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Alexandria group gathers to promote racial equity in community

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

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

REM is a nonprofit 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 training for businesses, government agencies, educational 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, training and presentations for workplaces, classrooms, nonprofits and community groups.

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, nonprofits, business and more.

Some 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.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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