Human Relations Commission

Boards, Commissions & Committees

Human Relations Commission - August 17, 2017 Minutes

Regular Meeting:Thursday, August 17, 2017

A regular meeting of the Board of Human Relations Commissioners of the City of Fargo, North Dakota, was held at the City Commission Room at City Hall at 12:00 o’clock p.m., Thursday, August 17, 2017.

The Human Relations Commissioners present or absent were as follows:

Present: Rachel Hoffman, Abdiwali Sharif-Abdinasir, Barry Nelson, Cheryl Schaefle,
Paul Jensen, Dave Lanpher

Absent: Hassan Lamba, Tanya RedRoad, and Leatitia Hellerud

Also Present: Willard Yellow Bird, Kara Gloe, Vince Kempf (Cultural Liaison Police Officer), Kevin Brooks, Jared Pigeon, Mike Mitchel (Training Coordinator, City of Fargo)

Item 1. Welcome and Introductions
Chair Hoffman welcomed Members to the meeting and introductions were made.

Item 2. Approval of Agenda and Minutes
Mr. Nelson moved the agenda and the minutes of the July 20, 2017 Human Relations Commission meeting be approved. Second by Mr. Jensen. All Members present affirmed aye and the motion was declared carried.

Item 3. Welcoming Week – Kevin Brooks
Mr. Brooks gave a presentation regarding the history of Welcoming Week and the activities that will happen from September 14-24th.

Mr. Brooks stated that Welcoming Week is a national event that last year had over 250 events. Locally, Fargo hosted over 30 events last year, making it one of the five most welcoming communities. The two diving ideas behind Welcoming Week are improving social integration and economic integration. This year’s theme is “Bring a Friend, Make a Friend.”

Mr. Brooks handed out postcards and asked Board members to pass them out to their networks. He gave the members several ideas on how they can help Welcoming Week, including: sharing the website, sharing the Facebook events, placing events on their calendars, and bringing people out to these events.

Mr. Nelson clarified that the HRC contributes money, and asked if Welcoming Week could use more. Mr. Brooks said Welcoming Week is able to do a lot more promotion thanks to the funding from the HRC. He also stated that the events are self sufficient, but more could be done with additional money.

Mr. Yellow Bird pointed out that this year a basketball tournament will take place in lieu of a soccer tournament, and asked if there is a fee to enter the tournament. Mr. Brooks stated that there is a fee, because there are costs associated with running the tournament. He further stated that the fee is $250.

Ms. Hoffman asked if there is a need for volunteers at any of the events. Mr. Brooks stated that most events coordinate their own volunteers. He noted the biggest place Welcoming Week could use volunteers is to help with promotions.

Mr. Sharif-Abdinasir asked if the Board is hanging international flags. Mr. Brooks stated that international flags will be flown downtown from Sept 14th-24th. Additionally, he stated that The World in Fargo-Moorhead will have their photo exhibit up in the library from September 5th – October 2nd.

Item 4. Black History Month – Jared Pigeon
Mr. Pigeon requested support from the Human Relations Commission in regards to creating a work group to support African American Heritage education and activities. Mr. Pigeon stated that he believes the contributions African Americans have made to American society have been largely left out of the conversation. Mr. Pigeon stated that this is leading to an identity crisis for African American children. Mr. Pigeon suggested that there be an intentional effort to reflect the contributions African Americans have made with a formalized event. Mr. Pigeon asked if the HRC is interested working with the high schools, colleges, and local businesses to develop a planning committee to plan a month-long event. Mr. Pigeon’s specific requests include having the planning committee fall under the Human Relations Commission umbrella for both name and facility usage purposes.

Mr. Jensen asked at what point in time do the young African American males in schools get engaged and are given positive role models. Mr. Pigeon stated that he believes the educational system in Fargo Moorhead provides a soft education of African American history, partly because the books don’t portray an accurate depiction of American history. Therefore, teachers are uncomfortable talking about it and perhaps the knowledge is not there. He further stated that he is not aware of specific interventions for high school children, but that perhaps this initiative would serve as a point to get to those children.

Mr. Nelson shared an anecdote about a time when he was doing a needs assessment for a neighborhood and asked where new folks were primarily coming from, thinking in terms of New Americans, and the answer was Chicago. He reflected that it highlights the growing diversity from all over the nation and the world that we have here. Mr. Nelson further stated that he would encourage the HRC to really consider supporting the suggested initiative. Mr. Pigeon stated he works with the YWCA and is finding that their population is becoming increasingly inner-city Chicago/inner-city Minneapolis residents who came here because they heard we have great things to offer.

Mr. Sharif-Abdinasir pointed out that there is also an identity crisis for New American children and asked if Mr. Pigeon plans to expand the idea. Mr. Pigeon responded that the first step is to dedicate intentional time and intentional space to have intentional conversations. He further stated that this would help both groups to learn from each other and come together around commonalities. He stated that there is not really another mechanism for bringing these groups together and he would be very intentional about it.

Mr. Stone stated he would like to be involved with the initiative. Mr. Lanpher suggested that the HRC use the MLK Day event to bridge into Mr. Pigeon’s initiative.

Ms. Schaefle stated she believes we have to get to kids early, because by the time they are in high school, their sense of self is already formed. Mr. Jensen stated he agreed there is a need to start early, and suggested Mr. Pigeon’s event be used to attack the problem in primary and secondary schools. Mr. Stone pointed out that lifting up success stories are only one component of the initiative, it would also include heritage, etc. Mr. Yellow Bird shared a story of an article he read about Blue Baby Syndrome and the first procedure ever done to treat it was done by an African American. Mr. Stone expanded to say that the man wanted to go to medical school, but did not have the finances, so he started out as a janitor cleaning the lab. The doctor caught him reading the books, and since he had good surgical hands, they went from there.

Ms. Hoffman noted that it appears the HRC has a full interest in being a part of the initiative.

Item 5. Public Comment
Mike Mitchell, City of Fargo Training and Development Coordinator, talked about the Diversity Training Program the City of Fargo offers to all employees. Mr. Mitchell stated there were a couple of incidents that showed a lack of understanding of the diversity in our community. He noted the Mayor then questioned what is being done to train City staff, and from there Mr. Mitchell started working on diversity training. He stated that he worked closely with Lutheran Social Services to develop the basis for the training. He added that the training views diversity from a very broad perspective, including cultural, socioeconomic, etc. Mr. Mitchell stated that the training is trying to move from tolerance to acceptance, and he invited all members of the HRC to participate in the training.

Ms. Hoffman noted the importance of the wide implementation of this diversity training. Mr. Nelson asked if there has been much feedback from the training. Mr. Mitchell stated they have received feedback and have made adjustments to the training based on that feedback.

Mr. Sharif-Abdinasir stated that Fargo is very diverse and he appreciates that the City is working on this training. Mr. Mitchell stated that the City plans to continue the training indefinitely and expanding it to cover more specifics on individual groups, while right now it is very broad. Mr. Lanpher stated he appreciates that this will not be a one and done, because helping people be accepting is a process.

Item 6. Budget Requests
The following funding request was reviewed as follows:

1) The T’udeako Group funding request for $550 for their back to school party

Mr. Lanpher moved to approve $250. Second by Mr. Stone. All Members present affirmed aye and the motion was declared carried.

Item 7. Work Prioritization
Ms. Gloe addressed the various items the Human Relations Commission has agreed to work on, and asked the Board if they would prioritize what they wanted to work on first, as there are limited resources.

Ms. Hoffman suggested to table the discussion for the strategic planning session, unless others had thoughts.

Mr. Lanpher asked which items were being worked on. Ms. Gloe stated writing the welcoming plan and hate crime planning.

Mr. Nelson stated that he thinks it would be best to discuss this at the strategic planning sessions so that potential partners can be evaluated.

Mr. Jensen stated hate crime planning is the most urgent for him.

Ms. Gloe pointed out that several members of the HRC have been on a call with the U.S. Department of Justice discussing the possibility of having them come to Fargo to present at community conversations, and inquired if the HRC should put off writing the welcoming plan to do that.

Mr. Lanpher asked for clarification on the welcoming plan, and Ms. Hoffman pointed out that it is the next step from the Refugee Resettlement Report. Mr. Lanpher asked for further clarification on timelines for the projects, and stated his concern about hate crime.

Mr. Sharif-Abdinasir stated that he believes everything the HRC is working on is important and feels that mapping things out strategically is the best way forward.

Mr. Jensen asked if there is a way to have more inclusive meetings by hosting them on the internet. Mr. Lanpher pointed out during the Go2030 Fargo Comprehensive Plan process, much of it was done by public comment via the internet.

Mr. Yellowbird pointed out that the Native American Commission started an ad hoc committee to take care of issues as they come up and it worked out well.

Mr. Lanpher volunteered to work on a timeline. Ms. Gloe will contact Mr. Lanpher to discuss the timeline. Mr. Nelson also volunteered to help.

Ms. Schaefle asked if there is a place where subcommittees are listed. Ms. Gloe stated that there are three: Executive Committee, MLK Committee, and the New American Working Group. Ms. Hoffman said the HRC could list available subcommittees at the strategic planning session.

Item 8. Strategic Planning
Discussion was held regarding strategic planning, which is scheduled for October 3rd.

Item 9. MLK Committee
Ms. Gloe stated the first MLK Committee meeting will be held August 28th at 12:00 p.m. at Atomic Coffee.

Item 10. Adjourn
The time at adjournment was 1:10 p.m.