OUR MPLS is Not One Minneapolis

On December 1, the Minneapolis City Council Budget Subcommittee voted 7-6 to cut the mayor’s proposed property tax levy by .2 percent, meaning about $620,000 less in revenue. This decreased revenue would hit programs we as Voices for Racial Justice and OUR MPLS partners know add to the process of breaking down the disparities in Minneapolis. It was just about one year ago that the OUR MPLS partnership came together after an election that promised greater city leadership for racial equity to begin envisioning what we thought racial equity would look like. The result was the OUR MPLS Agenda for Racial and Economic Justice. Now a year later, we are faced with a City Council that shows lack of vision and deep division on the issues that should matter the most to a city with some the worst racial disparities in the nation. It is clear that OUR MPLS is far from being One Minneapolis.

The Problem

The issue is where these cuts would take place: funding for the One Minneapolis initiative (to support diverse leadership development and community engagement, which is already underfunded and currently supports the Politics is Local training); a racial disparities study that Council Member Glidden has stated is necessary to justify City efforts to close disparities in contracting; counseling and outreach for new homeowners; and substantial reduction of the funding for the Clean Energy Initiative.

Council Member Palmisano also moved to cut the funding for the new Office of Equitable Outcomes in half (from $250,000 to $125,000). This was prevented (but just barely) by a 7-6 vote.
These actions display deep division on our City Council on commitment to racial equity and climate justice. See the notes from the Budget Subcommittee and this Star Tribune article for more information.
What Can We Do
We have time before the December 10 final approval of the budget to change their minds. Please attend the December 10 6pm meeting to show support for racial equity and climate priorities.
But before then and as OUR MPLS partners and allies, please take the time to contact City Council members. Those who voted in favor of these cuts were CMs Reich, Frey, Barb Johnson, Yang, Warsame, Goodman, and Palmisano. Please contact them and encourage them to reconsider their position in the final vote. Ask them to support the community’s desire for a movement toward a more equitable Minneapolis that is inclusive of all residents. Even these small investments matter and decreasing property taxes by an average of $2.50 per residence is not worth cutting these important investments. While you are at it, contact a City Council member who is standing with racial equity and climate justice (Council Members Gordon, Glidden, Cano, Bender, Quincy, and Andrew Johnson) and thank them. Here is a chart with all City Council contact information:
City Council Phone Numbers
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Racial Justice Organizer Training: An Evolution Story

On October 28, Voices for Racial Justice celebrated our new name and the many partners who share our commitment to building a racial justice movement in Minnesota. We also recognized our journey to the organization we are today.

The story of Organizing Apprenticeship Project’s birth and evolution is one that inspires me as one of vision and change. The roots of our organizing training were the vision of local organizers who wanted to create a solid training program and space for new organizers to develop and grow. They recognized that having a mentoring relationship and that learning by doing were the most effective ways to develop the flexible skills that organizers need.

The training program practiced that organic, learning through experience approach itself when it responded to what organizers of color were saying: they needed the skills to advance a racial justice analysis, even within the organizations where they worked. Too often, they were the only people of color in an organization, and they needed the support and framework to organize authentically with communities of color. OAP’s ability to ask itself hard questions and to intentionally grow into what was necessary – a racial justice organizing training program – has inspired the racial justice movement we are all part of today.

We shared a video at the Parkway Theater that tells this story better than I can – through the voices of some of the early leaders of OAP. We have been on an important journey of growth and change. I know that our next 21 years will take us further along this path toward racial justice in a way that embraces each other and our many voices.

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OAP is Now Voices for Racial Justice

We are Voices for Racial Justice. On October 28, we are celebrating this name change, as well as the journey that got us here. And, of course, we are looking forward to the movement-building that continues through organizing and training, advocacy with (not for) engaged communities, and the research and policy tools that tell our story.

Why the change? For several years, the staff and board of OAP have thought about a name change. But these things are challenging. Although Organizing Apprenticeship Project no longer described all of the work that we do, and did not make clear our commitment to building racial justice, it has been around for 21 years. People know us as “OAP” and love what “OAP” means.

But the best organizations grow and evolve. We know that to build a shared network and movement for racial justice in Minnesota, we need to draw more people in. More equitable communities, where all people have the chance to learn, work, and live well, without running into barriers to those opportunities, are good for all of us. We also know that we must break down institutional and structural racism in order for those opportunities and equitable outcomes to be a reality.

The board and staff agreed that we wanted to more boldly claim our vision – racial justice. We also agreed that what we are building doesn’t live inside an organization, but stretches out to the communities of color, American Indian communities, and many allies who lead this work with us. All of our multiracial, multicultural voices are part of building racial justice. After many sessions of giant sticky notes, we arrived at our new name: Voices for Racial Justice.

Which isn’t such a new name after all. For two years, we have used the name Voices for Racial Justice as the OAP blog site. This grew out of our Voices for Voting Rights campaign to defeat the voter ID amendment in 2012. We have grown comfortable in our Voices – so an already familiar identity will be easy to slip on.

Not much else has changed. We will still lead with the importance of organizer and leadership training. We will still practice the authentic community engagement that guides our strategic convenings and all our work. We still lead campaigns for change, whether in education equity, health equity, voting rights, or criminal justice. We will continue to work with communities to develop the policy tools that help organizers tell a powerful story and hold leaders accountable to building racial equity

Actually, there is one more change, but also one that feels comfortable. I am honored to have been named Executive Director of Voices for Racial Justice. I feel grateful for the 21 years of leadership that Beth Newkirk has brought to this role, and the ongoing mentorship she offers me. I continue to love working with my bold and creative colleagues, and value the support of our board who have walked with me through an eight month interim role.

I welcome you to visit our new website www.voicesforracialjustice.org. And, of course, we welcome you to visit us at our same office on Franklin Avenue or call us at our same number. We are Voices for Racial Justice. We are here.

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