Nominate Now for the Facing Race Ambassador Award

October 22, 2013

facingraceDo you know people working tirelessly to end racism? Nominate them for the Facing Race Ambassador Award!

The Facing Race Ambassador Award is an annual award made by MCF member The Saint Paul Foundation. It celebrates and honors the leadership of individuals working toward racial equity. The award is part of the Facing Race We’re All In This Together anti-racism initiative, which seeks to create a community in which everyone feels safe, valued and respected.

In 2014, the Foundation will name:

  • One award recipient for work focused in the East Metro (Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties)
  • One award recipient for work focused anywhere in Minnesota
  • Up to three honorable mentions for work focused anywhere in Minnesota

Award recipients may direct a cash award of $10,000 to a nonprofit or public entity to further racial equity.

The nomination deadline is December 11, 2013. The honorees will be celebrated at an event on the evening of April 7, 2014 in St. Paul.

Learn more and make your nomination today!

Building a Community Where Everyone Feels Safe, Valued and Respected

April 24, 2012

Last night I was one of about 600 people at the sixth annual Facing Race Ambassador Awards presented by MCF member The Saint Paul Foundation. The event honors individuals working to build communities where everyone feels safe, valued and respected.

Dr. Anton Treuer, cultural preservationist and professor at Bemidji State University, was the evening’s keynote speaker and recipient of an honorable mention at the 2011 Facing Race awards. (Here is a list of 2012’s inspiring honorees; another blog post on them to come.)

As a fluent Ojibwe speaker, Treuer opened with a bit of wit, saying he tells administrators at Bemidji State, “If someone calls asking for the department of foreign languages, be sure to direct them to the English department.”

He then went on to use pictures and poignant memories to remind us that there’s been progress in the fight against racism, but we still have a long way to go. Examples of recent offensives include:

These examples should make us mad, but hopefully they also encourage all of us to DO something to make a difference, small or large.

Treuer says, “Everyone has an opportunity to make things better. Those opportunities present themselves on almost every level. We can all apply slow, steady, compassionate pressure on others to change the way we talk and think about race.”

He also reminds us that there is a major recoil happening right now against the demographic shift taking place in our country and that the future vitality of our democracy absolutely depends on our actions.

Treuer says, “The future vitality of our democracy does not hinge on assimilation of our citizens, but upon our ability to tolerate and support linguistic and cultural diversity.”

Toward end the evening, The Saint Paul Foundation offered a list of specific small actions each of us could take to make our community a place where everyone feels safe, valued and respected. Personally, I committed to writing a letter to the editor or contacting a news director when I see a negative racial stereotype in the media. When I do so, I’ll share my letter here.

What will you do to make our community a place where everyone feels safe, valued and respected? Let us know!

– Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Let’s Talk About It

April 28, 2010

At last week’s Facing Race Ambassador Awards event, keynote speaker Naomi Tutu challenged the audience to continue conversations about race. In her speech, Ms. Tutu challenged the notion that by ignoring America’s long-standing issues of race, racism and oppression we were solving the issue, and further asserted that avoiding challenging conversations about race could be compared to having a puss filled wound and repeatedly covering it with bandages and packing, keeping the infection in, saying in every facet of our lives, what we ignore is sure to come back to haunt us.

She said, “Conversations can be frightening – they tell you who you are as a human being. However, the gift on the other side of the challenge is the building of relationships and community. God has given us the gift of diversity. It is an insult to pretend you do not notice it. Enter a conversation because the differences we bring can be gifts to one another. In a child’s world, noticing differences are an opportunity to move the conversation forward.”

Her words stirred me and got me wondering why we as people, as professionals, as co-workers, and co-board members don’t have conversations about race more often. Why is it that when the topic of race comes up, even in conversations related to diversity, inclusion and justice, we tend to back away, change the subject, or shut-down? Why is it that we can spend hours talking about disparities, difference, and what _______ should do, but only minutes about racism itself… intentional, unintentional, individual, and institutional racism?

Though there are many ism’s that should be addressed, racism is arguably the ism that lasted the longest and has the potential to continue into perpetuity in large part due to our inability and/or unwillingness to have open, frank, and crucial conversations in our day-to-day lives about it. So what can we do to change it?

For some, it’s been as simple as having lunch. In 1997, Joe Martin a long time Bank of America executive in Greenville, SC challenged the community to set-aside one day each week to have lunch with someone of a different race. These lunches not only provided an easy opportunity to have discussions about race and racism, but a way to begin building cross-racial relationships that extend beyond the formality of day-to-day business interactions.

Others have chosen even more intentional means such as visiting a worship place with different style and different cultures than you’re used to, or setting up a play-date for your children with children of different races, attending community events that take you out of your comfort zone, and interacting with the attendees to learn more about them as individuals and as a community. The options are as diverse as we are, but you still might be wondering how to actually have the conversation. I mean having lunch with a person of a different race doesn’t guarantee that you will actually talk about race and racism. Like any conversation with a purpose, it must be intentional, and there are tools to help us not only become more knowledgeable but prepared to have those crucial conversations.

A book has recently been released entitled “To Be Free: Understanding and Eliminating Racism” that I believe can help those who strive to know and do more to address racism. The book was written by Thomas Peacock and Marlene Wisuri, and the forward was written by Eric Jolly.

The book was produced with support from several Minnesota foundations and MCF members and free copies have been distributed at several recent events. Though the book was written to assist educators in preparing youth to prevent and eliminate racism, its content is enlightening and motivating for adults as well. Each chapter ends with a summary of its key themes and activities to promote understanding of its topic that could easily be used in a group setting for workplace dialogues and training.

I encourage you to use this book, available at to create your own conversations about race and racism, and share with us and your peers on the blog your own solutions for continuing eliminating racism through conversation. And to share the words that were shared at the Facing Race Ambassador Awards event, the conversation about race will end when racism ends.

– Tawanna Black, MCF diversity fellow