Alliance of Alliances to bring a different approach to advancing racial justice and equity in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul region
African American Leadership Forum will coordinate comprehensive multi-year effort led and shaped by Black communities
(MINNEAPOLIS – March 24, 2021) – The African American Leadership Forum, in partnership with members of a Black professional fraternity, the Itasca Project and GREATER MSP, today announced an initiative to address racial inequities in the Twin Cities region in a new and transformational way.
With a working title of the Alliance of Alliances, the effort will be led by local Black leaders. It will be housed at the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), which will be the backbone for coordinating existing racial equity work and for instigating new work shaped and driven by the Black community.
Early partnerships with the Minnesota Business Partnership and the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity helped pave the way to developing new pathways to fund efforts such as this initiative.
“The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) represents leaders from more than 80 organizations who have come together to build an equitable, inclusive and prosperous state with and for black residents,” said Acooa Ellis, steering committee member and senior vice president of Community Impact for Greater Twin Cities United Way.
The Alliance, AALF, and MBCRE will work together to generate and implement solutions to advance equitable outcomes for Black Minnesotans. Currently, nearly $4 million of the $4 million required to jumpstart this effort has been raised through a coordinated fundraising effort with MBCRE members’ companies.
The approach that the Alliance of Alliances will take to solving the region’s persistent disparities is different, according to Lynn Casey, chair of the Itasca Project. “Our region’s business and philanthropic organizations have invested heavily over many years in reducing the disparities between white residents and people of color — particularly Black residents,” she said. “We can point to many success stories, yet Black Minnesotans remain at or near the bottom in income, graduation rates and other socioeconomic measures when those quality-of-life measures are broken out by race. It is time to add some new thinking. It’s time to invest in Black leadership.”
In addition to Black leadership, the Alliance of Alliances will use an approach called Black-Centered Design to ensure that solutions for the Black community are created by the Black community. “This is not how things have typically been done in the past,” Marcus Owens, AALF’s executive director, said. “Previous efforts have failed largely because they did not center Black perspectives and experiences.”
The Alliance of Alliances’ approach also is different in its comprehensiveness, Owens said. AALF will recruit leaders for each of eight areas essential to achieving racial justice and equity: public safety, shared responsibility, infrastructure investments, employment, education, healthcare, housing and advocacy. “These leaders will not only convene those organizations and individuals who currently work in and support those areas; they also will look for ways to leverage work across those areas,” Owens said.
“Take education and employment as one example. They are linked. Could we be more successful in how we educate and train our young people for careers if we thought through and addressed the barriers more holistically?”
The idea for the Alliance of Alliances began last July when members of Omicron Boule’, the local chapter of the Black professional fraternity Sigma Pi Phi, met with leaders of the Itasca Project and GREATER MSP to co-create a vision for what a more equitable region would look like in 2030. Out of those discussions emerged a two-page document outlining a 10-year vision and the eight work areas essential to achieving that vision. The document was shared with more than two dozen business, philanthropy and nonprofit organizations, including many that are Black led.
“We asked what it would take to build a different kind of movement for change,” said Omicron Boule’ member and U.S. Bank Chief Diversity Officer Greg Cunningham. “As conversations continued, the question of whether to form a separate organization or leverage an existing one came up repeatedly. AALF became the logical home because of its reach into the Black community, its way of partnering with others to get things done, and its commitment to centering Black voices in its efforts to drive change.”
Initial funders of the Alliance of Alliances include the U.S. Bank Foundation, 3M, Best Buy, General Mills, GHR Foundation, Securian Financial, Target Foundation, Thrivent, The Toro Company, and Wells Fargo. “This effort is about shifting our region from a focus on managing disparities to investing in equity as a strategy to drive growth and innovation,” said GREATER MSP President & CEO Peter Frosch. “And we are inviting other leaders and organizations to join in shaping a new consensus on how to advance racial equity.”
Funders also will be tapped for expertise related to governance, operating plans and accountability measures. “The Alliance of Alliances is ‘Black led’ but it is not ‘Black only’,” Owens said. He also emphasized that the work would require millions of additional dollars and engagement from the business, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors over time. “Many organizations doing great work in this region are under-funded. We can get there faster if we think bigger. Some of that will be new money, and some funds will likely be redirected as we uncover better ways to work together.”
About the African American Leadership Forum
The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) is a cross-sector network of Black Thought Leaders, Influencers, Builders, and Ambassadors. Our mission is to foster a just society that works better for all Americans by addressing disparities in Economic Development, Health & Wellness, Education, and Family & Culture in the Black community, and convening, supporting, and developing the leadership capacity of Black leaders across Minnesota. To learn more, visit tcaalf.com.
About the Itasca Project
The Itasca Project is an employer-led alliance drawn together by an interest in new and better ways to address regional issues that impact our future economic competitiveness and quality of life in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. Its 70-plus participants are primarily private-sector CEOs, public-sector leaders, and the leaders of major foundations based in the region. To learn more, visit theitascaproject.com.
About GREATER MSP Partnership
GREATER MSP is the economic development partnership for the 15-county Minneapolis Saint Paul region. Over 200 leading businesses, universities, cities, counties, philanthropies and others are working together to accelerate the competitiveness of the regional economy and drive inclusive economic growth through job creation, capital investment and the execution of strategic initiatives.
About the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity
The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) represents leaders from more than 80 organizations who have come together to build an equitable, inclusive and prosperous state with and for Black residents. For more information, visit mbcre.org.
About Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity’s Omicron Boule’
Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity’s Omicron Boulé, is a 99-year-old African American Twin Cities Institution. The Archons or members of Omicron Boulé embody a cross-section of executives, politicians, academics, physicians, attorneys, clergy, and activists.
- Star Tribune – “New alliance aims to advance racial equity in Twin Cities led by black business and community leader”
- MPR – “Black leaders launch effort to close Minnesota’s racial disparities”
- Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal – “New Black-led alliance of organizations looks to advance racial justice in the Twin Cities”
- Pioneer Press – “Itasca Project teams with African American Leadership Forum on effort to boost Black lives”
- Insight News – “Alliance of Alliances bringing a different approach to advancing racial justice and equity in the Twin Cities region”