New Ulm Forward marches on

NEW ULM — New Ulm Forward, the organization formerly known as the Let’s Talk: Forum on Race, continued to evolve, planning its next steps in a New Ulm Middle School conference room May 23.

A group of eight discussed future funding sources. Bukata Hayes of Mankato said such groups in other area communities have received grants from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund (SMIF). Hayes said community inclusion groups in St. James, Fairmont and St. Peter have organized a variety of events.

“One man led the organization of a cultural event that drew hundreds of people including many Latinos in St. James. In Fairmont, they meet at a popular restaurant and share stories,” Hayes said. “I think there is great potential here too. Let’s talk about what we can do to make it happen. We need to tell people who we are and why we are here. Identify community groups to partner with, like schools and churches.”

Sue Kimmel suggested taking part in events like the Monday night concerts held at 7 p.m. throughout the summer in German Park.

The group agreed to share demographic data created by the University of Minnesota on the number of languages spoken and percentage of population in poverty in local and area communities. The data will be condensed in a pamphlet to be distributed at community events that may include the New Ulm National Night Out July 30 in German Park.

“Minnesota is one of the most racially diverse states in the United States,” said Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz.

“Most people would be shocked to know about the number of homeless people here,” said Jeff Bertrang. “You don’t find them under bridges. They’re often couch-hopping… People in New Ulm are willing to step up and help others. Sometimes you have to ask them to help, but that’s ok.”

“We want more people to call New Ulm home,” Sue Kimmel said.

Hayes said it was important to make folks feel comfortable about the subject and engage them to be aware of others.

“No community is immune to demographic changes,” Hayes said. “The best companies plan to determine what communities will look like 10 years from now. Some folks think there is moat around their city.”

“Use community strengths and build on that,” said Mindy Kimmel.

Moritz said sharing stories about how people grew up could be a good way to engage others.

Hayes said many Latinos don’t feel safe about coming out for such an event at first.

“If we can begin to open minds up just a little bit, it’s good,” Sue Kimmel said.

The New Ulm Forward mission was defined as bringing the best of New Ulm forward with inclusivity, including a diverse work force, and partnering with other local groups.

Other group members talked about creating a world map and having participants identify the country of their ancestors, using washable paint for kids to leave their handprints. Another example was using different color nylons or panty hose for kids to match their skin color.

New Ulm Forward’s next meeting was set for 6:15 p.m. June 19 at New Ulm Middle School.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com