Save Our Centro
Watch and listen to the clips from the Cinco de Mayo protest at Centro Cultural de Fargo-Moorhead. We broke down the 1 hour and 42 minute video and audio recordings to highlight what was said by the board and the demands of the community.
Save our Centro–You are invited to participate in a planning meeting at 1517 4th Ave. S., Moorhead, MN 56560 on Friday, May 10 (dia de las madres) at 3:45pm. We will be planning the future of Centro. Anyone who wants to put their energy into saving centro is welcome to attend.
Video Clip 1.
In this video clip, Centro Chair Christine La Coursiere is Unable or Unwilling to Answer questions about funding or programs.
Video Clip 1.
Clip 2 – In this video clip, board member Nayelli says no Mexican Focus needed.
Video Clip 2.
Video Clip 3
In this video clip, Community members are asking questions of the board of Centro Cultural. Council member Mark Altenburg is making a racket in the background slamming doors and cursing. Protester Juan Garcia finally asks La Coursiere in Spanish who Mark is and what he’s doing there but she doesn’t understand him because she doesn’t speak Spanish. New board member Nayelli, quickly translates for La Cousiere, without either of them saying that La Coursiere doesn’t understand what we’re saying when we speak in Spanish.
Video Clip 3.
Video Clip 4
Mark Alternburg’s Stops Our Questions to Board Chair LaCoursiere and aggravatedly demands that we participate in his unscheduled legislative action.
This is an audio file. The Transcription of the audio is below the video.
Mark: (in response to my question to LaCoursiere about whether or not she has been an executive director).
I have. Here Duke, put me on. Can we sit down?
Me: Yea. Sure. I’d love to.
Mark: Then, let’s stop this and sit down.
Me: OK, let’s sit down.
Me: Do you know stuff about the organization?
Mark: I’ve run a non-profit organization.
Me: I know. But I’m asking about this one.
Mark: I was the executive director of a non-profit organization.
Me: Right, but I’m asking about this one. What’s happened?
Mark: So, let’s sit down instead of having a confrontation. Have you signed the card yet?
Me: No I haven’t.
Mark: Sign the card. You want programming and we’re doing a legislative action. That’s the legislative action that’s taking place.
Me: I haven’t heard anything about this,
Mark: Why not?
Me: …because Centro hasn’t advertised it…
Mark: But, you’re here.
Me: Yes, but I’m not psychic. I didn’t know you would be here.
Mark: But, you’re my friend on Facebook.
Mark: And you invited me here.
Me: Right, but I didn’t know there was going to be…
Mark: We have a legislative action, and you haven’t signed the card.
Me: Yeah I know, because I came here to do an action…
Mark: Duke, have you signed it yet?
Mark: Why haven’t you signed the card yet? Have you made phone calls to Ben Lien yet?
Cindy: I have, yes.
Cindy: And I actually had put out information about the Prosperity Act.
Mark: We’re working today, to work on a path for (inaudible)
Cindy: Right. And, I’m going to sign your letter, and I’d be happy to sign.
Mark: It’s not MY letter. This is my ward. I’m here working with the people I’m elected to represent.
Cindy: I know what you’re saying. But, I’m here a protest. Because we came here to find out about what’s going on with Centro.
Mark: That’s great. That’s great. And there’s a lot of questions.
Video Clip 5
Mark Altenburg disrupts the negotiation and argues that the center should be for the community and not Mexican centered.
Mark: If you’ve got the energy to invest in the Latino Community, in this neighborhood. I mean, look where we were 15 years ago.
Me: We live in this neighborhood.
Mark: Hey I’ve got people who refuse to come to this neighborhood because they think it’s still what it was 15, 20 years ago. And, I tell people I walk through this neighborhood. I park my car. You guys live close, I live close. I mean, I had, when the former non-profit I was in, they said, ‘where are you going to buy your house’, I said, ‘I’m gonna be six blocks south of MSUM, they said, ‘Are you sure you want to live there?’. Yeah! I love it! And we’re seeing property values increase. We’re seeing the Latino community that was here 15 years ago investing into the neighborhood, buying houses, doing fantastically well. And that’s great. Now, we’re surrounded by a new immigrant community. And, hopefully, the Latino community that has prospered over the last 15 years can reach out to the Bosnian community, and the Sudanese, and the other communities that are here in Romkey. I mean, cuz, it’s a different community. At the same time, absolutely, Centro has a obligation to work with not only Mexicans, but the Latino…
Cindy: No, but that’s its primary,
Cindy: That should be its primary. Its primary should be Latinos.
Mark: I mean. You want to say, and I understand that it should be focused on Mexicans. But, I , I don’t know.
Cindy: I think that if the Norwegian Center was suddenly hijacked, and it was made for all Europeans…
Mark: Sons of Norway are there. Sons of Norway are there.
Cindy: But, you can’t take that away.
Mark: But, you take a look at what…
Cindy: It was founded…
Mark: …happens every June at the Hjemkomst. It’s the Icelanders and the Fins, the Swedes and the Norwegians. They hold on to their identity but they put together a great, I mean syttende mai. The independence day for my people.
Marcella: I think. I think that the purpose of her being here today, the purpose of me being here today is just…we understand the history and we understand that up to three years ago, Centro had a purpose and was fulfilling their mission. From that three mark on, there has been no action. And the purpose of s being here is to find out why wasn’t something done.
Mark: Because, look, let’s not lay blame. But, the executive director who I was working with until those last days left no succession plan.
Cindy: But, there was.
Marcella: But, in the three years that I have been here, I have not once heard any type of advertisement for anybody to come in. None.
Mark Altenburg Tells Us To Keep Quiet, and Informs Us the Mission of Centro has Changed so that the Mexican Cultural Center Does Not Need to Focus on Mexicans Anymore
Mark: But, I would say this. I would say this. When you bring up Lori Swanson and question the 990, that is serious and that needs to be handled organizationally. Going public with it will. You want to talk about destroying the organization. You know. Duke knows. As soon as an organization’s reputation is destroyed you will not get private funders to come in. I mean there are folks who will back away, including the City of Moorhead, that helps keep these doors open. And, I mean, Youthworks, funded through the Moorhead police department, through grant funding, will back off, and the lights will go out. And I don’t know if you have the capacity through the People’s Press Project to raise the funds necessary to keep this place going. One of the fiduciary responsibilities of the board of directors is to make sure that you have the money to keep the lights on. If the water gets turned off, you’re evicted. And this whole thing, the whole thing goes down. So you have an opportunity. A small window of opportunity. And, Yes. Have the last three years been squandered?
Marcella: And the reputation.
Mark: The reputation has been eroded.
Marcella: The reputation has slowly been destroyed for the past three years by the lack of action and who’s fault is that? The board members. They have to be held accountable.
Cindy: And you can have a building that’s open, but if the people, the Mexican people don’t want to come here anymore, it doesn’t matter if you have a building. You’ve lost the heart of the organization when you’ve lost the people.
Mark: Well, it does, matter. It does matter to the people in the neighborhood that I represent, and was elected to represent,
Cindy: It matters to the people who want to come here…
Mark: …that Youthworks is here. And, Youthworks is saving lives.
Cindy: But, Centro was not created for Youthworks. Centro was not created for that. Centro was created to preserve Mexican culture and to improve the lives of Latinos. That’s what Mexicans.. that’s what..
Mark: Is that the mission statement?
Cindy: That’s what it originally was.
Mark: I thought it was to empower Latinos and the rest of the community of Fargo-Moorhead to create social change.
Cindy: That was just recently changed.
Mark: Well, but that’s the.
Cindy: The organization was created
Mark: It doesn’t matter. The board acted and changed the mission statement.
Cindy: Right. In the last three years that were squandered.
Mark: The mission statement is (inaudible)
Marcella: But, not a full board.
Cindy/Marcella: Not a full board
Marcella: And it is not a representative board of this community. NO. No. No. No.
Duke: Not a representative board.
Cindy: Not a full board, Not representative of this community. Without ever discussing it with the community, they changed it.
Mark: (inaudible) bylaws. The bylaws say what? You need how many Latino members on the board?
Cindy: I don’t know.
Mark: You don’t know?
Cindy: I was never on this board.
Mark: I mean, you were saying that you understand.
Cindy: I don’t know about the bylaws of this organization are
Duke: What if the bylaws have changed too.
Cindy: The bylaws have been changed.
Mark: Then you don’t know and I don’t know. So, we’re coming from a point of ignorance. Right? I mean, you don’t know and I don’t know.
Duke: No. I know the Center was developed for the Mexican community.
Duke: I know the people and helped
Mark: Organizations evolve and change.
Duke: We have a community that has not been included. I think the idea of doing community meetings, open community meetings. You could bring people back. You could have a center of the Mexican community right here. Knowing there’s something that’s owned by that community.
Mark: And, I’m not. I’m not going to get in the middle of this fight. My, my concern is that this center is serving the neighborhood that I was elected to represent.
Cindy/Marcella: Yea. But, it’s not serving the people. It’s not serving the people. It hasn’t been serving the people.
Cindy: Having the doors open doesn’t mean it’s serving anyone. And, you know what? Here’s something that’s really disturbing. When she’s talking about Centro advertising at the University (MSUM) through their (Centro’s) website, for students to come here and drink; have underage drinking parties
Mark: Hey. I don’t have. I’ve never.
Cindy: And for there to be two police reports that are already filed
Mark: I have not. This is the first time I’ve heard of that.
Cindy: For the money that has been coming into this organization not to have any accounting. For three of the board members to have left and told me that they weren’t able to get anyone to give them any accounting of what’s going on. If there is embezzlement going on and the community has not been allowed to use the facilities for anything, not even for a Cinco de Mayo party, that’s beyond wrong.
Marcella: Abner Arauza was not, he didn’t resign. Abner Arauza was kicked out. Because if Abner was sitting here I guarantee you (pointing at Christine LaCoursiere) that the little smirk that you just had on your face would change. It would. Because your story and his story; totally different.
Mark: It should be in the board minutes. Where’s Abner at?
Marcella: And Abner was one of the founders here.
Mark: Is he here?
Cindy: No. He’s not here.
Marcella: He’s at home because his wife is sick.
Mark: No I mean, is he still in the city?
Marcella: Oh. He’s still in the community. But, he wasn’t willingly. You know, he didn’t willingly resign from the board.
Cindy: No. And, all the people who gave letters to her (Christine LaCoursiere) that she says people gave her letters that left, like my brother, like Bertha, like Martha, I’m sure they wrote a very cordial letter, for the preservance of the organization, to preserve the organization.
Mark: You’ve had, I mean, you’ve had board members leave PEPP.
Duke: Uh-huh. But, if the organization’s still (inaudible)
Mark: I know but, I mean you’ve had board members…I’ve had board members leave my organization.
Cindy: Right. But if you have several of the founding people..Abner Arauza has been in this community for a long time. He’s been instrumental.
Mark: Abner is fantastic
Cindy: …in this organization
Mark: There’s no doubt, his reputation is as good as it gets.
Cindy: For him to be kicked out, pushed out, for this organization to be focusing on white centered events, on LGBT community, on non-Mexican, on non-Latino events…that is not fair.
Mark: But, you said, what you said is true. That the organization is separate from the facility.
Mark: And the organization will exist whether the facility is here or not. So, the facility is being used to host GLBT, which is something that you and I both hold close to our heart.
Cindy: Yes, but not to the exclusion of Latinos! Do you understand that? When there’s been Noooo programming for Latinos at all. The only thing that’s being held here in the last three years is stuff for non-mexicans.
Mark: But that’s, that’s a failure of Centro Cultural..
Marcella: board members. Board members.
Cindy: Especially when we’ve been asking, when we’ve been asking.
Chuy: When you said before that the group changes and evolves; everything changes and evolves. But, we were apes once and we evolved. But in our hearts we still provide for the family. We still do all that. From what I heard is that this is made for the Latino community. Just because you change and evolve, cuz you get a better building or more stuff it doesn’t mean that you just change what the heart is.
Chuy: Everything is still has a heart. It may (inaudible)
Mark: Cindy said it right, when an organization comes forward whether I was the Women’s organization that was here , New Sudanese came here. They are willing and able to pay rent..
Cindy: That’s great. That’s wonderful. But then you make (inaudible)
Mark: But wait, but wait. You’re concerned that there’s not enough programming for
Cindy: No. I’m concerned that there is none. There is NONE. There’s ZERO.
Mark: You’re concern centers on the fact that there’s no programming for the Latino Community.
Mark: If other groups are able to step up and say ‘We’ll use the facility for Sudanse, or GLBT, or anything else
Cindy: then the board needs to leave and we need to bring in a new board that is concerned with having events at the Mexican cultural center for Mexicans IN ADDITION to all the other people.
Mark: You, you, the legal, the legal right to make that decision lies with the current board.
Marcella: And the board outright denied membership onto the board.
Mark: But, that’s their right as a private non-profit organization they can bring or deny whoever they want.
Marcella: No, because from what I understand the bylaws say that there has to be a certain amount of people on the board and when there’s just two females on the board (Christine La Coursiere and Kandace Creel-Falcon) and one is white
Mark: I don’t have the bylaws
Marcella: and the one is half
Mark: And, Cindy doesn’t know it either
Cindy: There has to be a certain (inaudible)
Mark: We’re guessing
Marcella: These are the bylaws that Abner told me, and professor Arauza told me that this organization (Centro Cultural) has, the board member has to have a certain amount, it doesn’t even have half of that. And the two that they have, one is white and one is half white and half Mexican.
Mark: What’s wrong with being white?
Marcella: But this organization is for Latinos
Cindy: It’s a Latino organization
Marcella: And it should be that at least half of the board members should represent the community. And, that’s (Christine LaCoursiere and Kandace Creel-Falcon) not the community. Not, when one of the women’s girlfriend (Kandace Creel-Falcon) is the one running the after-school program here. That’s a conflict of interest. And that’s wrong.
Mark: Which afterschool program? Youthworks?
Marcella: Youthworks was run by, what was her name?
Cindy: Kandace Creel-Falcon girlfriend.
Marcella: her partner. It’s a conflict of interest because when Neto came here
Mark: What’s the conflict of interest policy of the board?
Marcella: When Neto (former program director) came here he wanted to put an afterschool program, created here by Centro for Centro, not by another organization, and they (board) denied it.
Mark: What’s the grant agreement with Youthworks, through the City of Moorhead’s police department?
Marcella: I don’t know the details on that.
Mark: Do you know?
Cindy: uh-um (no).
Marcella: But there’s no reason why Centro shouldn’t be able to ..
Mark: Well, it depends. And I don’t know, I would have to go back and take a look at the grant agreement with Youthworks.
Cindy: Whatever it is, I don’t think that anybody here has a problem with any organization in the community having meetings here, participating in events here, or renting the place or holding meetings with the Latino Community. Nobody here. Does anybody here object to having those types of things here? What we object to is not having the stuff for us. Not having a Cinco de Mayo party, ever anymore. Not having. Not having anything for us.
Mark: Well, let me ask. Advocacy. We need you to sign this and get the house of representatives to move on this.
Cindy: Right, we’ll agree to do that, but that’s not why we’re here. We can do that, but that’s not why we’re here today.
Mark: We have one last chance. Well, we have one last chance in the house of representatives in the state of Minnesota to get this through. This is advocacy.
Marcella: But that’s not, but that’s not
Mark: I mean, and I signed today – – you said about the website
Marcella: That’s not the purpose of Centro (Advocacy). And, what we’re here to do is make sure that Centro is for the people, the Latino community here in Moorhead. This (letter campaign) is great, for all Latinos. But, Centro doesn’t represent all Latinos. This (letter) represents all Latinos.
Mark: It doesn’t just represent all Latinos it represents all immigrants.
Marcella: Right. But, what we want from Centro is to provide services and support for Latinos.
Mark: Do you want a Latino organization or a Mexican organization?
Cindy: It was started by Mexicans Mark.
Mark: no. I know.
Cindy: I’m making the distinction because when you exclude the Mexican community completely, that’s a problem. Especially when it was started by Mexicans and for Mexicans. Look around! Right over there there’s a pyramid. That’s Mexican! The murals outside, they’re Mexican. Yes, and there’s nothing wrong with. I don’t think my Columbian sister here
Marcella: And, Mexicans are Latinos.
Cindy: And you know what? My Columbian sister sitting right next to me right now, she has no problem with this being a Mexican led organization; it’s still run by Latinos. And we still have the best interest of the Latino Community at heart. That’s not the problem. The problem comes when we try to have a white director. The problem comes when we have a board that is a majority white. That’s a problem.
Mark: I don’t have..
Cindy: Our voices still have to run the heart of this organization.
Mark: The white woman is?
Marcella: (Pointing to board Chair Christine LaCoursiere) She’s white. She’s not Hispanic at all.
Mark: What about her kids?
Marcella: Her kids are half Hispanic. But her kids are not on the board.
Cindy: Her children are not on the board.
Marcella: And they’re not the voice.
Mark: But the bylaws, I don’t believe the bylaws. Do the bylaws say that you have to Mexican or
Cindy: It doesn’t matter! If you’re running an organization for Latinos you need to have a person that’s Latino running it!
Mark: Any organization.
Cindy: Any organization
Juan: Let me ask you a question real quick. Just for example. No disrespect or anything. Between you and I, right? Who understand the Hispanic culture a lot better, you or I?
Mark: Well, obviously I would say what you need to do on a board is bring people who can get the board functioning.
Cindy: That’s not what he asked
Marcella: That’s not what he
Mark: And the Latino community has to be involved in running this board
Cindy: This organization was created for Latinos. To improve the lives of Latinos. Who’s going to know how to do that better than a Mexican or a Latino? Who’s going to know?
Angela: That’s like me running the board. I’m white. My husband’s Hispanic. I don’t know nothing. You guys
Marcella: And, that doesn’t make you Hispanic. Right? That (Juan) doesn’t make you Hispanic. (Talking to Juan) You don’t make her Hispanic. Your husband doesn’t make you Latina.
Angela: I don’t have the right to come in and try to teach you guys something.
Cindy: NO! Because you’d run it into the ground.
Angela: It doesn’t work like that.
Mark: There’s no disagreement. What I’m saying though is in board governance and non-profit work that I’ve done and Duke has done, what you do when you create a board of directors is, especially in an emergency situation like this, you’ve got to set out and say, ‘who can get this ship aright again’. And you need, as Christine and I were talking about. You need board members who are willing to understand 990 governance, to understand – you need an accountant, you need a lawyer, and you need to get this ship sailing again.
Cindy: Yeah. But, there’s been a lot of people who have applied and have been denied.
Mark: What I’m saying right now this Latino absolute. Right now, you’re in a period where, from my conversations with Christine and what I’m hearing here, cuz this organization in 90 days may not exist. And you can’t step in and save it.