liking the Melrose HRC on Facebook is a great way to stay up-to-date on Commission happenings and to let your friends and neighbors know about the Melrose HRC. Like us on Facebook!
Events, Projects and News
Reading Lists

Events, Projects and News

In celebration of BLACK HISTORY MONTH - Wednesday February 26, 2014
A Filmed Record: Montgomery to Washington D.C.

MVMMS Auditorium - Doors open at 6:30 PM
International Welcoming Reception - Thursday November 14, 2013
The Melrose Human Rights Commission, in partnership with Mayor Robert Dolan and the Lincoln Elementary School Site Council, is pleased to sponsor the 11th Annual International Welcoming Reception on November 14th. The event will be held at the Lincoln School from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

The International Welcome Reception occurs annually for new city residents.  In celebration of both community and diversity, the event offers a forum where attendees can meet their neighbors and local leaders while sharing a meal together.  The potluck dinner features food from various countries.  Approximately 100 people attend the event annually, representing various countries from across the globe.
19th Annual Martin Luther King Day Potluck Dinner & Family Program
January 20, 2014

In celebration of the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the city of Melrose will hold its Annual Martin Luther King Day Dinner on Monday, January 20, at the First Congregational Church in Melrose.  

The event is sponsored by the Mayor’s Office, the Melrose Human Rights Commission, the Melrose Clergy Association, the Melrose Alliance Against Violence, the Melrose Chamber of Commerce, the Melrose League of Women Voters and Hallmark Health. 

This year’s speaking program will feature a presentation from Brigid Alverson, a Melrose resident and former Human Rights Commission Chair. Ms. Alverson will profile the life and work of Alice L. White, a Congregationalist missionary in the American South during the late 19th and early 20th Century. Alverson, who currently works as an assistant to Mayor Robert Dolan, was a former local news reporter who has researched and written about White’s influence. White established a vocational school for black girls in Montgomery Alabama, and many of her students went on to become active in the Civil Rights Movement. Her most famous student was Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks who said of the school, “I learned that I should not set my sights lower than anybody because I was black. We were taught to be ambitious and to believe that we could do what we wanted in life.”  

Alice White moved to Melrose in the latter part of her life and was a member of the First Congregational Church and a volunteer at the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. The event is free and open to the public, beginning at 5 p.m. with a potluck dinner. The family program, which includes Alverson’s presentation, as well as a short music program, will start at 6 p.m.

Global Education in Melrose Event - May 10, 2012
On May 10, 2012, Melrose High School’s Global Education in Melrose program, together with the Melrose Human Rights Commission, celebrated the achievement of MHS students in the field of Global Education.

Global Education in Melrose (GEM) was created four years ago by a team of high school faculty, parents, and other members of the community, drawn from the Human Rights Commission, School Committee, and Rotary Club. The program aims to foster students’ cultural awareness, recognize the accomplishments of students who represent the school around the globe, and provide graduates with skills for participating in and contributing to an increasingly international society.

This event formally marked the beginning of a focused collaboration between the high school and the Melrose Human Rights Commission (MHRC), recognizing that the philosophy and purpose of the Global Education in Melrose program and that of the Commission have much in common. Both the high school and the MHRC extend their congratulations to these Melrose High School students, who are committed to the acquisition of knowledge that will enable them to interact and build relationships with people from other world cultures; develop their own values and opinions; demonstrate respect, open-mindedness, understanding, and flexibility in behavior and thinking; and help others to embrace multiple perspectives.
English Conversation Groups and Tutorials
Would you like tutorial help to improve your use of informal, conversational English? You can fill out a form requesting a tutor at the reference desk of the Melrose Public Library, or e-mail Carol McCoy at melroseecp@gmail.com. New tutorials are set up as requests come in.
Featured Monthly Columns in the Melrose Free Press
The Melting Pot, by Mary Edwards, posted 01/06/10
Let's Talk, Melrose, by Bonnie Cronin, posted 02/04/10
Coming to Melrose: two residents’ perspectives, by Suzy Q Groden, posted 03/04/10
Making a life in Melrose, but missing home in Macau, by Suzy Q Groden, posted 04/02/10
Reflections on a hiring organization that served all, by Alicia McNeil Clark, posted 05/05/10
'No Place for Hate': building communities, by Mark A. Golub, posted 06/03/10
Wither 40B?, by Nyal Fuentes

Sitting In Column
Thanks to all who contributed to first MLK Jr. weekend,
by Suzy Groden, Rev. Beth Horne, and Sally Stubbs 
Memorial Day Parade
The Human Rights Commission is among the many city agencies and groups that march every year in the Memorial Day parade to show support for and honor our armed forces, past, present, and future. 
Collaboration with Melrose High School
The MHRC is working to develop a collaboration with Melrose High School that will entail the creation of a Melrose High School Auxiliary Human Rights Club. This club, once established, will work with members of the Commission to raise awareness about human rights issues and foster greater equity and justice where it is found to be needed. 

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Meeting Minutes  


2012 2013 2014
June 8 January 11

January 10

January 8 January 7
September 14 February 8 February 14 February 5 February 4
October 12 March 8 March 20 March 5
December 14 April 12 April 10 April 2
May 10 May 8 May 7
June 14 August 7 June 4
  September 13 September 4 September 3
  October 11 November 5 October 1
  November 8 December 4 November 4
  December 13 December 3

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Get to know the people currently serving on the Commission.  

Maureen Buzby, Chair grew up in Vermont but has lived all her adult life in the Boston area, the past 30 years in Melrose. A member of the Planning Committee of the Melrose Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, a mentor in the Melrose CARES Middle School Mentor Program, and a member of The League of Women Voters as well as the Melrose City Democratic City Committee, Maureen believes strongly that committed, active residents create a safe and vibrant community. Her goal as a Commissioner is to help with those activities that ensure understanding of differences and inclusion of all citizens.

Karen Andrews, Treasurer has been a Melrose resident for 16 years. She is the Community Outreach Specialist and a diversity trainer at Hallmark Health System, Inc. Karen serves on the North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network Coalition, the Healthy Families Coalition, the Melrose Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, and the Homelessness Task Force.  Karen is honored to be one of the newest members of the Commission.

Lizbeth DeSelm is a native of San Diego, California. She moved to Boston in 2005 with her family after landing a job in the pharmaceutical industry as a research chemist. She previously worked as a science teacher at a charter school for at-risk youth in Long Beach, CA. She is a Hospice Volunteer with Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice, has been a youth soccer coach in Melrose since Fall 2012 and currently serves as Treasurer for the Roosevelt Elementary PTO. Liz and her wife Tina have two children and have lived in Melrose since 2010. 

Michelle Dickson has been a resident of Melrose for nearly seven years. She currently serves as Director of Public Policy for the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She has a special interest in disability rights issues and is a certified Community Access Monitor through the Massachusetts Office on Disability. For the past 16+ years she served as an active member of the Peace & Social Justice Committee of St Mary’s Parish, Winchester. This committee has been dedicated to a wide range of peace and social justice issues and projects both locally and internationally ranging from AIDS awareness, relieving poverty and hunger, promoting diversity, combatting prejudice, and supporting those who are homeless. This committee has spearheaded Winchester Black History Month celebrations for more than a decade.
Arnold Fertig has long been involved with issues of human rights, including Soviet Jewry, women’s rights, discrimination, and diversity within the American workforce. He has served Temple Beth Shalom of Melrose as its part-time rabbi since 1998, and is an active member of the Melrose Clergy Association and Melrose Rotary Club. In his non-rabbinic life, he is a career consultant and has been a member of the Diversity Committee of the New England Human Resources Association (NEHRA). Arnie earned the Masters of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for 25 years of service to the American Jewish community and for his work on human rights issues.
Mathew Helman, Secretary is a communications professional who has spent over a decade working in Massachusetts government and politics, working for elected officials, political campaigns, and non-profit organizations. Mathew grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, where he was active in the Reform Jewish community and was guided by the tenet "tikkun olam" (repairing, or healing, the world) that has informed his sense of social justice. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and his Master of Public Administration degree from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Mathew and his wife moved to Melrose in 2009, and they have made great use of the Melrose Dog Park and the Middlesex Fells Reservation with their two dogs. Mathew sees his participation on the Melrose Human Rights Commission as a privilege and an opportunity to contribute to helping Melrose be as welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant as possible.

Beth Horne, MHRC Clergy Liaison is currently the pastor of the Melrose Highlands Congregational Church. Beth helped to form the Newburyport City Commission for Diversity and Tolerance and was instrumental in that city's designation as a No Place for Hate community. She helped to create a community communications plan which brought together the schools, police and city hall to address incidents of hate. She believes that to be a community that welcomes all takes the active engagement of each citizen. She is delighted to be a part of the MHRC's efforts to insure that rights are upheld for all citizens and visitors to Melrose and that all feel a sense of welcome. 

Adam LaFrance is an attorney in private practice, a member of local bar associations and cultural and business organizations, and has been a Melrose resident for nearly two years, moving here from Boston.  Adam’s practice concentrates on civil litigation and business and commercial matters, assisting a wide variety of clients.  His work has also involved matters of discrimination and civil rights, including matters before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.  Prior to being an attorney, Adam was a public school teacher, a non-profit organizer operating an organization serving underprivileged and minority youth, a volunteer advocating for LGBTQ individuals, and organized voter registration efforts.  His work has also included teaching and working with youth and adults with specialized needs, both in a public school setting and as part of a non-profit provider of developmental services.  Adam believes strongly in public service and looks forward to working together on the mission of the HRC.

Shawn MacMaster, Vice Chairman is Director of Community Partnerships for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. He has worked for the Middlesex District Attorney since 2001. Prior to his current position, Shawn was Deputy Chief of the office’s Victim Witness Services Bureau (2008-2012). Shawn worked previously in direct services for 15 years in both the nonprofit and public sectors, primarily with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Shawn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English (Magna Cum Laude) from Franklin Pierce College and a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs (Summa Cum Laude) from the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Shawn’s graduate school research focused on the efficacy of court-mandated batterer intervention programs and on equitable policing in Muslim communities. His thesis was entitled, “The Preparedness of Local Law Enforcement to Address Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities in a Post-9/11 Society: A Case Study of Middlesex County, Massachusetts.”Shawn is the Vice President of the Melrose Alliance Against Violence, and has served on its Board of Directors since 2008. He is also a volunteer ELL tutor.  Shawn lives in Melrose with his wife Shannon and their daughter Emma Mary. 

Kristina Pechulis is Director of Lynn Food and Fitness Alliance, an organization that creates policy, system and environmental change in Lynn.  Prior to her current position, Kristina worked as General Counsel for State Senator Gale D. Candaras, an attorney in the litigation department at the City of Boston, and an attorney with Merrimack Valley Legal Services, specializing in working with survivors of domestic violence. Kristina holds a Law degree from Northeastern School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Kenyon College. Kristina has lived in Melrose since 2012 with her husband and two children.

Ed Schmitt grew up in rural Missouri in a large family with 12 children. He attended college and graduate school in Louisville, Kentucky, earning a B.S. degree in Philosophy and Psychology and later a Masters in Social Work. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s he worked in various social service employment settings including the Kentucky State Probation and Parole Department. Additionally, he was a Family Counselor and Case Manager for trouble teens in various Foster Care settings. Ed changed careers in 1984 and started his own remodeling business in Melrose. Ed has always been a volunteer, in some respect, within the community of Melrose. He was a founding member of the Common Ground Teen Center and the Melrose Rotary Skate Park. Most recently, he was a mentor in the Melrose Cares Middle School Mentor Program. Ed is passionate about community involvement and the inclusion of all. He looks forward to being a part of the efforts of the Melrose Human Rights Commission to strengthen the social fabric within this community.
Jennifer Thompson has been a resident of Melrose for nine years. She currently serves as the Director of Clinical Services for the Walnut Street Center. She is a Certified Special Education Advocate and for the past 15+ years has worked in the field of Human Services. Jennifer has a Master’s degree in Education and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis for Special Populations. She is thrilled to be a part of the MHRC and is dedicated making community connections.

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Established in 1992 by Mayor Richard Lyons and the Board of Aldermen, the Commission addresses issues of human and civil rights, with the goals of reinforcing a positive atmosphere in the community, of preventing problems before they arise, and of resolving them if they do. Work is accomplished through three committees: Education and Community Outreach, Fair Housing, and Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Meetings are held bi-monthly, with a public forum period during the first 1/2 hour.

On October 9, 1989, a Melrose family woke to find racial slurs painted on a wall in the front of their home. Reacting with a mixture of horror and shame, the mother ran out with a pail of water and cleaner and began scrubbing the graffiti off. The incident might have gone unnoticed except for the actions of Charlie Harak, a member of the Melrose Fair Housing Advisory Committee, who was driving to work after dropping his son off at day care. Charlie pulled over, got out of his car, and offered help and support. He knew that it was important to notify the police so that photos could be taken before the graffiti was scrubbed off. The defacing of property with racial slurs is a civil rights violation and punishable under the law. In order to prosecute, the police must have evidence, which a photo would provide.

Community leaders were outraged and resolved to do something about the negative image that the graffiti represented. A letter to the editor of the Melrose Free Press, signed by members of the Melrose Clergy Association and printed in the October 19 issue, asked "every member of this community to speak out against any racist incidents, no matter how minor they may at first seem, so that the seed of racism will not be allowed to grow." People responded to this call to action by forming the Melrose Human Rights Coalition.

Formed under the guidance of Sherrie Saint-Amant, Chair, Melrose Fair Housing Advisory Committee, Erskine White, Minister, First Congregational Church, and Michael Marcus, President, Temple Beth Shalom, the Coalition first met in December, 1989. Representatives from many houses of worship, the Melrose Public Schools, the League of Women Voters, the Chamber of Commerce, the Melrose Arts Council, the Melrose Police Department, and many social service organizations met regularly at the First Congregational Church. Founding members include: Linda Benezra, David Driscoll, Joan Driscoll, Maureen Elia, Jean Gorman, Christine Goulding, Charlie Harak, Maureen Hickey, Nancy Kukura, Paul Lassiter, Jane Lavender, Lisa Metz, Dan O'Neill, Phil Pendleton, Fred Rosseland, Edith Smolens, Amy Spollett, Marilyn Weddleton, Joan Wilcox, and Ed Wright. Middlesex District Attorney Scott Harshbarger designated Steve Limon, an assistant district attorney, to be liaison to the Coalition.

The Melrose Human Rights Coalition, over a period of 2 years, studied the responses of other municipalities to civil rights violations. During this period, the Melrose Police Department, under the guidance of newly designated Civil Rights Officer, Sgt. Dan O'Neill, adopted a protocol for responding to civil rights violations. To complement this, a "call list" was established to ensure that appropriate community members would be notified should another incident occur. Dr. David Driscoll, Superintendent of Schools, designated Human Rights Coordinators at each level of the school system. The first coordinators were Freeman Frank, High School, Joan Driscoll, Middle School, and Edith Smolens, elementary schools. The Coalition formed an Education Committee to assist the new Coordinators in gathering and disseminating information on multicultural and anti-racism programs and materials. During this period, Maureen Elia and Christine Goulding studied local human rights organizations in several Massachusetts communities. Early in 1991, they recommended that work start on the creation of a local governmental commission. Coalition members agreed that a commission would be the most effective way to ensure a systemic response to civil rights incidents, as well as providing a local resource for educational initiatives.

Alderman John Dunne worked with Maureen Elia, Christine Goulding, and Sherrie Saint-Amant to draft the language of a proposed ordinance. On September 16, 1991, the Board of Aldermen, under the leadership of President Donald Conn, voted to amend Revised Ordinances, Chapter 2, by adding a new Article XIX "Human Rights Commission". Mayor James Milano signed the order, deferring to the new soon-to-be-elected mayor for the appointment of the first Commissioners.

Mayor Richard Lyons appointed the following Commissioners in April, 1992: Peg Botte, Judy Clark, Maurice Donovan, Joe Flatley, Ed McNeely, Thomas Rice, Sherrie Saint-Amant, Edith Smolens, and Robert Wallace. A highlight of the first year was an evening of focus group discussions with 52 Melrose residents representative of a range of ages, religions, races, ethnicity, family status, and level of participation in community activities. Participants were asked:

  1. What do you like about Melrose, that you don't want to see change?
  2. How does intolerance or prejudice manifest itself in Melrose?
  3. What should be done to build tolerance?
  4. What can you individually do to build tolerance?

Results of the discussions were published and are available through the Commission.

Early in 1993, Lisa Bartolet, a community member of the Education and Community Outreach Committee, created an information flyer for the Commission. In addition, David Simko, of the same committee, produced a bumper sticker using the Commission slogan "Melrose: One Community Open to All". A banner with this slogan was also purchased. It is posted in the Mayor's Conference Room in City Hall and is available for use at community functions. The spring and summer of 1993 was a troublesome time, however, with 8 hate incidents, including distribution of hate literature. In response, Mayor Lyons called together a group of community leaders to discuss a response beyond the initial institutional protocol. A task force, chaired by Andrea Taffe and Lisa Bartolet, presented the Mayor with a report on November 1, calling for a "1994 Free Our Minds" Campaign. Activities included distribution of "Free Our Minds" buttons, a "Culture Walk" at Melrose High School, a community workshop sponsored by the First Baptist Church, a public forum featuring Philip and Rosanne Perlmutter, a series of 60 second public service announcements for local cable access TV, a human rights declaration signed by over 1000 Melrose residents and published in the Melrose Free Press, and a human rights candlelight walk to open the Home for the Holidays weekend in December.

Reported hate incidents declined in 1995, 1996, and 1997, as the Commission continued its community outreach and mediation work. Yearly events now include the Home for the Holidays candlelight walk and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Potluck Dinner. Through the work of the Fair Housing Committee, the Commission took a position in support of affordable housing in Melrose. The Education Committee has developed a partnership with the Melrose METCO Parents' Organization to promote better understanding between Boston and Melrose families. The Commission has also contracted with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to do intake and investigative work on complaints filed by Melrose residents or against businesses operating in Melrose.

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Melrose Gay Straight Alliance

Massachusetts Association of Human Rights and Relations Commission

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

No Place For Hate

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