On Saturday, Dec. 7, approximately 100 members of the African American Men Commission, a part of the African American Men Project, were sworn in by Minnesota Appellate Judge Touissant …. On Saturday, Dec. 7, approximately 100 members of the African American Men
Commission, a part of the African American Men Project, were sworn in by Minnesota Appellate Judge Touissant during a ceremony held at Sabathani Community Center.
Members gathered “to solemnly swear to improve the life outcomes of African American Men…….implement and develop initiatives of the Project……and to put their personal issues and egos aside to tackle the issues facing African American men in our region.”
In what looked like a large family portrait spanning several generations, the new commissioners, comprised mostly of African American men and a handful of African American women, posed for a photo shoot to photographically document the historic event.
Other than clergy who presided over opening blessings of the event, Shane Price, project coordinator, did most of the public speaking at the event.
“Thank you all for your fearless spirit,” said Price. “At this historic event, we are here to build a group, and faithfully and religiously do the work to support and empower the African American community.”
Commissioners are asked to spend 124 hours per year working on the initiative, or 2.4 hours per week. Price announced that there were 22 Project initiatives already underway, with nine established committees, and two more to be added; fundraising and communications. Because of the large size of the Commission, two committees per month will be convened to begin with.
Newly sworn in Commissioner Jeffrey Hayden stated, “I don’t have a lot of words to talk about. This has never been done before. The brothas seem poised, disciplined, and ready to go.”
In an interview before the event, Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, the initiator of the African American Men Project, stated, “Message to my colleagues: Everything the County does must revolve around the plight of African American men.”
Stenglein went on to say, “ The most gratifying thing about this project is that young Black men will come up to me that I do not even know and thank me for addressing an issue that has been hopeless to Black men for centuries.”
The Project is historic in nature because of the size of the group working together to achieve mutual goals. Price summed up the sentiment of the ceremony by saying, “I think the most exciting thing is that this is the first time that I can remember -and I am 48-years-old —that mostly 130 African American men are going to stand up and solemnly swear to be there for their family and community. I think that’s terrific.”
The Election Factor
In a twist of fate, newly appointed project coordinator Price announced that he was running for an open Minneapolis City Council seat vacated by recently convicted Third Ward councilmember Joe Biernat.
“You deserve to know my intentions,” announced Price. “It would be disobedient to not go and press on to whatever that calling is.” Price went on to tell the newly sworn in commissioners, still sitting on stage in their photo op positions, that he had sought the endorsement of Labor unions, did not get any, and was not expecting to receive any in the first place.
When questioned about the appropriateness of Price’s political announcement at the swearing in ceremony, Fifth Ward Councilmember Natalie Johnson Lee, stated, “With the lack of representation that we have at the city, county, and state government levels, it would be appropriate for Shane to engage folks in the political process whether on a street corner, a kitchen or on stage at Sabathani Community Center.”