International Leadership Institute unites Minneapolis with sister city in Kenya
By Lisa Bryant
After serving as a trial judge for 21 years in the Hennepin County Fourth Judicial District Court, the Honorable LaJune Thomas Lange has found another way to influence and serve the Twin Cities as well as the global community. In 1994, she founded the International Leadership Institute, an organization based in Minneapolis that works to build and bridge relationships between local and international leaders to strengthen cross-cultural relations, provide civic education programs and enhance the lives of international peoples and communities.
“I’m so very proud of the work Judge Lange is doing,” says Judge Pamela Alexander, a former district court judge with the Hennepin County courts, now
president of Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice in Minneapolis.
Alexander explains that African Americans often forget how connected we are to our African nations. For that reason, she says Lange’s work is remarkable: “It opens [our perspective on our] world and reveals just how connected we truly are.”
Lange has devoted a great deal of her career as a judge, professor and lecturer to issues concerning human rights, international law and governance, and women’s rights and gender equality worldwide. She has worked to improve the access immigrants have to the justice system; she has worked to eliminate the practice of genital mutilation; she has engaged women across the globe in the political process and has worked to increase opportunities available to women within democratic institutions and systems.
Since founding the institute in 1994, Lange has conducted training and educational programs for both U.S. and African leaders to strengthen relations and provide guidance to leaders of developing nations, helping them improve their economic and political infrastructure. She’s worked with leaders to develop practices and procedures for more equitable governance in foreign lands, and has provided restorative services to communities within countries ravaged by war.
Lange says the idea for the International Leadership Institute began in 1992 during the wake of the Rwandan genocide. She sought advice from the U.S. Department of State to find ways to assist the warring countries and their people.
For more than 20 years now, Lange and members of the institute have been traveling to countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco and other African nations to collaborate with leaders of these nations to help them build and develop systems of justice and educational programs to improve the lives of the people and the nation in order to foster social and economic sustainability.
In early 2011, after years of collaborations with Kenyan leaders, Lange led a delegation from the institute, including members from the Minneapolis Fire Department, to a city in western Kenya called Eldoret, a Minneapolis sister city, which has a population of more than 250,000. The delegation was going to the city at Lange’s request to provide technical assistance and fire safety training to Eldoret’s city leaders.
Wallace “Jack” Jackman, publisher of the Minnesota Black Pages, joined the delegation at Lange’s request, and was forever changed. “I never imagined I’d walk on African land,” said Jackman, comparing the privileges we take for granted living in the United States with the inequities that exist in many third-world countries. “Now, I can’t wait to go back.”
Jackman said that Lange’s work in Eldoret, as well as in other developing countries across the globe, has had a significant impact on everyone involved, including him. Jackman explained how Lange in this one instance influenced leaders and forever changed a community and its people.
Eldoret, with its large population of people, had only one fire truck, which was antiquated. Lange collaborated with the leaders of Eldoret, negotiated with the Minneapolis Fire Department, and encouraged Minneapolis leaders to dedicate a new fire truck to the sister city of Eldoret, Kenya.
In 2011, Lange invited Jackman to travel to the country to participate in the dedication of the fire truck to the city of Eldoret and watch as the Minneapolis Fire Department trained the Eldoret firefighters on how to use the equipment. This was only one example of the work she has done to unite leaders and communities, said Jackman.
Since 1992, Lange has provided international training programs, lectures and workshops for various organizations, including the American Bar and National Bar Association, Women Judges Association, and the International Leadership Institute, for Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation and the United Nations World Conference on Race.
Lisa Bryant welcomes reader response to [email protected]