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Opening a dialogue with the Brazilian community June 5, 2007
Liz Mineo 508-626-3825 Metrowest Daily News
To bridge a gap between local government and the Brazilian community, town, state and federal officials are embarking on a program to foster communication.

The Framingham Brazilian Community-Wide Dialogue will be held June 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Nevins Hall at the Memorial Building.  All Brazilians are welcome.  Town officials expect a big turnout and hope the meeting will encourage communication between the town officials and Brazilians,

"The town wants to hear from the Brazilian community what their needs, concerns and fears are," said Police spokesman Lt. Paul Shastany.  "This is an opportunity, like no other, for the Brazilians to speak up and voice their concerns."

The dialogue is part of the efforts by the Department of Justice to help the police craft a closer relationship with the Brazilian community.  The DOJ's arrival in town was in response to a request by Police Chief Steve Carl, who was concerned about his department's difficulties in connecting with the Brazilian community.

"We're disturbed by the idea that people are victimized and preyed upon because they're afraid to speak out," said Shastany.  "The liposuction surgery in a Framingham basement is something people knew about, and the double-murder by Jeremias Bins could have been prevented if there had been a comfort level to call the police."

Working to improve that comfort level, a conciliator with the DOJ's community relations service, Josephine Carabello, has been holding private meetings with the police, town officials and Brazilian community leaders since February.

Carabello will shepherd the June 18 meeting, which will be the first public meeting.  Topics on the agenda are housing, education, recreation, immigration and legalization, driver's licenses, health, employment, administration of justice, and any other issue of concern, said human services coordinator Alexis Silver, who called on Brazilians not to miss the opportunity.

"If we don't know what's broken, we cannot fix it," said Silver.

Brazilian community leaders, who have taken part in the meetings with Carabello, welcome the chance to talk, saying it would benefit both Brazilians and Americans.

"It will be a great opportunity for Brazilians to feel empowered and talk about their concerns," said Brazilian-American business owner Vera Dias-Freitas.  "And it will be a good opportunity for Americans to learn about the Brazilian community."

The meeting will be attended by top town officials, representatives from local legislators and Brazilian community leaders, but the most important participants will be local Brazilians.

"We'd like to see people we don't usually see," said Christine Taylor Tibor, director of Framingham Adult ESL Plus.  "We want to hear from them what's wrong."

Tibor said she hopes Brazilians attend the meeting in large numbers to send a positive signal to town officials.

"We're hoping they recognize the importance of the step the town is taking," she said.  "The town is taking a risk in wanting to hear what's wrong.  We hope the Brazilian community will take a risk in coming forward."

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