Putting “My Brother’s Keeper” to Work in Minnesota

March 27, 2014
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Attendees watched clips from President Obama’s speech and heard from those who were there.

On March 25, MCF convened a group of Minnesota foundations and elected officials to provide information on President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and identify next steps for how Minnesota can coordinate efforts.

My Brother’s Keeper is aimed at helping boys and young men of color by addressing the disproportionate ways they are at risk. Read more about it on this February 28 MCF blog post.

Trista Harris, president of MCF, David Nicholson, executive director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice, and Chris Coleman, mayor of St. Paul, were all guests of the White House when Obama formally announced My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, and they each provided a recap of the event and the urgency and importance of engaging in this work. Mayor Coleman said, “This is the most important work that any of us in this room will ever do.”

David Nicholson stressed that this should be a cross-sector, bottom-up movement. Community solutions that demonstrate positive outcomes should be valued, invested in, and scaled up.

Trista Harris spoke about coordinating efforts, identifying local programs that work and investing in them to scale up, and the importance of public policy to address comprehensive systems change.

Mayor Coleman gave examples of how cities can change their policies and procedures so that low-income neighborhoods are not adversely impacted. For example, St. Paul Public Works would change street light bulbs on a complaint basis. However, not everyone knows who to call to get a street light fixed, and sometimes street lights weren’t getting fixed for two years. The city changed its policy so that light bulbs are changed every two years, approximately the life of a street light bulb. There are numerous ways that government can review policies and procedures to ensure there is equity across government services.

Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitated World Cafe discussions about what next steps to take. Participants completed pledge forms on how to support efforts.

MCF will provide ongoing information on the federal effort and the opportunities to connect with it. As Trista Harris said, “We have a lot of great local programs that work, and if we coordinate efforts, we can make a big impact. We’re always so much smarter together.”

- Jennifer Pennington and Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF Fellows



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