Community diversity, understanding shared through spring potluck

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The Brookings Human Rights Commision gave a unique opportunity to celebrate cultural diversity in the Brookings community Sunday.

The BHRC sponsored the Spring Diversity Potluck and Food Drive at McCrory Gardens. It was free to the public to celebrate the community and its diversity through food.

People attending were asked to share a dish that represented their international origins and backgrounds. Those who attended were also asked to bring a non-perishable item to be donated to the local food pantry.

The event has been put on twice a year for almost a decade. The potluck can bring around a hundred people together, which is why the commision plans to keep it going.

South Dakota State University students were encouraged to come. BHRC member Hannah Holmquist said it’s a great way for students to “get to know what is going on around them.”

“It’s not only a reason to get off of campus, but to also see how the community and campus support each other,” Holmquist said.

Freshman math major Blake Anderson was impressed by the community’s effort to bring everyone together.

“I think a lot of people take pride in their nationalities, I know I am proud of where my family came from,” he said. “I would totally come to this event and bring some buddies.”

One of the BHRC’s priorities is for the community to come together to interact through fellowship and food.

Instead of a lecture or education-style event, BHRC member Steve Bayer said the Commission is trying to “wow” people in the community by showing Brookings’ dedication to diversity.

“Seeing other backgrounds and culture can send a big message,” Maggie Owens, a member of BHRC said. “We are taking steps forward into our mission of integration.”

At the event, winners of the Brookings Middle and High School Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest presented their essays. This year’s prompt was one of King’s famous quotes: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.”

SDSU professor and BHRC member George Hamer explained that the topic picked is meant to be broad, in order to let the students go in any direction they want.

It is another way for Brookings’ youth to get involved in the community.

“Seeing our youth think so elevated and give us so much information is great,” Owens said. “Students like this give me high hopes for the future of our community and country.”

The BHRC not only encourages diversity, but also prevents discrimination through education and complaint resolution procedures.

“Being a committee for a long time did not give the commission power to investigate, only mediate cases related to these issues,” said Sheri Thornes, Brookings city clerk. “Now that BHRC can take more action, it is almost making Brookings a leader of human rights in South Dakota.”

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