As I reflect upon the month of September, three events come to mind that are quite different – Hispanic Heritage Month, the 20-year anniversary of September 11, and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – but given a closer look, share something in common.

Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration of the history and culture of the Latinx and Hispanic communities from September 15 through October 15. The terms Hispanic and Latino often get misused, so to clarify, Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish or are from Spanish-speaking populations, while Latino refers to people who are from or descended from people from Latin America representing more than 20 countries or territories, including Cuba, my heritage.

According to the U.S. 2020 Census, the Hispanic or Latino population grew 23 percent. Here in Brooklyn Park, nearly 6% of our community is Hispanic or Latino. While the census may group Hispanic and Latino together, there are vast differences within these communities, and these differences should be recognized and celebrated year-round. I invite and encourage you to experience our culture through music, food, art, cinema, literature and much more.

Two decades ago our lives changed forever. I vividly remember being glued to the television watching the events of September 11 unfold, lives lost, and our sense of security shaken. I invited Michael Gold-Biss, political science faculty, to share his thoughts about its impact.

“These years have meant a slow bleeding of lives, treasure, and reputation in places that many could not locate on a map on the eve of 9/11,” he said. “We are disillusioned, cynical, and even supportive of trends that mark a dangerous decline of democratic values, including violence against those who are different and seen as outsiders. The events of 9/11 changed us in how we live – more physical security around us; how we think – fear of what or who we do not know; and what we do as a country – retreat from the outside, even when our economy has become inextricably part of the world.”

Caring for and respecting one another will be critical as our nation continues to heal.

This month we also recognize Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about suicide, advocate for mental health care, and spread hope. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 and the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. The NHCC CARE Center reminds us that suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background.

These thoughts, although common, should not be brushed aside as normal and often indicate serious distress. Be informed and consider getting trained in “question, persuade, refer,” three steps anyone can take to help prevent suicide. Visit namimn.org for more information and to register.

So, how are these related? These events reinforce that we are all in this together. For our community and nation to heal and prosper, it’s critical that we look out for one another regardless of who we are or where we came from. Thank you Michael Gold-Biss and the CARE Center team for sharing your insights.

Rolando García is president of North Hennepin Community College.

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