MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's image as a haven for blond-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavians and Germans has changed with the recent influx of immigrants, and the League of Woman Voters wants residents to talk about it.
On Tuesday, the organization's Education Fund will launch ''Changing Faces, Changing Communities'' -- a project created to give residents a chance to talk about the immigration of Africans, Hispanic Americans and Somalis and what it means for the state.
During five weeks in February and March, about 2,000 people will gather in small groups in 18 communities to discuss the impact immigration has had. In April, they'll gather to discuss solutions.
The Tuesday meetings will be held in Edina and Rochester, and others will be held later in such rural cities as Northfield, Willmar and Detroit Lakes.
It is believed that more Somalis and Hmong have settled in the Twin Cities than anywhere else in the United States. Smaller towns and cities also are experiencing rapid change. In Worthington, for instance, more than 50 languages are spoken in schools; in Pelican Rapids, 24 languages.
Andrea Carruthers noticed change in Willmar after Hispanics and Somalis began moving to town.
''Just having people walking the streets of Willmar that are not white is a change,'' she said. ''It's different for people who were born here and are now 75 and 80 years old. It's dramatic.''
Carruthers, director of Willmar's community circles, led a five-week discussion group last fall. The 12 people -- a Somali woman, Hispanics and whites -- continue meeting on their own. In a few weeks they will present a proposal to make some changes in Willmar schools, where about 11 percent of the 4,600 students are learning English.
Circles have been meeting for four years at the Jane Addams School for Democracy on St. Paul's West Side, a collaborative effort involving Hmong and Hispanic residents, Neighborhood House, the College of St. Catherine, the University of Minnesota and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.
Last fall, the Minneapolis Foundation began a campaign to raise awareness about the way Minnesotans treat immigrants.
Some signs aren't encouraging. One advertisement suggested that Minnesotans are unwelcoming, with immigrants saying they have found a frigid reception.
EDITORS NOTE: Meeting times and locations can be obtained by calling (651) 224-5445.
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