One Minneapolis Forum: What about the Latino community?


I went to the June 6 One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum expecting a lot of discussion of issues specific to the Latino community, and with the assignment of covering that focus.

The One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum is not connected in any way with the Minneapolis Foundation or the City of Minneapolis.

What I experienced instead was largely the discussion of issues affecting African-American, Latino, and Native American communities taken as a whole. While it was announced that Spanish translation would be available, the crowd of 500-plus people did not appear to have many Latino members. Two Latina panelists asked questions. Jennifer Godinez asked,

“We have a silent killer of dreams in this community which is the over-representation of young black, Latino, and Native American youth suspended from Minneapolis schools. It is a silent killer of dreams and it turns into the school-to-prison pipeline. So please address as mayor, how will you end the over-representation of suspension rates, especially of young black men?”

When I interviewed Godinez after the forum, I asked what other issues affecting the Latino community she would like to see discussed. She mentioned the Latino business corridor and how each candidate would support Latino businesses as mayor. However, she referred me to other Latino community leaders for more thorough information on relevant issues in the mayoral race. When asked whether any of the candidates stood out for her at this point she responded, “Not really because they could only answer a few questions in the whole process.”

The other Latina panelist introduced herself as “Luz,” a DREAMer and a community activist. Her question was,

“If you get elected as mayor, what would you do to connect and actually take action to make a difference in the Latino community so that more students have the opportunity that could impact and increase graduation rates?”

Her question led to three follow-up questions, one from the moderator, and two from Luz herself. Following Don Samuels’ first answer, she pressed him,

“It’s a really big issue not just for me but for other Latinos that we don’t see them right now because of the language barrier.How would you connect? How would you connect to me if I come to you? How would you connect if I bring to you thousands of my community members?”

She also queried Betsy Hodges, who had described helping a group of workers from CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores en Lucha – Center for Workers United in the Struggle) who had come to her asking for help to improve their labor conditions.

“One thing you said — you said that we have to come to you. One thing that I would like to see is you guys coming to us in our community. Why do we have to come to you guys? If we are the people that are choosing you, you have to come to our communities and speak to us about our issues that we really want to address.”

Hodges responded that she would indeed be going out into the Latino community to connect with its members.

I will follow that lead. Stay tuned: I have contacted Latino community leaders to inquire about issues specific to the community and relevant to the Minneapolis mayoral race and I will be reporting on what they have to say in the near future. If you’d like to say what issues are relevant — or suggest questions that I should ask the community members or mayoral candidates, just email or comment on this article.

Related stories: The One Minneapolis forum (not associated with the Minneapolis Foundation or the City of Minneapolis) stirred excitement and interest across the community. The TC Daily Planet and other sources offer multiple perspectives on the two-hour forum:

Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.