By Charles Hallman
The Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) called January 30 for a statewide racial equity agenda. It was introduced along with the organization’s seventh annual Racial Equity Report Card during a rally at the State Capitol.
“This agenda is not controversial but rather a multiracial and multi-issue group of community leaders working for racial, cultural and economic justice,“ said Phyllis Hill of ISAIAH, one of the 50-plus organizations that support the OAP’s plan. “I think we can turn our state around,” she believes, if more attention is given to such important issues as health care, education, economic opportunities, housing and justice issues as they affect Blacks and other people of color.
Such an agenda is important now more than ever, noted Minneapolis School Board Member Kim Ellison. “There are huge gaps in opportunities across the board” in all areas for Blacks and other people of color in Minnesota,” she pointed out.
“We’ve got to do something — we’ve talked about it enough,” proclaimed State Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis). “We are still in the minority in terms of [racial] equity and those issues. I’m real serious when I said we should really push all of our legislators to look into the agenda, and really start to push it.”
Hayden was among 69 state legislators honored at the event by the OAP as “Racial Justice Champions.” “It is an honor and I appreciate it,” said State Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), who along with Hayden was among four state senators who earned “A+” grades. Former State Rep. Bobby Champion, who was elected to the senate in November, and second-term Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) were among nine House members who also receive “A+” grades.
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius accepted the OAP award on behalf of Governor Mark Dayton, who received an “A” on this year’s card for his commissioner appointments, including Cassellius and Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsay. “This governor’s courage and leadership around racial issues and racial justice has been quite inspiring for me as a commissioner and a woman of color,” she said.
Even the people of Minnesota got an “A” for rejecting the voter ID and marriage amendments in last November’s elections.
“It was awesome to see communities come together to talk about [racial equity issues],” said OAP Lead Organizer Julia Freeman of the event, which also included meeting with several legislators on such issues as gun violence and equity topics. “Communities [of color] feel there’s hope for the State of Minnesota to actually move equity, and they are ready to roll up their sleeves to get busy…and partner with legislators to move legislation.”
Freeman added that her organization “is actually planning six months of action to move equity through the  legislative session all throughout the summer, and building up into the [next] legislative session…[in 2013-14].”
Besides the legislative report card, “I think the agenda is absolutely crucial. It is something that needs to be done not only [on a] yearly basis but also on a daily basis,” said former Council on Black Minnesotans executive director Lester Collins. “We need to do something…to work more collectively. It’s important that we do,” he advised.
“I appreciate the award, but it’s now time for action,” concluded Hayden. “It’s time for people to get on their feet and stop complaining and get involved.”
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