Located in central Minnesota, 60 miles northwest of Minneapolis and St. Paul, St. Cloud is one of Minnesota’s 10 largest cities with a population of almost 64,000 in 2006. It spans three counties and serves as a hub for the surrounding rural and farming communities.  Central Minnesota was home to the Ojibwa and the Dakota, but by 1880 these indigenous tribes were restricted to living on a reservation apart from their homeland. The region became predominantly White as German Catholics immigrated to the area, followed by Scandinavian Lutherans. In the 1970s, St. Cloud experienced its first major immigration of people of color, Southeast Asians. Demographic shifts in migration during the 1980s resulted in an influx of residents of color. In the 1990s, a large number of African refugees moved to the area, forming what is now the city’s largest minority group.  Between 1980 and 1990, Minnesota’s minority population grew 72%, which was faster than the national average. St. Cloud has had the state’s fastest population growth outside the Twin Cities; the population is expected to grow another 35% by 2020. In 2006, 12% of St. Cloud residents were people of color. St. Cloud State University is the second-largest university in the state. Its enrollment of 15,327 students in fall 2006 was 6.3% students of color.  In 1990, the Central Minnesota community Foundation formed the Appreciating Differences Among People and Things (ADAPT) intiative to reduce racism. In 1998, St. Cloud Mayor Larry Meyer invited 37 community leaders to a breakfast summit initially called “Managing Diversity in the 21st Century” to discuss making St. Cloud a more welcoming place for people of color (eventually named Racial Harmony Initiative).

  • In 2003, the Create CommUNITY Initiative was launched with Herman Boone as the guest speaker at the kick-off event.
  • In 2004 and 2005, Diversity Dialogues were conducted with the business community. The Government, Health Care, and Building Relationships-Human Services Committees started to take shape.
  • In 2006, Effective Communities, LLC conducted a Social Change retreat. UpFront Consulting started research regarding racial gaps and Create CommUNITY sponsored the first ever “Conversation on Race”. Gap research was completed in 2007 by UpFront Consulting, which drove a new committee structure with a focus on key indicators.
  • In 2008, Create Community Steering Committee attended Minnesota Collaborative Anti Racism Initiative (MCARI) 2.5day retreat on Dismantling Racism and hired Clear Path LLC to formulate a business plan which, over the next three years, focused on closing the racial disparity gaps in access to Health Care, Housing, and Educational Attainment.
  • By 2009, four annual “Conversations on Race” had been held and hundreds of people in Central Minnesota had been involved in varying levels of intentional social interactions, using the Marnita’s Table concept; and in-depth discussions on anti-racism guided by MCARI (Minnesota Collaborative Anti-Racism Initiative).