The NAACP is spotlighting economic inequalities in the Twin Cities through a new plan that will offer recommendations on how to remedy racial disparities.
The upcoming report, known as an economic inclusion plan, is meant to be a resource for local leaders and residents by suggesting economic policy reforms aimed to address racial discrimination in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
NAACP officials said the Twin Cities were chosen because of the "social unrest" stemming from fatal police shootings of Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016.
"This is not just about police and community relations," said Marvin Owens Jr., director of economic programs at the NAACP. "This really is about decades and decades and decades of economic discrimination."
The civil rights organization released similar reports earlier this year for St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C., and Baltimore — three other cities "marked by a history of police brutality and social unrest," according to the NAACP.
More than 100 people packed around tables and lined the walls Monday night at the Minneapolis Urban League to share ideas and listen to a panel of speakers that included state Attorney General-elect Keith Ellison.
"The economy is a machine which we can manage and manipulate and design to our advantage," Ellison told the crowd. "Lord knows others are doing the same thing."
Ellison touched on wage theft, housing and education as areas of focus for addressing disparities.
"Housing is a critical way to stabilize a family," he said. "Education is an economic driver."
He also fielded a question about the economic challenges tangled up in mass incarceration.
"One thing we need to do is call an end to the war on drugs," he said. "What happens to the household economics when a parent goes to prison?"
The NAACP expects to complete the plan in January, said Leslie Redmond, Minneapolis NAACP president.
Several speakers described the Twin Cities as having some of the worst racial disparities in the country. Others focused on the importance of entrepreneurship and mentoring.
"Pull somebody else up the ladder you climbed up," said Artika Tyner, associate vice president of diversity and inclusion at the University of St. Thomas.
The panelists drew applause, head nods and shouts of agreement.
One by one, community members also traded personal stories and jotted down ideas for solutions during breakout sessions at round tables.
At a table near the back of the room, Shawn Lewis of Eden Prairie said changes need to be sweeping.
"We can't nibble around the edges," said Lewis, a former Minneapolis Urban League employee. "These are going to have to be transformative changes."