Outreach initiative comes to Multicultural Fair today

Finding out why many minorities feel marginalized and don't engage in local politics or civics will be one of the outreach efforts at today's 19th annual Greater Medford Multicultural Fair.

The University of Oregon, as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, is working with police and city officials to discover the concerns of Latinos.

If you go

What: Greater Medford Multicultural Fair

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today

Where: Hawthorne Park, Jackson and Hawthorne streets, Medford

Admission: Free

"They tend to be more frightened to deal with city officials," said Gerardo Sandoval of the university's Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management. "They're even more afraid to deal with police. At the end of the day, it is very difficult to do outreach to this population and build trust."

Sandoval's outreach project, which he has undertaken in other communities, will be featured at the multicultural fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in Hawthorne Park at Jackson and Hawthorne streets. Admission is free.

Entertainment, food, educational booths and vendors will be offered. About 4,000 people attended last year's event.

As part of the fair, Sandoval said he will be researching immigration issues and urban planning.

"We want to hear what are the key concerns and build relationships," Sandoval said.

He will be preparing a report on his findings within a month.

Sandoval has called in James Rojas, an artist and urban planning consultant from Los Angeles, who has developed a nonthreatening method of discovering what concerns Latinos.

Rojas has devised an adult game where he supplies hair rollers, jewelry, Popsicle sticks and other objects and tells people to create something that expresses their concerns about urban planning.

One time in the Bronx, a woman used all of his pink hair rollers to create a city scene that illustrated her feelings about pedestrian safety issues, he said.

"Oftentimes you will ask someone a question, and they'll say, 'I don't know,'" Rojas said. "This allows people to dive deep into their subconscious to express their feelings."

The items he has available are treated more as a game and are less threatening than asking a direct question, Rojas said.

"People can be really enticed by the process," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

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