Working for the Organizers Apprenticeship Project

Working for the Organizers Apprenticeship Project allowed us as a group, as well as myself as an individual, to better understand the meaning of racial, social, and economic injustice in Minnesota. The community perspective in many ways has been lost with the increasing use of the Internet and relocation of families due to work and other issues, such as immigration. OAP brings to light the need for a third place through community outreach, engagement, and making changes to improve life in communities where people are experiencing disparities.

OAP offers solutions and outreach through the training of community organizers who want to work on issues of injustice by looking for ways to liberate community members and give them a voice. Through training offered at OAP, students in the program, and through the program’s workshops, receive first hand, real-world experience working for racial, social, and economic equity. In this short semester our group was fortunate enough to experience the knowledge, power, and responsibility that organizers are gaining from the program. It is inspiring to know that.

Here are a few things we learned by working with OAP:

·You can go to the capitol and claim you’re a constituent of your district or neighborhood and make a formal complaint or argument about a bill that is on the floor. It’s very empowering to realize that you, as an individual, can truly express a concern!

·You can make a difference in your community. Several women we met on the training day in April became advocates and active members of local non-profits that were making a difference in their neighborhoods, because they wanted to BE the change they wanted to see! Two organizations that were most impressionable to me were Appetite for Change and Protect Minnesota. The women who were representing these organizations had strong roots in the community and personal experiences that made them want to make a change.

Being the change you want to see in the world is where OAP apprentices start.


Building Relationships for Change

Building relationships among communities, organizations and individuals helps to fill the social gaps that create barriers against racial equity in Minnesota. At a recent OAP training (discussed in the previous post), the importance of these relationships and shaping individual values together for collective change were highlighted.

In the spirit of communication and working together, we would like to introduce you to some of the organizers that joined OAP for the April 2 Racial Organizer Training Day. These attendees came together from different organizations and backgrounds to learn to better identify and define what effective community relationships truly are.

*Not all attendees are introduced below; stay tuned for our upcoming video which features some more dedicated Minnesota organizers.

Norma Smith biopic

Norma Smith

Norma Smith, The Family Partnership

The mission of The Family Partnership is building strong families, vital communities, and better futures for children with focuses on services for counseling, education, and advocacy. Norma hopes to become a more effective community leader and also a better listener to those she represents. Norma actively works with the Leech Lake community in Minneapolis to bring empowerment to urban Native Americans through awareness of traditional cultural practices.



Sarah Lopez

Sarah Lopez

Sarah Lopez, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA)

PPNA is a nonprofit organization othat seeks to strengthen inner-city communities throughout Minneapolis. In her work with them, Sarah has made it her goal to find new ways to reinforce these community ties by working directly with residents and community members, listening to their concerns and experiences. With her OAP training, Sarah hopes to dig deeper into solutions for racial equity and find ways to create a sense of community in Minneapolis’ high crime areas.



John Slate

John Slate

 John Slate, Dayton’s Bluff Community Council

John is using his training through OAP to become a better community organizer in his neighborhood. He is currently working for the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council as a grant writer and wants to continue to pursue issues surrounding racial, social and economic injustices in the neighborhood. One of his current projects is working on transit corridor issues surrounding the light rail construction.



Nahila Ahsan

Nahila Ahsan

Nahila Ahsan, Vital Research/Student & Community Relations (U ofM)

After spending time working with the Student & Community Relations organization at the University of Minnesota, Nahila found that she loves engaging one-on-one with people to learn about their backgrounds and community issues. She has had the opportunity to connect with individuals through her work at Vital Research and enjoys hearing the experiences of others. Nahila hopes that her OAP training will give her a new set of tools to use in her work and allow her to connect, motivate and empower her community.



Jamila Thomas

Jamila Thomas

Jamila  Thomas, Community Action of Minneapolis/Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

As a public relations intern at Community Action of Minneapolis, Jamila was inspired to develop projects of her own. She now works as a Community Navigator with the organization, leading the Kuzari Project, which strives to unify families in protective services. She also works with Neighborhoods for Change (NOC) where her current focus is educating parents and students on public school policies. She feels her OAP training will help her be more strategic in methods of communication and strengthen her ability to organize people in her community.



Ben Milas

Ben Milas

Ben Milas, First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

As a member of First Universalist Church, Ben is hoping to find ways to cultivate and build relationships in his congregation and community. He believes that communicating about racial justice and equity within the church can lead to better conversation outside of it. Ben feels his OAP training will help him to better understand how to organize within the church and articulate obstacles in a clear manner, which will hopefully lead to stronger relationships within the congregation.



Shavunda Horsley

Shavunda Horsley

Shavunda Horsley, Hope Community/Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Between her work with Hope Community and NOC, Shavunda has had the opportunity to survey residents in her area about their concerns and the change they hope to see. Her current work involves food justice in the Minneapolis area, spending her time educating community members on healthy eating and cooking choices. Shavunda is passionate about helping areas that aren’t offered equal access to nutritious food. She feels theOAP training will help her dig deeper, ask better questions, and deepen connections among communities.



Tasha Powell

Tasha Powell

Tasha Powell, Appetite for Change

Tasha has experienced racial stereotypes regarding food in her community. As one of the founders of Appetite for Change, she seeks to build strong relationships around a local food system through the organization. She believes that bringing locally grown food into neighborhood stores is a big step in the process, and having more nutritious food options will lead to healthier communities. Appetite for Change offers people opportunities to cook, learn, and discuss food issues together. Tasha feels her OAP training will help her facilitate more effective conversations at community events.


Hundreds of organizers just like these have built relationships with the Organizing Apprenticeship Project in an effort to strengthen skills in organizing, communicating and making effective change. To learn more about how you can train to better serve your community and help us achieve racial equity, visit OAP’s homepage or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.


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Racial Justice Training Week with OAP

Wednesday April 2, 2014: Organizers Apprenticeship Project hosted a Statewide course to further reach Alumni. The goal of the training is to provide ongoing support and skills to local and rural organizers in Minnesota.
The day began with a lecture from Sal Miranda, addressing the different areas of networking in a community. Group work followed, and the 15 organizers who attended worked in small groups to discuss methods and modes of communication they could use to improve their organizing efforts. Guest speakers made appearances and lectured on different topics, like probing organizers to ask themselves “who has oppressed you?”
One or two organizers from each table then named a person, place, thing or situation that has stood in the way of achieving their personal, professional or organizing efforts. This exercise and others like it help organizers transform frustration and anger into altruism and increased self-awareness, as well as better help and serve their communities and those in need.

OAP & Greater Minnesota

The Organizing Apprenticeship Project on reaching out to Greater Minnesota.

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Rallying for Racial Justice

“Let the lovers of peace say peace (‘Peace!’); let the soldiers for love say love (‘Love!’); and let those who serve justice say justice (‘Justice!’).” This was the chant being led by Brother Ali to kick off the Racial Justice Rally at the Minnesota State Capitol this past Wednesday, March 5. Watch a short but powerful clip of Brother Ali’s post-chant speech here.

The rally was hosted by the Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) and included other speakers and performers including Lioness and Guante who, like Brother Ali, are Minneapolis-based hip hop performers and fighters for racial justice.

“We have unfinished business to take care of in 2014,” Vina Kay declared to the enthusiastic crowd. Kay, Director of Research and Policy for OAP, released their 2014 Racial Equity Agenda at the rally. The agenda addresses the need to remove the barriers to opportunity that several Minnesota communities are facing.

Vina Kay speaking at the Racial Justice Rally on March 5, 2014.

Vina Kay speaking at the Racial Justice Rally on March 5, 2014.

Some of the agenda’s objectives for 2014 include:

*Restoring voting rights to people once their time in prison has been served.
It’s important for all communities to have a voice. There are at least 45,000 citizens of Minnesota who have a past criminal conviction and remain on probation or parole; under current law, Minnesota denies their participation in voting. We believe we can change that and join thirteen other states that allow individuals to vote again once they have returned to the community.

*Making driver’s licenses available to all Minnesotans, regardless of immigrant status.
We live in a region where cars are required to access school, jobs and other opportunities. During the last legislative session, the Senate passed a bill that would allow people to obtain driver’s licenses no matter what their immigrant status is. The House can finish this effort and grant these active, working community members the chance to drive legally.

*Raising the minimum wage.
This is a big part of the unfinished business from the last legislative session. Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country and raising it to $9.50 would greatly benefit workers of color. Even though the majority of those who would benefit from this are white (77%), the total share of workers in communities of color that would receive a wage increase is higher. This is unfortunately due to the number of Minnesota workers of color that earn low wages being disproportionately high.

Attendees were inspired by the speakers and performers and many stuck around to help lobby state representatives, including two of our Team OAP student reporters, Christine Iserman and Laura Pielow. They joined a lobbyist in asking representatives to vote against pay day loans. There are currently no regulations in Minnesota to stop predatory lenders that prey on low-income areas. Christine said of the experience, “It really feels like you can make a difference.”


Supporters hold signs up in the rotunda.

There are more objectives that OAP hopes to achieve this year. To learn more, read the complete 2014 Racial Equity Agenda here. You can also visit OAP’s website, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Please lend your voice to obtaining racial justice and equity in Minnesota.

Brett Buckner of the DFL speaks on a Call to Action.

Brett Buckner of the DFL speaks on a Call to Action.

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Support racial equity and help change Minnesota by meeting up with OAP this March to help fight racial and economic inequality in the Twin Cities. OAP is here to help get the message to political leaders that it is time for change. Minnesota is fighting to have true equality truly mean equal human rights for all.
Help us to work for racial justice and change the face of leadership at the State Capitol this March. OAP has been successful in changing policies by actively engaging with the public through apprenticeship training, as well as political leaders with annual Racial Report Cards. The report cards help reflect the meaning of racial equity building: empowering people of minority backgrounds and in lower economic standing.
For a better understanding of the report cards here is OAP’s 2005-2010 Racial Report Card, which includes a “five-year review of where state policymakers made progress and where they weakened opportunity.”

picOAP’s current report card reflects what we are working to achieve at the Capitol. Our plan:
• Focuses on reducing racial disparities;
• Expands access to institutions and public benefits for communities of color;
• Advances enfranchisement for communities of color;
• Protects against discrimination, racial violence and racial profiling;
• Preserves and strengthens American Indian tribal sovereignty;
• Is adequately funded; and
• Is enforceable, with mechanisms in place to monitor racial justice outcomes.

Join OAP on the hill for RACIAL JUSTICE WEEK on March 3-6, 2014 at the Saint Paul Capitol.

We would also like to invite you to a screening of the documentary film Slavery By Another Name. It will be hosted at the St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis on March 6th at 6:00 p.m., including a Q&A session with the director after the film.

Join us and help create change!

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Join the conversation.

Think of Minneapolis and picture this: all students graduate from high school, there is no racial profiling or police brutality, and affordable, safe housing is available for everyone. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

The Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) thinks so and has included those objectives in their newly released A Vision and Agenda for Racial and Economic Justice in OUR MPLS. The agenda has been proposed by a coalition between OAP and other local organizations that are working towards a racially and economically just Minneapolis.

our_mpls_coverThere are many more objectives to OUR MPLS, but the first step in making any of them a reality is to start a conversation. OAP, along with HIRE MN and Hope Community, did just that with Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glitten at a monthly community meeting. And that hasn’t been the only conversation. Vina Kay, Director of Research and Policy at OAP, recently blogged about several meetings they’ve had with elected officials. OUR MPLS was in fact introduced directly to Mayor Betsy Hodges on January 5, 2014.

And the conversation will continue. A total of 20 organizations contributed to the development of the OUR MPLS agenda. In her blog, Kay also makes it clear that they will be following up on their proposal: “We propose that the next 100 days offers us an opportunity to work with Mayor Hodges, the City Council, and other city leaders to set the stage for racial and economic equity in Minneapolis. Why 100 days? We feel an urgency, and recognize that this work takes time. We hold these in balance over the next 100 days as we build the foundation for justice in Minneapolis. We look forward to meeting with leaders, to further developing our shared vision, and to seeing what we can do together in just 100 days.”

Communities, organizations and you are also needed to make racial and economic equity a reality in Minneapolis. If you are interested in learning more, join the conversation.