By Julia Freeman, OAP Senior Organizer for Racial Justice
Babette turned intentionally toward me, her face full of wisdom and experience. She began to talk about why she and two other American Indian community members formed the Native Alliance of Duluth.
Over time, she has seen her community suffer from disinvestment that has led to fewer opportunities. Babette saw the lack of affordable housing, good jobs, good education, and the closing of a valued community center as creating more barriers to opportunities for Native people.
Where to start? Her personal investment of cultural gifts, talents, wisdom, and time in her community is a labor of love. All the kids call her grandma and she is seen as a trusted and loving community elder. The Native community is close and everyone knows everyone. They want a place to gather.
She began to talk about a solution: developing a Native Community Center. There is an empty building that would be perfect. In this space they could meet and organize for change. They could provide resources with the community like food, clothing, and connections to housing and job opportunities. The kids could get help with their school work and be mentored by the elders.
Babette and her colleagues Renee and Tony talked for over an hour about solutions to improve the outcomes for their community. Getting organized was at the top of the list. The chance to create an opportunity for Native people to share their narrative around equitable solutions for their community excited them. “We know what works for us. We have the solutions, but no one ever asks.”
This is OAP’s Greater Visions work in a nutshell. We are not trying to empower anyone. That is very arrogant because communities of color and American Indian communities have their own power. We want to work with them to create the many platforms to elevate that power.
In self-identified regions across the state of Minnesota communities of color will create their own equity agendas full of solutions. We will offer the organizing support, tools, training, coaching, and any requested facilitation. But our communities of color and American Indian communities are growing as I type and everyone has an idea to “fix us.” Well, we are the “us” and we have our own tools, community history, and cultural knowledge to build our power.