| Program: || Project Respect, White Bear Lake, MN |
| Contact(s): || Trisha Cummins Kauffman, Executive Director, East Metro Women's Council: (612) 773-8401 |
| Purpose: || To promote diversity and work towards making White Bear Lake, Minnesota, a place where everyone can work, live and enjoy being together |
Minnesota, one of the most racially homogenous states in the country, has an alarmingly high rate of poverty among persons of color. Project Respect was created in February 1998, following several months' discussion among community leaders in White Bear Lake, Minn., (a northern suburb of Saint Paul) concerning verbal and physical attacks upon people of color in the community. Project Respect serves as a forum for discussion and community action directed toward improving relations and understanding.
Project Respect is spearheaded by leaders of the local Unitarian Universalist Church and the East Metro Women's Council, a transitional housing and self-sufficiency program serving homeless and low-income families. The project functions as a coalition of organizations and concerned members of the community who have made a public commitment to improving relations among people of different races, religions, creeds, sexual orientation and economic status. Although newly formed, Project Respect has quickly generated community-wide interest and support for its goals. Project Respect meets twice each month. The meetings provide a forum for discussion and sharing of ideas, thoughts and feelings surrounding racism, classism, sexism and other issues of division. Project Respect has sponsored several workshops, using experiential learning and the arts to build awareness of the issues of racial and cultural diversity. One workshop challenged participants to examine their own stereotypes. After each activity, participants were encouraged to share thoughts and feelings evoked by the exercise. A second workshop used music and dance to illustrate racial hatred vs. harmony, violence vs. peace, etc. This workshop was preceded by a potluck picnic in which all participants were encouraged to share their favorite ethnic foods with the group. Project Respect also serves as a resource for program planning for other organizations and works with civic and school authorities, police, and local business and civic organizations to create a more tolerant and welcoming climate in the community.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
The motto of Project Respect is "Build Bridges, Not Walls." The project will be entering a float in 1998's annual summertime Manitous Days Parade and will also sponsor a booth at MarketFest, the two activities most attended by residents of White Bear Lake and surrounding communities. Sixty-five individuals have participated in Project Respect workshops, and thousands are expected to view the project's float and MarketFest booth.