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Anti-racism workshop gets pushed up after recent racial attack

In light of the attack of Willie Navy — a 53-year-old Brainerd man who was severely beaten Feb. 6 in downtown Brainerd — an interactive workshop called  “Who is my Neighbor?” is being planned from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 26 at the Northland Arboretum in Baxter. 

The free workshop on becoming a multi-cultural, multi-racial beautiful community is sponsored by The Crow Wing County Human Rights Commission; The Mid-Minnesota Women’s Center; First Congregational United Church of Christ, Brainerd; and Lakes Area Anti-racism Study-Dialogue Circle.

The Rev. Deborah Celley of First Congregational United said the Area Anti-racism Study-Dialogue Circle has been working on anti-racism efforts since May. However, efforts were set aside because people were unable to make the longtime commitment for the efforts. 

Celley said after the attack on Navy and seeing the support at the rally Tuesday by the Crow Wing Citizens Stand Against Racism in front of the Crow Wing County Judicial Center the workshop was moved to Feb. 26.

“I’m hoping to see all the people at the rally at the Feb. 26 workshop,” said Celley. “We moved up this workshop to provide these people like (rally organizer) Justin (Doerfler), who responded to the problem, something for them right away as a next step.”

Celley said the focus of the Feb. 26 workshop has changed from what it originally was supposed to be. Celley said the workshop will be more of an entry level, anti-racism event for “people who never gave it a thought that racism could be a problem here.”

In this interactive workshop, participants will share their stories and experiences of neighborliness, look into the history of racism and learn how to become a more beautiful, welcoming community.

Celley’s news release stated, “It is a universal value. We want to be good neighbors. What diminishes our capacity? What prevents us from being the people we want to be?

“Though we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, often we do not understand how we have been conditioned not to be neighbors, conditioned not to love. Voices of our culture and socialization tell us that only those who are like us are worthy of our love. What changes can we make? How can we become the beautiful community we want to be?”

The workshop will be facilitated by Herbert Perkins and Margery Otto, executive directors and creators of the Anti-racism Study-Dialogue Circles.

Perkins, a United Theological Seminary adjunct professor, has expertise in intercultural and interracial communication and anti-racism dialogue. He is a consultant in building anti-racist, multicultural communities.

Otto also is a United Theological Seminary adjunct professor. During her 20 years of practicing law, she volunteered her services on significant racial justice efforts in the Twin Cities. She now devotes herself exclusively to anti-racism and social justice work, as a consultant and facilitator trainer. 

More information may be obtained by contacting Celley at 829-2528.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851.