On February 25, 2023, Woodbury for Justice & Equality hosted a kick-off event to share our work, get feedback, and kick off our new Community Engagement Committee. Around 25 community members joined us for the information, discussion and light snacks.
The information gathered from the discussions and committee activities will guide our work in 2023. We also welcomed several new members to our group as well. Thank you to all who attended and made this a successful event.
On September 25, 2022, the Education & Local Government Committees joined forces to host a meet and greet at Powers Lake Park for local candidates that align with our mission. The races featured were: ISD 834 School Board, Woodbury City Council, Washington County Commission District 5, Senate District 47, and MN House Districts 47 A & B.
All candidates in these races were asked to complete a survey (not all candidates completed the survey). The committees then reviewed the responses and posted them on this website. Those who aligned with our mission were invited to attend the meet and greet.
The following Candidates were invited:
From ISD 834: Alison Sherman, Bev Petrie, Andrew Thelander, and Eva Lee.
From the MN Legislature: Nicole Mitchell and Amanda Hemmingsen-Jaeger
From Washington County Commissioner: Andrea Date and Michelle Classen
From Woodbury City Council: Steve Morris and Jen Santini.
For the third year in a row, Woodbury for Justice & Equality received a grant from the Woodbury Foundation to continue our work. This funding has helped sustain this group and is our main financial resource. We are so grateful to the Woodbury Foundation for their continued support.
On June 18, 2022, Woodbury for Justice and Equality hosted our second annual Juneteenth Celebration at Ojibway Park in Woodbury.
This year we expanded considerably and included The Madison Sound DJ and the best grilled chicken around!
We were thrilled to feature speakers who reflected on the meaning of Juneteenth as well as equity work currently being done in our city to honor the day. This year's speakers included: Walter Dobgima-Founder of W4J&E, Mayor Ann Burt introducing Shelly Schafer-Woodbury's Community Engagement & Equity Coordinator, Ellie Joyce-Howard University Student and ISD 833 2021 Graduate, Carlo Subrina Montgomery-Former ISD 833 School Board, Angela Harrelson- George Floyd's Aunt, Vivian Latimer Tanniehill-Woodbury Resident, and Shawn Sorrell-Woodbury Resident.
We would like to thank the many community groups and vendors who were featured at the event including: Ideation 4, Body Love, Sweet Cakes, LaNoire Bridal, George Floyd's Aunt Angela Harrelson-Author of Lift Your Voice, StoryArc Students from ISD 834, Native American Student leaders from ISD 834 NASA, The Grove, St Croix Valley Indivisible, League of Women Voters Woodbury Cottage Grove Area, Health Care for All MN, Washington County Library, Moms Demand Action, Woodbury Community Foundation, SoWashCo CARES, City of Woodbury, and Woodbury Public Safety including their K9 officer.
Woodbury for Justice and Equality is grateful to everyone who joined us in making this year's event a resounding success. Please contact us if you are interested in joining our Juneteenth Planning Committee for next year's event.
On March 19, Walter, Pat & Katie participated in a facilitated discussion with local leaders on how to ensure Woodbury is a welcoming community where all feel included and valued. Leaders included Mayor Anne Burt, Police Commander Jason Posel, ISD 833 Superintendent Julie Nielsen, ISD 833 School Board Members Sharon Van Leer & Melinda Dols, ISD 834 Superintendent Malinda Lansfeldt, ISD 834 School Board Member Katie Hockert, a team from the city of Woodbury, representatives from the League of Women Voters Woodbury Cottage Grove Area, YMCA board members, Washington County Public Heatlh and Woodbury Foundation board members. Over 30+ individuals participated in the discussion facilitated by Shawn Sorrell and Christine Densen.
The discussion focused on sharing successes and challenges in recent equity work around Woodbury. The W4J&E march and vigil for George Floyd was mentioned (twice) as a success in increasing visibility and awareness toward racial injustice.
Participants then went through an activity to identify the top priorities to focus equity work. Affordable housing rose as the top priority, with social media, voting rights, and organizing community events as the runners up. The Woodbury Foundation is now creating a steering committee around these new priorities.
W4J&E was honored to be part of this conversation and we left with new ideas for areas of concern in our community as well as connections with local leaders.
On January 13, the W4J&E Education Committee met virtually with Steve Sandell to help us better understand educational equity efforts at the state level. Sandell represents Woodbury in the Minnesota State Legislature. As a former educator, his perspective and honest dialogue with us was invaluable as we strategize our own future initiatives. He encouraged us to continue our work in supporting equity minded school board candidates in future elections. We so appreciate him sharing his evening with us.
In Fall 2021, the W4J&E Education Committee conducted an equity minded survey of the ISD 833 candidates for school board. There are 9 candidates running for the 4 open ISD 833 school board positions in the election on November 2, 2021. Woodbury for Justice and Equality sent a survey question to all candidates. Four of the nine responded. Their answers were featured on this website.
On Oct 16, 2021, the W4J&E Education Committee hosting a candidate meet and greet at Edgewater Park. Visitors brought their questions and voiced support for equity minded policies and programs. Patricia Driscoll, Sharon Van Leer and Katie Schwartz were able to attend.
All three candidates supported by W4J&E won and are currently seated on the ISD 833 school board. Congrats to each of them for a strong race and their continued leadership.
This summer W4J&E focused on defining our organizational structure to engage more individuals from our online group in community activities. We decided to create focused sub committees centered on areas in which people expressed interest. The Education and Local Government committees have started meeting and anyone is welcome to join. We will post updated on our work on our social media platforms and this website. Please reach out if you are interested in joining a committee to support equity work in Woodbury.
Woodbury for Justice and Equality were also selected for a second year to receive a grant for $2500 from the Woodbury Community Foundation. This funding helps us host events and continue our work to "foster inclusiveness, and address racial and economic disparities in...Woodbury." We are so grateful to WCF for this funding.
On June 19, 2021, Woodbury for Justice and Equality hosted our first Juneteenth celebration at Ojibway Park in Woodbury, MN from 11-2pm. We invited three thought-provoking community members to speak.
Ellie Joyce is a recent Woodbury High School Graduate who shared her experience as a student activist and called us to go beyond just celebrating Juneteenth to doing the hard work of fighting for systemic changes that will bring about the freedom we celebrate.
Wayne Felton is the Director of Achievement and Integration in Woodbury's largest school district, 833. He defined racism in terms of systems and structures as well as individual actions in our community. Performative action falls outside the real work of combating racism on a systemic or individual level but makes people feel like they are doing something to fight inequality. He called on our community to go beyond the safety of performative action and move into the space of learning about the systems and structures that uphold racism in order to hold individuals accountable for their actions. That is how we fight racism.
Alberder Gillespie then spoke. She described herself, a native southerner, as "the hope and the dream of the slave" (referencing Maya Angelou quote). She reflected on the celebration of Juneteenth as an act of defiance to remind black people they are free despite the structures of oppression that replaced slavery. She referenced the numerous black lives taken by police, including Woodbury's own Mark Henderson in 2012, as proof that this is still a fight. She encouraged our community to "stay woke and keep stepping."
And finally, special thanks to the black owned businesses who sponsored booths at the event including Ideation4 and Body Love. We also appreciate the Washington County Library booth which featured Juneteenth themed books for all.
On April 11, 2021, 20 year old Daunte Wright was fatally shot by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, MN during a traffic stop. This tragic event happened while the Chauvin Trial was underway in Minneapolis. Tensions are understandably high as protests again erupted across the Twin Cities.
Woodbury for Justice and Equality wanted to respond in support of those in our community. On Friday, April 16, we held a vigil for Daunte Wright on the corner of Radio Dr and Valley Creek Rd. It was attended by over fifty community members of all ages. At 6pm, we raised 30 balloons to represent the estimated 30 people killed by police thus far in 2021. Each balloon had the name and year of one of the victims of police violence from Minnesota and across the country. We appreciate everyone who came out to stand with us yet again.
Woodbury for Justice and Equality was featured in Woodbury Magazine (and Walter made the cover!). Journey to Justice by Hailey Almsted documents the origins of the group and some of our projects. The article begins on page 18 of the March issue.
This has been great publicity and allowed us to engage new members in our Nextdoor group as well as our core leadership team. If you are interested in volunteering as well, please contact us.
In November, W4J&E collected winter clothing for SoWashCo Cares. By early December, we dropped off a donation of new winter coats, gloves, snow pants, and boots to support three local children this winter.
SoWashCo Cares is sponsored by South Washington County Schools Education Foundation, which is a 501c3, serving all or parts of the communities of Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park, Woodbury, Afton, Denmark and Grey Cloud Island - Eastern suburbs of St. Paul,
Minnesota. Their mission is give where you live.
The Woodbury Community Foundation (WCF) has selected Woodbury for Justice & Equality to receive a 2020 WCF Community Grant for $1,500! We are proud to have received one of the 2020 Community Grants that demonstrates our work to foster inclusiveness, and address racial and economic disparities in our four strategic focus areas of concern in Woodbury:
⦁ Improve community health and well-being
⦁ Reduce hunger, especially for underserved local families
⦁ Increase public safety
⦁ Expand youth development
In the weeks after the formation of Woodbury for Justice and Equality, the leadership conducted a survey of the group on the Nextdoor. The survey consisted of 5 questions to give us guidance in how to best serve the community. We had a 30% response rate among our 278 members at the time.
The results showed the following top priorities among our members: Schools were #1 in urgency followed by #2 Identify local political candidates, #3 Support local BIPOC businesses, #4 Affordable housing, #5 Police reform. (Q3)
The survey also revealed that our members are interested in taking action, not just learning about inequity in the community. (Q1, 2 & 3). They also acknowledge that systemic racism exists in our community and nation (Q2). They are less interested in online discussions for personal growth but seem to use the Nextdoor group as a resource for activities (Q3). Members are already somewhat educated about where our community needs to act (Q3).
On June 4, 2020 a group of about two hundred residents, joined by a police bicycle patrol, marched from Colby Lake Park to City Hall, where speakers called for Woodbury to address racial
inequity. Residents brought signs and created a memorial at Woodbury City Hall, then listened to speakers eulogize George Floyd.
While the march and memorial started the work towards racial justice and equality, group members recognize the need and community desire to organize and continue this mission for the foreseeable future.