So, what can we do? To begin, we can stop being intimidated by the complexity of the challenge, and accept this wake-up call. While today such daunting disparities exist in Minnesota for African Americans, we know that for our very survival and sustainability as a state, and in our regions and local communities we must set our sights on success.

AALF-TC’s purpose in highlighting this issue today is to call for concrete efforts in five specific areas — that don’t require additional research to start, can be implemented within and across sectors, and don’t wait for our problems to fix themselves: Hiring practices, support of small and African American led businesses, broader short and long term strategies to end economic disparities, philanthropic support, and in collaboratively monitoring and reporting our progress. I’ll briefly expand on each of these five areas:

1. Public and private sectors employers must implement hiring, retention and promotion practices to end workforce disparities and ensure a diverse workforce. Internships and training programs that embrace talented African American and other youth from disadvantaged communities, workforce development programs that build pathways for job seekers and connections to employers are good first-steps, but not enough. We must ensure that employers know the programs and resources available to help them meet their business needs, and build strong partnerships with community, education, non-profit and government organizations to create and activate pipelines for diverse talent. We must be so bold as to envision and bring about a changed future where:

a. In Ramsey and Hennepin counties, where African Americans make up 11.7% and 12.6% of the population respectively, African American employment in public and private sector jobs is commensurate with the population being served;

b. Public school district employment is representative of the student populations served in areas like Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, where African American students are 37%, 30%, and 31% respectively; and

c. In the private sector, where Minnesota is home of some of the largest U.S. Corporations such as Cargill, United Health Group, Target, Best Buy, 3M, General Mills, Medtronic — hiring reflects our community’s diversity.

2. We must support African-American businesses in Minnesota to ensure they have equal access to public and private contracts, helping these businesses to thrive and create additional jobs in our community. Minority businesses hire minorities at a rate significantly greater than majority owned business. It’s vital that professional organizations, unions and government work together to provide training and outreach to small businesses so they have the knowledge and tools to successfully compete for bids and projects. African American owned businesses make up 12.7% of small businesses certified by the State of Minnesota; and, 27.4% of targeted businesses certified by the state. We must work to ensure that available businesses are utilized and have opportunity to grow.

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3. We must continue to work with the Minnesota legislature and governor on short and long-term strategies for innovative approaches to end economic disparities. The State Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage proposed African American economic stimulus legislation last year (H.F. 945 and S.F. 1819), and Governor Dayton recently announced his intent to create a new Office of Career and Business Opportunity that will provide leadership to help workers and businesses of color find jobs and opportunity in Minnesota. These encouraging steps are laying the groundwork for a more prosperous future.

4. Minnesota-based philanthropies, private, corporate and community foundations must prioritize resolving the income gap and devote resources to African American and African American led organizations working toward effective solutions to end this dilemma. These organizations are care endowed with billions of dollars in assets, and with grant-making in excess of a billion dollars annually, their help is critical to our collective success; and

5. Regional and cross sector attention and collaboration to establish direction, goals and measurements, and to monitor, report and adjust for progress are required to support our success and sustainability. In this call to action the AALF-TC calls on public, private and philanthropic enterprises to partner with African American organizations, regionally and across our state to establish and publish an annual report on the status of efforts to achieve the equitable results we all seek.

We can and we must do better. When we elevate our work in each of these five areas, with purpose and intentionally, collaboratively within and across sectors, and informed by the data and analysis we already have, we can ensure opportunities for equity and prosperity for all.


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