Forum on Race focuses on learning and unlearning

Andrea Nelson

Tiffnie Jackson, Director of Racial Justice at the YWCA in Mankato, spoke to the gathered crowd of roughly 50 community members at “It's Time to Talk: Forums on Race” held at the TCU High School Monday night. Jackson said that the YWCA's mission is to eliminate racism and gain racial justice providing freedom and equality for all. (Andrea Nelson Photo)

What does it mean to be a person of color in a community that is predominantly white? What is it like to be white here in Montgomery? What can the community you live in do about disparities surrounding race relations and equality?


These are just a few of the hard-hitting questions posed upon attendees at the “It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race” held Monday at Tri-City United High School.

“This is really an interesting and exciting event for me personally and professionally,” said Mark Preissing of the event.

Preissing is the Tri-City United Community Education Director. He said that he was approached by Jessica O’Brien, the Community Engagement Manager at Region Nine Development Commission, to host a community engagement project surrounding the topic of race and specifically racism. Together they have spent the last six months preparing and planning for this event.

“It’s really important to build bridges of understanding,” O’Brien said. Region Nine works with communities and intergovernmental offices to promote the future development of the region, which includes nine counties, 33 school districts, 72 cities and 147 townships.

O’Brien said that one topic the organization is focused on is the changing demographics in the region and the impact this currently has and will have in the future as the demographics change even more dramatically a decade from now.

According to the Minnesota Demographic Center, this region of Minnesota is expected to see a minority population growth of 156.5 percent by 2035. The black population alone is expected to increase by roughly 200 percent, and persons with two or more races is expected to increase roughly 75 percent, while the white population is expected to decline by 0.1 percent.

“Le Sueur County reflects this trend today,” O’Brien said of the declining white only population.

YWCA led forum

Monday’s forum was led by staff and volunteers of the YWCA Mankato in partnership with Region Nine Development Commission, the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, Tri City United Schools and Community Education. 

The YWCA Mankato’s Director of Racial Justice, Tiffnie Jackson, opened the evening by sharing a story about herself and her first realization that her skin color was “different” than others. She recalled her first day at school and being just like all the other kids. 

However, that all changed the second day when the other kids got closer and closer to her until one licked her face.

“I was the only one who got licked,” Jackson said recalling her second day of preschool because a mother told her child that having black skin was “sweet like chocolate.”

See more in the print edition. 


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