AGN Media Editorial Board
It is a remarkable time in the nation’s history, not only because of the seemingly endless pandemic playing havoc with everyday life, but because of the unfolding opportunity to make real and lasting progress in race relations.
The tragic Memorial Day death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police sparked widespread demonstrations, and it also has caused more people than ever before to take a thoughtful and thorough look at racial inequity with a focus on doing something about it.
Toward that end, we applaud the city’s recent move to consider forming a citizen-based task force that would, among other responsibilities, take on enhancing race relations, unity and equality, according to our recent story.
Should such a group become reality – and our hope is this will transpire – it will demonstrate a visible commitment toward opening corridors of communication for difficult, sometimes uncomfortable, but necessary conversations about how the city can move forward and how it might get there.
"Clearly, there has been a lot of conversation nationwide, and healthy, peaceful conversation in our city over the last few weeks about race relations, about unity, equality and how justice is distributed," Mayor Ginger Nelson said during a recent City Council meeting.
All council members are in favor of the idea, and each has been asked to provide City Manager Jared Miller with as many as a dozen names to be considered for the panel.
The mayor indicated her regular conversations with Council Member Freda Powell, which have been taking place over the past three years, took on greater urgency as recent events have taken place. The idea of a task force emerged as a result of this ongoing dialogue.
"One of the things Freda suggested, and I think it’s a fabulous idea, is that we create a task force that would focus on leading this conversation, not for a moment in time, but to extend it through a longer period of time," the mayor said.
The advantage of such a task force is it would be empowered by the city with a specific charge and time frame to gather input, solicit feedback and provide actionable and meaningful recommendations.
The idea for now is putting a group in place for one year. The end in mind would be to put "unity" in community, so to speak. That is oversimplifying matters, but it’s certainly an admirable goal and one toward which surely any community would strive.
Without getting too specific too soon, the mayor suggested one possibility might be a week of events focused on learning about, appreciating and respecting "people who are different from us through ideas and background."
Powell is correct in saying the timing couldn’t be better for such an initiative. People are energized and eager to be a part of something with the potential to be really special.
"We need to capture the momentum, find out what can be done and continue to move forward," she said. "It’s a great time now for us to come together and be united."
Such a group would not only be a sound idea for the city, but it also might serve as a template for other communities looking for ways to build bridges of understanding through the power of open and honest communication.