At the recent African American Day of Unity gathering at the State Capitol, Jeffrey Aguy, event coordinator and vice president of the NAACP Minneapolis Branch, introduced James Burroughs, the chief inclusion officer for the State of Minnesota.
In his remarks to Capitol visitors, Burroughs lamented the less than one percent of $2 billion dollars in state contracts going to African American vendors in 2016. He said although 2018 shows an increase in spending, the State can and must do better with sharing business and contracting with minority vendors.
Those in attendance stressed that State contracts going to African Americans must increase, along with a host of other disparities. They, along with the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP, organized #Blackout, a day at the State Capitol designed to welcome Black Minnesotans and people of color to their rightful place at the shared seat of power.
The buzzwords by speakers and attendees alike were equal inclusion and the importance of intentional efforts from the community.
The Rotunda was alive with new faces, influencers, families, business startups, and new Americans, all eager to press towards a more inclusive and equitable state.
Minnesota ranked number-two in Huffington Post’s top 10 worst states for Black Americans poll. Among this backdrop, Black homeownership is the eighth lowest in the country.
A fledgling new community credit union, Village Trust, was also on-hand to showcase their successful launch in the Twin Cities. Representatives of the credit union spoke about the need to provide credit literacy education to Black and immigrant communities while removing the stigma associated with creditworthiness to people who’ve experienced institutional credit denials and predatory lending practices.
A mother in attendance with her infant son from Oromo, along with a mother of an adult son, spoke about Philando Castile’s untimely death and the importance of being involved in their sons’ futures. In attendance to support this issue was V.J. Smith, the national director of MADDADS. He also announced MADDADs’ 20th anniversary in the struggle.
As with the nation, incarceration rates of Black males in the state continue to be number-one of all ethnic groups in the country. MADDADs works to change this with community-building, street outreach and father mentoring.
Youth Lens, a film production and training organization, deployed a robust crew busy capturing the images of the day to create a positive depiction of the gathering.
State Rep. Rena Moran was a standout in the crowds, while few of her colleagues were in attendance. This was also true of the Black baby-boomers’ attendance. I, as a baby boomer, know this story of inclusion will incrementally change moving forward, as in the past, slowly or quickly with youth leadership and intentional involvement from all age and ethnic groups in our community.
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