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To kick off the launch of Racial Equity Minnesota on Wednesday, Pillsbury House Theatre’s Breaking Ice Company performed at Alexandria Technical and Community College and pointedly shared the impact of diversity inclusion, equity advocacy and the power of words. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

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Although their number was small, about 50 people, their goal was big: Changing people’s perceptions about race and celebrating the efforts across the state that are addressing the issue.

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The local Inclusion Network hosted a half-day workshop in Alexandria Wednesday to launch its partnership with Racial Equity Minnesota (REM) – a new statewide network offering services, resources and tools to help communities address racial equity.

REM is a non-profit entity with nine member-organizations, including Alexandria’s Inclusion Network, that have qualified for membership by meeting a set of standards related to experience, expertise and proven results.

Their overall goal: Promoting racial equity in the workplace and in educational and community settings.

Wednesday’s launch event at Alexandria Technical and Community College featured a dramatic performance and dialogue by Pillsbury House Theatre’s Breaking Ice Company. The actors presented skits about the power of language, setting the tone for diversity inclusion in the community and the importance of accountability.

The afternoon included breakout sessions highlighting services available through REM, including trainings for businesses, government agencies, education institutions and community organizations. REM’s nine-member organizations offer customized trainings, equipping people with skills to address racial equity. For example, Alexandria’s Inclusion Network offers programming, trainings and presentations for workplaces, classrooms, nonprofits and community organizations.

Steve Pederson, an executive member of Inclusion Network, said, “Whether a business is seeking to improve the work environment or retain employees, a school is dealing with bullying or exclusion, or an organization is looking to make its community more inclusive, Racial Equity Minnesota can help deliver positive outcomes and solutions.”

Workshop participants included local residents and people from higher education, law enforcement, local nonprofits, business and more.

Some powerful points presented included:

● Racism is learned and it can be unlearned.

● People can change through dialogue.

● Diversity inclusion should not be on the shoulders of people of color; it’s for everyone to bring to the table.

● Challenge yourself to understand the lens other people use to see the world.

● Be willing to be accountable and stand up for what’s right.

● Racism is not a big impossible thing – it can be talked about in a sensible and mature way.

● Language is powerful.

Along with Inclusion Network, REM members also include: AMAZE, Antiracism Study-Dialogue Circles, Community Action Duluth, People’s Institute North, Pillsbury House Theatre, Rochester Diversity Council, Shared Vision of Bemidji and Minneapolis YWCA. The network is being launched with financial and technical support from The St. Paul Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.
(320) 763-3133