Efforts to knit a more inclusive, connected Healdsburg continue. That includes a series of community encuentros - meetings - on topics from housing to migrant labor to indigenous history.
A mixed crowd of around 60 people turned out for the year's first encuentro. That included residents and nonprofit workers, councilmembers and city employees, educators and the mayor. It's all part of the city's effort to write a new diversity, equity, and inclusion plan.
The group talked about community, indigenous voices, and whether the “land acknowledgements” that are becoming more common, are mere symbolism, or represent a historic shift in recognizing past injustice.
Healdsburg Mayor Ariel Kelley said the meetings are an important space for honesty.
"The indigenous community is vast and very diverse, and when we're looking at ways that the City of Healdsburg can learn and can listen, conversations like this are a really great starting point," Kelley said.
The encuentros are part of a partnership between the City and Corazon Healdsburg, a Latino-based community group. Kelley said their work has been instrumental.
"One of the things that was very apparent was just how much work we had to do to bring people together, set the table where people could then grab a seat at the table and then eventually feel comfortable speaking at the table," Kelley said. "And part of it was making people feel comfortable speaking. Another part of it was teaching people how to shut up and listen."
Also on hand, educators Brenda Flyswithhawks, Alma Diaz, and Clint McKay - a member of the Dry Creek Rancheria and cultural bearer of local Pomo and Wappo knowledge.
McKay said even small steps are progress, and making progress means starting somewhere.
"It's a good first step to have indigenous voices heard something that we have been denied far too long," McKay said. "We've been kind of put back in the shadows and made to be invisible. This was a good first step for getting us out, letting the community know that the City acknowledges that we are still here as a people."
As for the diverse crowd, which included English, Spanish, Mixteco, and Wappo speakers, McKay said it is a point of strength.
"Seeing multiple facets of our community come together and celebrate the strength that is found within our diversity, I think will carry us a long way," McKay said.
The next encuentro is planned for February 23. Titled, "Is the dream still alive in Healdsburg?" the focus will be on contemporary and historical experiences of the Black community in Healdsburg and Sonoma County.
More info can be found on the City of Healdsburg's website.