Human Relations Committee and Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors first public forum is a success

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Rapid City’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) has joined forces with the Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors (MOA) to hold their first public forum, “The more you know, the better we do.

The HRC and MOA forum were both re-imagined with the purpose of providing outreach to the community and bridging gaps around race relations.

“The Human Relations Commission now is really trying to create a broader network to educate the community of what racism might look like, and then how we can get people into that process,” said HRC MOA Coordinator, Malcom Chapman. “For lack of a better term, it’s still a complaint process, it’s a reactive process where if people have faced discrimination, then we have some recourse for them to then come through these public channels to then be able to address those needs.”

The MOA has a slightly different approach to community outreach, following the acronym BEAM: bridging cultures, educating ourselves and others, advocacy, and modeling respect.

“Some people are aware and are wondering, said MOA director and HRC chair, Karen Mortimer. “They know that people have great needs. They have needs in terms of safety, in terms of housing, in terms of food and security, health, a variety of different things. There are people who are vulnerable in our community, and what are we doing to address that. There are other people who are even unaware of those needs.”

Through the forum, the HRC and MOA were able to educate the community and provide resources. The Rapid City Police Department, the Fire Department Mobile Unit, Health and Humans Services, Care Campus, Oyate Health, Miniluzahan Camp, and Creek Patrol participated in a panel to discuss their roles and collaboration in the community. 

“As law enforcement, we are the 24/7 hour care takers of the vulnerable in our community,” said Rapid City Police Chief, Don Hedrick. “But being at a meeting like this, it helps to highlight that we’re a part of a team, and there’s a lot of other entities out there working to bring help to those that need it. So I think for us, it’s how can we collaborate more with the folks that are out working to serve.”

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“We heard people actually actively collaborating in their talks with each other,” said Mortimer. “You could see an overlap, you could see organizations supporting one another. Looking for new ways to do things in a better way. I feel like this was a step forward.”

Despite the collaboration between organizations, it is not often that they can find time to sit down and meet and discuss their roles and future goals.

“HRC MOA as an organization is trying to create an environment where we can bring people together in our community across all sorts of spectrums, to just be together and learn together,” said Malcom. “And I think from that learning, we’ll identify what gaps exist and maybe think about how we provide services for those areas as well.

Following the forum, those in attendance could ask questions of the panel to learn more about what specific organizations do and how to get involved. Ultimately, it is the belief of the organization that Rapid City will see an improvement in race relations when people believe it is their community and issue to weigh into.

“Relationships matter,” said Mortimer. “History and place matter, but relationships really matter. And we’re gonna make a difference when we get to know each other.”



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