Chaz Neal

Racism has been declared a public health emergency in the city of Red Wing. The 820-word resolution passed by the City Council on Monday, Aug. 9, explains in part that “racism has various forms including historical, individual and systemic, and that has not only continued to present day but has been institutionalized to ensure the concentration of material, power, and resources into the hands of white bodied individuals.” 

The city now will seek to combat racism by:

  • Working to reduce the impact of racism by implementing a Racial Equity Plan. These impacts include mental health care, drug treatment, food deserts, housing, zoning, hiring practices, youth opportunities, and other aspects of life. 

  • Partnering with local municipalities and entities to identify and implement initiatives that will have the most impact on health disparities caused by racism.

  • Setting aside a dedicated fund for supporting racial equity initiatives and collecting data.

  • Working with the city’s Human Rights Commission, Advisory Team on Policies and Practices, and internal committees to identify improvements that can be made to reduce the impacts of racism within city government.

  • Increasing access to equitable mental health services.

  • Working with the Red Wing Youth Commission to support the development of more opportunities for marginalized youth.

Q&A with Chaz Neal 

The Human Rights Commission worked its way through the resolution, then the City Council wre…

Chaz Neal proposed the resolution and presented a draft to the city in 2020. He answered questions about the resolution and steps moving forward. 

Why did you present a resolution to declare racism a public health emergency? What document(s) and research did you base your resolution on? 

I decided to present the resolution after seeing the process unfold in Minneapolis. I knew it wouldn't change things instantly but it was a starting point that Red Wing hasn't tried or even attempted to make equity and equality for Blacks. 

For research, I looked at numerous data and statistics from housing education, public safety, The Minnesota Department of Heath's website on the impact of racism on health to the court system as well what other cities were doing with action plans and what steps they were taking, including Olmsted, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

When and why did you decide to draft the resolution and present it to the city? How was it received? 

When I saw the video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, I knew that there had to be change and significant change. I started protesting and over time racked up charge after charge so I wanted to fight another way in changing policy.The resolution wasn't received very well from elected officials who felt the time wasn't right, but I proceeded with it anyway. 

What was the process of moving from proposal to passage? 

The process was a long one. I presented the original resolution on Oct. 26, 2020, where they sent it to the Human Rights Commission, who in return didn't touch it until January during the year's work plan on Jan. 28 when they formed a committee with four HRC members. I was added as an honorary commissioner. 

The resolution that was passed is the second edit to the first one which was 1,462 words. The one passed was only 705 words. The process was that long I feel because no elected official wanted to touch it I feel. 

While the resolution was being discussed by the Human Rights Commission and the City Council, how were you a part of their discussions?

I have been a part of the discussion from the very beginning and every step of the way. I wanted to make sure that Black voices were heard and when I say “Blacks” I mean African descendants of slavery, the forgotten and most silenced people. 

What should readers know about the resolution?

I want readers to know this resolution doesn’t proclaim that Red Wing residents are racist. This resolution is about accountability and correcting systematic racism and discrimination in city policy and procedures. It also ignites help to the most affected with housing and education funding more Black and brown businesses. 

I would like the readers to know this isn't about a handout or about freeloading, it's about making sure that Black and brown aren't left out of important decisions going forward and adding diversity throughout City Hall and making sure that everyone has a seat at the table. 

Many of the council members and public speakers noted on Monday that this resolution is a start. Do you have thoughts for next steps?

To be honest, getting the resolution presented and passed was the easy part of all this because the next step is to actually dismantle the systematic racism at the knees. B the council has to be willing to dig in and do the work, not to let city staff do the work. There are community residents that are able bodied and ready to do the hard work that needs to be done, but we have to do it unified and not divided the way the city has been for years.

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