Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Peoples of Faribault,” an enlightening must-see video August 4, 2017

High school students Logan Ledman, left, and Samuel Temple produce “1855: A Faribault History Series on FCTV” in Faribault. Photo courtesy of Samuel Temple.

 

THEIR APPRECIATION FOR LOCAL HISTORY shines in the videos they produce. But it’s more than a passion for Faribault history that drives Samuel Temple of Faribault and Logan Ledman of Northfield. The 16-year-olds strive to make viewers think via the videos they create for Faribault Community Television.

 

Photo courtesy of Samuel Temple.

 

Nearly two years after their first of 11 history episodes aired, the teens tackled their most extensive project yet—a 40-some minute video titled “Peoples of Faribault.” I watched the show this week and am impressed by the research, the content and the clincher ending that challenges viewers to consider how their choices affect Faribault’s identity as a community.

Negative local perceptions of his hometown prompted Samuel to co-produce a video that counters that negativity. He and Logan do that through the art of entertaining, informative and thought-provoking storytelling. Their work is top-notch professional as they address issues of ethnicity in their latest and most lengthy film.

 

This prize-winning photo which I shot at the International Festival Faribault in 2012 reflects the cultural diversity of our community.

 

It’s no secret that Faribault has struggled with accepting newcomers. And newcomers have struggled to adapt. But Samuel and Logan put it all in perspective by tracing back to the town’s 1850s beginning and progressing from there. They cover the ethnic groups of the Dakota, French-Canadians, Swedes, Norwegians, Czech, Germans, Irish, Latinos, Cambodians, Chinese and Faribault’s newest immigrants, Somalis. Each group faced issues of assimilation and rejection, the two discovered through extensive research and interviews.

 

This sculptor of Alexander Faribault trading with a Dakota trading partner stands in Faribault’s Heritage Park near the Straight River and site of Faribault’s trading post. Faribault artist Ivan Whillock created this sculpture which sits atop the Bea Duncan Memorial Fountain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Samuel summarizes the reason each group came to Faribault in one simple statement: “Everyone was looking for a home, for a wide array of reasons, and each found it in Faribault.”

Looking for a home. It doesn’t get more basic than that. But behind those four words are specifics such as war, famine, pursuing the American dream and more. It’s all covered in the film, for each of the featured ethnic groups.

 

Many Somalis now call Faribault home. I took this photo at a 2015 car show in historic downtown Faribault.

 

While researching for the video, the producers began to see a pattern. Says Logan in an email response to my questions:

“Issues of racism, cultural conflict, and discrimination came up in our work for this video. It ended up being a consistent pattern; the town’s response to newcomers was, initially, consistently negative. Over time, though, as new Faribault townsfolk left a multi-generational mark on the community, there was a parallel, consistently positive final acceptance of those newcomers by the town. This was a pattern that repeated itself across every group we looked at, and it’s a pattern we see repeating itself today.”

 

Bashir Omar. Photo courtesy of Samuel Temple.

 

Bashir Omar, a 10-year Faribault resident who serves on the Faribault Diversity Coalition and who works as a cultural liaison in the public school system, offers primarily praise for Faribault in comments aired in the “Peoples of Faribault” video. Although he says people fear the Somali culture, he’s always felt welcomed here and has not been targeted because of his Muslim faith. “Faribault has been a great town,” Bashir says.

 

Samuel and Logan narrate from the front porch of the Alexander Faribault house, home to town founder Alexander Faribault. Photo courtesy of Samuel Temple.

 

Not all newcomers have received the same warm welcome, an issue Samuel and Logan sensitively address through narrative and interviews. They also spoke with a local historian/author, city official and author/English as a second language educator and collaborated with sixth graders from the Cannon River STEM School to create family trees. Town founder Alexander Faribault, son of a part Dakota woman and a French trader, for example, faced discrimination when he befriended the Dakota, according to historian Larry Richie. He reveals in the video that Alexander died a despised and broken man. “We gotta learn to accept others,” Larry says.

 

A flag ceremony during a past International Festival featured national anthems and information about the countries from which Faribault residents have originated. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

In their research, the filmmakers learned a few things about Faribault that surprised and unsettled them. I asked. For Samuel, the strong presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Faribault, including a mass gathering at the Rice County Fairgrounds for a state convention in 1924, left him feeling queasy. He noted, too, the Klan’s strong anti-Catholic (in addition to anti-black and anti-Jew) sentiment. For Logan, discrimination against Germans especially during the world wars came as a surprise. In the video, the term “enemy aliens” is linked to Germans.

 

I photographed this sign on the front desk of Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

“Faribault is not immune to hate,” Samuel says in the film and then adds this in an email to me:

“Gathering information about the adversity that quite literally every group has faced put in perspective a single truth: accusing any one nationality or ethnicity or religion or group of people of having evil values, or being the root cause of problems in a community is wrong across the board; if we want history to look back on us favorably, we must live by that without exception.”

 

We learn from our past, looking back. This photo shows the back of the Alexander Faribault-Dakota sculpture at Faribault’s Heritage Park.

 

To read those words written by a 16-year-old inspires me and gives me hope. He and Logan are right. We can preserve our heritage while moving forward. We can learn from history. We can choose to focus on the positive, knowing that our choices affect our identity as a community. The choice is ours.

 

FYI: Joining Samuel and Logan in creating “Peoples of Faribault” are friends/musicians Sam Dwyer and Chase Ingraham of Northfield. Sam has also created original music for past episodes of “1855: A Faribault History Series.”

To view the “Peoples of Faribault” video, click here.

You can also see past episodes of “1855” that cover everything from the Fleckenstein Brewery to the Tilt-A-Whirl to local WASP Elizabeth Wall Strohfus at this same link.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
“Peoples of Faribault” images are courtesy of Samuel Temple

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Part II: A close-up look at the International Festival Faribault August 25, 2015

Attendees watch the flag ceremony staged in the Central Park Bandshell.

Attendees watch the flag ceremony staged in the Central Park Bandshell.

THE FLAGS OF AMERICA, Sudan, Honduras, Ireland, Norway and 13 other countries, plus the United Nations, whipped in the wind Saturday afternoon at Faribault’s Central Park as folks gathered to celebrate my community’s cultural diversity.

A Cambodian

Cambodian refugee Sam Ouk, right, holds his country’s flag.

It was a day of connecting cultures through the International Festival Faribault.

Cambodian dancers.

Cambodian dancers.

An Aztec dancer

An Ollin Ayacaxtly Aztec Dancer.

An Aztec drummer.

An Aztec drummer.

Connecting through music and dance,

KIds (and some adults) created flags.

Kids (and some adults) created flags.

Attendees marked a world map with their countries of origin.

Attendees marked a world map with their countries of origin.

River Bend Nature Center showed up with several critters, including a snake and turtle.

River Bend Nature Center showed up with several critters, including a snake and turtle.

hands-on activities,

One of many vendors offering ethnic foods.

One of many vendors offering ethnic foods.

One of my favorite foods, a spicy wrapped Somali

One of my favorite foods, a spicy Somalian Samosa.

Vendors of Cambodian food.

Vendors of Cambodian food.

sampling of ethnic foods,

Cambodian art.

Cambodian art.

Supplies for face painting.

Supplies for face painting.

Lots of kids got their faces painted.

Lots of kids got their faces painted.

Cambodian art.

Cambodian art.

art,

The bouncy house, a popular place for kids.

The bouncy house, a popular place for kids.

The bouncy house was a popular spot for the youngsters.

Inside the bouncy house.

An impromptu dance.

An impromptu dance.

play

Author Joseph L. Mbele

Joseph L. Mbele, author and Associate Professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield, marketed his books and represented Tanzania at the festival.

and more.

Months-old Santiago was there with his family.

Months-old Santiago was there with his family.

This teen represented Somalia.

This teen represented Somalia.

Five-month-old Audrianna was at the fest with her parents and siblings.

Five-month-old Audrianna was at the fest with her parents and siblings.

From babes only months old to elders, this event drew all ages interested in meeting those people who call my southeastern Minnesota community home.

Kids run, adults mingle and all learn about each other.

Kids run, adults mingle and all learn about each other.

We are no longer mostly just the descendants of European immigrants. But rather, we are a mix of peoples—some from war-torn lands—who have settled here. Saturday’s festival offered the opportunity to learn more about one another.

Kids could color graphics on a map of Minnesota that highlights points of interest.

Kids could color graphics on a map of Minnesota that highlights points of interest.

And that is good. For when we learn, we begin to understand each other. We begin to see each other as neighbors living in this place called Faribault, Minnesota.

A steady flow of attendees

A steady flow of attendees browsed the merchandise, sampled food and more.

FYI: Please click here to read my first post about the 10th annual International Festival Faribault.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How Faribault celebrated its cultural diversity on one day in August August 22, 2015

The flag ceremony featured national anthems and information about the countries from which Faribault residents have originated.

The flag ceremony featured national anthems and information about the countries from which Faribault residents have originated.

FRIENDS, FLAGS, FOOD, FUN…all melded in Faribault Saturday for the 10th annual International Festival Faribault.

Representing the country of Sudan.

Representing the country of Sudan.

Despite a fierce wind that ripped tent poles from the ground and hastened events along under a forecast of stormy weather, nothing could quell the enthusiasm for this gathering.

Friends

Friends

Friends

Friends

Festival, friends 3

Friends

Smiles abounded. Everywhere.

The festival was truly a family event for all cultures.

The festival was truly a family event for all cultures.

It was a feel-good family event,

Pork and plenty of cilantro.

Pork and plenty of cilantro.

an opportunity to try ethnic foods,

An Aztec dancer

A dancer from Ollin Ayacaxtly Aztec Dancers.

An Aztec dancer's costume details.

An Aztec dancer’s costume details.

Aztec dancers

Aztec dancers

a place to be entertained by skillful dancers,

Kids used markers to create flags from their native countries.

Kids used markers to create flags from their native countries.

an educational day,

Flags representing Faribault residents lined the sidewalk.

Flags representing Faribault residents lined the sidewalk.

Henna art

Henna art

Attendees watch the flag ceremony.

On stage and off, cultures mingled.

a mingling of the many cultures that call Faribault home.

A candid moment: just two boys on bikes.

A candid moment: just two boys on bikes.

I am grateful for festivals like this in my southeastern Minnesota community. When I see the togetherness, especially among the children, I have hope.

Beautiful henna art.

Beautiful henna art.

Hope that we can see beyond the color of our skin,

Just a kid having fun.

Just a kid having fun.

beyond the differences in language and dress and food to that which unites us—the fact that we are all people, just people.

FYI: Please check back for more photos from the International Festival Faribault.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Faribault friends August 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Portrait #36: Friends, Shukri and Khadra

Friends and then Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

Friends and then Faribault High School seniors Shukri, left, and Khadra photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

These young women represent the relatively new faces of my community. Beyond French and German and Irish and the blood of other long ago immigrants, we are now also Somali, Sudanese, Hispanic, Cambodian and more. So much more.

Faribault is a diverse southern Minnesota city. We are richer for our differences, although that is not always recognized or appreciated.

Rather than focus on that which separates, let us bridge that which divides.

FYI: Faribault celebrates its cultural diversity this Saturday, August 22, at International Festival Faribault scheduled from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Central Park. Click here for more information.

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Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Festival celebrates Faribault’s cultural diversity August 20, 2015

Adding to the artsy aspect of Car Cruise Night, was this colorful attire worn by Faribault

Faribault is becoming an ever diverse community as shown in this photo from a recent Friday evening Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2015.

Neighbor meeting neighbor.

I like that phrase tagged by the International Festival Faribault planning committee to an event celebrating my community’s cultural diversity.

Conversation and connecting..., no other words necessary.

Conversation and connecting…, no other words necessary for this photo taken at a previous fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

When we personalize, then we begin to see beyond the differences. We see individuals rather than skin color or clothing. We hear the person and not the language. We connect. We become neighbors.

A member of Ollin Ayacaxtli dances at Faribault's International Market Day celebration.

A member of Ollin Ayacaxtly Aztec Dancers performs at a previous International Festival Faribault, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, August 22, the Faribault community comes together in Central Park for this 10th annual celebration of diversity. International Festival Faribault aims to promote an understanding between cultures and to unite the community with music, dance, art, ethnic foods and merchandise.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata during the 2012 festival. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. I won first place for this image in the “personal heritage” category of the 2014 Faribault Heritage Days Photo Contest.

I’ve attended the festival numerous times and delight in this opportunity to meet others, to sample ethnic foods, to listen to music, to check out the art and more. My favorite has always been observing children gathered to break pińatas. It is then that I see the possibilities for Faribault. We can learn from these kids who care not about differences but rather are focused as one on a single goal.

On Saturday, let that goal be neighbor meeting neighbor.

A woman, without my prompting, took this mask from the table manned by Bashir Omar and Asher Ali and asked me to photograph her.

Art showcased by a vendor at the 2012 festival. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Here’s the International Festival Faribault entertainment schedule:

  • 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. – Steve Huber on acoustic guitar
  • 11 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.- Otto & Celia – Guatemalan singers on keyboard; Patti Letona – Guatemalan singer; and Eliana Tobar – El Salvadorian singer
  • 11:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. – Selvin – Guatemalan dancer
  • 11:45 a.m. – noon – Children’s Dance Performance by Florecitas de Dios
  • noon – 1 p.m. – Ollin Ayacaxtly Aztec Dancers
  • 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. – Flag Ceremonies (national anthems and salutes)
  • 2 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – South Sudanese music and dancers
  • 2:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. – Cambodian dancers
  • 3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – Hula Hoop Performance by Adrienne Lee
  • 3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. – Breaking of piñatas

FYI: Admittance to International Festival Faribault is free.

 

Celebrating my community’s many cultures at International Festival Faribault August 21, 2014

IN A SOUTHERN MINNESOTA COMMUNITY which is growing ever more diverse, the need for understanding among cultures seems not an option, but a must.

A Somali family waits to cross a street in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

A Somali family waits to cross a street in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

If we’re to live and work and play in the same town, then we need to meet one another, to educate ourselves, to be open to the differences that define us.

International Festival Faribault presents an opportunity to do just that from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. this Saturday, August 23. Via music, ethnic food, art, children’s activities and more, the cultures of our diverse community will be showcased and celebrated in Central Park.

Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico's national anthem last September during the International Festival Faribault at Faribault's Central Park.

Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico’s national anthem during a previous International Festival Faribault at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

At the hour-long flag ceremony, which begins at 11:30 a.m., the flags and national anthems of 18 nations, from the U.S. to Somalia, South Sudan, Mexico and more will be presented. It’s a moving ceremony that visually impresses the diversity of those who call Faribault and the surrounding area home.

A Mexican dish (help me out if you know, but I think tortillas) was wrapped in banana leaves. My husband and I tried this.

A Mexican dish wrapped in banana leaves. My husband and I tried this at a past fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And then there are food booths, where you can sample ethnic dishes from countries like Somalia, Honduras, Norway and more.

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful wood crafts from Kenya and Somalia.

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful wood crafts from Kenya and Somalia during a past fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Others will vend native art.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos-- chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk.  You'll find numerous vendors offering a variety of authentic international foods.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos– chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk. You’ll find numerous vendors offering a variety of authentic international foods. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I’ve attended this festival several times and each time have left with a better understanding of my neighbors. The key is to visit with folks who are from a country other than your own. Don’t just buy a chuchito or a tamale or some other food and walk away. Chat it up with the vendor.

Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed.

At a past fest, I spoke with then Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I am convinced that personal connections are the key to understanding and overcoming the barriers that separate cultures.

Conversation and connecting..., no other words necessary.

Conversing and connecting at a previous fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Long-time residents and newbies alike must reach out to one another to bridge the gaps of misunderstandings and preconceived notions that exist. And they do. Exist. I hear the prejudicial comments way too often. We must learn to respect one another.

That same little boy who was so intently focused on the musician.

One of my favorite fest portraits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

It is the kids who give me the most hope. They don’t seem to notice the differences in skin color, language and culture. And they are a primary focus of International Festival Faribault. The local United Way will give away children’s books. There will be a children’s dance performance and a bouncy tent.

Happy children all focused on the same goal: breaking the pinata.

Happy children all focused on the same goal: breaking the pinata near the Central Park Bandshell. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But the highlight, in my opinion, is the breaking of piñatas at 3:30 p.m. I’ve witnessed this event several times with children of many ethnic backgrounds standing side-by-side. Their smiles are wide. And so are those of the adults observing how piñatas can bring together cultures. Together.

A member of Ollin Ayacaxtli dances at Faribault's International Market Day celebration.

A member of Ollin Ayacaxtli dances at a past fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Here’s a schedule of festival events:

10 – 10:45 a.m.: Otto & Celia, Hispanic singers on keyboard
10:45 – 11 a.m.: Selvia, Guatemalan dancer
11 – 11:30 a.m.: Ollin Ayacaxtli Aztec Dancers
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Flag ceremony
12:30 – 1 p.m.: Children’s dance performance by Florecitas de Dios
1 – 2 p.m.: River Mill Band performs (combination of newgrass and folk)
2 – 3 p.m.: South Sudanese music and dancers
3 – 3:30 p.m.: Hula hoop performance by Adrienne Lee & Jugglers
3:30 p.m.: Breaking of piñatas and end of silent auction

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Additionally, non-profits will be at the festival to focus on immigrants. Rice County Public Health will give guided tours of the Faribault Farmer’s Market (also happening at the park during morning hours) in Somali and Spanish. The American Association of University Women will offer children’s activities. HealthFinders Collaborative, the Faribault Diversity Coalition, Greater Upper Nile Community Services & Development and more will also be at the fest. A silent auction features about $3,000 in donated items.

To learn more about International Festival Faribault, click here. And then click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My thoughts on the changing streets of Faribault November 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I DON’T LIVE on a Bay, a Circle or a Drive.

I live along Willow Street.

That alone should tell you that my home sits in an old neighborhood. After all, cities don’t name streets after trees anymore or even attach the word “street” to a new roadway. If there are willows growing along my street, I haven’t noticed them.

But I’ve noticed, in the 29 years my husband and I have been in our modest three-bedroom, one-bath Willow Street home, that there’s a certain stigma attached to our arterial street, to our part of Faribault.

And I’m not happy about that.

For example, a few evenings ago, we joined friends around a backyard bonfire. The conversation ebbed and flowed with intermittent laughter, until a friend remarked, “I see your neighborhood is getting more diverse.” I knew the comment stemmed from a drive-by shooting several months ago within two blocks of my home.

These young Somali women represent the changing face of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

These young Somali women represent the changing face of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

My defenses kicked in and I was prepared for an unpleasant exchange about the ever-growing cultural diversity of Faribault and the perceived “problems” in my neighborhood. My husband responded and the topic was dropped. I didn’t find myself, once again, championing for those of color, although you’ll never find me defending criminal behavior committed by anyone, whether white, black, green or purple.

In this file photo, a Somali family waits to cross a downtown Faribault street.

A Somali family in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Honestly, I tire of the underlying, and often blatant, prejudicial jabs I hear and read about in my community. The Hispanic, Somali, Sudanese, Asian, African American and other minorities who now call Faribault home are here to stay. And some of them happen to live in my neighborhood. So what? Does this make my neighborhood less desirable? Apparently to some. Not to me, unless these neighbors disrupt the neighborhood with illegal and/or undesirable criminal activity and/or behavior.

And, believe me, I’ve had “bad neighbors” whose skin is white, just like mine.

Many Latinos call Faribault home. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Many Latinos call Faribault home. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Oftentimes I want to grab life-long locals by the shoulders and tell them that the Faribault they knew growing up is not the Faribault of today. These newcomers are here to stay. Welcome them. Get to know them as individuals and as families, for in so doing misconceptions and fears fall by the wayside. Be kind. Embrace them.

When I moved to the Faribault area in 1982, it took a long time for me to feel welcome and a part of the community. Sometimes I still feel like an outsider because I didn’t grow up here, don’t have family here, nor does my husband. I can only imagine how those of other cultures, those who’ve fled war-torn homelands an ocean away, must sometimes feel. Isolated. Scared. Unwelcome.

Latinos represent a large part of Faribault's diverse population. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Latinos represent a large part of Faribault’s diverse population. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Of those who suggest the newcomers just leave, I want to ask, and sometimes do: “Weren’t your great grandparents once new here, arriving from the Old Country, speaking in a language others could not understand?”

This intentionally blurred image, taken of children waiting to break a pinata at the International Festival Faribault, represents the many cultures within my community. Skin color mattered not to these kids. Why does it matter so much to adults? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

This intentionally blurred image, taken of children waiting to break a pinata at the International Festival Faribault, represents the many cultures within my community. Skin color mattered not to these kids. Why does it matter so much to adults? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Oftentimes, too, I want to grab life-long locals and others by the shoulders and tell them that my diverse Willow Street neighborhood is worthy of their respect. This is my home, my neighborhood, the place I choose to live, an important part of this community we call Faribault.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling