Column: Representation Matters: Who is sitting at the table for BIPOC?

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Screenshot by Darlene Edwards

By: Darlene Edwards, Freelance Journalist

Gov. Tim Walz is breaking the norms in Minnesota as he gave access and took the time to answer questions from smaller news media outlets on Friday March 12, 2021. 

The Racial Equity & Joy (REJ) Coalition is a group of advocates from Minnesota nonprofits committed to advancing racial equity and dismantling systemic racism through legislation.

The space for questions and discussions with Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan was organized by The UpTake (an REJ member) and partners at Wilder Foundation and Voices for Racial Justice (also REJ members). Other community media partners were then invited to the gathering which aimed to discuss the racial justice implications and impacts of the new budget. The representatives of this community forum asked the hard questions, and both the governor and Lt. Governor were very gracious and keen to answer the questions. 

The topics discussed covered a variety of concerns from the community. Walz embraced the conversation, specifically the housing project portion of the budget, which includes a historic investment in housing. Walz said the need for bonding and building housing is much greater than what the budget allotted. This new budget of $195 million for affordable housing will secure investments in housing stability and unsheltered homelessness, creating approximately 5,300 new jobs through bonding and leverage additional resources for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

“While it’s historic and we’re making progress, we will acknowledge this is a zero-sum proposition. As long as one Minnesotan is housing insecure, we don’t feel like we’re done.” Walz said.

Flanagan co-signed the governor’s statement by saying their office is making up for years of not investing enough. She said their mantra is “going big, so people can go home”. 

One of the goals of this event was to create news access for community media to the Office of the Governor and Lt. Governor. Walz said it is his “responsibility to be accessible to small media outlets.” The zoom conference call went so well, the governor offered to open access for future news conferences held specifically for the community. This is another step in the right direction for Minnesota. Having a seat at the table, the voices of the community being heard, it all matters. Representation matters. It is how equality is measured. 

The conversation with the governor and lieutenant governor can be viewed in its entirety online at https://www.facebook.com/theuptake, a project of Voices for Racial Justice and The UpTake.  

The Minnesota Women’s Press also attended the community media gathering. You can check out their reporting on that event here.

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