By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
The face of Richmond’s Human Rights Commission will change now that chair Sandra Anez Powell has announced her plans to resign.
Powell has served as chairperson for the commission since the death of Elder John L. Settles, who passed away in November 2010.
She has served on the rights panel for the past seven years.
Powell will remain a member of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.
“I will always be involved, because issues in human rights are my way of life,” said Powell, who is a native of Venezuela.
Nick Duvall, a Richmond police officer, will serve as the acting chair of the commission until a full board is appointed.
“I will be saddened by the disappearance of the local human rights commission, but it’s up to the Richmond citizens to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Powell said. “It’s more than a one-person effort.”
Powell voiced a bit of frustration about the Richmond City Commission’s lack of action when it comes to protecting those who are not covered by existing civil rights legislation.
“I would like to see the city make human rights a priority, which it has not been since it was established,” she said. “(The human rights commission) is only acknowledged when there is a crisis.”
The city commission has listened to requests from the human rights commission to give protection to those who fall into the category(ies) of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender but taken no action, Powell said.
“They have listened for more than five years,” she said. “Every month, they have listened and they keep on listening. They have chosen no action as an action and that speaks loud of the values of the elected officials of our community.”
The human rights commission is a separate entity from the Richmond City Commission, and its members do not necessarily have the same personal values and religious beliefs of the elected officials, Powell said.
The commission is designed to operate as a nine-member board, but “only four board members have been working over the past year,” she said.
“The livelihood of the Human Rights Commission depends on the involvement and participation of the board members,” Powell wrote in a recent letter to Richmond’s mayor and city commission. “I am sure it is not your intention to dissolve the Richmond Human Rights Commission, and I know that each of you are extremely busy, but please don’t let the (Human Rights ) commission fade away.”
“It has been an honor and a privilege to have served on the Human Rights Commission, and I will always advocate for people in the area of human rights,” Powell said Friday. “Don’t ever ask permission to do the right thing. Just do it.”
Ronica Shannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6608.