St. Paul’s district councils have begun cross-cultural dialogues among community members and the St. Paul Police Department in efforts to bridge the divide between communities of color and law enforcement.
Given the national media coverage of protests around police actions in communities of color, this project is a community-led, cooperative work aimed at finding routes to racial equity in St. Paul. Managed by the District 1 Community Council and overseen by a Steering Committee of five additional district councils (District 2-Greater East Side, West Side Community Organization, Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, Payne-Phalen District 5 Planning Council, and Summit University Community Council), this city-wide project has been in the works since November 2014.
The project developed out of 2014 neighborhood cross-cultural dialogues; funded by the Saint Paul Foundation and hosted by the district councils. Community participants identified several issues and action steps during the dialogues, one being the need for cross-cultural dialogues to happen between city departments and community members – especially between youth and police.
The district councils are funded in their 2015 work by an Innovation Fund awarded by the city of St. Paul, and have been supported by the mayor’s office and St. Paul Police Department administration. Since March 2015, more than 40 community members from across the city have been meeting to plan the dialogues, along with representatives from the police department, the Latino Peace Officer Association, the Minnesota Asian Peace Officers Association, and the National Black Police Association. The current dialogues are facilitated by community members (both youth and adults) trained with support from Everyday Democracy, a nationally recognized organization specializing in study circles focused on racial equity and positive change.
The dialogues will run for four more sessions, on Mondays from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. until Oct. 12, at the Wellstone Center/El Rio Vista Community Center, 179 E. Robie St. The council is still recruiting community members, especially youth and young adults of color, to share their experiences and jointly develop solutions to making the city more equitable for all its residents.
To RSVP for participation, to discuss any assistance for participation residents may need, or for more information about the project, contact Chia Lor, project coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 578-7400.