Raquel Belt, Cierra Burnaugh, instructor Linda Green, Chelsea McCree, Stephanie Washington, Amirah Coney, of The Art of Dance Studio, last Tuesday got words of praise and thanks from State Representative Keith Ellison (58B) at a community reception celebrating Ellison’s swearing in as a new member of Minnesota’s Legislature. Representative Keith Ellison (D-58B) said that his legislative priorities would be housing initiatives, economic development and working to implement fairness in the criminal justice system. Ellison was sworn into office last week January 7 along with 133 of his colleagues to the 2003 – 2004 biennial legislative session.
Ellison filled the seat vacated by Gregory Gray. His district is approximately 51% Black (18,799 residents). Asian, Latino and Native American residents in 58B swell the total population of color to 76%.
Ellison said that one of his goals as 58B representative is to make sure that the needs of all his constituents are met.
In a recent interview with Insight, Ellison said he’d consider introducing legislation that systematizes parental involvement in Minneapolis Public Schools and one that addresses criminal justice issues.
“There should be a formation of a parent teacher committee to evaluate each school and monitor parent involvement. Title I money could be involved in organizing this,” said Ellison.
Ellison said he’d like to create ways in which inmates could complete their education while still incarcerated. “There are inmates who haven’t completed their education. Perhaps time off could be credited if they complete their education while inside,” he said. Violent and sexual offenders, said Ellison, would be exempt from this law. He also said that he’d like to see voting rights restored after incarcerated individuals have completed their time versus after completion of their probation.
Contrary to critics placing blame on a Republican sweep of the government on poor Black voter participation, Ellison said that his district had one of the highest voter turnouts. He said, “58B had excellent voter turn out. People have a deep concern for what happens on the North side. We must always be aware that this is a very diverse district and it has potential for polarization –I will work to cultivate partnerships,” said Ellison.
“Promoting zeal in the struggle for political advancement for people of color and for working people will be an ongoing thing for me,” said Ellison.
Tom LaVenture from the Asian American Press contributed to this article.