Following a community meeting at St. Dominic's Church in Northfield Sunday at which people shared "their worries, concerns and even alleged instances of discrimination in town," Northfield's City Council passed a resolution promoting a "safe, inclusive and welcoming community," the town paper reports.
Known since 1914 by the slogan, "cows, colleges and contentment,"not everyone feels secure since the November election, Philip Weyhe reports in Northfield Latino community pushes for city backing:
Since the United States presidential election Nov. 8, several Northfield Latino community members have been voicing their worries, concerns and even alleged instances of discrimination in town.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, community members asked for the city to provide a display of support for minorities in Northfield, and the council answered. In a 6-1 vote, councillors passed a resolution "affirming the city of Northfield's commitment to be a safe, inclusive and welcoming community for all.” . . .
All of this comes on the heels of a meeting at St. Dominic's Church in Northfield Sunday. About 100 residents, white and minority, gathered at the church to share concerns, worries and solutions for living in the United States after a contentious national election.
Many across the nation have worried that the recent election results are cause to believe that a large percentage of Americans are unwelcome to certain populations. Those fears were presented and talked about at Sunday's meeting.
"The community gathered to talk about what’s going to be happening with [Donald] Trump as president-elect," said one of the organizers and speakers Marlene Rojas. "There were so many concerns in the community about kids being bullied in the schools and also adults in the workplace."
Rojas went on to describe a few specific stories brought forward by community members.
"One of the testimonies... this man works at a local business, and one of the clients came in and told him 'he better pack his suitcase because you’re going to be deported soon,'" she recalled."Another man shared that some co-workers showed him videos of people burning the Mexican flag," she went on. "The same man's son came home crying and said he doesn’t want to go back to school, because some kids told him he is going to get deported."
Northfield School District Superintendent Matt Hillmann was on hand to express his support for the community, saying that he will be working hard to ensure discrimination does not take place in the schools.
Mayor-elect and current city councilor Rhonda Pownell was also on hand. Community members asked her to lead action at the city level to put protections in place against discrimination. . . .
Elsewhere in the paper, Mayor Dana Graham and Mayor-elect Rhonda Pownell write in a letter to the editor A safe, welcoming community for all:
As the results of the election came in, some people rejoiced and others felt disappointment. This is a normal part of democracy. However, many in Northfield and across our nation felt great anxiety and fear.
Northfielders filled St. Dominic Church Sunday in support of our neighbors whose future now may feel uncertain. In that meeting, we both heard and reinforced two messages: Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated here; and all people, regardless of race, sex, gender identity, sexuality, religion or culture, are important to our community.
To this end, the City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to reaffirm, “Its commitment to the equal protection of and service to all residents and visitors, regardless of background or identity.” Through the leadership of our Human Rights Commission, we will be working with all parts of city government to improve areas where our community can be more equitable. With this resolution, we also affirm that the city of Northfield, including the Police Department, does not and will not use city resources for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration laws.
Since many of the concerns around the election involve families with children, we encourage residents to read the statement by Northfield’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Hillmann, which underlines the community’s determination to make all children in Northfield Schools safe and welcome: http://northfieldschools.org/nfldlead/2016/11/177/.
The diversity of our community enriches all of our lives. Taking the time to get to know people who are different from us, to walk a mile in their shoes or to feel their pain and anxiety will only serve to make us better. As current and incoming mayors, we urge our community to be compassionate to all, and pledge our own work to ensure safety, well-being and equal opportunity for Northfielders.
Finally, we need to be clear that there is particular concern and even fear in our Latino community. To them, we repeat that last sentence: Como el alcalde de ahora y la nueva alcaldesa que ganó las elecciones, pedimos a nuestra comunidad que sean compasivos con todos, y prometemos trabajar para garantizar la seguridad, el bienestar y la igualdad de oportunidades para todos los habitantes de Northfield.
In the statement, Supporting All Students, Superintendent Hillmann writes:
I, along with several other school staff, attended a meeting at the Church of St. Dominic yesterday afternoon. Father Dennis Dempsey organized the meeting so members of the Hispanic community could share their concerns and anxieties following last week’s presidential election. The church was nearly full and included a cross-section of the larger Northfield community who attended to support our Hispanic friends and neighbors.
The speakers shared their concerns and almost all shared worries for their children and how they are treated. They shared some specific concerns of insensitive/inappropriate comments made to their children by other children at school. They also shared concerns about things they have heard happening to Hispanic and children of color in other communities.
An immigration lawyer spoke and explained that while he understood the anxiety over immigration law, policy, and deportation. He reassured the community that the election would not have immediate impact on immigration law and policy. He stated he was very confident that everyone who was at the meeting would be here four years from now. He stated he would be available for those who had specific concerns.
Mayor-elect Rhonda Pownell and I spoke at the meeting too. Both of us stated clearly that Northfield is a place where hate and discrimination will not be tolerated. I explained to families that District administrators, teachers, and staff support their children unequivocally and not only want them to feel safe, but valued. I encouraged them to report any incidents of inappropriate comments, harassment, or discrimination to their teachers or principals. I assured them we have policies and procedures in place to follow up and address any concerns or incidents that may occur.
Regardless of politics, it is clear that we are experiencing unprecedented conditions following a national election. We are prepared to support every student in our school. We have systems in place and a strong common belief that all students are welcome in our schools and we will ensure a respectful envrionment for them to learn. Our staff is steadfast in their commitment to greet students each day with a warm smile, to be visible and present in our halls and common spaces, and to demonstrate ongoing care for our students. Our staff will be vigilant and intervene in situations where there are behavioral issues. I cannot emphasize this enough — please report any incidents of inappropriate comments, harassment, or discrimination to building administration. When they have specific details, they are well trained in how to address these kinds of concerns.
Northfield Public Schools staff is dedicated to preparing every student for lifelong success. We stand ready to partner with our community to realize this vision and to reinforce that Northfield is a place where all are welcome to live, work, and learn.
Bluestem will continue to post about communities uniting--witness Friday's post, #BemidjiRespect to unite around "shared values of mutual respect, appreciation for differences" as well as incidents where divisions arise.
Photo: Northfield's motto welcoming people to the college town south of the Cities in Rice County.
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