The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) is currently requesting submissions from Minnesotans who identify as African American for our 2020 My Blackness Means digital campaign by finishing the sentence, “My Blackness means . . .” The purpose of this campaign is to amplify the voices of African Americans in Minnesota and to explore how the past, present, and envisioned future inform who we are and how we lead.

We recently reached out to AALF Program Director LaCora Bradford Kesti to get her insights on what Black leadership means to her.

AALF: How does being African American impact your leadership style?

Bradford Kesti: Being African American plays a huge role in how I lead. My core values are very familiar in nature and that’s how I see and approach my work; being true to my authentic self and maximizing the strengths of others.

Which AALF Leadership persona do you identify with most (Thought Leader, Builder, Ambassador, Influencer) and what have you learned from other African American leaders you’ve worked with or witnessed throughout your career?

I identify the most with builder and, in my current role, more of a thought leader. I see myself in community as someone who is helping others be seen, ensuring that work gets executed flawlessly and that individuals in the community are growing. In my role as Program Director, I have the opportunity to take what I have learned from my grassroots work to the next level. I get to create and innovate and drive new conversations. One of my mentors in community is Chanda Smith Baker. She is a quiet leader who paved the way and still does by making sure the community has what it needs. She isn’t afraid to have a difficult conversation and does it with such grace and compassion. Her leadership style is something I am working toward.

What is Black leadership and how does it differ from other leadership styles?

Black leadership is about the African American community guiding other folks who identify as African Americans. Black leadership is creating space for them to see their inner power and strengths so that they can continue the legacy of making our communities stronger, healthier, and more equitable.

If you identify as African American, we’d like you to share your thoughts on what Blackness means to you by finishing the sentence “My Blackness means . . .”

How does being African American inspire you to pursue your goals?

How does it influence your leadership style and relationship to our four leadership personas (Thought Leader, Builder, Influencer, and Ambassador)? Whether you’re a working professional, artist, social innovator, student (or otherwise), if you identify as African American we want to hear from you! Your responses may be included in our digital content for March with the hashtag #myBlacknessmeans.

To participate please complete the following:

  1. Email your response, contact information/title, and a high-quality photo to our program coordinator Alissa Paris at by February 14
  2. Visit our contributor page and complete the form to stay informed about all things AALF, including professional development opportunities, convenings, and special forums.

We look forward to hearing from you!