By Nadvia Davis –
More than 70 people gathered at the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis to kick-off the third in the series of networking events.
Several Minnesota commissioners and state leaders teamed up with the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) to host a discussion about the access and availability of jobs with the state for people of color. The purpose of the “Lead-In” networking events is to source potential talent and create business opportunities for underrepresented communities. Lead-In also provides a forum for building valuable relationships for government/community partnerships.
Executive director of AALF, Jeff Hassan, and chief inclusion officer for the state of Minnesota, James Burroughs, opened the event by detailing how the partnership could bring stability to Minnesota’s communities of color. Following the opening remarks, director of Strategic Workforce Initiatives, Emma Corrie, took to the podium and spoke about the importance of recruiting people of color in government positions.
“There is a very intentional effort here to increase the number of people of color in state government and to increase the number of contracts that go out to our communities to folks that look like us as well as to increase civic engagement,” said Corrie.
Tracey Gipson, the state’s executive recruiter, helped shift the gears by having community members and state leaders break off into more intimate discussion circles to elaborate on current job openings and give community members the opportunity to share their opinions and pose questions directly to the commissioners. Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey and Mary Finnegan, deputy commissioner of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board, and were among those in attendance representing the state.
Bill English of the Northside Job Creation Team was quite vocal during one breakout discussion, stating there is a lack of coverage on ethnic focused issues by major news outlets. He said major news outlets could do a better job of leveraging their reputation to reach a broader ethnic population and help communicate the message that there is in fact a need for people of color in government positions.
“They (niche news outlets) can continue to do the job of being culturally specific for our community and bringing us news and information that the major media just simply won’t cover,” said English.
Burroughs interjected and responded to English’s comment.
“To that point, now we are working with Al (McFarlane and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium) to identify Latino, Hmong and African-American papers (to communicate job openings). We want to intentionally spend our money on those publications, so that they become partners with large media outlets,” said Burroughs.
Lindsey said community members should “demand more from the legislature” when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts in construction jobs with the state.
To close out the event, Burroughs said further discussion must take place around the issue of diversity hiring.
“We’ve got to engage with the community to make sure that we are doing the things we need to do and you (community members) need to know who we (state commissioners are hiring personnel) are,” said Burroughs.