ICRC Targets Outreach Effort at the Burmese Community

A sign with the erroneous message "For Sanitary Purposes, There Are No Burmese People Allowed" was posted outside a local laundry a little more than a year ago, raising concern of discrimination toward Fort Wayne's Burmese community. The incident was resolved through mediation by the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission in Fort Wayne, the business owner and the Burmese Advocacy Center (BAC).

Although not a specific response to the March 2010 laundry incident, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) has planned a comprehensive outreach effort in June amid concerns that the Burma refugee community is still unaware of their civil rights and protections under Indiana Civil Rights laws.

"It is important that every Hoosier is aware of their civil rights," said Jamal L. Smith, Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. "As part of our strategic plan, we are traveling throughout the state in an effort to ensure individuals from all walks of life are aware of the services provided by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission."

Working with the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, the Burmese Advocacy Center (BAC) and other local and state organizations, the outreach effort planned by the Commission is using a grassroots approach that focuses on providing resources available at both the state and local level.

"We want to reach the community at the ground level," said Danny Lopez, Director of Education at the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. "To ensure we reach the community at large we are going to bring our training and resources to the neighborhoods and apartment complexes of these individuals and provide childcare and interpreters."

Meetings and workshops will be conducted by the ICRC throughout the month, including at the 2011 Indiana Consortium of State and Local Human Rights Agencies Conference hosted by the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission.

For more information about the Indiana Civil Rights Commission's outreach efforts contact Brad Meadows (317) 232-2651, or bmeadows@icrc.in.gov.

Beginning in the 1990's, refugees from Burma have begun calling Indiana's second largest city, Fort Wayne, home. The more than 6,000 Burmese residents in Fort Wayne is the largest population of any city in the United States. The Burmese population in Indianapolis has grown in recent years, to the point where it may exceed the population in Fort Wayne. 

The State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission enforces the Indiana civil rights laws and provides quality education and services to the public in an effort to ensure equal opportunity for all Hoosiers and visitors o the State of Indiana.