City of Arlington’s Unity Council Work Awarded National League of Cities Award for Innovative Diversity Programs
By Office of Communication
Posted on March 09, 2021, March 09, 2021

NLC City Cultural Diversity Award

The National League of Cities selected the City of Arlington as the winner of its 2021 Cultural Diversity Awards for the work of the citizen-led Unity Council.

Submissions for the awards program were grouped by size, and evaluated for creativity, impact on the community and scope of the program. The City of Arlington was awarded the top prize in the 200,001-500,000 population category.

After eight months of research and a series of community conversations, the Unity Council presented a proposed racial equity plan to the Arlington City Council on Feb. 23.

The 28-member Unity Council’s mission has been to gather community input, research best practices and recommend strategies that the City of Arlington could implement to promote and encourage greater equity and to advance unity across our community. The Unity Council’s work, which began in July 2020, is part of the City’s commitment to equality, inclusion and the elimination of institutional racism and other forms of discrimination in its policies and practices.

Dr. Jason Shelton, associate professor of anthropology and sociology and the director of the Center for African American Studies at The University of Texas at Arlington, led the Unity Council’s work.

“Dr. Shelton brought his researcher’s orientation to the task at hand, and the result is a report that is grounded in data but constructed from the many perspectives of the Unity Council members and the residents of Arlington. We are grateful for his work and the work of the twenty-eight members of the Unity Council,” Mayor Jeff Williams said.

The 132-page comprehensive report focuses on five areas of study: Economic Disparities; Education and Workforce Training; Housing: Health and Wellness: Policing and Criminal Justice. The Unity Council’s presentation identifies nearly 60 recommendations for short-, mid- and long-term goals in these areas based on months of data analysis and public feedback, which included interviews, focus groups and virtual town hall meetings in November, December, and January. The recommendations, which touch on topics such as affordable housing, food deserts, internet access, police relations and more, were drafted based on the work of more than 40 Unity Council and subcommittee meetings.

The Arlington City Council will evaluate these recommendations and create an action plan that can be referred to as the City moves forward with new or amended policies, programs, and initiatives over the coming months.

“My City Council colleagues and I are excited to begin the next phase of this project, and that is implementation,” Williams said. “It will be a continual journey as we are trying to work so we are able to make progress all along the way. We are working toward equality and justice so we can live in unity. That is our goal.”

Arlington was one of only four communities selected for the 2021 awards.

“NLC is proud to celebrate the City of Arlington and its commitment to building a welcoming and inclusive community,” said NLC President Kathy Maness, Councilmember from Lexington, SC. “The Cultural Diversity Awards are a key part of NLC’s work to recognize innovative programs by local leaders.”

Awardees were recognized at NLC’s virtual Congressional City Conference. To learn more about NLC Cultural Diversity Award winners, visit

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