There were many reactions to last month’s presidential election, but the most disturbing were the stories I heard of school children – as young as 6 and 7 – coming to school in tears, speaking of “being deported,” and worrying that their moms and dads could be taken from their homes while they slept. These fears are real – and we as a community cannot ignore them.
At the same time, I was invited to come to tea at the home of one of my Somali constituents. He and his wife wanted me to reassure their young children about the election. And they wanted to share the concerns of our neighborhood’s East African immigrants. I tried to assure the family that our constitutional democracy and system of checks and balances will protect them from any harm. But as refugees, they came to this country with a tenuous hold on confidence in government and authority figures. I understood what was behind the question, asked by their sixth-grade son, himself a citizen: “Can they deport us?”
I am sure, like me, you were horrified by campaign rhetoric that included prohibiting Muslims from entering our country, and requiring Muslims to sign a government registry – an idea straight out of Nazi Germany. So it is no wonder that our neighbors who are immigrants – documented and undocumented, naturalized citizens or otherwise – are questioning the promise and the safety of our country.
Saint Paul is better than that. The Swede Hollow Opera, composer Ann Millikan’s amazing production performed in November at the East Side Freedom Library, told the story of how our neighborhood was shaped by Swedish, Italian, Mexican, Hmong, African American and Native American people. We in Dayton’s Bluff recognize that we’ve always been better and stronger as a community of diverse people, from all kinds of backgrounds and ways of life.
So what can we do? As Minnesotans, we may be a little uncomfortable with hugging and opening up to strangers, looking into the eyes of people we don’t know, smiling and saying, “Hi!” But the time has come — in a world that has become more threatening for people of color — for us to show our gratitude and love for one another as neighbors.
At teatime that day, that Somali family asked me to work with them to reach out to the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council and the District One Community Council, Darul Uloom Islamic Center, First Lutheran Church, Mounds Park United Methodist Church, Progressive Baptist Church, the East Side Freedom Library, our elected officials and many, many others – and you know what happened?
On Tuesday, December 13, from 5-8 p.m. at Battle Creek Middle School, YOU and your family and friends are invited to what we hope will be our first annual “Interfaith Intercultural Community Meeting and Meal,” to assert that ours is a neighborhood where all are welcomed, all are loved and all will be protected – no matter what the flavor-of-the-month in Washington D.C.
Please join us. If you’d like to get involved in planning this event or signing on as a cohost, please call me at 651-266-8670 or email me at [email protected] anytime before that date!