Governor Dayton and the St. Cloud Community

Last week, MN Governor Mark Dayton came to St. Cloud to talk about racial tension in our area.

mark-dayton-discusses-race-relations-in-st-cloud

#unitecloud was there, along with many other community members. I was saddened to see the way that many news organizations reported on the meeting. If you would only go by KARE 11’s report on the meeting, you would think it was a bunch of older angry white men vs. African Americans and Gov. Dayton was in the middle as a referee. This was not the case. Yes, there were older white men there with questions. Yes, there were African Americans urging folks to understand the plight of refugees and immigrants in our town. Yes, Governor Dayton came out strongly against racists and bigots, telling them to find a new state.

But, what I want to report on here was the part of the meeting that doesn’t sell papers or grab attention with headlines. I want to brag on our city and it’s people for a minute and say that the overwhelming majority of people that stood up had strong ideas to share of what we are doing and how we can improve in the future.  Ideas were shared, everyone was respectful, and plans were made for future steps. Want to know more details about how you can join in on the solutions? Read on!

THE PANELISTS

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Klies says: Attend Create CommUNITY’s Conversation on Race. This is an annual event that has been happening for 1o years. It is THIS Tuesday morning. Registration is required but it is a free event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/conversation-on-race-tickets-18280304884

Governor Mark Dayton says: Take a stand and say: “This is St. Cloud and everyone has a right to be here.” Our governor let us know that other cities in MN are doing a better job than us at accepting new Americans. He said that he has been invited to communities (Columbia Heights, Rochester) that rally around people groups that are mistreated. He wants to see that here in St. Cloud. One community member reminded us that “turning the other cheek is not the same as being blind to intolerance.” Speak up against hatred. Share this article today on Facebook or Twitter so that others can know how to act too!

Representative Jim Knoblach says: We need a Human Rights office in St. Cloud. He pushed for it to happen during this past legislative session. It passed in the House but, the funding was cut in the Senate. He will fight for it again this coming session. You can push for this funding to be secured by letting your representative know that you are for it. Find out who that is based on your zip code here.

St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson says: If you come across an issue of harassment or threats, either online or in person, report it to his office immediately. He prides himself in transparency and acting quickly to sort out issues and expects his officers to do the same. He reminded us that he can not do anything about the crimes he does not know about. Speak up. If you see something suspicious or are in a situation that starts to escalate, call 911 or your local law enforcement number.

MN Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey says: If the issue isn’t criminal, call the state Human Rights office if you see violations occurring in our community. He let us know that reported Human Rights violations in the state have doubled in the past four years. Both the Commissioner and the Governor acknowledge this as an issue that needs to be solved. Just like our police chief said, they can only working on changing what they know about. To file a complaint or call their office, go to their website.

Council on Black Minnesotans Program Specialist Kolloh Nimley says: Immigrants are very, very happy to be here. She explained that there are many things that she can do in St. Paul in accordance with her council’s work with the governor but, we have to be willing to work hard to make St. Cloud a more inclusive community. It has to start with us and can be supported from the government. How do you feel led to help affect change here in our town?

Local Somali pharmacy owner, Dr. Edris Kosar says: We must increase cultural competency in St. Cloud. We need to seek to understand things about each other’s cultures so that we can exist together in greater harmony. Learn about another culture today be shopping at Mogadishu or eating at the Viet-tien Market.

OUR COMMUNITY AUDIENCE IDEAS/QUESTIONS/SUGGESTIONS

  • New Americans have systemic pressures that are undermining their abilities to succeed. Examples:
    • Inability to find local work (Governor Dayton is pledging to come back to St. Cloud to discuss this further)
    • Housing discrimination (CAIR is dealing with some of these issues)
    • Lack of English language classes being taught by bilingual people (we need to recruit Somali adults to teach English in community classes)
  • “I don’t want to be called a racist or bigot if I have questions about who is financing the refugees in our state.”
  • Finish the Northstar all the way to St. Cloud – it currently stops at Big Lake. (Register here to attend a local meeting about this, put on by GRIP/ISAIAH.)
  • Most jobs in St. Cloud are retail and it is tough to support a family on this wage (even after the minimum wage increase). We need more industry in the St. Cloud area!
  • We should build a cultural education center so that we all can learn about each other and dispel myths and misinformation.
  • We need more security on our college campuses in light of recent campus shootings across our country. (Governor Dayton asked MNSCU for a report about this issue – where they are today with security and what the needs are.)
  • The achievement gap in MN between black students and non-black students is the worst in the nation. (Governor Dayton said this is a disgrace. He said only 1% of teachers in MN public schools are black. The legislators are looking into how to affect change in this area during the next session.)
  • “Somali people in this room, have you done enough to assimilate to Central MN culture?”
  • How can we get the American spirit back of neighbor helping neighbor?
  • Crisis is the Latin word for change. Our community is changing. Will is be for the good or the bad?
  • “My wife wrote a letter to the mayor and police chief about differential treatment based on race. Why did no one answer her?” (The police chief and the mayor said they did not receive the letter but are more than willing to answer the letter when it is reproduced.)
  • Why are wetland protections going off the protection list? Why are state agencies removing shorelines? (Governor Dayton will talk about this issue with this gentleman personally to find out his specific questions.)
  • These issue have happened for some time – why are you just having these meetings now? (Governor Dayton said he wished he would’ve done this sooner. He will be doing more meetings like this across the state.)
  • Why is CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) allowed to come here when they are on the terrorist watch list? ( CAIR’s MN representative, Jaylani Hussein, said for more information about this false claim, visit this website: http://www.islamophobia.org/
  • Somali Americans have 3 cards to deal with: black, Muslim, and immigrant. What can the panelists do to ensure people treat each other with respect? (Many things are already happening within the SCPD: East African community liason, John Justin; leadership academies, youth mentoring, school resource officers, etc. The mayor said these efforts need to be grassroots and start in our neighborhoods with conversation and breaking bread together.)
  • What about harassment and threats on social media? (Report them to the police! There is a difference between freedom of speech and threats. Knoblach reminded us that there are laws against discrimination in this country.)
  • “There are many Latinos in this community but we are invisible.” There are undocumented workers that need drivers licenses to take their kids to the doctor. (Governor Dayton can not issue an executive order on this but he would support it if it came from the House.)
  • We need to come together as a community across all 3 school districts (St. Cloud, Sartell, and Sauk Rapids) to ensure all our students get an equal education.
  • How can we learn from other communities that are doing this better than we are in MN? (The governor’s office will give information to the person who asked this on a program that Rochester is doing called “Not in Our Town”.)
  • St Cloud has a reputation problem. People in the rest of the state and even the nation know us as a hotbed for racism. We need to change that.
  • A Somali woman came to St. Cloud 7 years ago and wants to bring the things she has learned in America back to Somalia. She is running for President of Somalia in 2016.

Hopefully, by seeing more remarks from the community and panelists at the meeting this past week, you get a greater sense of what the meeting was all about. We have hope for the future of St. Cloud and I’m excited to see what the future holds! #unitecloud

About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for over a decade. She now works as a legal assistant at Tripiciano Immigration Law, a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) Team at SCSU (St Cloud State University), and as Founder and Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in Central MN. She is a member of the Community Impact Team at United Way of Central MN and is a member of the St Cloud District 742 school board. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children.