Systemic racism at forefront of United Way Fundraiser

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(ABC 6 News) – United Way of Olmsted County held their annual community fundraiser on Tuesday focusing on how to create a new and thriving community.

This year, the fundraiser was called the ‘Power of the Purpose‘, with the conversation mainly revolving around how to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion.

"We want to see every person succeed. In our community, like communities across the country, unfortunately race exerts a strong influence over outcomes in life which shouldn’t be the case," Jerome Ferson, President of United Way in Olmsted County, said. "So we are banding together and mobilizing the community to create a thriving community where every person can succeed."

Many people were eager to be a part of the discussion on what they believe is society’s biggest problem: eliminating systemic racism.

"We cannot change our community if we are not first willing to admit our community is broken. Change is an action word and things need to happen in order for change to come," community advocate Stephanie Whitehorn said.

Advocates for change like Whitehorn say we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. While society has a long way to go, having these conversations is a great start.

"Anytime that you get a change to hear stories from people that are different than you, I think its very important to experience and understand where everyone is coming from. We all have different backgrounds and so learning more about them is a great first step," Jessica Sund, Channel One’s Food Bank Director of Development and Communications, said.

Michele Norris, former host of NPR and longtime community advocate, spoke at the event. She spoke of optimism and tips on how to create the change that many are hoping to see.

"I invite you to think about not just living united, but living committed to the idea of working together and working with people even when you don’t agree," Norris said.

The crowd responded to Norris’ speech with a standing ovation. Many left the event feeling hopeful of change to come.