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Without patting ourselves on the back, Brainerd area residents can take pride in the response they’ve made to the brutal Feb. 6 beating of 53-year-old Willie Navy. 

About 40 of Navy’s well-wishers attended a peaceful rally on Tuesday in conjunction with a court appearance of his assailants. This was no angry mob, out for vengeance. It was a thoughtful, concerned group of citizens who were appalled by what happened to Navy and dismayed at the racial overtones which allegedly motivated the beating.

Jimmy’s Pizza, Navy’s northeast Brainerd neighborhood restaurant, expects to donate between 20 and 30 percent of its profits from Tuesday’s “Willie Day” to the victim. Following the lead of the pizza restaurant have been Paul Bunyan Bowl in Baxter and the Brainerd Citizens Fund Against Violence at Wells Fargo Bank. Proceeds are being obtained by both of these efforts to help Navy pay medical bills and other expenses. Paul Bunyan Bowl will conduct a Bowl Down Racism fundraiser on Feb. 27. Donations for the Brainerd Citizens Against Violence Fund may be sent to the account at Wells Fargo Bank, P.O. Box 1204, Brainerd, MN, 56401, or directed from accounts at any bank. Other goodwill gestures, both big and small, will likely follow.

The genuine concern being voiced about this horrendous incident of violence may spur interest and encourage dialogue on race in the Brainerd Lake Area. The Lakes Area Anti-Racism Study Dialogue Circle is organizing an anti-racism event with guest speakers and the theme, “Who is my neighbor?” The event would be co-sponsored by the Women’s Center of Mid-Minnesota, First Congregational United Church of Christ in Brainerd with support from the Crow Wing County Human Rights Commission.

People from all walks of life in the Brainerd area have made it clear they’ll speak out against violence, particularly racially motivated violence. As our population becomes more diverse the efforts of these good citizens will make a real difference in shaping the type of community we will become in the 2010s.