Residents Propose ‘Welcoming City’ Resolution for St. Joseph
ST. JOSEPH -- The crowd spilled out of the room at the St. Joseph City Council Meeting Monday night, as several residents spoke in favor of a resolution put forward by the group Cultural Bridges.
Cultural Bridges, in part, helps Somali immigrants learn how to live in the United States. The group has proposed the resolution after several white nationalist posters appeared in St. Joseph last month.
Dianne De-Vargas is a co-founder of Cultural Bridges. She says, thanks to the St. Joseph Police taking the posters down quickly, most of the immigrants they work with did not see them in person, and the group was able to provide some context in the classes they provide.
"We explained in the classes, and through the people we know, what happened, why it happened, what our constitution stands for, and what we stand for."
De-Vargas says after talking with her pastor and other members of the group, it was decided they couldn't sit still after the poster incident.
"Because to be silent would be as good as saying, 'we'll just go along with it [their message]' and that just wouldn't be acceptable."
Raj Chaphalkar is also a member of Cultural Bridges. He says the resolution is a big opportunity for St. Joseph to make its' values clear with the rest of central Minnesota, and beyond.
"This really is an opportunity for St. Joseph to make clear the values of our city. We have the chance to have agency over our own future. This [the resolution] is an opportunity to say that.
The resolution calls on St. Joseph's history as an immigrant community. Mentioning the city is already home to a diverse group of community members. Saying in part, providing a welcoming environment enhances St. Joseph's economics, culture and overall prosperity.
The council did not officially vote on the resolution Monday. Saying they "have a long-standing policy of not acting on resolutions during the public comment section" and this resolution proved to be no exception.
They did, however, pass a motion to recognize the efforts of the groups represented and their efforts.