Making steps toward an inclusive community

Small Towns

By Vanesa Salgado-Perez, former staff member. Gladys Godinez contributed to this blog. 

Para la versión en español de esta historia, por favor oprima aqui.

Inclusion needs to be part of every community, as we all are part of this world. A little bit of understanding and willingness makes each community more inclusive and diverse. Last month in Norfolk, Nebraska, a few steps forward were taken toward achieving this goal; a more united community.

The Mayor’s Diversity Council and the Norfolk Arts Center, among other organizations, have been working tirelessly on making the city more inclusive and diverse. This is ongoing work. Every individual could take action by simply being willing to talk and listen to others. Thanks to The Sherwood Foundation, staff from the Center for Rural Affairs was able to participate in this process and expand the Center’s community inclusion work to a new city, where a new journey begins.

Norfolk residents from all backgrounds have come together for these diverse activities and events. Data was collected from individual and group interviews to community workshops hosted by The Improve Group, which will help the consulting agency and the Center to know more about the community and its needs. This valuable input will allow Center staff to design and customize future projects that will benefit Norfolkans, including a new project that uses food as the key for inclusion to bring people together.

But, inclusion does not end there. On July 20, the community came together to celebrate the 2018 ‘Fork Fest in downtown Norfolk, where everyone got involved and connected. Nearby the Johnny Carson mural on third and Norfolk Avenue, a local food truck rumble and live music from Nebraska musicians started the night and enlivened the evening.

Bringing people together is simple, some would say. Unfortunately, political controversies and fabricated news blind the opinions of many who don’t have access to resources that accurately describe the reality. How can we make this process easier and accessible to everyone? Very simple. Put any prejudice behind us, and enjoy meeting new people, talking to your neighbors, and knowing others’ cultures and traditions. And, don’t forget to always be respectful. What’s the worst that can happen? We may not get along with everyone, but race and ethnicity aren’t the reason for that incompatibility.

Social events that include food and music may be the perfect situation to make Norfolk more inclusive. Collaboration among organizations, local businesses, and communities was necessary to make it happen.

Great things occur if we all hold hands, so let’s build up more inclusion in our communities.

Feature photo: The Center's inclusion work has been expanded to Norfolk, Nebraska, where residents came together last month to take action. | Photo by Kylie Kai