Fargo Human Relations Commission discusses next steps in addressing racial inequality
Commissioners say they stand in solidarity with those seeking justice and demanding change
FARGO, N.D. — As Victoria Johnson of Fargo took to the podium at Fargo City Hall, she began with a quote.
“‘I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land’ by Harriet Tubman.” She continued, “That’s how we feel. We left our country to come to this state, but we’re not welcome. Not by the police department, not by human social services, not by anyone.”
Experiences of racial inequality and questions of how to move forward filled the City Commission Chambers, as the Fargo Human Relations Commission listened to community members and their concerns.
Jessica MacMillan of Fargo said, “I have a whole list of things that I could go over that needs to be changed, specifically in the Fargo Police Department, but it would take hours to go over that.”
One of the issues MacMillan says must be addressed is over-policing in black-majority neighborhoods.
Living in South Fargo, she says she experiences this firsthand.
“I live in a dominated-black neighborhood, and constantly, I have to tell these cops, ‘Hey, can you guys leave?’ So, people are not comfortable.”
Although conversations about police brutality and racial discrimination are a good start, some say dialogue simply isn’t enough.
“What is the point of having that conversation if it doesn’t do anything or transpire anything?” said Frederick Edwards of Fargo. “Because this isn’t the first meeting. And I’m not saying that they don’t do anything. I think that there are a lot of people in there who really care for us, I think John Strand really cares for us, so there’s not a denial that they care, but caring has not been enough.”
What’s also a step in the right direction but is not enough, he says, is recognizing Juneteenth in North Dakota but not declaring it a state holiday.
“It’s not enough for it to be on the equivocal moment of Halloween. That’s what it is right now. It’s a celebration day, it’s not a state holiday.”
These are just a couple of the many changes community members say must be implemented.
As Commissioners listened to these pleas for change, they vowed to dedicate themselves to a plan of action that is transparent and to hold themselves accountable.
In support of OneFargo and the ACLU, the Human Relations Commission is requesting full transparency from Fargo Police.
Moving forward, Commission members say they will continue providing a safe place for black and brown voices to be heard.