The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) recently met with the Minnesota Business Partnership (MBP) to discuss how the largest corporations in this state can better identify and support the systemic changes needed to eliminate the enormous economic and opportunity disparities in our community. The MBP is a network of CEOs and c-suite executives who regularly convene to discuss and sometimes take a stand on critical issues facing Minnesotans. The conversation started with a focus on how COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd continue to negatively impact the African American community.

AALF indicated to the CEOs that these traumatic situations provide a backdrop that clearly illuminates the gross disparities African Americans face daily in terms of healthcare, education, economics, and criminal justice. These disparities do not exist because the Black community is any less worthy or capable than other communities. It’s the fact that systematic racism allows for exclusionary policies and practices that keep African Americans out of economic prosperity, education attainment, and accessing healthcare.

Marcus Owens, AALF executive director, asked on his personal social platform: How Can Corporations Support the Black Community? Read the responses received hereAfrican American Leadership Forum

Here’s a summary of the action steps Owens provided to corporations for providing better support the Black community:

Take your time: I know there is a lot of energy and you want to move now and fast. Our community is traumatized by COVID-19, the economic downturn, and police brutality. Realize these are deep seated issues and there isn’t an overnight solution. Work with a diverse set of stakeholders from our community, listen, and take action in solidarity. This must be considered a long-term shift in strategy and actions.

Use your Power: Look inside of your organizations today and ask yourself: how well are we hiring, investing in, promoting, and retaining talent? Also, look at how your supply chain utilizes Black-owned and other minority- owned businesses. Review your legislative agendas, ensure they don’t cause harm to our communities; and also, put your power behind efforts led by community to change policy. Lastly, look at the composition of your c-suite, boards, philanthropic and corporate social responsibility leadership and create goals to increase the diversity of Black leaders.

Invest in the infrastructure of our community: One thing that is widely present during this moment is that our institutions and leaders from all sectors have lacked the appropriate investment to increase capacity to withstand during this triple pandemic. Work with community to build out that infrastructure and capacity to level the ground as we begin to transform our community.

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