MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The death of George Floyd has brought the issue of racism to the forefront across the nation and here at home.
Sen. Nick Frentz hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday with state representatives and city officials to discuss racial equity and racial justice issues.
The Mankato City Council voted Monday to increase funding for the Greater Mankato Diversity Council who’s goal is to facilitate a community-wide discussion on racial equity and to amplify the voice of marginalized groups.
Monday’s virtual town hall addressed this conversation.
“I think we, as those who are willing to work, have to be willing to commit and to do the longterm work to make sure that a vision of a socially just and racially just community, and institutions is real,” said Greater Mankato Diversity Council executive director Bukata Hayes.
“I’ve always been a strong believer in those who are closest to the pain should also be closer to the power," said former Mankato State Student Association President Anisa Omar. "So how do we make a reality here in Mankato? How do we invest in our communities? How do we take what we have learned in different sessions or in different trainings and different conversations and actually implement them?”
“As we talk about some sessions moving forward, it’s time for white folks to get out of the way and not tell people what we think what they need for them to do better - for them to have better outcomes,” said City of Mankato Director of Public Safety Amy Vokal.
After members of the Minneapolis City Council expressed intent to defund the city's police department, some asked if this is a possibility in Mankato.
“When people talk about traditional law enforcement - we’re the tip of the spear - but everything upriver is education, employment and housing security and food security. When we put some of our resources to that puts people in a healthy position in life," said Vokal.
“Those are some of the things I think is a well thought out process and I will say that is meant to kind of people say ‘what the heck is going on’ and then hopefully have the conversation on how we should look at this,” Sen. Jeff Hayden.
“We have been training our police, we have been equipping them with militarized weapons, and so how do we take away from their inflated budget, and start giving it back to our community members," said Omar. "That is activists on the floor have been doing an amazing job with so far.”
Questions also centered on local leadership and Mankato's diverse demographic.
“I think it’s important to, as Mankatoans, to have some truth-telling," said Hayes. "That is that we have had opportunities and we have failed to elect representational leadership.”
“What has been shown is a lot of black and brown individuals have already stepped up to the plate and we have not been successful," said Omar. "We’ve been denied by our own community and so that is very disheartening but I do see a new sense of urgency growing. I do see individuals making sure their voices are heard with or without elected officials or elected positions.”
“Please allow us to lead," said Hayden. "Please do take your time, your talent and your treasure and stand beside me and stand behind me. You don’t know what it feels like to be a black man, but I do. If we’re going get this right please allow me to lead.”