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What Black Minnesotans are feeling hopeful about

18December 2021

When I started this column last year, I never knew what to expect. But I know now the greatest privilege of this space is the people I’ve met through this journey. They are now friends, colleagues, mentors and acquaintances. I am in awe that when I call, text or e-mail, they respond and offer a slice of their precious time and perspective. It’s a humbling endeavor and a reminder.

This place is filled with beautiful, loving and resilient Black folks. From their spirit and energy, I gain hope. They are my reservoir of sunlight in those moments of desperation, darkness and doubt.

For this week’s column, I tapped into that network and presented this question to some of the Black folks I know as a tumultuous year approaches its end: What gives you hope right now?

“My father has a mantra, ‘Every day is a gift.’ I’ve expanded it, ‘Every day is a gift … and we’re still here.’ Seeing women of color from all walks of life, from community organizers, elected officials, independent journalists, artists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, medical professionals, nonprofit leaders and corporate executives investing in our community, and one another, to family members standing up for loved ones lost to injustice, so others don’t have to feel the same pain, gives me hope. I’m grateful to count them as friends, mentors, and family. We haven’t given up on Minnesota or forgotten our collective ancestral sacrifice. We’re still here.” — Maya Washington, Twin Cities native and filmmaker, actress, writer, poet, creative director and arts educator

“My husband, Lateef, and our daughter, Oaklyn, give me hope. So does our baby-to-be. I’m pregnant! Lateef is wise, thoughtful and genuinely happy for other people. Oaklyn is bold, loving and determined. They’re both extremely comfortable in their own skin. Their qualities have created space for joy and peace during recent times of extreme challenge in the Twin Cities. This confident and happy dad-daughter duo is hope personified. No doubt our new baby will be in the capable hands of a father and big sister who’ll show him or her how to embrace and celebrate their value.” — Brandi Powell, KSTP 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS anchor

“I get hope in seeing how the creatives in the city are turning the trauma and pain we’ve all experienced, especially here in Minneapolis and St. Paul, due to the civil unrest, continued racism, COVID and the uncertainty of where we are going as a society into really incredible art. Whether it’s music, poetry, painting etc., they have created an energy that is infectious and gives me hope that we can continue to turn a lot of these negatives into positives via these mediums.” — Tim Wilson, owner of Urban Lights record store in St. Paul

“It’s hard to see where we are as a country — in the middle of a devastating pandemic — and have hope. To see leaders and organizations already failing to live up to promises made during the so-called racial reckoning last summer makes it hard to find faith. But what gives me hope is us. I believe in us. I was part of a Black Men with Stethoscopes event this month and seeing so many young brothers and their families there to support them gave me life. How our community has stepped up during COVID is what gives me hope.” — Dr. Nathan Chomilo, a pediatrician and adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School

“I’ve always considered myself to be an optimist, and while some days I feel like we are going backwards, I remain hopeful. I’m looking forward to 2022 to continue to bring about change. I’m hopeful in watching my young men and their friends embracing the idea of leadership and their responsibility to become change agents. I’m hopeful that they will lead with a greater understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion with the importance of everybody being valued and having a voice. I’m hopeful that the people around me will continue to thirst for knowledge of people who do not look like them, while recognizing their importance and roles in bringing about change. I’m hopeful that people will realize that we are truly ‘Better Together’!” – Larry A. McKenzie, Minneapolis North boys basketball head coach and first Black coach inducted into Minnesota Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame

“As 2021 comes to a close, I’m most thankful for the daily opportunity to start again. This year was full of transitions and transformations personally, politically, communally and socially. The impacts of a global pandemic and social reckoning will be felt for years, but what I’ve seen over the past year is a glimpse of what good can come from a less-than-favorable experience. I’m hopeful for our community and our ability to transmute pain and trauma into public policy shifts and public art creations. From the ashes, our community is rebuilding, and I’m most hopeful because of the young people committed to lead us into a future much wiser than our past.” – Brittany Wright, local DJ, radio and podcast host and advocate for maternal justice

“My interview with Ross Gay (American poet and professor) taught me that hope is a noun, a verb and my personal responsibility. We were talking about his ‘Book of Delights’, a collection of essays resulting from Gay’s seeking out a delight a day for a year. Headlines told of natural disasters, mass shootings and growing polarization, much as they do today, and in what seemed to me a revolutionary act, Gay chose to center on delights! Born Black and woman, dominant narratives about me rarely include hope, so I center it in my life in what I ‘hope’ is my radical response!” — Lissa Jones-Lofgren, radio host of “Urban Agenda” on KMOJ-FM and podcast host of “Black Market Reads”

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