This is adapted from a presentation I gave at the OUR MPLS Racial Justice Community Dialogue with Mayor Betsy Hodges on January 5, 2014 at All My Relations Gallery.
Through my work at the Organizing Apprenticeship Project, I have the good fortune to connect every day with incredible organizers working in communities of color in Minneapolis and throughout Minnesota to build true racial and economic equity.
In December, a group of these organizers and policy advocates came together to have a conversation about what equity and justice would look like in OUR MPLS – a Minneapolis that is increasingly diverse, yet at the same time faces some of the largest disparities in the country. These disparities, we all agreed, are unconscionable in a city that we call home. New leadership in OUR MPLS is an opportunity to change this story. The Minneapolis we envisioned was one where all residents belong and can succeed.
The stories we tell matter, as my colleagues Neeraj Mehta and Nelima Sitati wrote recently in a MinnPost piece. It is important to recognize, they stated, that part of the story is the institutional and structural racism that has resulted in barriers to opportunity in Minneapolis and throughout the region. We must acknowledge and address those structural barriers for real, intentional, sustainable change – which is something I argued in an Opine Season and Star Tribune Counterpoint last fall. Too often, strategies for improving access to opportunities are missing a racial justice analysis – one that recognizes the necessity of addressing structural racism head on.
The group that gathered in December (have a look at the back page of the agenda to see who we are) recognized this reality and had some real ideas for how to begin changing the narrative. Convenings like this are in keeping with the work of OAP – bringing multiracial groups together to think and share and create collaboratively is what feeds a movement for which we are all hungry. A movement for true racial and economic equity among communities of color and all communities in Minnesota.
The Vision and Agenda for Racial and Economic Justice in OUR MPLS calls for three clear commitments of our city leadership:
- We ask that OUR MPLS adopt and implement a Framework for Racial and Economic Equity. This framework must include racial justice training for all city employees, investment in community opportunities to learn about and engage in city policymaking, and a robust impact analysis of all policies. This approach works, as we have already seen in other cities. OUR MPLS is unique in the deep level of community commitment to working with our city leadership to make this happen.
- We ask that in OUR MPLS city employment and leadership reflects the diversity of our communities. This is a first and important step to the kind of inclusion that leads to justice.
- We ask that OUR MPLS works to build authentic community engagement. Our communities are ready to work in partnership with city leaders. But building the relationships and opportunities for authentic engagement and leadership of communities takes time, effort, and investment. We are here to work with city leaders to build that engagement.
We hope that Mayor Hodges, the Minneapolis City Council, and all city leaders will be partners in making these three equity principles a core component of how OUR MPLS works.
The Agenda contains some specific policy proposals. These are not comprehensive, but they are the start of a conversation. Organizers and policy advocates are excited to work with city leaders to launch a new sense of possibility in Minneapolis. Similarly, the 20 multiracial, multicultural groups that came together to create this vision and agenda are part of a conversation that is growing to include more partners in a campaign to move an equity agenda with the City of Minneapolis.
We propose that the next 100 days offers us an opportunity to work with Mayor Hodges, the City Council, and other city leaders to set the stage for racial and economic equity in Minneapolis. Why 100 days? We feel an urgency, and recognize that this work takes time. We hold these in balance over the next 100 days as we build the foundation for justice in Minneapolis. We look forward to meeting with leaders, to further developing our shared vision, and to seeing what we can do together in just 100 days.
Of course, that is just the beginning. What comes next? Let’s work together to prove what is possible in OUR MPLS.