NENA addresses diversity, equity and inclusion

New DEI committee members seek to learn, engage and promote neighborhood resources


If you are looking for a way to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the community, members of Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) have formed a new committee to do just that. Renters, property owners, business owners, and employees of businesses in the Nokomis East neighborhood are welcome to join the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
Jerome Evans is the past president of the NENA Board of Directors. He said, “Before we formed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEI), there was nothing in the language of our organization that spoke directly to racism.
“The purpose of the DEI is to provide guidance and services to NENA members, the board of directors, and staff to ensure we are working to identify and dismantle oppressive structures in our community.”
Founding committee member Mia Simpson added, “We have about a dozen active DEI members currently, and we are building our awareness of how deeply the oppressive structures of White supremacy affect housing, health care, education, and hiring policies, among other things.”
She continued, “I’m pretty new to the neighborhood. I moved here from Richfield two years ago. I want to be part of creating a community where everyone feels accepted and connected. Part of our mission is to get information out to the community about resources and services available through NENA and other organizations.”

Promoting neighborhood
One resource is a free food distribution on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-4 p.m. held at NENA’s office: 4313 East 54th Street through March. Registration and masks are required. Guests will receive two bags with toiletries and non-perishable foods. Food distributions will return to 5734 Sander Drive in April - visit for new dates and times.
Karla Arredondo is NENA’s Community Organizer and oversees the food distribution. She said, “We currently serve about 130 families, and anyone may participate. There is no requirement that you live in Nokomis East.”
NENA welcomes donations of any amount. The organization is hosting a Food Truck Rally & Fundraiser on April 17, 2021. All donations will allow NENA to purchase food and personal care supplies.
Call or text 612.293.9683 to schedule an appointment; both English and Spanish are spoken. The nearby Minnehaha Food Shelf is also open on Tuesdays from 10-3 p.m. They do not require reservations.
Co-founding DEI member Lisa Dahle, said, “When the Uprising happened last summer, it really shone a spotlight on our neighborhood disparities. For instance, our Nokomis East residents range from being quite wealthy to being under-banked and under-housed.
“We are trying to make resources available to everybody. For residents with the funds to do so, we are ramping up efforts to provide opportunities for learning about socially responsible investing.
“For residents who are interested, we’ve partnered with a non-profit called Prepare + Prosper. Our first venture with them is to promote their services at our Food Harvests.”
Prepare + Prosper provides free tax and financial services, financial coaching, and access to financial products. They advocate and work to advance policies and practices that directly affect people with low to moderate incomes in the areas of tax credits, asset-building, and consumer protection.

Value in learning together
Members of the DEI Committee are learning as they go. The new committee is a safe space for community members who share a passion for uncovering barriers to equity, and those barriers are many. To name a few: systemic racism, xenophobia (distrust or prejudice against from other countries), religious intolerance, classism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism (defining people by their disabilities.)
According to Simpson, “The first efforts of the committee are being directed toward anti-racism projects. Residents made it clear they wanted more community engagement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing and the civil Uprising.”
Committee members completed a challenge together last year called “21 Days to Becoming an Anti-Racist.” Dahle said, “We want to make this challenge available to others in the community.”

You don’t need to be
an expert to join
The DEI Committee welcomes new members to co-create this evolving group with neighbors. The invitation is open to anyone; there is no requirement beyond a geographic connection to Nokomis East and a desire to learn.
The group meets at 6:30-8: p.m. on the first Tuesday each month. Meetings are currently held via Zoom. Committee members are welcome to volunteer additional time each month on projects, but not required. Visit the NENA community calendar for meeting login instructions prior to the monthly event.
Simpson, who, like Dahle, sits on several NENA committees, said, “Joining DEI means you attend monthly meetings, design projects, and implement strategies to make our community even better.”
Ultimately, the committee will:
• Advise NENA board of directors, staff, and members on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues
• Improve awareness of issues that may impact diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in NENA’s neighborhoods
• Advocate for programs that address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.
• Advise the city of Minneapolis (and other government agencies) on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in Nokomis East.
Contact or with any questions about joining the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.


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