The City of Minneapolis Establishes a Division of Race and Equity

Brett Grant

On December 6, I represented Voices for Racial Justice, providing public testimony before the Minneapolis City Council in support of a proposed ordinance to create a Division of Race and Equity within the City Coordinator’s Office. The proposed ordinance was approved.

Public testimony was heard during the regular meeting of the Committee of the Whole, the Committee responsible for setting and approving policy changes related to the City’s vision, goals, and strategic directions. In addition to Voices for Racial Justice, City Council members heard from the Minneapolis Urban League, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and Jewish Community Action.

The ordinance was brought to the Committee of the Whole by City Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden. Its intent is to integrate, on a citywide basis, a racial equity framework that will advance racial equity in all the City does. “Such intent,” it reads, “is an express manifestation of the City’s commitment to apply and embed racial equity principles throughout the City’s broad range of operations, programs, services and policies.”

The public hearing attracted a packed room of community members from all over Minneapolis who were hungry to see a real commitment to race and equity by city officials. Footage of the hearing can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO770J4_aKo

Those who provided public testimony, in addition to expressing support for the ordinance, challenged Councilmembers to make sure that there is a robust community engagement effort as well as adequate funding for the Division of Race and Equity in moving forward with the racial equity goals of the ordinance.

As an organization that works to advance racial equity in Minnesota, I shared that we at Voices for Racial Justice recognize that achieving racial equity is only possible when local communities are able to shape the policies and services which shape racial equity.

To support the work of the City in moving forward with the Division of Race and Equity, Voices is prepared to share the following tools: Our Authentic Community Engagement tool, which grew out of work with the Minnesota Department of Health; and the Racial Equity Impact Assessment, which is a tool that helps policymakers make thoughtful decisions about policies and their impacts on communities of color and indigenous communities.

The Voices team looks forward to continuing work with City leaders to make racial equity a reality in Minneapolis.

Brett Grant is Research and Policy Director at Voices for Racial Justice. Contact him for more information.

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Overcoming Racism Through Education Equity

On November 4, Voices for Racial Justice Senior Organizer Julia Freeman and Research and Policy Director Brett Grant presented a workshop at the Overcoming Racism conference at Metropolitan State University.

Their workshop, entitled The Pathway to Education Equity is Paved with Community at the Center, drew over 30 participants who were hungry to develop solutions to education equities in their communities.

Brett and Julia came to our weekly staff meeting the following Tuesday, energized by the conversations they had and reported on the learning the group did together.

The session was interactive and included small group work to unpack a scenario about participation of parents of color in parent-teacher conferences. At the center of their conversations were the community experiences that were behind low participation in parent-teacher conferences, and the Pathway to Education Equity tool that Voices developed in collaboration with community partners.

The Pathway Tool draws on the experiences of students and families in assessing the barriers to education equity. The development of solutions also centers these experiences, recognizing that building true and sustainable equity in schools must address the structural barriers that prevent indigenous students and students of color from experiencing positive learning environments that support their full growth.

Centering these experiences does not mean that educators, administrators, and other community members are not part of the process. In fact, they are essential to seeing the barriers, developing solutions, and implementing them fully. The Pathway process recognizes the necessity of all these stakeholders coming together in a way that furthers the vision for education equity, allowing everyone to see how we may all be part of supporting inequities – and that we all have a role in dismantling structural barriers.

“Each small group identified the equity goals that emerged from the scenario, and narrowed down to one or two to work on,” said Julia, “and then the participants used the Pathway tool to begin crafting solutions. The groups came up with some great things like holding conferences on weekends and making home visits.”

At the end of the workshop, a participant asked Julia what excited her most about her work. “I told her I love working with parents and youth to develop opportunities for them to co-create the solutions with their school. They start seeing that they are the experts.”

Brett reflected to the group what he loves most about the Pathway tool. “I told them that, for me, what I like most about the tool is that it allows me to dream again. It reminds me of the potential that is education. It reminds me of why I am excited about education. The conversations that took place in that room were so powerful,” said Brett.

One participant shared that “It felt good to be in a room working on education equity that you don’t leave feeling guilty, or not knowing how to take action.”

Another reported plans to “definitely introduce the tool and Voices for Racial Justice to our district.”

The Voices team looks forward to supporting the expertise that already exists in communities by continuing to share this tool with others. Reach out to Julia Freeman to learn more.

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Youth Blog: Amir

My Name is Amir Khadar.

I’m a multidisciplinary activist artist, with an addiction to bubble tea and Shea butter.
And I work as a youth organizer at Voices for Racial Justice.

I got involved with Voices in summer 2015 as a participant in their Youth Cultural Organizing Institute and it was an epicenter for change in my life. The training is focused around giving youth of color the space to understand community organizing, and empower black & brown youth. At that point in my life I was very confused about my identity and unclear about my potential. As a queer black person, I felt disgustingly excluded by all communities. I was constantly struggling to navigate a white supremacist/heteronormative society while maintaining my individuality, and I felt lost. A close friend sent me the application for the training through Facebook and I did it because I needed a summer activity so my parents would stop nagging me.

This training was the first time I was in a space that was exclusively intended for radical youth of color. I initially expected to be tokenized or alienated because my past experiences in majorly of color spaces were toxic (because they were orchestrated by white people). I was almost taken aback when people in the space recognized me as my authentic self. Because of the space, I felt more connected and like I could really grow at Voices.

In the training I was exposed to intersectionality through a workshop session. I began to define my identity, and that was my first step in solidifying my self-image. I was also exposed to writing and poetry through more workshops. Since then poetry and spoken word have shaped how I see the world. My whole life I always had a passion for art and creation, but the way white supremacy is set up, I believed everything I made was inadequate. Through voices I really understood the nature of white supremacy, and I began to deconstruct it in my life to find my goals. I am currently going to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore, MD for the 2017-2018 schoolyear, and the validation that Voices gifted me gave me the courage to identify as an artist, and pursue my passion.

Now I work with Voices as a youth organizer, with 2 other incredible youth of color, and Gabriella Deal-Marquez, the youth organizing director at Voices. We have a collective interest in healing justice, and work to create events and spaces for exchange centered on healing practice for and with youth of color. As a part of my role at Voices I will be sharing my perspective by blogging twice a month about something that I feel is meaningful.

I am excited to share my creations with you all!

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