South Bend neighborhoods hosted diversity workshop
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- On Saturday, two neighborhood associations hosted a diversity and includsion workshop after noticing the lack of diversity in their memberships.
The Near West Side and Kennedy Park Neighborhood Associations held a 4-hour workshop at the Civil Righs Heritage Center. Both neighborhood association presidents said they were falling short when representing their neighborhoods.
“We’re looking at the neighborhood association,” said Marty Mechtenberg, with the Near West Side Neighborhood Association. “We’re realizing that we’re not representing the neighborhoood.”
Neighborhood Resources Connection wrote in a press release that the Near West Side Neighborhood Association’s membership is primarily white professionals. The neighborhood, however, is looked to be one of the most diverse in South Bend said Mechtenberg.
“One of our greatest strengths is that we are a very diverse neighborhood,” said Mechtenberg.
Marilyn Gachaw said the Kennedy Park Neighborhood Association is predominantly black, but learned through a neighborhood survey it has a large Hispanic population.
“Finding out what they want from the neighborhood is not different from what I want, but it’s coming from them,” she said.
Both president agreed the word diversity is heard a lot, but Mechtenberg said people don’t necessarily understand what does it mean and why it is important.Through a partnership, the associations invited Eric Love, with the University of Notre Dame’s office of diversity and inclusion, to talk about diversity and it’s place in neighborhoods.
“No matter who you are, what race, what religion, country of origin,” Love said. “Whoever you are, if you’re in South Bend or if you’re in Michiana we want you to feel welcome that you really belong here.”
Love said the group on Saturday showed interest in learning about multicultural competencies, which is how people can be more aware of different cultures.
“If a Muslim woman, wearing a hijab or head covering were to come into a meeting, we’d treat her with dignity and respect,” he said. “If an African American male were wearing a hoodie, if an older person who’s taking a longer to get into the room, we show everyone with dignity and respect.”
Gachaw said she became more aware of her culture and the cultures of other people in her neighborhood at the meeting.
“I just want to strengthen the neighborhood association,” she said. “I believe in it so much and I believe in the power we can have.”
Mechtenberg said he recognized his privilege and said it tells him about himself and his role in his community. He said Near West Side is ready to celebrate diversity and will do everything they can to be inclusive.
Both Mechtenberg and Gachaw said the neighborhood associations will work together to fix the image of South Bend’s west side.
“The west side of South Bend is not what you think it is,” Mechtenberg said. “It is actually one of the most diverse creative parts of the city and we’re going to continue to get better and better.”
Gachaw said on Tuesday, August 21, the Kennedy Park neighbors will hold a meeting at 1609 Linden Avenue to determine what issue they will take on for the year. She said from the neighborhood-wide survey, they learned safety and housing are among the issues in their community.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m.