Johanna is one of a team of students working with OAP this semester as part of the New Media class at Metropolitan State University.

Building relationships among communities, organizations and individuals helps to fill the social gaps that create barriers against racial equity in Minnesota. At a recent OAP training (discussed in the previous post), the importance of these relationships and shaping individual values together for collective change were highlighted.

In the spirit of communication and working together, we would like to introduce you to some of the organizers that joined OAP for the April 2 Racial Organizer Training Day. These attendees came together from different organizations and backgrounds to learn to better identify and define what effective community relationships truly are.

*Not all attendees are introduced below; see this video which features some more dedicated Minnesota organizers.

Norma Smith biopic

Norma Smith, The Family Partnership

The mission of The Family Partnership is building strong families, vital communities, and better futures for children with focuses on services for counseling, education, and advocacy. Norma hopes to become a more effective community leader and also a better listener to those she represents. Norma actively works with the Leech Lake community in Minneapolis to bring empowerment to urban Native Americans through awareness of traditional cultural practices.



Sarah Lopez

Sarah Lopez, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA)

PPNA is a nonprofit organization othat seeks to strengthen inner-city communities throughout Minneapolis. In her work with them, Sarah has made it her goal to find new ways to reinforce these community ties by working directly with residents and community members, listening to their concerns and experiences. With her OAP training, Sarah hopes to dig deeper into solutions for racial equity and find ways to create a sense of community in Minneapolis’ high crime areas.



John Slate

 John Slade, Dayton’s Bluff Community Council

John is using his training through OAP to become a better community organizer in his neighborhood. He is currently working for the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council as a grant writer and wants to continue to pursue issues surrounding racial, social and economic injustices in the neighborhood. One of his current projects is working on transit corridor issues surrounding the light rail construction.



Nahila Ahsan

Nahila Ahsan, Vital Research/Student & Community Relations (U ofM)

After spending time working with the Student & Community Relations organization at the University of Minnesota, Nahila found that she loves engaging one-on-one with people to learn about their backgrounds and community issues. She has had the opportunity to connect with individuals through her work at Vital Research and enjoys hearing the experiences of others. Nahila hopes that her OAP training will give her a new set of tools to use in her work and allow her to connect, motivate and empower her community.



Jamila Thomas

Jamila  Thomas, Community Action of Minneapolis/Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

As a public relations intern at Community Action of Minneapolis, Jamila was inspired to develop projects of her own. She now works as a Community Navigator with the organization, leading the Kuzari Project, which strives to unify families in protective services. She also works with Neighborhoods for Change (NOC) where her current focus is educating parents and students on public school policies. She feels her OAP training will help her be more strategic in methods of communication and strengthen her ability to organize people in her community.



Ben Milas

Ben Milas, First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

As a member of First Universalist Church, Ben is hoping to find ways to cultivate and build relationships in his congregation and community. He believes that communicating about racial justice and equity within the church can lead to better conversation outside of it. Ben feels his OAP training will help him to better understand how to organize within the church and articulate obstacles in a clear manner, which will hopefully lead to stronger relationships within the congregation.



Shavunda Horsley

Shavunda Horsley, Hope Community/Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Between her work with Hope Community and NOC, Shavunda has had the opportunity to survey residents in her area about their concerns and the change they hope to see. Her current work involves food justice in the Minneapolis area, spending her time educating community members on healthy eating and cooking choices. Shavunda is passionate about helping areas that aren’t offered equal access to nutritious food. She feels theOAP training will help her dig deeper, ask better questions, and deepen connections among communities.



Tasha Powell

Tasha Powell, Appetite for Change

Tasha has experienced racial stereotypes regarding food in her community. As one of the founders of Appetite for Change, she seeks to build strong relationships around a local food system through the organization. She believes that bringing locally grown food into neighborhood stores is a big step in the process, and having more nutritious food options will lead to healthier communities. Appetite for Change offers people opportunities to cook, learn, and discuss food issues together. Tasha feels her OAP training will help her facilitate more effective conversations at community events. 

Hundreds of organizers just like these have built relationships with the Organizing Apprenticeship Project in an effort to strengthen skills in organizing, communicating and making effective change. To learn more about how you can train to better serve your community and help us achieve racial equity, visit OAP’s homepage or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.


CONQUERING THE RACIAL DIVIDE: Salvador Miranda Reflects on OAP’s 20 Years

In the Fall 2013 semester, OAP worked with a team of students in the New Media class at Metro State University. This is a blog post the team wrote after interviewing OAP Director of Training Salvador Miranda.

Recently, our team had the pleasure of stealing an afternoon with OAP’s Salvador Miranda. Sal is OAP’s Associate Director and Director of Training. The Minnesota native’s credentials are nothing short of impressive; he was a founding member of the Minnesota Coalition of the Homeless, worked with Interfaith Action, ISAIAH, national work with the Gamaliel Foundation, and more. But even more impressive than Sal’s resume is his passion for OAP’s mission. When Sal speaks, it’s from the heart. When he tells us about OAP’s biggest struggles, we know that his efforts to triumph them are a personal commitment.

Over the past 20 years, OAP has made tremendous strides in the fight against racial inequity. From protests, policy change, leadership initiatives and cultural community recognition, OAP has been on the front line of equity progress.  They’ve lead movements and bridged gaps with other organizations to bring more people into involvement toward a brighter and inclusive community. Though their successes are easily measured, 20 years of service have not yet conquered the great divide of racial inequity. There is still more work to do.

During our interview, we asked Sal what challenges OAP still faces after 20 years. What I thought to hear was Sal telling us how much inequity there still is in the world and how difficult combating it is. In a way, he did but Sal took us much deeper into the roots of today’s racial tribulations.

When OAP first broke ground 20 years ago in the fight against inequality, much of their fight was against pure racism. More and more, people are becoming color-blind. They are refusing to acknowledge race as a barrier; not accepting diversity but ignoring it. Racial inequity continues to be a problem. People still suffer from persecution and inopportunity, but we can’t fight it when people refuse to accept it. When Sal spoke of this issue, he grew serious with an almost disappointed look, as if he were truly saddened that his lifetime’s work was simply being pushed aside by some. He told us how this affects OAP’s work; “I find a reluctance to move their thinking from color blind.  That’s a usual reaction from people who don’t want to explore more deeply how race plays a factor in the access to resources and opportunities.” As deeply sentimental and endlessly frustrating this challenge is, Sal and OAP will continue their efforts to give racism a voice and a face.

Racism in our country has a very colored history. What children are taught in High School history classes is often only the beginning. Inequity has never been limited to a series of events, a single decade, or a handful of ethnicities. Discrimination is everywhere, still, and if we expect to halt the growing disparity, we must first consider our past. Sal said to us, “There are some wise people who say if we don’t know our history, we are in danger of repeating the sins of the past.” Whether it’s a result of inadequate education or a refusal to admit the darkness, the very deeply seeded racial inequity issues we have are being swept under a rug. For some, the history of their people is a part of their own identity, woven into the fabric of their personal culture, triumphs and oppressions. Recognizing this history is not only a valuable learning tool, but an important way of understanding and embracing each other.

After 20 years of service, OAP has made tremendous impacts on the lives of many affected by racial inequity, but their plan of attack is ever changing. Right now the challenges are what Sal says; “Wanting to be color blind as well as hiding our history of racism in this country are the two biggest barriers we face in advancing equity through our work.” But OAP recognizes that the next 20 years will present new challenges and changes to the face of racism. As they pursue their goals and refine their work, the organization will continue to poor their personal dedication into the pursuit of racial equity.