February 27: Anthony R. Scott

Anthony R. Scott is a retired Child Protection Supervisor for the State of Minnesota and currently the president of Minnesota's Black Community Project – a nonprofit organization that highlights and celebrates publicly the contributions of successful African Americans in Minnesota.

In January 2021, Minnesota's Black Community Project received the Academy of Human Resource Development's R. Wayne Pace Book of the Year Award for its book “Minnesota's Black Community in the 21st Century.”

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

Me and my siblings and the Crutchfield family are inspired by the historical research my father, the late Walter R. Scott Sr., produced, which focused on highlighting the contributions of successful African Americans in Minnesota during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Therefore, we are committed to furthering his work. His work has been re-released as “The Scott Collection: Minnesota's Black Community in the '50s, '60s, and '70s” by the Minnesota Historical Society.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

Our state-wide and year-round African American history and contemporary African American history programming which are offered at schools, universities, churches, libraries, prisons, and organizations.

February 26: Jon Jon Scott

Jon Jon Scott runs an indie record label, Sound Vérité Records; he has a weekly radio show, Sound Vérité Radio on KFAI; and he works at Electric Fetus Records. Sound Vérité Records bears truth to the Minneapolis music scene through a variety of soul, jazz, and hip-hop musicians. Together, the artists, their music, and the label are the foundation of an impressive catalog of intellectual and introspective content. The intent of Sound Vérité Records is to promote the label without an excessive use of words, instead utilizing an array of textures, shapes, and rhythms as complex and diverse as the musicians and the work they represent.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

Encouraging artists to make statement records, marking their moment in time with material that is relevant to the times we live. To make art for the culture. Working with artists Muja Messiah, Greg Grease, astralblak, Sarah White, Lady Midnight, and Omar Abdulkarim, all of whom work within their own ways to speak truth to power from their communities. We are a small but growing community of Black/Brown indie artists, musicians, writers, and members of art collectives, that also understand its power as a collective of thinkers.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

Releasing the music of astralblak, Greg Grease, Lady Midnight, and Muja Messiah. Astralblak opening for Makaya McCraven at the Walker Art Center and Kamasi Washington at the Fitzgerald Theater. Muja Messiah opening for Grisedla at the Varsity Theater. Producing shows with Common, dead prez, and Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon at First Avenue.

- Anything else you would like to share?

Our last event was “Things Fall Apart,” a jazz residency last fall at Icehouse featuring Davu Seru, Douglas Ewart, the Muatas, Lady Midnight, Omar Abdulkarim, Mankwe Ndosi, and Dameun Strange. “Things Fall Apart, a Jazz Not Jazz” compilation is upcoming, featuring Minneapolis artists on vinyl inspired by a post George Floyd year of trauma and redemption with art by painter Syed Hosain.

February 25: Beverly Cottman

Beverly Cottman, also known as Auntie Beverly the Storyteller, is an interdisciplinary artist, a wife, mother, grandmother, and elder in her North Minneapolis community. Sumner Library is her home library. Her role is as a supporter, motivator, inspirator and to champion all activities and events which make her community more vibrant and beautiful.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired by the work, effort, and dreams of the youth and young adults (many of whom I taught at North Community High School) who are taking on leadership roles. They are taking on the challenges which are of concern in our neighborhoods and are coming up with solutions. They are cooperative and collaborative and work in peaceful and respectful ways. I am so very proud of them.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

The leadership exhibited in all aspects of community life.

February 24: Mohammed Lawal

Mohammed Lawal has a degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota and is the CEO/Principal Architect of Lawal Scott Erickson Architects, Inc., based in Minneapolis, that designs all types of buildings in Minnesota and across the country. His role is to use his architectural background to design exceptional buildings in our community – these buildings and spaces are inclusive and are welcoming and inviting to all in our community. He is a board member of the Friends of the Hennepin County Library and Bridgewater Bank.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

The youth in our community inspire me daily – there is so much hope and promise for the future. As one of less than 20 Black architects in the state of Minnesota, I try to be a role model for youth and others as well. Also, the ability to see people in your own community using and enjoying buildings that I was part of designing, everyday; this is truly amazing and inspires me to want to do more and better work!

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the many students that I met through the Architectural Youth Program that I founded and mentored over 300 minorities, women and at-risk students – introducing them each to the field of architecture and encouraging them to consider it as a place for them to express themselves creatively, share their unique voices, and become design professionals. I always told them to dare to pursue their dreams! I am also proud of the design/building work I have done in and continue working on in North Minneapolis – where I grew up – to assist in revitalizing the community, bringing necessary and new resources, repurposing old treasures such as my all-time favorite project – the addition and remodeling of the historic Carnegie Sumner Library: a must-see!

- Anything else you would like to share?

Now is the time, and more than ever, to get involved with community building and design projects. Lend your voice, get involved, share your opinion on what things you believe will make a difference to your built environment. We need more diverse voices, diverse cultures, diverse individuals to share – together we will create a more welcoming, inclusive and diverse environment that relates and represents all of us!

February 23: Yolanda Cox Pierson

Yolanda Cox Pierson works at Andersen Corporation, managing their Supplier Diversity Program. In this role, she assists minorities, women, and other diverse entrepreneurs to help them join their supply chain, create economic empowerment and grow their business. She also sits on the board for 180 Degrees, a local nonprofit that works directly with youth, providing shelter, mental health and other resources needed to be productive.

She has written a book, “A Token of Love” that is a memoir of personal experiences meant to help women overcome tragedies through forgiveness.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I've been able to do something I love as a career; it aligns with my passions. Supplier diversity is one of the only corporate initiatives that directly impacts diverse communities through resources that empower through financial resources, job creation, and education. As a sourcing leader, you see how much a company spends to run its business. These corporate contracts can heavily impact the financial trajectory of a business.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the work that I do at 180 Degrees’ sexually exploited youth shelter, Brittany's Place. We work with youth who've experienced some kind of sexual exploitation. As a survivor, this work is very near and dear to me, helping young girls regain life after tragedy, some, off the streets and away from predators.

February 22: Brian Kelley

Brian Kelley has spent the past 16 years building Young Builders and Designers, a program focused on teaching kids about the design/build trades, entrepreneurship and inventing. Programs are held throughout the Twin Cities and via Zoom for youth to engage in fun competitions where they are able to build models relating to history and architecture. Some of the model-builds celebrating African American History have been a Pullman porter train car exhibit and a model of Central Baptist Church, a community of African American Christians from Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I have been able to connect youth to career and entrepreneurial exploration in creative and fun ways bridging the gaps that exist in the Twin Cities. I am an encouraged father and now grandfather, and I believe in the opportunity for young people to learn about becoming all that they can become.

February 21: Rekhet Si-Asar

Rekhet Si-Asar is a school psychologist. Her focus is not just assessing children but using culture, and exploration to engage them and prepare them to identify their own strengths to be successful in school and life. As the daughter of an artist and woodcarver, she inherited artistic skills and later honed these skills at the High School of Art and Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Much of her work has culminated in what might look like community activism, but to her, serves as her daily contribution to her community and the world. She has assisted with educating children on ways to solve their own problems and begin to heal themselves through the use of science, art, and culture. Her current work includes creating spaces where the collecting, sharing, documenting and archiving of the stories of people of African descent to help humanize and make visible their existence here in Minnesota and the world.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired first and foremost by my ancestors, and all those who have passed on, that have laid the groundwork through their struggles for equity, freedom, and humane existence. I am equally inspired by my elders’ unwavering commitment to our community. People like Mary K. Boyd, Mahmoud El-Kati, Josie Johnson, Atum and Ahmed Azzahir, Katie Sample, W.C. Jordan, Naima Richmond, Henry Banks, Marvin R. Anderson, Thelma Buckner, Nick and Vickie Khaliq, and countless others across the state, and the globe who continue to struggle for truth, justice, order, balance, propriety, harmony, and reciprocity.

I am also inspired by the young people, as I witness their growth, development, and the manifestation of their brilliance and their magic in the ways they stand up and hold people and systems accountable.

Lastly, my desire to create a clear vision through the action of truth-telling by sharing our own experience and stories; and, by providing access to youth, elders, novices and veterans to spaces where they can reach beyond the artificial limits set to become scholars, writers, activists, healers, etc. - this is what is morally satisfying to my soul.

- What part of this work for your community are you are most proud of?

I am proud to see our young people and elders writing their own stories with confidence and sharing their own narratives. I am proud to see them explore their creativity, acknowledge their own skill sets, and validate themselves. We hope to start a movement of those who express interest in editing, laying out, and illustrating their own stories. I am proud to see others from outside of our cultural community find value in learning more about who we are and attempt to read and support our work. I am also very proud of the hundreds of young people I have had the opportunity to work with through the Imhotep Science Academy program over the past 20-plus years.

- Anything else you would like to share?

When we fail to see our neighbors, colleagues, and fellow citizens, we in essence diminish their existence in our world. I occupy many positions in my community and interact with many people in my ethnic and outside of my ethnic community. It is a conscious choice for me to fully see all those I interact with or simply cross paths with. As social beings when we make each other invisible it is a cruel way to make that person or people irrelevant. I am a sister to many, biological and otherwise; the daughter to my parents and all those elders who have taken me in as a child for them to look out for, fight on behalf of, guide, help, and nurture; a mother to my children and all others in my care temporarily or other; and a wife to a wonderful man.

February 20: Tony Hudson

By the time he was a senior in high school, Tony Hudson was a teen father and involved in one of the most notorious gangs in the history of the United States. As a result of the love, prayers and mentoring of people like his mother and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club that continued to see his greatness, beyond his choices, he was able to finally commit to his purpose in the world. He attended college after high school. He is currently writing his dissertation on organizational change and Critical Race Theory.

He is the president and founder of RACIALLY CONSCIOUS COLLABORATION™. His purpose, and that of the company, is to organize racial consciousness. Their work is to equip leaders and organizations to center racial consciousness in their relationships and collaboration. They meet organizations where they are and usher them through systemic racial equity transformation.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired by my ancestors, like my great-grandfather who understood that sharecropping in Mississippi would not lead to his freedom. I am inspired by Black women like Kimberlè Crenshaw, and my wife who both work every day to bring about racial justice in the world. I am inspired by Black, Indigenous and People of Color that thrive in spite of the racial dominance they face in the world. I am inspired by anti-racist white leaders that are clear that their humanity is threatened by white racial dominance. I am inspired by my children that already understand they have a role in making the world a better place for everyone. I am inspired by music, in particular hip-hop, which has been the only music to consistently challenge racism. I am inspired by all of the authors of articles that help the rest of us grow in our consciousness. I am inspired by organizational clients and leaders I coach that lean into racial equity change even when it is uncomfortable and they don't have answers. I am inspired by community leaders like Mahmoud El-Kati that selfishly educate and uplift humanity every chance they get.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the many organizational leaders from various realms that enthusiastically tell the story of how I helped them grow in their consciousness and transform their lives, professional practice, and organizations.

- Anything else you would like to share?

I am clear about my purpose in this world. I am here to organize more and more people, organizations, and resources to accelerate racial equity and intersectional equity in the world. This is why I do what I do, and have done so since my days as a Servant Leader Intern with the amazing Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools, to my time a school principal, to my time now as the founder and president of RACIALLY CONSCIOUS COLLABORATION™. I am honored and humbled to be asked to share about my purpose and work in the world. I hope that my story has inspired you about what you are to do with your time on earth.

February 19: De’Vonna Pittman

De’Vonna Pittman founded the Minnesota Black Authors Expo in 2017 connecting Black authors and their work to community and educators. An author, community advocate, and equity advocate, she has hosted countless community forums to empower women and their families.

She is Director of Inclusive Growth at Center for Economic Inclusion. Pittman leads the Center’s efforts to create broad, measurable shared accountability among public local, regional and statewide leaders and policy makers. She equips leaders and agencies with the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to close racial wealth gaps and accelerate inclusive economic competitiveness through racially equitable workforce, land-use, economic development, housing, transportation and infrastructure policies and investment.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am a product of generational poverty and I know the barriers to gaining stability and self-empowerment. Pulling one's self out of poverty requires utilizing systems that are often not built to truly address all that comes along with trauma, instability, and being raised in a marginalized community. I know what is possible with even a little bit of determination and having systems that minimally address basic needs of survival. I believe that every little bit of passion I put into the world around me will create incremental changes in community, and in families, and it will make life better for a lot of people.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the Minnesota Black Authors Expo; it is a magical event. Minnesota has some of the worst educational disparities; our children, especially children of color, have fallen behind. We wanted to restore a love for reading for Black children and in Black communities. The expo has donated over 700 books since 2017. In the process of connecting community to Black literature, we were able to build something very special. The expo is an annual event where families, educators, and community celebrate community, Black literature, and Black authors. It's the only place in Minnesota where little Black children can find themselves between every page and in every book.

February 18: Lissa Jones-Lofgren

Lissa Jones-Lofgren is principal and consultant at Lissa L. Jones, a boutique consulting firm specializing in coaching and training for greater equity and inclusion. She is also the content creator and radio personality for “Urban Agenda” on KMOJ Radio, Minnesota’s oldest Black radio station. Her favorite role is that of host of the podcast, “Black Market Reads,” a podcast of the Givens Foundation for African American Literature.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I’m inspired by a love of Black people and Black culture, our languages, our images, our rituals, our traditions, honor for our ancestors, recognition that the past matters in the present. In the words of Ida B. Wells, “Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so.”

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

The community gives me feedback that tells me that our work matters!

February 17: KingDemetrius Pendleton

KingDemetrius Pendleton has a degree in photography and digital imaging and is an independent photojournalist focusing on racial justice and equality issues. He consistently supports grassroots organizations by livestreaming footage of their events along with photographs for the benefit of those who cannot attend in person. He posts these on Facebook and allows them to be shared without payment for the sake of the community and as a means to support the "Cause."

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I wish to give voice to the voiceless. My family met personal tragedy in 2013 when a drunk driver took the life of our daughter. No one told her story or stood for the rights of our family until I started to report it myself. That's when I learned the power of social media. Since then I've been speaking power to truth with no apology. And thus I am committed to serving the community by any means necessary.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

Families and organizations have come to know of my integrity, thus they trust me to convey their stories. One of my first accomplishments was with the Jamar Clark case. I've also covered Philando Castile, Terrance Franklin, Justine Damond, George Floyd, and Dolal Idd. One of the happiest occasions was the release of Myon Burrell, as I had attended rallies for years in support of his innocence. Finally it proved that all the protesting was not in vain. Seeing him walk out of jail a free man after 19 years was a proud moment for all of us in the Movement.

- Anything else you would like to share?

I entered college for the first time in my mid-40s. School was intimidating after an absence of 28 years, so I was honestly astonished when I found out I had graduated with honors! While completing my degree in 2019, I was recognized for student contributions in equity and inclusion. This cemented the idea in my mind that I could move people's emotions with the pictures I took.

February 16: Christopher Webley

Christopher Webley hails from North Carolina where he studied textile technology with a concentration in medical textiles at North Carolina State University. He has worked with several top specialty retailers, including Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, and Target, accumulating over seven years’ experience in the retail fashion industry as a R&D textile engineer.

Chris currently serves as chairman of NEW RULES® Benefit Corporation, a ‘turn-key’ Real Estate Development Collective anchored in North Minneapolis. NEW RULES manages substantial assets to include commercial and residential buildings throughout the Midwest and Southern regions. Much different from traditional developers, NEW RULES differentiates their work by being ‘participatory’, taking unproductive buildings in overlooked communities and co-creating innovative spaces that bring diverse and creative professionals together at the nexus of culture, wellness and progressive social change.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

Since our inception, our work at NEW RULES has been rooted in understanding and co-creating solutions based on the needs the community has identified for themselves, both personally and professionally. NEW RULES launched in 2015 and since has held over 20 engagement and listening sessions with Northside residents, business owners and community organizations. Through ongoing dialogue and engagement, we have been able to not only identify the needs within the community but also prototype space in unique and different ways that help address the stated issues.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

Through our community engagement process we have been able to create solutions to begin to address some of the issues the community has identified, which include access to financial resources and economic opportunities; affordable living and work spaces; a support network of mentors, peers, creative community and technical support; production equipment and design resources; and healthy food and other health/wellness/professional services.

February 15: Tish Jones

Tish Jones is a poet, cultural producer and strategist, educator and organizer. She is the founder and executive director of TruArtSpeaks, an arts and culture nonprofit based in St. Paul, with a mission to cultivate literacy leadership and social justice through the study of an application of spoken word and hip-hop culture. She is a 4th-generation Black Minnesotan with roots in the historic Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul.

 - What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I love Black people. I am inspired by the opportunity to do my part in our quest for liberation, our constant practice of and access to joy, and the safety, wellbeing and education of our children.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my ability and opportunity to uplift the voices of young people in our community. Through my work, young people have received full-tuition scholarships, fellowships, awards and more. They have traveled locally and nationally to share their work, speak on panels, lecture and teach. They have published books, started groups, clubs, open mics, found their vocation and more. Seeing young people find themselves, feel supported and become activated is a gift that I treasure, daily.

February 14: Wisdom Mawusi

Wisdom Mawusi is an African American educator, artist, activist, mother. She is also the founder/ director of Black, Bold and Brilliant, a nonprofit youth-centered organization that develops leaders by engaging them in arts and culturally affirming material and experiences.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired by God, my ancestors and our children to invest in community healing and development by way of engaging Black youth with the practice of sankofa to tap into their passion, purpose and power in order to serve the community.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I'm proud of all the work I do because it is all relevant, urgent and necessary.

February 13: Elizer Darris

Elizer Darris is a professional organizer, motivational speaker, activist, justice system reformer and politico. He is the Smart Justice Coordinator for the ACLU of Minnesota and was recently appointed by the governor to the State Board of Public Defense.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I believe in the power of people to create the world they want to live in. I also am a firm believer in communal wisdom, and I live by the mantra that those closest to the pain need to be centered in the power to create and implement solutions. Nothing about us, without us, is for us.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of working to get more people politically activated over the past few years by canvassing with small teams in communities that are often overlooked and dialoguing with the residents about the power in their hands to impact the political process.

- Anything else you would like us to know?

I am a freedom fighter, and I fundamentally believe that we will win all of the battles in which we are engaged, because justice and right are on our side. We will not give up and we will not relent until real justice becomes the law of this land.

February 12: Janis Lane-Ewart

Janis Lane-Ewart is an arts administrator providing executive level leadership, primarily in community-based radio and as a board member within several Minnesota-based nonprofits.

She remains committed to learning additional methods of expanding community services throughout the Twin Cities and the Midwestern states.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I’m inspired by continued growth of community-based leadership and the level of excellence provided within services by 501(c)(3) entities.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

The usage of public communication (radio, television and the internet) to expand successful delivery of services.

February 11: Katie Sample

Katie Sample is a retired Minneapolis Public Schools Social Worker and founder of African American Academy for Accelerated Learning (AAAL), which she directed for 20 years. She is currently community elder and advisor to support the re-establishment of AAAL.

She embraces the outlook that many positive outcomes can happen if we hang on to hope and are able to accept one another as God's creation.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I have always felt a passion to work in the community to inspire and promote the means to improve social conditions, especially for children and youth.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am proud when I see youth who are inspired to reach lofty goals as result of participation in the culturally enrichment initiatives that I have directed. I also take pride whenever I am able to bring diverse groups of people together for meaningful purposes.

February 10: Bernard Walker

Bernard Walker is a member of the St. Anthony City Council. He makes himself available to address issues of race in St. Anthony when they come up. He is also a college philosophy professor.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

Justice, beneficence, and duty.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

The collaborative work I did with St. Anthony Village Police Department and being instrumental in the St. Anthony Village Police Department strategic plan.

February 9: Chaz Sandifer

Chaz Sandifer has been involved in health and wellness for the past 10 years. She is a certified group fitness instructor, a life and wellness coach who specializes in diabetes and arthritis prevention, and operating manager of the Camden Farmers Market.

She is honored to work in her community and looks forward to growing and building it.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired by my children and setting a good example of how to be a positive leader in the community. Seeing the community overcome obstacles from food deserts, lack of resources for wellness and affordable fitness drives me to help change the trajectory of the future.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am humble and proud of the community believing in my passion and journey to help us heal from the inside out. I appreciate the efforts of each person I cross paths that they are working on becoming the best version of themselves.

February 8: Kenya McKnight-Ahad

Kenya McKnight-Ahad is a transformational economic leader providing a pathway for Black women to build generational wealth, influencing critical economic spaces to support Black economic progression. She is an investor in the capacity of Black leadership, businesses, workforce, educators and institutions. She is a business owner supporting other business owners through the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance (BWWA).

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am most inspired by the economic history of African American people in this country. I want to contribute to our economic legacy to help advance our community into its next phase of existence.

My great-grandmother Memphis Tucker of Kankakee, Illinois by way of Columbus, Mississippi modeled what it means to be a good and decent person that cares about family and community while respecting God. She ran a candy store out of her home, had a garden and helped to raise four generations of us. Family, community and the economic progression of Black people were important to her. I carry her legacy – it was the only light I had that got me through a lot living here in Minnesota with my mother and siblings miles away from our family.

In Kankakee I grew up only seeing Black people who strived, worked hard to build a life after migration from the south. My great-grandfather walked miles to work on railroads and junkyards daily to provide for his family. I was taught responsibility, respect, honor, selflessness and loyalty. I am honored to walk in their blessings bestowed upon me.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am proud to have created a pathway to show up in community in the way I care about and can contribute to the most as a Black woman investing, supporting and giving back to my cultural community; it's important.

I am equally proud of the knowledge we teach that uplifts the spirits and aspirations of hundreds of Black women business owners and career professionals to build and advance their visions, dreams and goals to build generational wealth for themselves from their own spaces with pride in themselves!

Providing grants is a bonus because that allows us not only to share knowledge and information but also to directly invest in the women’s ability to implement and execute their goals. It isn't a lot but it's what we can do while cutting through many hoops and barriers and getting right to what matters the most. The smiles and tears the women show when being supported are by far the most important thing to me; they know that someone cares and supports them from where they are. I am most proud of that!

February 7: Houston White

Houston White is a North Minneapolis entrepreneur and visionary. The Houston White brand of apparel, accessories, and gathering spaces was born to bring together people of all identities, races, cultures, backgrounds and neighborhoods.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

We are for the culture makers. The conversation starters. The fearlessly authentic. Those who seek high style and higher good.

- What part of this work for your community are you are most proud of?

I'm most proud of helping to ignite Black futurism in Camdentown, North Minneapolis. Bringing people to the neighborhood to celebrate and learn.

February 6: Dr. Artika R. Tyner

Dr. Tyner is an educator, author, sought-after speaker, and advocate for justice. She is committed to training students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.

She has written eight children's books and three leadership books. She supports literacy, youth leadership development, and education initiatives in Ghana.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired by my faith and community. My grandmother taught me to live out my faith by serving others. This inspired me to become a civil rights attorney. My work focuses on ending mass incarceration and advancing equity in education. I am also a proud daughter of St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, where I learned the importance of community, service, and cultural heritage.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am most proud of creating the nonprofit, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute. Our work focuses on promoting literacy and diversity in books. Through our "Leaders are Readers" campaign, we are inspiring young scholars to become leaders who make a difference in the world. With the support of the community, we have donated over 5,000 books to children and inspired students around the world through our school visits.

Planting People Growing Justice Press and Bookstore was founded in 2017 with the goal of increasing diversity in books and promoting leadership development. Our first book publication was our award-winning children's book, “Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire.” We have since published several other titles and expanded our bookstore inventory. We host school book fairs, pop-up shops, and virtual book readings.

February 5: Dr. Christopher P. Lehman

Dr. Lehman studies local history and how African Americans contribute to it. He teaches this history in his courses at St. Cloud State University. His book “Slavery’s Reach" won the Minnesota Book Award in the Minnesota Nonfiction category in 2020.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am inspired by the thirst that my students have for deeper histories of their communities. They want to know how people who look like them, or who lived where they live, did important things in this country. Their curiosity then makes me curious, and then I start my research.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I like hearing from people who tell me that they understand Minnesota better or their communities better after having read my work. I'm glad when they appreciate the roles that many groups of people played in Minnesota's history.

February 4: Cam Muata

Cam Muata is an educator, currently working as a Racial Equity Instructional Coach in a public school district in the Twin Cities metro area. He’s worked professionally as an educator since 1996. Born and raised in Chicago, he graduated from and holds various teaching and educational leadership degrees from Augsburg University, Hamline University and Minnesota State University-Mankato.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

My "Why:" I'm a Black father and educator affirming and validating the humanity of Black and Brown children in a society that largely doesn't embrace our full humanity, a society that is indirectly and directly working against children and adults of color. In my current role as an educational leader, I work to impact groups and systems, help develop racially conscious educators and learners, and aspire to become a more effective educator promoting the intersections of culturally relevant and arts-based pedagogy (teaching method) for racial equity and social justice.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

In my current role, my specific purpose is to help teachers unpack their racial consciousness (or lack of), learn, and deliver Culturally Responsive Pedagogy through a lens of racial equity. I help teachers create and carry out yearly individualized Professional Development Plans that isolate racial demographics as they seek to improve student learning.

- Anything else you would like to share?

As a musician and teacher/artist, I recognize the significance that arts experiences have on learners. A passion of mine over the years has been providing arts-based experiences through afterschool and summer programs, as well as coordinating artistic residencies with local Twin Cities artists.

February 3: Tina Burnside

Tina Burnside is a civil rights attorney, writer and co-founder of the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery. She also is a playwright. Her plays explore issues of race, class and gender.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I am dedicated to public service and fighting against discrimination and injustice. I am also inspired to make a difference in my community by telling the history and stories of Black people and amplifying our voices which for too long have been omitted, silenced or ignored.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I am proud to be a part of a group of dedicated individuals who joined together to open the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery. For several years, Minnesota did not have a museum dedicated solely to Black history. The museum is a critical source of information that is not taught in schools as history is usually told from a white lens; the museum broadens this perspective and makes history more inclusive. This is important because African American history is American history.

February 2: Shannon Gibney

Shannon Gibney is a writer, teacher, activist, mom and friend. She says: I search out stories that might not have been told widely, in order to open up space for new connections and possibilities between individuals and communities.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I want to empower people – particularly those in historically marginalized communities – to see themselves and their stories reflected back to them in books, performances, plays, music. I want people to see that what separates us is not the shame of what we may have survived, but rather, our inability to process and express it through art. There is so much we have the capacity to embrace and let go of in this life. We don't have to carry everything as a weight.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

I'm really proud of the books I have produced, all of them with and through community. One about the experience of transracial adoptees, from our eyes and voices, “See No Color.” Another about the historical and cultural chasm between African Americans and continental Africans, “Dream Country.” A third, a collection of first-person stories of Native and women of color who have gone through miscarriage and infant loss, “What God is Honored Here?” And more coming.

My work teaching writing at Minneapolis College also feeds me deeply. Interacting and learning with our amazing students, from all walks of life, over the past 12 years, has been an incredible privilege.

- Anything else you would like to share?

Black people are as imperfect as anyone else, but as a group, we are magic – our music, our storytelling, our food, our spirituality, our focus on justice in everything we do. Our ongoing social and political tradition of resistance has and continues to inspire the world.

February 1: Alan Page

Justice Alan Page grew up in Canton, Ohio, one of four children of Howard and Georgianna Page. He attended Notre Dame University and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He also played for the Chicago Bears. He retired and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and took that opportunity to launch the Page Education Foundation. Minneapolis school principal Willarene Beasley presented him at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Page went to law school and eventually became a judge. He was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992. He retired from the court having been re-elected in 1998, 2004 and 2010.

- What inspires you to do the work you do in your community?

I guess the fact that there's so much work to be done. I grew up with a sense of an obligation to try to make this world a better place and this is my way of trying to do that.

- What part of this work for your community are you most proud of?

At the end of the day what I'm most proud of is my family; my kids, my marriage. But in terms of the wider community I would say it's the work I'm doing now: the Page Education Foundation, being a part of the Justice Page Middle School community, and the Page Amendment proposed to the Minnesota Constitution to guarantee a quality public education.

- Justice Page reflects on the TESTIFY history exhibit he brought to Minneapolis Central Library in 2018.

I think re-visiting our history is really the most meaningful when it can inspire people to act. That was our hope in presenting the TESTIFY exhibit, at Hennepin County Library's Cargill Gallery – we wanted to provide some context for people to really see and confront the injustices that have been built into our systems for too long. The collection just happened to reflect our interests as a family, but any one of us can make a change.

- TESTIFY event

Join us for an event about the TESTIFY exhibit with Justice Page online on Wednesday, February 17, 7 p.m. https://bit.ly/TESTIFY_HCL