Positive Interactions: the Council on American-Islamic Relations- Minnesota
In post-911 America, fear and hatred of Muslims is prevalent. In a national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2010, only 30% of Americans had a favorable view of Islam. The poll also found that one in four Americans believe Islam promotes violence. Such misconceptions illustrate the fear and animosity towards Muslims, which consists of 1.3 billion people from practically every nation. 7 million of those individuals are American Muslims (Pew 2010).
“Right now American Muslims are going through challenging times. In our nation’s history, we have seen other minority groups treated the same way — and it could be a new group in the future. So we’re not just advocating for Minnesota Muslims, we’re protecting the rights that many Americans have sacrificed their lives for” (Saroya, in Otto 2012).
CAIR- MN, the Council on American – Islamic Relations, is a civil rights advocacy organization whose mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. It actively engages with the media to ensure that a fair and accurate portrayal of Islam and Muslims is presented to the American public. They work to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims of their rights. CAIR-MN is currently under the leadership of A. Lori Saroya, the Executive Director of the Minnesota chapter, a chapter she co-founded in 2007. Through , Lori has organized the community to drive change, strive for racial and social justice, build interfaith coalitions, and promote justice by protecting the civil liberties for all. She has taken the initiative to establish and guide the organization toward leadership in advocacy for justice.
“Personalizing the World:” Rochester International Association
Herta Matteson reluctantly moved to Rochester, Minnesota over two decades ago. She followed her husband to a job at Mayo Clinic. As an immigrant to this city she quickly discovered that there was a lot of misinformation about immigrants out there. As a blue eyed blonde, light skinned woman from Germany, Herta is not often identified as an immigrant. She speaks fluent English and for the most part, blends in with the native Minnesotans. And yet, even twenty years later, she still finds she identifies with other immigrants, both new and old, who experience living in a different culture, away from family and tradition. In addition, she spoke of the common experience many immigrants have when credentials gained overseas are not recognized in this country.
Quickly after her arrival, Herta discovered the Rochester International Association which was started in the late 1970s. Some credit Fuad Monsour. Others cite the beginning of the RIA in 1979 with the involvement of Geri Critchley (McGill 2004). Regardless of its exact start, Herta has volunteered with the association for over twenty years, and currently serves as its president.
A Change of Heart: Discussions that Encounter
Together, three "unlikely" comrades started a bimonthly conversation about racism in the Minneapolis area focused on having people “feel in their hearts the horror that racism has created and is today, the degree to which racism and white privilege distort our society from its constitutional and moral foundation, the great gifts that would be opened to our society by achieving the dream for all of real equality and justice (true fairness not punishment), the huge benefit to be gained by all people by the elimination of racism and white privilege in all forms” (Bill Keatts, personal communication).
On the Court and At Camp
The Anti-Defamation League was founded in Chicago in 1913. Today, the Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest regional office continues to carry out its original mission -fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, securing justice and fair treatment for all. With an array of educational, legislative, diplomatic, and interfaith initiatives, the ADL acts as an important resource for the community at-large. Two recent events show just how involved they are in widely diverse arenas.
On Wednesday June 13th, 2012, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) partnered with the Chicago Sky, a professional basketball team based in Rosemont, Illinois, playing in the Eastern Conference in the Women's National Basketball Association, for an anti-bullying night designed to empower adults and youth alike to become allies. The event began with participants joining ADL A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® facilitators for a pre-game Becoming An Ally workshop in which they learned what bullying really is and how to prevent it. During the program the participants were taught about the four main roles involved in a bullying scenario: target, aggressor, bystander, and ally. As the program concluded, those involved in the workshop had new tools for not only becoming an ally, but also for prevention of further bullying in the future.
Of Sadness and Hope: Youth EDIT their World
“Of Sadness and Hope: Images from the Northside Tornado” is a youth-produced photography exhibit aimed at raising awareness and money to support those still affected by the lingering devastation after a tornado swept through the North Minneapolis community on May 22, 2011.
A group of middle schoolers were asked what they wanted to do to make a difference in their community. They eventually agreed that something should be done about the damage done to the neighborhood hit by a tornado nearly six months earlier. The students noticed that debris from the storm still littered the streets, houses remained unrepaired and sidewalks were still damaged from the uprooted trees. Some of the students didn’t know anything about this neighborhood so they decided the first step would be to educate themselves and others about the tornado and the neighborhood it hit. They embarked on a service learning project that led them to become blooming young artists.
Becoming Open and Affirming
Peace United Church of Christ is an Open and Affirming Church. They welcome gay and lesbian members to be full participants. Open and Affirming (ONA) is "the designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make public statements of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions."
The Family Diversity Projects
After launching their new phone-text exhibit, ‘WE HAVE FAITH: LGBT Clergy and People of Faith Speak Out’, Family Diversity Projects is continuing their mission to help eliminate prejudice, stereotyping, bullying, and harassment of people who are discriminated against. This new exhibit is working to help challenge the homophobia and transphobia of many of the world's religions and their religious leaders, with the aim to help more houses of worship become open, affirming, and welcoming to all individuals regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
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Transformation One Discussion at a Time: ASDIC Metamorphosis!
"The ASDIC experience is rigorous, compassionate, respectful and non-coercive. ASDIC participants undertake an intellectual and emotional examination of the historical social, political, and economic factors that continue to divide, limit, and exclude. Patient, kind, and supporting, the ASDIC Facilitators invite each participant to walk with them to explore the bitter and ugly places that are typically denied or avoided. Out of this process participants experience glimmers of a society beyond denial, shame, guilt, and rage – a society constructed on compassion, community, justice, hope, and love." (Testimonial from Hamline University, Division of Student Affairs)
ASDIC Metamorphosis is an acronym that stands for “Antiracism Study Dialogue Circles” – pronounced "Az-dek." As one of its founders insists, "But more fully we are about “Metamorphosis” or transformation. The transformation we seek for our program participants is to be Informed, Empowered, and Re-forming. That’s what the butterfly logo is about." (Perkins, personal communication).
Challenging Stereotypes: Brotherhood, Inc.
On Friday night, May 4, 2012, a play canvasing the lives and struggles of African American youth in the inner cities is performed at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis MN. It's called, THE FORGOTTEN: A LOOK AT THE LIVES OF YOUNG BLACK MEN. What is captured is the fact that nationally, the unemployment rate of black men between the ages of 16-24 is currently 34.5 percent, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population. In Minnesota, the gap in unemployment between African Americans and whites is the worst in the nation. A view of the lives of young black men striving to overcome adversity and rise above the infrastructures built to keep them down is presented. Through their voices, they will leave their mark on the world. Standing for what they believe in, telling their stories and refusing to be forgotten, they challenge the stereotypes rampant in white America. The play is sponsored by Brotherhood Inc. in conjunction with the Community Justice Project of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
Taking Action in Central Minnesota: the Diversity Resource Action Alliance
Steve Pederson has a mission: to make Central Minnesota a more welcoming and inclusive place to raise his children. He is a long-time advocate for racial sensitivity and racial equity but these goals were heightened when he and his wife adopted their first child, an African American girl. Now the proud parents of two children, their mission is ever more important.
“A few key life experiences molded Pederson’s racial sensitivity and have made him uniquely qualified to educate and transform his community. Pederson says he first witnessed racism while in elementary school. In his overwhelmingly white rural school, Pederson witnessed the mistreatment of a small group of students of color. Pederson knew these children and was alarmed to see them bullied and treated as the “other,” or “less than” because of the color of their skin" (2012 Facing Race Ambassador Award).
Confronting White Privilege: Duluth's Unfair Campaign
In Duluth, Mn there are some new billboards with white peoples' faces boldly claiming their privilege. It's part of the city's efforts to get discussion going. The Unfair Campaign states their mission is "to raise awareness about white privilege in our community, provide resources for understanding and action, and facilitate dialogue and partnership that result in fundamental, systemic change towards racial justice" toward the vision of "an evolved community free of individual, systemic and institutionalized racism."
Table Talk: Food and Focused Conversation
On June 30, 2009 more than 50 participants gathered in four homes in Rochester neighborhoods and one in Oronoco. The dinner conversation focused on immigrants, a topic that has been receiving great local and national attention lately” (Rene Lafflam, Post Bulletin blog 7/11/2009). Immigration is a highly charged topic that often highlights political differences as well as much misinformation. Minnesota had the 17th largest immigrant population according to the 2000 Census, and Olmsted county's number of foreign born individuals was nearing eight percent. The struggle to understand immigration and the new immigrants in our community was a local one. Rene Lafflam of RNeighbors articulates, "We wanted to change the dialogue from "immigrants and refugees are a burden on society' to "people that are immigrants and refugees bring assets to community." Kay Hocker of the Diversity Council agreed, "I thought... if we could communicate through neighborhood associations and then get people to gather in their homes with their neighbors and friends and have a conversation about what are the assets immigrants bring and refugees bring and why it is important to talk about that" (personal interview 2011).
Threads of Our Community: The Story of a Quilt
The stars aligned in Rochester, Minnesota, for a number of women working on a diversity project. What started as a “little quilt” idea turned into a well-funded 55-square community collaboration when the Rochester Public Library and several volunteers teamed up to create a diversity-themed quilt project.
Inspired by a community art project in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, Gail Harris, volunteer coordinator at the Rochester Public Library, saw a perfect opportunity to pair the creation of a “little quilt” highlighting Rochester’s diversity with the “RACE: Are We So Different?” exhibit that the Mayo Clinic was bringing to the library from May-September 2010. Such a quilt would both capture the skills of different cultures and serve as a time piece or historical record of Rochester’s diversity and unity.
Honoring our Ancestors: Friends of Indian Heights
The entrance to the park was filled with people. In order to create a space of equality and respect for all individuals, everyone stood together in a circle so no one’s back would be to anyone. Rochester citizens, neighbors, Park Board members, City Council members, various Native American group members, and the Mayor were all in attendance at Indian Heights Park of Rochester for a Healing & Blessing ceremony. During the ceremony, the Dakota leaders thoroughly explained the history, significance, and purpose for every prayer, song, and ritual. All attending were welcomed to participate in the ceremonies of smudging, smoking the sacred pipe, drinking the water, offering tobacco, and blessing each other.
“Indian Heights Park in Rochester, Minnesota, is a unique place, one where the history of Minnesota’s first people, the Dakota, who gave the state its name, is united with natural beauty and significance, recalling the way Minnesota was when whites first came to the region."
Speaking for Ourselves: The African American Registry
“Uniting Communities through Education, Transforming Communities through Learning” is the mission of the African American Registry (the Registry), a non-profit educational organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Using the internet and social media, the Registry puts information about black heritage, the humanity of the black experience, and the vast contributions to society by African Americans just “a click away.”
Founder and Executive Director Benjamin Mchie is a Speech Communication graduate from Long Beach State University with a 35-year career directing and producing video and film. Although he worked on several Emmy-winning productions, and money and travel were in abundance, he found he wanted something more out of life. In pursuit of that “something more,” he, his brother, and a friend began developing content for the Registry. After a year and a half of research, during which they found a fact about African Americans corresponding to every day of the year, they launched the African American Registry in 2000. Since then, many others have contributed information and resources to the site.
Bridge to Understanding: Annual Conference on Diversity
Yoke-Sim Gunaratne is the Executive Director of Cultural Diversity Resources in Fargo, ND. As its forefront since its inception, she came to the office from her prior position as a resettlement officer with Lutheran Social Services. A self-identified immigrant from Malaysia, Yoke-Sim has a long standing love of learning, both traditional education and experiential learning. She has studied in the Social Sciences and records rich experiences living abroad, including living in Australia for ten years. She tells of being “most inspired by seeing the change in people.”
Breaking Ice: Doing Dialogue for Change
By Kurt Kwan, Pillsbury House + Theatre Artistic Associate and Breaking Ice Company Manager
At some point in our professional life we all screw up, say the wrong thing, make gaffes. Whether it is something we have done in a meeting or said in passing, we have all done something that leaves us open to judgment. Most of us are conscientious of these social cues and become adept at navigating these pitfalls of the modern diverse work landscape. We practice good verbal hygiene. We have more private conversations. We form bands of like-minded people who know that at heart I am a “good-person” no matter what I say. They may even champion me for being a straight shooter, an unapologetic truth-teller who won’t be bound by some We-The-People-Handholding, Politically-Correct agenda.
A Proactive Response: the Decorah Human Rights Commission
In Decorah, Iowa, a college town with about 8100 residents including nearly 2500 students, the community responded to racial violence and intimidation by gathering together to try to be proactive, and eventually creating a Civil Rights Ordinance and Human Rights Commission.
Martin Klammer of the initial Decorah Diversity Appreciation Team (DDAT) tells how it all began. “Well it started out when we had simultaneous racist actions and words, directed toward three different faculty members around the time of November 2000. The biggest incident was when a truck rolled out with the “N” word scrawled on it so clearly it was intended for an African American male professor and his family. It was adjacent to their property. His wife was terrified, because the same guy apparently was driving up and down the road when he was away, and she was all alone in the house so I think it was pretty frightening for her. And the professor himself confronted this family that perpetrated this, but you know beyond that we wanted something that was more systematic.
Marginalizing Hate: The Advocates for Human Rights, Minneapolis, MN
A small town in southern Minnesota was struggling with active hate groups. As some folks in Austin were trying to welcome its newest immigrants and workers, it seemed like the press was focused on anti-immigrant hate speech and intimidation. While Austin was experiencing increasing numbers of immigrants entering its community of 23,000 over the last decade, a group of neo-Nazi’s began a series of demonstrations protesting against immigration in the summer of 2009.
As the Bluestem Prairie reports, “Home to Hormel and Quality Pork Processors meat processing plants, Austin has been one flashpoint in Minnesota's debates over immigration policy. Anti-immigrant and racist groups, including MinnSIR, the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction, partnering with the Minuteman movement, and the National Socialist Movement, have exploited local tensions to promote their agenda.”
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