New Task Force Celebrates Differences, Finds Commonalities
By Rebecca Johnston, Canton Resident
A culturally diverse group of Canton residents serves on a new city task force to ensure every voice is heard as the city moves forward.
Canton Mayor Bill Grant says the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force supports the city’s mission of understanding, trust, and representation. “We want to look in every ward and have good, honest conversations regarding where we are, where we need to go, and how to do better,” the mayor explains. “It is more important than ever that everyone’s voice be included. We want the task force to look at everything we are doing as a city and give us recommendations on how we can include more people and learn from the past.” The goal is to promote a culture of respect for everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, and mental or physical ability. The task force will work with the Canton City Council and the mayor to coordinate and implement initiatives and activities to promote an inclusive community that reflects the rich and diverse makeup of the city.
Members of the task force include Chair Carlos T. Hill and Co-chair Lorraine Aragon as well as Tiffany Bird, Shannon Rankin, Paty Reveles, Carmen Tanner Slaughter, and Kathy Strom. Carlos moved to Canton to join a progressive community. He has been a foster parent and most recently a chef, and he and his husband work on large-scale marathon events in Colorado. Councilman Nick Estes appointed Carlos.
The mayor appointed Lorraine, who is of Jamaican descent. She is a former educator pursuing her doctoral degree from Liberty University.
Councilwoman Brooke Schmidt appointed Tiffany, who is of Taiwanese descent and a stay-at-home mother heavily involved in public affairs efforts at her church and in working with the school district in diversity efforts.
Councilman Shawn Tolan appointed Carmen, a native Canton resident with family reaching back to 1912 in the city’s African American community. She has a background in children’s services and preschool education, and she manages a business in Holly Springs.
Councilwoman JoEllen Wilson’s appointee is Kathy, a native of Cherokee County with a background in human resources. She works part time at Cherokee High School while pursuing a master’s degree in homeland security from Liberty University.
Shannon is a new resident to the community who chose Canton for its better home values and great school. Councilwoman Sandy McGrew appointed him. Shannon has a background in technology and works for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Councilman Will Carlan appointed Paty, a native Canton resident working as a receptionist at the Cherokee County Probate Court. Paty notes that she is thrilled to be a part of the group and to have a positive impact in Canton by bringing everyone together.
“Diversity is one of the key tenets of our roadmap for the future,” Bill points out. “This group is extremely diverse and very accomplished and impressive. It is a great group.”
The task force already meets regularly and is discussing subjects such as understanding the Hispanic community that makes up more than 20 percent of Canton’s population and finding commonalties while being respectful of differences.
“Racial tension in the past year has made it more important than ever to work toward more unity on the local level,” the mayor emphasizes. “We want to deal with it honestly and make sure everyone is included in the conversation and in our decisions as we move forward.”
The mayor and council of Canton are implementing a roadmap for the future that includes seven tenets. One of those tenets is to celebrate and encourage the diversity of culture and communities within Canton. “The goal is to let the task force decide what it wants to do. I gave the members the missions and goals we should consider, and I am letting them take it from there,” Bill says. “We have a lot of diversity in the city and want to listen and understand everyone.”
The mayor acknowledges that it is a challenging and yet rewarding time to embark on such a major mission. “We started in the middle of the pandemic at the height of racial tensions, and there was a lot of good dialogue about what was going on the country. The last couple of meetings have brought the subject back to what is going on here,” he says. “We are opening doors to say we want your feedback and ideas. The task force will offer ways to reach out in the communities that have not been heard. We are turning the keys over to the task force for honest feedback,” he explains.
One task is to look into creating a nondiscrimination ordinance. “Other cities in Georgia have them, and the task force is looking at those and deciding what would be appropriate for Canton. The task force can make a recommendation to the council,” Bill says. “I will receive an annual report from group members with any issues we should consider, to make sure we are being accountable.”