Former Council on Black Minnesotans has new name, new director

 

Dr. Louis Porter, II
Dr. Louis Porter, II

In November of 2015, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Dr. Louis Porter II began working as the new executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage (CMAH), formerly known as the Council on Black Minnesotans. Porter, who is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, has worked and lived in the Twin Cities area for over 30 years.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University, his Masters in Liberal Arts Studies in writing from Hamline University, and he has a doctorate in education and organizational development from the University of St. Thomas.

Porter has a varied background of experience that he brings to CMAH. Since 1999, he has been the president of LPII Communications and Development, a highly sought-after communications, diversity research, and organizational development consulting practice offering advice to clients like Mayo Clinic, the Department of Homeland Security, the State of Minnesota, and several colleges and universities, just to name a few.

Porter has also worked as a news reporter for the Pioneer Press and as a professor at various Minnesota colleges and universities, including the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

The Minnesota legislature created the Council on Black Minnesotans in 1980 with the intent of ensuring that Black Minnesotans equitably benefited from the state’s political, social and economic resources, policies and procedures, along with other Minnesotans. The purpose of the Council has always been to advise the governor and the legislature on issues confronting the state’s Black people.

The CMAH serves as a liaison to the federal government, local government, and private organizations on matters relating to Black people in Minnesota. In addition, the CMAH is charged with implementing programs designed to solve problems of Black people authorized by State statutes, rules and orders.

Historically, the executive director position for the CMAH was selected by the governor, but Porter is the first executive director selected under the new Minnesota statute adopted in spring of 2015 and made effective in July. The Legislative Coordinating Commission, along with the Minnesota House and Senate, passed a bill that required several changes for the state’s three ethnic councils.

Now the executive director serves at the pleasure of the Legislative Coordinating Commission, a group of 12 legislative leaders (six from the Senate and six from the House) that provides overall coordination of the state legislature’s activities. There are currently no persons of color on the Commission.

The other two councils are the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans and the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. After the bill was passed in May 2015, the previous executive directors for all councils were informed that the new changes meant that they had to reapply for their current positions at that time.

MSR spoke with Porter about his appointment and his future plans for the CMAH. “I’ve only been here over a month,” he said, “but I have not loved a job this much in a long time. I’m very excited about the challenge and the necessary work ahead as well,” said an enthusiastic Porter.

Asked why the CMAH had a name change, Porter said that it was done before he was hired, and Representative Rena Moran could better speak to that because she was an advocate for the name change. Porter said that the name change will send the message to diverse groups of Africans from the different countries migrating to Minnesota from the continent of Africa that CMAH represents them, too.

“One of the things that I feel strongly about for as long as I can remember is that I would like to do what I can through CMAH to get rid of the lines between African and African Americans. Those divisions are counterproductive and not wise.

“What I would like to do is work on bringing more unity among African Americans and African immigrants,” said Porter. “So saying African Heritage says that here is something that we all have in common.”

Porter was asked about his strategic plan for the CMAH. His plan is to first get as many different groups together at the table as possible and then move forward on everything from police-community relations and economic disparity issues to new legislative ideas that make a significant, positive impact together.

Currently he is working with one other staff member, but he says there will be more people hired in his office. In the long term, he will be hiring people for satellite offices in Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth.

This year the CMAH will work with a budget of about $400,000. Porter is scheduled to meet with his board of directors on Tuesday, January 12 to get approval for some items that he would like to present before the legislature regarding increasing the annual budget.

“I think that the police self-insurance and the threat of them being placed in the general prison population when convicted of a crime, could work to a degree,” says Porter, when asked about reducing excessive force cases between the police and the African American community. “In my personal and professional time, I want to do more research around that subject. In my preliminary research, what seems to be effective in turning other cities around is when there is a true emphasis on bringing police and community together.

“Getting cops walking, talking to people as people and vice versa,” continued Porter. “Gaining that trust, so that when something happens in the community, people feel better about talking with the police. That seems to be the one thing that has worked in other cities where there is a lot of tension between police and the community.”

 

The Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage can be reached at 651-757-1751.

James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to jlswriter@gmail.com.

 

Edited 1/14/2016 12:50 pm

2 Comments on “Former Council on Black Minnesotans has new name, new director”

  1. Shouldn’ t this council be more concerned with fixing inequality against African-American descendants of slaves than mending relations between African Immigrants and African Americans? Issues between black Americans and African Americans is not what keeps black mothers and fathers up at night wondering for the safety of their sons, their employment prospects and the paralyzing discriminatory acts against their communities, Black African immigrants don’t have the same problems we have in this country. With your overly broad, fixer upper views, gathering councils to be joined as one for a specific agenda is counterproductive. The broader your goal, the less likely it will receive funding or accomplish any real change. This is a scattered approach to a multifaceted conglomerate of issues that need to be dealt with separately by several different organizations all with their own specific goals. The reinvention of this organization will be it’s demise. Good luck.

  2. I agree with Janell. It is imperative that we recognize some extremely important distinctions between American descendants of slaves (ADS) and Africans new to America from the continent of Africa. Malcolm X once said. “If you stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches then remove it three, that is not progress, you must remove the knife and treat the wound.” America won’t even acknowledge that the wound exists.
    This is a reference to the pervasive, sustained, physical and physiological attacks that slaves and their posterity endure in America and the resulting post-traumatic stress injury.

    Most ADS understand that there is an edifice in America that produces the false sense of superiority along with the false sense of inferiority designed to disenfranchise the American slave and his posterity. Most ADS also understand that there is a rear guard action being fought in America by ADS and others to protect the “American dream”.

    We know the American slave trade began with the capture of black Africans at the hand of other black Africans, then sold to the white slave traders, shipped to America, stripped of their native language, culture, and identity, as a result the ADS condition is in repair today. On the other hand Africans new to America may have other issues, but come to America with the full knowledge and control of their native language, culture and identity and can return home to a familiar Africa. They are afforded this opportunity as a result of America’s civil rights movements. Africans that have come to America after the civil rights movements of 1964 and 1965 are able to join in on American life and build on their own intact culture they brought to America with them. Coupling the ADS culture to the African without this distinction is a disservice to ADS.

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