The killing of George Floyd has brought a new and more urgent reckoning. Despite what we thought were the business community's best efforts over the years, socioeconomic disparities have persisted. There are many bright spots, of course: The Northside Achievement Zone, for example, is raising a new generation of graduates with promising futures. And Summit Academy OIC is building skills for careers that pay well above minimum wage. The Black social entrepreneurs who lead these and other successful endeavors are getting results.
But we know far more has to be done, because too few outcomes have changed. As we listened closer than ever before to members of the Black communities over the past months, we came to understand something fundamental: We not only need to do more to advance racial equity; we need to do the work very differently. More Black leaders need to lead it. More members of the Black community need to design it. And the business community needs to come alongside them as partners — working with rather than doing it to or for.
Our region does not lack for Black talent, from leaders of established organizations like the NAACP to leaders of newer organizations like the Center for Economic Inclusion and the African American Leadership Forum (AALF). That's one of many reasons for our enthusiasm about the Alliance of Alliances effort that was announced this past week. It will be led by the Black community, with AALF as its backbone and coordinator of work across eight areas critical to the well-being of Black communities, all people of color, and our entire region: public safety, shared responsibility, infrastructure investments, employment, education, health care, housing and advocacy. Our region's new approach must be Black-led but not Black-only.
The work will take time, so we'll start with a decadelong commitment to the work with progress measured in multiyear increments. It will be innovative; we need new ideas that build on the efforts that show the most promise. It must be comprehensive, beyond what any one organization can do on its own. That means we will need to work together as never before — and build trust by eliminating any racist policies and practices that persist in our own organizations.
We are optimistic. Never before have business leaders aligned so quickly around a common and comprehensive agenda, developed by Black leaders, to address racial inequality. And never before have members of the business community come together so quickly to support this work, thanks to the Minnesota Business Partnership and newly formed Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity.
We are also clear-eyed about how hard it will be to bring about lasting change, and about the mistakes we're all bound to make along the way.
Most of all, we hope that everyone reading this is ready to work toward a better future for all residents of the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. If we keep our minds open and build more connections with those whose life experiences are different from ours — through work with the Alliance of Alliances or elsewhere — we will become a place where every person can achieve their full potential. A place we are all proud to call home.
Lynn Casey is chair of the Itasca Project. Peter Frosch is CEO of the Greater MSP Partnership. Dr. David Hamlar is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and leads Omicron Boulé, the local chapter of the Black professional fraternity Sigma Pi Phi. Marcus Owens is executive director of the African American Leadership Forum.