By Katarina Podewils
On Monday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m., the city of St. Joseph held its usual bi-weekly city council meeting. However, this meeting was different. At this meeting it was standing room only, with all 36 seats of the council chamber filled.
The reason for this turnout was due to a community felt need to discuss the lack of inclusion expressed in St. Joseph. Given the recent events of white supremacy signs posted around St. Joseph and St. Cloud, community members of the group Cultural Bridges presented during the open forum a drafted resolution that they hoped would be endorsed by the city.
The resolution was a one-page printed document that bulleted several statements the city should uphold regarding the treatment of all people who reside here.
Raj Chaphalkar, the Director of Annual Giving at SJU and a part of Cultural Bridges, presented the resolution stating that it would reaffirm to all that St. Joseph is a welcoming and inclusive city.
“Sometimes it needs to be said out loud that we are a welcoming community,” Chaphalkar said during the forum.
In addition, several others including CSB/SJU staff, students and community members went up to the podium to share their own personal testimonies as well as endorse the resolution to city council.
Margy Hughes, community member and a former CSB professor stated that in order for St. Joseph to attract others to visit its town, it would need to be a welcoming place.
“We hope that St. Joseph would continue to be a place of destination,” Hughes said during the forum.
SJU junior Jaheer Jones stated that he often does not feel comfortable visiting St. Joseph aside from campus. He remarked that during the weekend when most students would go out to converse with one another, he would rather stay in with his own friends.
“[My friends and I] don’t come to St. Joe because we don’t necessarily feel welcomed,” Jones said.
After the closure of open forum, the St. Joseph city council responded to Cultural Bridges’ resolution by stating that it would not make an immediate decision on its addition to city council doctrine. However, the council hoped to discuss with each other later about this resolution and would decide further how the city would act.
The following is the proposed resolution that was shown and tabled until a further date:
“WHEREAS, the City of St.
Joseph was founded by
immigrants in 1854, is home to the oldest consecrated church in Minnesota and has a continuous history of welcoming those seeking liberty and the opportunity for a better life; and
WHEREAS, the City of St. Joseph today has a population of over 6,800, a business community of over 100 businesses and is home to diverse groups of community members including native peoples, descendants of homesteaders, monastic religious, college students and faculty, new Americans, immigrants, refugees and people of all backgrounds; and
WHEREAS, the City of St. Joseph promotes respect and compassion for all persons, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender identification, age, ability, place of origin, citizenship status and veteran
WHEREAS, the City of St. Joseph believes that providing a welcoming, hospitable and friendly environment enhances St. Joseph’s cultural fabric, economic growth, market competitiveness and overall prosperity for current and future generations; and
WHEREAS, the City of St. Joseph’s motto is ‘Tomorrow with Tradition” and it has a forward-looking approach to development, safety, growth and strategic city planning that includes people of all classes and backgrounds; and
WHEREAS, more than one fifth of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University student population are American students of color or international students who participate in community life in the City of St. Joseph, Central Minnesota’s population and labor force growth in coming years will be primarily driven by people of color, and immigrants and refugees bring net-positive economic and social impacts to the City of St. Joseph; and
WHEREAS, when civic and elected leaders step forward and act swiftly in the wake of hate incidents, victims feel supported, community members feel safe and space for action and dialogue can grow; and
WHEREAS, St. Joseph area religious leaders and college presidents made swift public statements denouncing recent shameful expressions of hate and white supremacy in St. Joseph;
THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of St. Joseph, Minnesota, that the City of St. Joseph is declared a welcoming and inclusive community; and
IT IS HEREBY FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of St. Joseph remains committed to policies and efforts aimed at promoting the full inclusion, welcome, safety and prosperity of all residents regardless of