ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Forum draws many for change, understanding

A standing-room-only crowd attended a community forum on racism and understanding Tuesday in the Superior Public Library. "When I saw the size of this crowd gathered in this room, I started to get really nervous and I was almost on the point of t...

Forum
Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com The crowd at the Superior Public Library listen during a community forum on racism and understanding on Tuesday afternoon.

A standing-room-only crowd attended a community forum on racism and understanding Tuesday in the Superior Public Library.

“When I saw the size of this crowd gathered in this room, I started to get really nervous and I was almost on the point of tears,” said Kym Young, co-founder of the Superior African Heritage Community, which put on the event. “I was so joyful that so many people turned out and thought enough of this that it was important enough in our community to come out for.”

The crowd included people from all walks of life - students from area colleges, government officials, non-profit organization representatives and local residents.

“I think in the room right now we have one of the best representations of everything that is good in our Twin Ports community,” Young said. “We’ve got from babies all the way up to senior citizens. I think that’s beautiful.”

After a brief introduction and some food, participants split into two groups to discuss systemic racism and poverty as well as cultural bias and misunderstanding. They whittled the issues down into a list of problems to focus on, from improving housing and decriminalizing minor drug offenses to promoting equity.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jan Provost of Superior was part of the discussion.

“It’s right up our alley,” she said, pointing to her Grandmothers for Peace sweatshirt. “I think it’s important for us to be here and to listen to all these different opinions; it’s wonderful. I think it’s the beginning of something big in this town.”

Karen LaBare, parent coordinator for Northern Lights Elementary School, came to learn more about the hurdles families facing racism and poverty address.

“I want to hear what the community has to say. I’m trying to learn from the community,” LaBare said. “I can’t provoke change unless I know what change is needed.”

It’s easy to walk away from a problem, said Carl Crawford, intercultural center coordinator for Lake Superior College.

“While we were in here gabbing together and eating and sharing time, someone felt the sting of racism today; someone was denied, in the little time we were in this room already,” he told the crowd. “If you agree, that can’t happen anymore. So although we’ll leave here today maybe not with all the answers but hopefully on the way to some new ones.”

There is strength in numbers, said Kay McKenzie of Superior. “You know you’re not alone.”

Jane Anklam with University of Wisconsin-Extension asked if there was a way to bring the issue more to the forefront, more “in your face.” That’s what protests do, Young said. Tuesday’s forum was the next step in the equation for change.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I think people are going to take away from this that they’re not alone; they can make a difference,” Young said. The group plans to hold additional cultural awareness forums to keep the discussion going.

The problems identified by the group can be tackled if they work together, talk about it openly and are aware of the need for change, said University of Wisconsin-Superior student Katie Wilke.

“If it’s important enough to our community, and apparently it is very important to our community because I’m looking at the number of people that are here today, it’s important enough to take one hour a month,” Young said. “That’s all it could take, one hour a month from a volunteer to help make a change.”

She encouraged people to volunteer at a school, take a few hours out of their schedule to drive seniors to appointments or the grocery store, start a book club or attend community meetings.

For more information on the Superior African Heritage Community or the organization’s upcoming events, look them up on Facebook.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What To Read Next