A Year of Empowering the African American Community & Supporting Black Leaders
The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) is a cross-sector network of Black leaders and change makers working to solve the most pressing challenges in our community. We believe in a just and healthy society that works equally well for everyone and our approach to achieving this is through collaboration. As a democratic, people-empowered movement, all work of the Forum is done through convenings, Collective Impact initiatives and our network. By working together, we build social capital and communal power.
Here’s what AALF focused on this year:
Re-shaping the Narrative Around Black Lives and Our Community: This year AALF hosted 4 Monthly CONNECT events that brought African Americans from across the state together to network with leaders in the community and learn about the challenges we face. In September our CONNECT event focused on financial wellness and the homeownership disparity in the African American community. The event was led by a panel of dynamic leaders, including Linda L. White (Model Cities Inc.), Nieeta Presley (Aurora St Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation), and David McGee (Build Wealth MN).
In our Collective Impact program (which includes our Task Force and Work Streams) we identified 10 African American thought leaders from the community who have been working over the past several months to set a Black Vision around four focus areas: Education, Health & Wellness, Economic Development, and Family & Culture. The Forum’s official podcast fostered new narratives around the Black experience in Minnesota by hosting important discussions with well-known leaders and social innovators from our community.
Expanding our Network: We recently launched the 2019 Join the Network Campaign across all AALF digital platforms to expand our network of 1,500 + Black leaders; over 100 African Americans across the state of Minnesota joined within the first two weeks. By bringing together Black leaders who are passionate about re-claiming the narrative around Black lives, collaborating to find innovative solutions to our most vexing challenges and using their skillset to make a difference, we’re helping transform our community and support more positive outcomes.
Convenings to Celebrate African American Culture & Leadership: In October, at the University of Minnesota (McNamara Alumni Center), we held our 5th Annual Gala breakfast celebration — Collaboration: The Four Personas of Leadership! This year’s theme explored AALF’s leadership personas and empowered 200+ attendees with the insights needed to hone their skills to positively impact the Black community. Panel members included: Caroline Wanga (Target Corporation), Al McFarlane (Insight Media), Shawntera M. Hardy (founder of PolicyGrounds Consulting), and Reuben Moore (Minnesota Community Care). The Gala was hosted by T. Mychal Rambo (Actor/Singer) and included performances by Jamecia Bennett (Actor/Singer) and other local talent.
Our BARAZA event: Young, Healthy, and Black convened 50+ people, including Black youth. The gathering focused on improving health outcomes for African and African American girls between the ages of 13 and 19 and included entrepreneur Maya Marchelle as the keynote speaker.
In April, at the Walker Art Center, we held a Trust Black Women & Girls Town Hall that brought together over 200 community participants to amplify the voices of Black women and girls around key issues (such as housing, education, criminal justice, and health & wellness) and to highlight the policy solutions that facilitate change. The town hall resulted in a report authored by Dr. Brittany Lewis and Robin Wonsley. Town hall participants were invited to a special reception in November to explore next steps and support continued impact.
Supporting a New Era of Black Leadership: The Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy 2019 cohort was comprised of 10 emerging Black leaders who spent six months engaging in personal and professional discovery with guidance from facilitators, Torch Bearers, developmental tools, and experiential learning opportunities. Each fellow gained a deeper insight into the issues facing the African American community and refined their leadership skills to assist with their community-engagement interest.
Building Our Team: AALF welcomed a new team of experienced professionals who are passionate about our work in the Black community, including Ernest Comer (Associate Director), Rebecca Nichloson (Communications Director), LaCora Bradford Kesti (Program Director), and Alissa Paris (Program Coordinator) to support our initiatives and improve our operational effectiveness.
It was a good year! Join us as we welcome 2020 and continue to bring about change in the African American community.