The City of Lawrence has about 100,000 residents, and is 7% Latino, 5% Black, 5% Asian, 5% Multi-racial, and 3% Native American. The City of Lawrence was established in 1854 by the New England Emigrant Aid Society in an effort to keep the territory free from slavery, and readily embraces the Free State identity, as evidenced by the naming of Free State High School. It is also home to two universities: the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University. The University of Kansas attracts culturally diverse researchers from all over the country and world. Haskell Indian Nations University is the nation’s only inter-tribal university for Native Americans, representing more than 150 tribes from all across the country.
There are a number of community organizations, including the Lawrence School District, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, and United Way, leading racial equity work and building momentum in our community. For example, the Lawrence- Douglas County Health Department released a Health Equity Report for the first time last year. The information in the report is starting to spread and is building community awareness about the existing racial and ethnic disparities related to the social determinants of health. The report also acknowledged how the achieving health equity will require removing obstacles to health such as discrimination and poverty.
The City of Lawrence is currently partnering with Douglas County and other local jurisdictions to study law enforcement contact to better understand disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system. We recognize there are many other challenges people of color experience in our community. Some additional efforts are underway, such as an update to the city’s strategic plan in 2017, which may include the addition of sustainability and equity. We acknowledge developing a comprehensive racial equity initiative is one of the first steps necessary to make lasting systemic change.