Racial Justice Facilitators

Binta Tambedou

Binta Tambedou

Dan Cronn-Mills

Dan Cronn-Mills

Dan Cronn-Mills is a lifelong resident of the Greater Mankato area. He has a strong commitment to community justice, social justice, and equity. Dan and his partner, Kirstin, started the Ally Network of Minnesota to continue supporting and promoting their core values. He finds the philosophy of US Congressman John Lewis a guiding light on the darkest days. Dan lives in North Mankato with his family.

Diane Dobitz

Diane Dobitz

My great grandparents came as impoverished immigrants to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century and homesteaded in North Dakota.  They were among the first to plow into the land of the Native people who had lived there for millennia.  When I was  growing up in North Dakota, during the 50s and 60s, racism targeted the Native people there, since other people of color had not yet come to live and work in rural N.D.  As a teacher for some 40 years, I taught mostly white students across grades K-12 in Minnesota and Iowa, except for the five years I taught in Kenya, East Africa. The last 15 years I was an English Language Teacher for refugee and immigrant children whose families had come to Minnesota.  After retiring from teaching, I started volunteering with the Mankato YWCA because I want to work with others who are also committed to the work of promoting racial justice and making a difference.  For me, the work started in my own heart and mind as I kept learning about my own white privilege which began with my family's homestead history, and continues in many different ways. 

Emily Huttner

Emily Huttner

I decided to get involved with Racial Justice because I realized that if I don't take action nothing will change. Having conversations that involve racial dialogue are not happening often enough or taking place in contexts that are not constructive. Becoming a racial justice facilitator provides me with an opportunity to have race conversations and help create positive change even only if its happening a ripple at a time. Racial inequity still exists even when it is not staring us in the face so its important to have these conversations to understand where we are and to develop more empathy and understanding. A wise friend once said to me, "You don't know what you don't know" and so much of our knowledge of those who are different from us comes from media or stories and experiences we have not had ourselves. By taking the time to reflect and discuss our individual experiences I believe there is so much more we can learn about each other and build a stronger, more equitable community. 

A person of color I admire is Shaun King. Shaun King is a journalist, activist and organizer. His writing is bold and demands truth. I like to find media that questions and seeks to find truth and justice even when it comes at a cost, reading stories from a perspective that is different than mine challenges me to think more deeply and critically. 

Jill Cooley

Jill Cooley

I was raised in Alabama in a "white-flight" suburb of Birmingham during the 1980s. Even two decades after we passed civil rights legislation outlawing legal segregation, I grew up in a community that continued to be divided by race in a very purposeful manner. Now that I'm an adult, I want to be a part of the solution, and not a part of the problem, of racial justice. I became involved in "It's Time to Talk" so I can participate in discussions on race and white privilege within my own community. I admire Congressman John Lewis of Georgia because of his lifelong commitment to public service and social justice.

Judi Brandon

Judi Brandon

When I was about 12 years old my family took a driving trip from Detroit, Michigan to Florida during which I encountered bathrooms labeled "colored" and "white"  for the first time in my life.  Even though I am white and was young I recognized the injustice of this.  It left an indelible mark on me as I still vividly remember the incident 60 years later.  Since that time I have tried to use my time and energy to recognize and fight racial injustice when and where I could.  I see the Racial Justice program at the YW as the ideal opportunity for my efforts.

At this point in my life the person of color I most admire is the anonymous black slave who used extraordinary courage and strength to fight/escape/resist the slavery of the south.  Be advised that my admiration shifts often with the winds of time.

Kelly Firkins

Kelly Firkins

My name is Kelly Firkins and I am an educator. I see my role in Racial Justice every day as I work with students of all colors and backgrounds. It is my goal that all students feel safe, valued, and successful in my classroom. One person that has helped open my eyes to the injustice in our world is the singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman. She sang of people waiting in welfare lines, the difference between one side of the tracks and another, and of how police turn a blind eye to domestic abuse. When I think about making changes to the system and my own life experiences, I am reminded of Tracy Chapman when she asks us--if not now, then when? So, I say the time to talk about race in Mankato is now.

Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Kirstin Cronn-Mills was raised in Nebraska but has lived in the Mankato area for 25+ years. She became a racial justice facilitator because talking about race is the most important conversation Americans can have at this moment. She admires many writers of color, including Langston Hughes and Andrea Jenkins (a MN writer), Sherman Alexie and Marcie Rendon (a MN writer), Gene Yang and Bao Phi (a MN writer), and Rudolfo Anaya and Anika Fajardo (a MN writer).

Kristen Cvancara

Kristen Cvancara

“I work with Racial Justice because I want to be actively learning in my community what racial inequalities look and feel like, who is most likely to suffer and who is causing the suffering, and how I can work with others to encourage a more compassionate and empathetic community. I am continually developing my own understanding of racial inequality. A person of color who I admire greatly is Rosa Parks. It is difficult to go against the daily forces that control our basic needs. She stood up for herself, and sparked a movement that lives on today. Each and every person can make a difference… she did.”

Leah White

Leah White

I am committed to racial justice work because I refuse to live comfortably in a community and country where people are treated poorly because of their race.  We cannot hide from the realities of what others experience.  My journey as a racial justice advocate is ongoing, but I credit author Alice Walker for first opening my eyes to a racial perspective different from my own.

"I think that all people who feel that there is injustice in the world anywhere should learn as much of it as they can bear. That is our duty". Alice Walker

Linda Kilander

I became involved in the Racial Justice Program through the YWCA, Mankato, because I am at a time in my life when I feel that I have something to offer the community and I'd like my time to be spent working toward positive change. I have a friend who has inspired me because, even though her life in the Mankato area could be more welcoming she chose to stay here rather than move to a more diverse community. She often sites her friendships as one of the important factors that helped her choose to stay.

Lisa Wood

Lisa Wood

Lisa lives in Mankato and is a wife and mother of 4 children. She is half of the longest running FM morning radio team in the Mankato area.  Currently she can be heard Weekdays, 5-9am, on Radio Mankato's "Minnesota 93 (93.1 FM)." 

Lisa loves her work with the YWCA Racial Justice Program. Growing up in a multi-cultural home, and raising her children to be inclusive members of the world, she feels very connected to the mission of the program. "My goal is to send our children out into the world with strong, humble empathy and to always respect and see the value and worth of others." 

Marsha Danielson

Marsha Danielson

I believe that education is the only vehicle that can transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of people of color. Being involved with social justice education is the small part I can do to try to address the inequality that exists. Celebrating difference is important to me and I want to share that perspective especially with youth.

I admire many people of color. I work most closely with Dr. Annette Parker, President of South Central College and I have witnessed first-hand bias and racism that she endures.  Yet, she still takes the high road and works every day for the benefit of the people and businesses in this region.

Mary Lou Kudela

Mary Lou Kudela

My first response is that I could not NOT be involved in a program to eliminate racism in our country.  I have been aware of the overriding systemic injustice toward blacks in America, and I have witnessed in myself, as well as others, the visceral white bias that I experience as a citizen.  My father was a prison guard at Sing Sing Prison near New York City, and he often said the worst crime of the 20th century was corporate white crime that hurt more people than the violent episodes and racial profiling we saw everyday in news headlines in New York.  I have pondered his statement over my lifetime, and it opened my eyes to the injustices I experienced as an educator in Minnesota.  How to

explain the achievement gap in our schools?  A complex question, but I have observed the daily inequality and unfairness, put-downs and fear of mostly white educators toward

black kids.  The ideal, humanistic love for teaching all students is lip service, not yet a reality.  We must even the playing field for our next generation.  Without hope, they will  turn toward cynicism or  denial…or violence.  

Nancy Drescher

Nancy Drescher

I’m involved with racial justice programming at the YWCA because I want to leave this world a better place than I entered it. One person of color who I admire is bell hooks, because she is brilliant, forward thinking, and accessible. Her work has consistently challenged academics to reconsider their frameworks for thinking and educating others.

Nancy Fitzsimmons

Nancy Fitzsimmons

About three years ago I began a very intentional journey thinking about my own knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about race, racial inequality, and historical and contemporary racism in America after I found myself questioning the methods of the Black Lives Matter movement.  The more I learn, the more I realize that the past is present; that being ‘white’ regardless of any other characteristic carries inherent, unearned privilege; and that the only way to move forward as a nation is to bring the topic of race into the light of day.  I made a conscious decision to use my voice to be part of the solution.  Becoming a racial justice facilitator in my community is one small way that I can use all of my privileges to promote racial equity and justice.  A person of color that I admire is Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor of political science with a focus on race and gender.  She is currently the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University.  I discovered Dr. Harris-Perry when she was the former host on a cable new program.  She did something that no one else on any television news program was doing – bringing issues of race and gender to the forefront on every program and giving a voice to activists, authors, professors, journalists, and others from the non-dominate majority in America. 

Nolan Brinkman

Nolan Brinkman

Our community and our Nation is well overdue to have a talk about race. News and other media sources have the public on the edge of their seat, waiting for race related topics to boil over in angry debate. We as a nation are failing to understand each other when it comes to racial identity. I chose to get involved so my community can take a step towards listening to the voices of their neighbors.

Dr. Chris Brown is a definitely a hero of mine. He works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. Chris is an incredible teacher and mentor to myself. Chris is a difficult grader, but teaches his students the importance of critical thinking.  Chris has shaped my worldview, and helped me develop into a better person.

Rhonda Dass

Rhonda Dass

I have called Mankato home for the past ten years after moving here from a small town in Northeastern Minnesota. I am privileged to be related to an incredible man I call my husband, to four talented young adults I call my children, and six grandchildren who make my heart smile on a daily basis. I am a supporter of racial justice because I feel that all people should be valued for the unique gifts they bring to this world and I want to leave a better world for my grandchildren and their grandchildren.

I have been fortunate to have lived during a time in history when many great people have stepped forward to speak for racial equality and social justice. One person who I greatly admire for his efforts toward social justice and racial equity is Jim Northrup. Jim Northrup was an Anishinaabi writer from the Fond du Lac Reservation of Minnesota. He was an artist, Vietnam veteran, and respected elder. In his writing, in his art, and in his daily life he exemplified an inclusive attitude toward people with a quick smile and delightful humor. His poem titled Grandma’s Hair makes me cry every time I hear it. 

Sara Granberg-Rademacker

Sara Granberg-Rademacker

I grew up in a very homogeneous town in northeast Nebraska, and did not realize that racism was "still a problem" growing up. In my 20s, my eyes were opened after I'd moved to a more diverse area, and participated in some difficult conversations around race and social justice. Those conversations motivated me to seek out resources to learn more. When an It's Time to Talk (IT2T) event was held in my workplace, I eagerly signed up. When the YWCA sought out volunteers to continue these conversations, and as the political climate shifted further, I knew I had to step up my commitment to doing more. The IT2T opportunities are awesome ways to continue learning, and opening up opportunities to have meaningful dialogue around race, a topic that NEEDS more conversation. 

One person of color I admire is my former professor, Dr. Venita Kelley. Dr. Kelley is one of the most intelligent and compassionate individuals I have ever met. She and her classes taught me and other students so much about intercultural communication and the racial discrimination that cuts to the heart of our society. She sat with all of us as we wrestled through challenging issues, providing both a safe space and a push outside of our comfort zones. While she did this, Dr. Kelley dealt with her own health concerns, parenting priorities, and more. Truly, even though it's been two decades since we crossed paths in person, the profound affect she had on me continues.

Scott Zellmer

Scott Zellmer

I am involved with Racial Justice because there is Injustice. As our title says "It's time to talk". The only way to truly move forward as human beings is to denounce and overcome historical practices that create obstacles and exacerbate the injustices. The end goal is that we as people and a country authentically live the legal, ethical and moral ideals we claim to have.

Teri Walsh

Teri Walsh

I'm involved with racial justice for two reasons. First, there is a lot of misunderstanding and hurt when it comes to race. As the US becomes increasingly multiracial, we all need to come to the table to talk. It might be uncomfortable at first, but the more conversations we have, the easier it gets. Secondly, there are 2 wonderful women in the Racial Justice program who highly encouraged me to give it a try.

 I admire my friend Ayan. She's resilient, outspoken and a voice for those who would be oppressed by culture and religion. I can always count on her for a straight answer and a good laugh. I also admire my partner Allen. He's the hardest working person I know, unafraid to go after what he wants regardless of the odds. I love his confidence and how to it raises mine.