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