Steps to move the community forward

Well, I have come to the end of the line. I would like to thank the African heritage community of Minnesota for allowing me the privilege and honor of advising the governor, legislature, and state agencies on issues impacting our community on your behalf.

As I leave the Council on Black Minnesotans, after four years of traveling the state, listening to community members, and observing the socio-political dynamics in the community, here are several ideas l believe will move Black Minnesota forward:


  1. Independent audit

An independent audit is needed of the administrative application of Minnesota’s Procurement, Affirmative Action, and Human Rights Acts. This is needed to determine if laws are being administered appropriately and if there is any noncompliance with the law. Due to the lack of monitoring and enforcement, this is a major cause of the prolific disparities we see within our community.

The council advised the governor’s office on this matter. After our meeting the governor issued an executive order 15-02 establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Council. The legislature responded by restructuring the councils of color with restricting legislation that has a serious separation of constitutional powers issue, weakening of the council’s affirmative action/civil rights monitoring capabilities, and removing the critical element of community interaction. The restructuring effort was led by DFL legislators, especially DFL legislators of color.

The last motion I asked for as chair was to empower the council’s executive director to seek judicial clarity and remedy on the new restricting legislation. The motion passed.


  1. Black political action committee

We can pool our collective political power into pushing forward the Black agenda in Minnesota and holding elected leaders accountable to their promises to the African heritage community.


  1. Empowerment fund.

Create an empowerment entity based on crowd sourcing resources from the community. With 320,000 persons of African heritage in Minnesota, let’s say 20,000 are capable of giving a minimum of $100 to a development fund. That’s $2 million. If you increase the number to $500, that’s $10 million. We should continue to seek after our fair share of state resources. However, the focus of those resources should be on building economic independence, not dependence.


  1. Black think tank

A Black think tank can serve as the intellectual and research arm of the African heritage community to address issues and provide solutions from a Black perspective. This would be an excellent role for the council or a new entity within our community.

I recommend the African heritage community of Minnesota organize a convention one weekend in the near future where community members and non-Black allies can come together to chart out a community-driven strategic plan that effectively addresses all disparities impacting Minnesota’s African heritage community.


We have been celebrating the 100th anniversaries of numerous leading cultural, social, and philanthropic organizations in Minneapolis over the past few years. Those organizations were started by concerned citizens who understood the needs of the community and pooling resources to bring those organizations into existence. It’s long past time for us to follow in that tradition to heal and unite our community to be a stronger community, a community moving from a state of dependency to economic self-sufficiency and cultural pride while building truly equal partnerships with non-Black communities that strengthen the state of Minnesota.

The first African heritage individuals in the area now known as Minnesota arrived with literally nothing. Today, our community has $3 billion in consumer power with lifetime earnings estimated at $388 billion.

How do we keep those resources cycling through and benefitting our community?


Patwin Lawrence welcomes reader responses to