Skip to main content

Hennepin partners with community organizations with anti-racism initiative

In 2022, Hennepin County allocated $300,000 in the county budget to fund an anti-racism initiative, contracting with existing community organizations to support community-building, healing, and anti-racism efforts.

Efforts focused on the Bryant, Bancroft, Central, and Powderhorn Park areas. The support from the county allowed the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization and the other three neighborhood organizations to expand their outreach and organizing efforts to create anti-racist communities in partnership with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.

Undoing Racism workshops

The county contracted with the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization to coordinate and staff the outreach and anti-racism organizing efforts and formally partner with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to provide consulting and facilitate their Undoing Racism workshops.

In the last six months, the institute hosted three sessions of its three-day Undoing Racism workshop and two half-day introductory workshops at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis, a few blocks from George Floyd Square at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. In total, 79 people attended the three-day workshop and 37 attended the half-day workshop.

man speaks to the hennepin county board

Michael Davis II addresses the Hennepin County Board.

“The participants represented a true cross-section of the neighborhoods surrounding George Floyd Square with regards to race, socio-economic status, age, life experience, involvement in the carceral system, education, and more,” said Michael Davis II, a member of the Hennepin County Strategic Initiatives Team in the Strategic Planning Department. Davis is a liaison to the anti-racism initiative.

Many participants said the workshop changed their perspectives – and their lives.

Betty, a Central Area resident and caretaker at Saathani Senior Home, said that the workshop helped her understand her own family and the people she cares for.

“It’s a learning process for all of us…you’re missing it if you don’t even take the opportunity,” Betty said.

Abby, a Powderhorn resident, said it helped her be more present and notice the impacts of race in her everyday interactions, and she emphasized that she appreciated how the workshop took the time to build relationships and move “at the speed of trust.”

Other participants shared their feedback on the workshops:

"I feel like...this workshop was so necessary and so affirming. It was intense and challenging but so, so necessary,” said one participant. Another said, "[The workshop] was the most validating thing I've ever experienced. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this."

Community building and engagement

In addition to hosting the in-person Undoing Racism workshops at Sabathani Community Center, the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization started hosting monthly community dinners.

The dinners center on conversations about systemic racism and provide opportunities for community members to make meaningful connections and talk about creating anti-racist communities. So far, they have hosted four dinners, with an average attendance of about 40 people.

The Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization is also committed to involving youth in its work. The organization hired a project manager and six youth staff organizers last summer to help facilitate the organization’s racial healing work.

Through door-knocking and community engagement, these youth had over 500 conversations with neighbors and community members about anti-racism in the summer, and they have engaged over 3,000 households in the four neighborhoods surrounding George Floyd Square. Their conversations and observations about the communities’ desires to explore the topic further led to the creation of the monthly dinners.

two youth workers sharing experiences at the board meeting

Two of the youth workers spoke at the Hennepin County Board meeting on March 21. They described their experience attending the workshops and engaging with the community. They said that being part of this anti-racism work and attending the Undoing Racism workshop helped them better understand their community, as well as giving them life advice and practice working on a large-scale project.

Hennepin County involvement

Sandra Richardson, the Twin Cities coordinator for the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and Bryant community member, said she appreciated how much Hennepin County listened and “really did let community lead.”

She explained that having the support of the county made their efforts much more effective because everyone was working together.

women speaks to the hennepin county board

Carmen Lewis addresses the Hennepin County Board.

Carmen Lewis, the executive director of the Central and Bryant neighborhood organizations, said the funding from the county “allowed community to become community around something that was tangible to us.”

They were able to build on existing relationships with the community and with People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond in order to have common conversations and begin the work of healing.

The Hennepin County Board also expressed their appreciation for being able to work with these organizations. Board Chair Irene Fernando thanked them for “sharing [their] pain in a way that has assisted others” and commended them for including youth.

Commissioners Debbie Goettel and Marion Greene both mentioned they hoped to expand the programs and opportunities to more areas of the county. Commissioner Angela Conley, who first brought up the initiative in 2021, said it was “a beautiful thing to see this come to fruition.”

The county board, staff, and partner organizations are all extremely pleased at the success of this initiative and the impacts it has had.

Although the initial contract period has now ended, the county and partnering organizations have both expressed interested in continuing to collaborate on these important efforts to fight racism in our communities and are currently looking into ways that we can continue to work together.

group photo in the board room of Hennepin county

County employees and members of the community and partner organizations who worked on the anti-racism initiative pose in the Board room.

About our partners

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB)’s mission is to undo racism via community organizing and activism. They are perhaps best known for their nationally acclaimed three-day Undoing Racism workshop, which has trained over two million people.

The workshop focuses on learning how ideas about race are created, how to identify structural racism, and how to scrutinize our own beliefs and listen with an open mind.

They also offer shorter workshops, consulting services, and programs for youth. The organization has had a presence in Minnesota since shortly after its founding in 1980, and it created an official regional office in Minneapolis in 2000.

The Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CANDO) is the neighborhood organization for the Central Area and the leader of the anti-racism work that the Bryant, Bancroft, Central, and Powderhorn neighborhood organizations are doing.

CANDO promotes community outreach, education, and conversation by both supporting existing initiatives and developing its own. 

This story reflects Hennepin County disparity reduction priorities in health.

health icon