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An open letter in support of our sister Lakaya Sinclair

Lakaya Sinclair gave a statement to the media calling for the resignation of Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell after accusations of sexual harassment. File photo.

We are Black and Latina mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, aunties, godmothers, grand and great grandmothers, but most of all we are members of this village. No matter our positionality, we are writing to express publicly that we stand with Lakaya Sinclair and are appalled and angered at the disrespect and disregard Lakaya has faced since she bravely spoke out in January about her experience of sexual harassment and violation by Ernest Flagler-Mitchell.

We are also appalled that despite the evidence of at least 11 additional reported instances of sexual misconduct other women have disclosed, and the County Ethics Board Thursday, June 9 ruling, Ernest Flagler-Mitchell remains an acting County Legislator.

We are especially disappointed that this situation has occurred despite the lessons of the #MeToo era and the continuous need for addressing sexual misconduct. This is a time when we must hold those in power accountable for their harmful actions.

However, we continue to bear witness to men of power retaining their positions despite mounting evidence of their misdeeds. As Black and Latina women, we find the response from fellow members of the village who’ve taken to cyberstalking and blackballing Lakaya most egregious, as it highlights the extensive history of disrespect and disregard paid to Black women. We find it especially disconcerting how those actions signal that women will pay a price for speaking up and sharing their truths.

People who speak up against sexual misconduct need support, resources, and compassion, not more harassment. As well, violators require accountability. We demand that Ernest Flagler-Mitchell resign as County Legislator immediately. His actions have demonstrated that he cannot hold sacred the trust for ethically and responsibly caring for the constituents he was elected to represent.

In addition, we support Lakaya’s call for the ethics board to pass laws that would prohibit sexual harassment.

Finally, we call on the men of our community to publicly speak up in support of Black and Latina women and call out other men who have committed harmful acts towards others, especially acts of sexual misconduct. We need our community to protect our young people from harm, from those who act as predators and act like bullies when our young people come forward.

We take this stand with Lakaya Sinclair and all our young people to create a genuinely safe community for generations beyond us. We act to establish a standard of care that we will hold ourselves and others accountable to, particularly those entrusted to assume leadership positions.

Signed,

Diane Sheffield, Community Activist
Jackie Dozier, Community Advocate
Kristin Hocker, Educator
Laura Muñoz-Thompson, veteran educator in service of racial equity and social justice
Maisha Enaharo, Co-Founder, Black Women’s Leadership Forum, Retired Director, RRH Dept. of Pediatrics
Marilynn Patterson Grant, Retired Educator
Melanie Funchess, CEO/Principal, Ubuntu Village Works, LLC
Nydia Padilla-Rodriguez, Founder/Artistic Director Borinquen Dance Theatre, Inc., Retired RCSD Director Community Partnerships
Shirley Stephens Thompson, former member and past president, RCSD Board of Education
Pastor Wanda Wilson, Open Arms Christian Fellowship Ministries