A new effort launched by local Black business, nonprofit and philanthropy leaders aims to address racial inequities in a new way.
The Itasca Project, Greater MSP and Omicron Boulé, the local chapter of the Black professional fraternity Sigma Pi Phi, announced Wednesday they've created the Alliance of Alliances — a new coalition to advance racial equity changes over the next 10 years.
The alliance will be led by the St. Louis Park-based African American Leadership Forum.
"What we are proposing is different: an effort that is intentionally Black-led and -centered and co-created by all," said Marcus Owens, executive director of the Leadership Forum. "It's time we invested in the people and the leadership in the Black community."
The alliance has raised $3 million of the nearly $4 million to start work. Unlike other efforts to address inequalities in the Twin Cities, the alliance is Black-led and centering on Black leaders, as well as bringing together multiple sectors, Owens said.
"That was critical to this work. The Black community needed to be at the forefront of determining its own destiny," said Greg Cunningham, chief diversity officer at U.S. Bank and a member of Omicron Boulé.
The alliance was created last summer after the killing of George Floyd spurred global outcry and renewed urgency around racial justice.
Many of the alliance's goals — from enhancing police and community relations to eliminating racial disparities in health care and housing — are not new issues, Cunningham said.
"There are a lot of people already doing this work. … How do we bring all of those folks together?" he added.
The alliance has partnered with the Minnesota Business Partnership and Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity and has raised money from the U.S. Bank Foundation, 3M, Best Buy, General Mills, GHR Foundation, Securian Financial, Target Foundation, Thrivent, the Toro Co. and Wells Fargo.
If skeptics in the community feel disillusioned by past pledges for change hitting roadblocks — whether at the Legislature or in communities — the leaders of the alliance on Wednesday urged them to be patient since the work will take time and is planned out through 2030.
"It may sound a bit conceptual at this point, but it is and it will be different. The proof will appear over time," said Lynn Casey, chairwoman of the Itasca Project, a group of state business leaders.
Mel Reeves, an activist and an editor for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper, said he hopes the alliance can tackle persistent, systemic gaps.
"The change that we really need has to be deep-rooted," Reeves said.
Floyd's death sparked new efforts across metro businesses and nonprofits.
For instance, last July, philanthropic leaders announced the creation of a new coalition, the Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness & Realize Racial Justice, to reform philanthropy, denounce racism and raise $25 million for Black-led nonprofits and advocacy groups.
The Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minneapolis Foundation and St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation also launched a new initiative to reform the criminal justice system.
Greater MSP CEO Peter Frosch said some progress is already taking root, pointing to examples such as Hennepin County raising the minimum wage for its employees to $20 an hour and Bremer Bank and Habitat for Humanity working to boost the number of African American homeowners.
"There's so much that is happening and within and underneath those efforts, there's a new mind-set," Frosch said.
The Twin Cities has a thriving philanthropic and business community, Casey added, "but something needs to change because not much is changing."
"There is a corner that's turned," she said, "but there's no saying that it couldn't turn back if we don't have the collective will to just keep moving it forward."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141