On July 22nd KOM, KCM and religious leaders of the Karen community gathered at The Urban Village to meet with Mayor Carter and discuss the city budget.
The evening began with brief introductions about the story behind The Urban Village and Mayor Carter’s family’s migration from Texas to Saint Paul. In Mayor Carter’s speech, he emphasized how there is great value in storytelling. He said there is power in sharing these stories and messages we can learn when it is passed down from one generation to the next.
His grandfather had owned seven commercial businesses where there was once a thriving African American community called Rondo. The neighborhood and businesses were lost due to the decision made by those in power, at the time, to run I-94 over the community.
“I believe that the story of the Rondo neighborhood is a story about what happens when people make decisions about us, without us. When people make decisions that impact us without us getting a voice at the table... All of us having access to prosperity means all of us having access to the decision–making table.”
After sharing his family’s story with the audience, there was a short presentation on the Karen refugees’ journey from Burma to Minnesota. The group followed with discussions about the challenges the Karen community faces today. Speakers covered the need to be included in the political decisions of the Saint Paul community, the difficulty of home ownership, and learning about the many laws of their new homeland.
The night ended with a fun, yet difficult game the Mayor’s finance team called, “The Budget Game”. The game helped Karen leaders and participants of the meeting come to a better understanding of the difficult decisions they must make when it comes to budget planning for the city of Saint Paul. It also provided insight into what the money goes towards.
KOM, KCM, and the religious leaders of the Karen community are happy to have gotten this opportunity to discuss the city budget with Mayor Carter. We greatly appreciate that he extended this invitation to allow us to participate in the decision-making process of our community.
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