Our Approach

Our Mission

Our mission is to create a radical future for Black Minnesotans by advancing Black-centered policies and solutions that actualize true liberation.

Our Vision

We envision a prosperous future for Black Minnesota communities. A tomorrow that is inclusive, vibrant, fair and where Black excellence excels in all forms. We’re inspired by the Afrofuturism movement embracing the rich heritage of Black communities; believing in the unlimited potential of the future. We imagine innovative problem-solving to achieve racial harmony, while empowering Black communities with resources to manifest an equitable future for themselves.

What we do

The Forum drives for change by confronting racism and inequities, to improve the living standards of Black Minnesotans. Utilizing data research and policy, design innovation, discourse-driven convenings, and strategic leadership development, we are creating the Black Agenda For Change; a platform of innovative Black-centered solutions. Our impact areas are economic prosperity, general wealth building, health, education, public safety and environmental justice.

Our Approach

Unleashing the Radical Reimagination

The Forum will summon the imagination to dream of this better world and the collective action to design it into existence. Our region’s Black leaders can turn WHAT IF into WHAT IS, starting in the Twin Cities and radiating nationwide. 

The African American Leadership Forum operates as a think-and-do tank. We convert research-based thought on social issues into action-oriented agenda and solutions, which address the fundamental causes of racial injustice. Our solutions are aimed to impact the areas of economic prosperity, general wealth building, health, education, public safety and environmental justice.

We want to end racial injustice in all its forms in Minnesota. To achieve that, we utilize data science research, discourse-driven gatherings, design innovation and strategic community engagement. 

The long-term outcome of our plan is to build a Black Agenda For Change: a sweeping platform of Black-centered solutions which will serve as a blueprint to combat racism and resolve structural inequities.

Everything we do is filtered through the lens of Black-Centered Design and Afrofuturism.

Black-centered design

Black-Centered Design is a way of thinking that prioritizes Black people when organizing systems for all. Prioritizing the most marginalized in system creation means the system will work for all. The long-term solutions lie directly within the communities that are suffering most from the inequities.


Afrofuturism is a vision for the future through a Black cultural lens. It allows our shared history to inform our future in a radical way. This can take many forms, integrating old ancestral practices into modern solutions to current social problems. Summoning the imagination to dream of a better world and the collective action to design it into existence.

Our Story

Founded in 2006, we sprouted from a dining room table at the home of our first co-chair, Gary Cunningham. Cunningham and a handful of his friends were having an open conversation about the problems facing their community. What were they going to do about it? What could they do about it, they wondered. That’s when the light bulb moment flickered, and they began to get excited about creating a Black-led, Black-created organization that could tackle the roots of issues impacting Black people.  

Issues for Black Minnesotans include some of the widest educational, employment, and health disparities in the nation. Efforts to address these challenges were historically driven by white-led organizations and institutions. Their approaches were largely ineffective with limited results. 

In 2008, the United States was about to elect its first African American president. The Forum’s founding Co-Chair Trista Harris, describes that time as, “A feeling that there was change happening in the United States, and that the African American community had to prepare for that change.”

That year, two groups merged to become a cross-sector collective of nearly 45 prominent men and women. By that time, AALF had already grown out of Cunningham’s home and into the Northwest Area Foundation, where he was serving as Vice President and Chief Program Officer. At last, there existed an entry point to develop a common agenda that actively addresses the range of disparities in the Twin Cities and beyond, exactly what Cunningham says had been missing for the African American community. 

Today, with a full-time staff, The Forum is stronger and more impactful than it has ever been, thriving in its commitment to advance racial equity statewide.

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