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Farmington community invited to hear immigrant experience

Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria1 / 4
Shannon Gibney2 / 4
Farmington Library Branch Manager Barb Svoboda welcomes the public to attend weekly discussions in October called “One Book, One Farmington” with authors who wrote essays from the book, “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.” Kara Hildreth / contributor3 / 4
Sherry Quan Lee4 / 4

Race relations can be hard to talk about in any community, especially during current social unrest and racial issues across the country.

An upcoming effort hopes to improve understanding and race relations with discussions called One Book, One Farmington.

The public is an open panel discussion with 16 contributing authors of the best-seller book, "A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota."

Three authors of this book who wrote essays will visit the Farmington Library in October to read passages from their personal essays. The authors are Sherry Quan Lee, Shannon Gibney and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria.

"These are honest essays that are sometimes difficult for folks to read and hear, but are important because of all the political unrest and social unrest that we have seen across the country lately," said Barb Svoboda, branch manager at Dakota County's Farmington Library.

"This is a fairly recent publication by the Minnesota Historical Press and immediately shot up to the top of the charts."

The mission of One Book, One Farmington is to encourage community engagement and discussion centered on the literature. The outreach is intended to stretch perspectives on the world around us and is a collaborative effort between Dakota County Farmington Library, Friends of the Library and Farmington educators.

Reading the book, Svoboda took away a lot of understanding for different races and personal immigration experiences.

"There is such a need for people to come out and be honest about what they are thinking and experiencing inside and what they are experiencing, and I will never know what that experience is like because we do not live it," Svoboda said. "The only way I have any inkling is by listening and having an open heart to reach out to them."

Svoboda recalled one essay written by Shannon Gibney about motherhood.

"She talks about just being a mom and all her fears that are like every mom raising her kids and how to navigate when everything in media seems to negative and being focused against helping to present a positive, nurturing future for your child," Svoboda said. "This is an issue that families of color have to deal with on a daily basis."

Svoboda provided a couple newspaper articles detailing examples of hate being practiced as racism in Minnesota. One article reported on anti-Semitic writings found in library books in the Twin Cities, and another covered how an Islamic cemetery in rural Castle Rock reported vandalism in an Islamic cemetery.

Another library presentation on Oct. 10 will be a talk by Michele Garnett McKenzie, an immigration and human rights attorney who will speak about advocacy efforts.

"I heard her speak and was totally floored by the history of immigration and restrictions based on ethnic groups that I never have known before," Svoboda said.

Farmington resident Kris Akin, a member of the Friends of the Library, read the book and it moved her. She suggested to Heidi Cunningham, director of community education in Farmington, how the school district and the high school should be involved in the community discussion.

"It just made me realize what people go through when people move into a different country," Akin said. "I would encourage children to always welcome others and to get to know their story."

Svoboda welcomes the public to the upcoming events.

"We see there is a need to have these discussions, and for people to have a space where people feel safe and hopefully they can be honest about what issues and what concerns there are on all sides and come with an open mind to listen and come away with a new understanding — that is what we are aiming for," she said.

If you go:

One Book, One Farmington

Meet three authors of "A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota" from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the large lecture hall at Farmington High School, 20655 Flagstaff Ave. It is open to the public.

Farmington Library October events

• "A Good time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota," 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the library.

• Immigration and Human Rights in Minnesota — 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Farmington Library. Michele Garnett McKenzie, an attorney who represents asylum seekers and detained immigrants.

• Talking with Children about Race — 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, at Farmington Library.

• An Immigrant's story in Dance — 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, at Farmington Library. Djenane Saint Juste of Farmington will talk about struggles and hopes of local immigrants and share dance. Members of the Haitian dance company Afoutayi will perform.