Joe Palumbo, co-chair of the town's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Photo by Maia Kennedy Photography

‘Cultural awareness training’ on offer to Concord businesses 

March 6, 2024

By Betsy Levinson —  

Joe Palumbo, co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission, laments that as he walks around town, he never sees a person of color represented in any store window.  

“If you see one, let me know,” he said at a recent Economic Vitality Committee meeting.  

In response, Palumbo and co-chair Andrea Foncerrada are introducing a new cultural awareness training program to the EVC.  

He said the voluntary online program is in the works and will be offered to any business that wants to use it to make tourists, shoppers, and potential homeowners of color feel welcome.  

Foncerrada said the ‘You Belong in Concord’ initiative “seeks to raise awareness and foster understanding among employees, empowering them to create welcoming spaces for all patrons.”  

“The initiatives we’re spearheading aim to institutionalize change, laying the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive future,” said Foncerrada.  

Economic Vitality Manager Mimi Graney sees the DEI training as a “welcome promise of a free, tailor-made resource for local business owners and staff so they can be a part of local efforts in making Concord a more welcoming and inclusive community.”  

“As employers, as well as public-facing establishments serving the needs of residents and visitors from around the world, Concord’s businesses interface with diverse populations every day,” said Graney.  

Palumbo said a window decal or visual aid that shows participation in the training may go with the 90-minute video package.  

DEI Co-Chair Andrea Foncerrada at a Select Board meeting last fall. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

Foncerrada said a badge or decal might be “a symbol of ongoing commitment.”  

“Each year,” she said, “businesses that engage in our training program would display the ‘You Belong in Concord’ window decal to signal to residents and visitors alike that they prioritize inclusivity and equity.”   

She said the initiative will launch “before the summer.” The design for the decal is still undecided.  

The ‘You Belong’ initiative was well received by the Chamber of Commerce, according to its president, Marie Foley, particularly since it will be free and voluntary. With one caveat: many area businesses do their own diversity training and do not see the need for more.  

“We want to allow businesses to decide on their own,” said Foley. “Let’s not frame it as training but encouraging conversation” within each business, she said.   

“They’re asking questions, and that’s good,” said Foncerrada. “We welcome it.”  

Sensitivity applies to age  

Graney is also launching an Age-Friendly Business Initiative that will be implemented through 2024.  

“The year-long effort will culminate with a digital Age-Friendly Business toolkit, showcasing best practices as illustrated by Concord’s businesses,” Graney said.  

She said the DEI and age-related initiatives are complementary.  

“As our respective efforts roll out, both teams continue to stay in touch to identify areas for collaboration and how we can be mutually supportive,” said Graney.