President's Message, Rev. Paul Demuth

Stepping back from daily practice can be the best way to see “home” more

I recently embarked on a 22 day road trip to the southwestern United States.  I flew to Denver and travelled by car to the Pacific Coast, San Diego, across the border to El Paso, and then north to Albuquerque and Denver. Besides rediscovering the beauty and vastness of our country and the parched West (it could use some of our excess rain!), I was most impressed with the normality of diversity throughout that part of the country.

In northeastern Wisconsin, many of us see ourselves and our history through the lens of our European background. People of color are somehow seen as “newcomers” (with, of course, the exception of our Native American brothers and sisters). The opposite seems to be the rule in the Southwest. There it was “normal” to witness people of color to be in the majority in government, business, restaurants, churches, and among tourists and social circles. It was Caucasians who were sprinkled in, just the opposite of most people’s experience here. It was most refreshing!

Upon my return, I was privileged to be part of the open house at the refurbished Casa ALBA Melanie, the Hispanic resource center on South Madison Street in Green Bay. This drop in center provides a safe, open place for Latinos to receive social services and matched with other providers for other services. It is also a venue for Anglos to learn about and mix with our expanding Hispanic population.

When we look closely at our community, we discover that we are already diverse in so many ways. We have significant populations populations of color who are African American, Somali, Native American, Hmong, Vietnamese, and Latino. Native Americans have been here for centuries; some of the other groups are late 20 th or 21 st century newcomers.

We all need to take the time to see one another, to get to know one another, and to realize how our interaction with one another need not be frightening; it’s enriching. I look forward to the day when it is “normal” for us to see people of color on our City Council and County Board and when we see leaders continue to emerge in business, nonprofits, education, church leadership and social circles who represent each of these groups.  It’s already happening in some areas; individuals from different cultural, socio-economic, age, and gender groups are already sharing their multiple skills and traits with our entire community. Acknowledging the responsibility of all of us, the Bay Area Community Council invites you to join us to foster this dialogue and cross pollination. We still have a long way to go; but let's build on the variety of people and talents we have in our community. Then we can celebrate diversity, not fear it.

Thank you, people of the Southwest. You have shown me that diversity is already a reality
among you. You are a great model for us in northeastern Wisconsin.