Chaka Mkali, Hope Community
Chaka is the lead organizer for HOPE Community, an organization that combines community economic and housing development with community building, leadership training and organizing strategies. An influential African American leader and artist, he is the creator of a youth training and organizing program, SPEAC, which has helped develop young artist/organizers, primarily of color, throughout the metropolitan area. He is currently leading a very successful grassroots campaign to have racial equity principles integrated into the Minneapolis Park Board decisions. Chaka is also a widely respected hip hop artist, who connects to a wide range of community-based artists and musicians around the country. He is currently a Bush Fellow, focused on the intersection of organizing, culture, art, and media specifically related to building the power and voice of communities and youth of color.
Maurice Nins, Jr., YouthPrise Maurice is a program officer with Youthprise, a youth centered philanthropic organization that invests in the future of Minnesota by investing in youth. Youthprise combines funding, capacity building, policy advocacy, and research to eliminate disparities impacting youth and increase learning and leadership, economic prosperity, and health and safety. Maurice is also a longtime community leader building equity in the African America community and has served on many boards and committees whose missions include equity including the St. Paul Foundation’s Pan African Community Endowment and Management Improvement Fund, the United Way’s Community Investment Fund, and the McKnight Foundation’s Out-of-School time Advisory Committee.
Terri Thao, Nexus Community Partners
Terri is a program director at Nexus Community Partners, a non-profit community building intermediary where she is responsible for running the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) which trains and places community leaders of color on publically appointed boards or commissions with the goal to advance equity in the Twin Cities region. Terri is an active community volunteer, serving on the boards of the Asian Economic Development Association, CommonBond Communities, and the F.R. Bigelow Foundation. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and Russian and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy, both obtained from the University of Minnesota.
Susana De Leon, De Leon and Nestor LLP
Susana is co-owner of De Leon and Nestor LLP, a community law firm based in South Minneapolis. Susana is an attorney who has been deeply involved with her community by supporting and directing social justice initiatives. Her passion is to mobilize communities in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota in support of immigration reform. She served on the board of directors for the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and the Legal Rights Center. She currently serves on the board of the National Immigration Project and the Latino Economic Development Center. She founded and currently directs the Aztec dancing group Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue, where she has been teaching new generations on such artistic expression.
Jamie Edwards, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Government Affairs
Jamie is the Director of Government Affairs for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians. He has served in that capacity since June of 2011. Jamie has been working to strengthen relationships with Minnesota lawmakers and to protect tribal sovereignty and the economic and human rights of American Indian people since 1999. He is currently tasked with leading the Mille Lacs Band’s communications and lobbying efforts at the local, state and federal levels. Jamie has worked on a variety of legislative issues over the last 15 years, ranging from education and voting rights to human services and public safety. He has served on several boards – Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, Women of Nations, and the Minnesota PTA. Jamie has also worked on numerous local and statewide voter mobilization efforts.
Arianna Genis, TakeAction MN Arianna Genis is a Chicana Minnesotana – born and raised in Minneapolis, where her family emigrated from Mexico more than 25 years ago. In 2013, she graduated from Augsburg College with degrees in international relations and sociology. Shortly after, she immersed herself in the local community organizing scene, putting her passion for racial and social justice into practice – working at a neighborhood organization doing block-block organizing and then working with students at the Minneapolis Public School District. Growing more comfortable in her skin, Arianna realized the power of her culture, and her love for art and writing – she decided to connect all of them to her political work. This led her to identify the need for women of color to be articulating and defining the movement for social justice in the Twin Cities. That’s why she co-founded Latina Theory, a Spanglish podcast which centers the voices of muxeres to define their Latinidad and their own narratives. Currently, she works at Take Action MN, a statewide political organization, working as Director of Narrative and Cultural Strategy where she gets to combine organizing, campaign work with the work of developing narrative that can lead to concrete wins and a paradigm shift.
Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, Navigate MN
Emilia is the executive director of Navigate MN a nonprofit organization working for immigration and education justice. Emilia was raised in Mexico and the United States, when her father was forced to migrate to Minnesota for economic reasons. Emilia went to community college paying out of pocket because of her undocumented status. Financial aid is one of the main deterrents of graduation of undocumented students. After years of trying to do school and full time work, Emilia got involved with other undocumented students to change their prospects in education and to build power for systems change. Emilia was instrumental in organizing the push for in-state tuition and Minnesota state grants access. Those efforts culminated in the 2013 passage of the Minnesota Prosperity Act. This success pivoted her to work with national immigrant rights coalitions both through systems change and decentralized movement building. Emilia served on the Richfield Human Rights Commission, the Governor Dayton Civic Engagement Committee and is a member of Unidos Votamos. Emilia is also an alumna of Nexus BCLI, Roy Wilkins Community Fellows, and Hubert H. Humphrey Public Policy Fellows and has been recognized with the Mano Amiga Award from LEDC, Mujer de Esperanza Award from Casa de Esperanza and CLUES Advocacy Award. She is the only undocumented woman to have ever received the MLK award for outstanding service by Governor Dayton’s administration. Emilia’s constant resistance includes politics, art and cultural identity through her involvement in an Aztec dance group, “KetzalCoatlicue”. Her participation in KetzalCoatlicue has allowed her to develop intentional cultural and power building strategies rooted in tradition, reciprocity and sustainability that inform her everyday work and vision for the world.
Mica Grimm, Organizer, Black Lives Matter
Mica was born and raised on the southside of Minneapolis. As a teen she organized within the public school system to integrate classrooms, which led her to study gerrymandering and gentrification. She attended school in Duluth at the College of Saint Scholastica, where she faced new forms of racism and worked to eradicate unsafe spaces for marginalized people. Before she ended her time there, a new department was created and dedicated to Institutional Diversity and the amount of people of color college employees quadrupled. After college she returned to Minneapolis where she joined Hope Community’s SPEAC program. Recently she has organized marches against police brutality and is one of the founding members of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. She is currently being sued by the Mall of America for organizing a direct action that included over 3,000 people demanding an end to a systemic black death.
Chia ‘Chilli’ Lor, Artist Organizer
Chia ‘Chilli’ Lor recently graduated from St. Catherine University with degrees in Sociology and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity. A young Hmong woman, she sees herself as an artist organizer, passionate in the areas of racial justice and women and youth empowerment. She has been invited to perform at open mics, reading series, rallies, conferences, racial equity trainings, the Minnesota State Capitol, and a variety of community events. Her work has taken her into schools, nonprofits, and district planning councils. During her college years, Chia was trained as an organizer at the 2011 ISAIAH week-long training and Hope Community’s 2013-2014 SPEAC program. On campus, she has received many awards for her diversity initiatives and leadership such as the Senate’s Nichole Miller Justice Award.
Ali Newman, Brother Ali
Brother Ali is a highly respected Hip Hop artist, speaker and activist from Minneapolis. His decade long resume includes six critically acclaimed albums, mentorships with Iconic Hip Hop legends Chuck D and Rakim and performances on late night talk shows with Conan O Brien and Jimmy Fallon. He’s been the subject of Al-Jazeera and NPR pieces and was a keynote speaker at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum. He’s landed coveted press features such as Rolling Stone’s 40th anniversary “Artist to Watch” and Source Magazine’s “Hip Hop Quotables.” Ali has won the hearts and minds of Hip Hop fans world wide with his intimate song writing, captivating live performances and outspoken stance on issues of Justice and Human Dignity. Brother Ali’s latest album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color is his manifesto on the political, socioeconomic and cultural suffering in modern American life, as well as a declaration of hope and possibility for a brighter future. The album is introduced by Dr. Cornel West.
Doug Nopar, Land Stewardship Project
Doug is a rural community organizer with the Land Stewardship Project, working out of LSP’s southeast Minnesota office in Lewiston. A longtime supporter of Voices for Racial Justice, Nopar has previously worked for Centro Campesino, and at LSP, works to expose cases of wage theft against rural Latino workers on factory farms and build white, rural support for immigrant rights and immigration reform. In the year 2000, Doug founded the multi-racial theatre troupe, Action Theatre, to explore issues of race, class and gender in Winona, Minnesota. He believes that artistic and cultural expression are key to social change, and wrote “Look Who’s Knockin’,” LSP’s one-act touring play about new farmer access to land. Doug co-chairs the social action committee at B’nai Israel Synagogue in Rochester, MN, and raises sheep and cattle on a small farm south of Winona.
Jason Sole, Professor and NAACP Minneapolis President Jason is a professor at Metropolitan State University and at Hamline University. He is a national keynote speaker and trainer, drawing on his past experiences as a gang member and an incarcerated Black man. In addition to teaching and consulting, he is president of the Minneapolis NAACP and is changing key policies that create disparate outcomes for people of color. Jason was a 2013 Bush Fellow who focused on reducing the recidivism rate among juveniles throughout the state of Minnesota. He is the author of a memoir, From Prison to Ph.D.: A Memoir of Hope, Resilience, and Second Chances.
Organizations listed for affiliation purpose only.