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Willmar meeting will spark dialogue on racial equity in rural Minnesota

WILLMAR -- Perspectives and personal experiences with racial equity, from economic development to the worlds of education and health care, will be collected at a gathering Thursday in Willmar.

The information ultimately will make its way into a legislative report card and action agenda being compiled by the nonprofit Organizing Apprenticeship Project. The goal: to improve racial equity for Minnesotans who are poor or of color.

Organizers are looking for dialogue, said Robert Valdez of the Willmar Area Multicultural Market, which is one of the sponsors of Thursday's meeting.

"It's open discussion. What are the trends? What are people seeing?" he said.

Other sponsors of the event are the West Central Integration Collaborative, the Latino Economic Development Center, Centro Campesino and the Somali Action Alliance.

A similar meeting has already been held in St. Paul. The event in Willmar will help gather input from rural Minnesota.

Participants have been invited who have experience and expertise in areas such as business development, economic advancement, education and health. They will meet from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.

"We're bringing in people that are actually on the ground working in these fields," Valdez said.

The report card and legislative agenda that will be put together is "a way of getting information to legislation," he said.

The Organizing Apprenticeship Project will hold a rally at the state Capitol on Feb. 25 to release its 2010 legislative report card and race equity action agenda.

The 2009 report card, issued one year ago, found that the recession dealt a disproportionate blow of unemployment and foreclosure to Minnesota's poor and populations of color. The report also concluded that many state budget decisions reinforced long-standing disparities for these populations.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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