A special film screening, reflections of Black youth living in northern MN and Pimento Kitchen are just some of the Black History Month programs still ahead

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If you haven’t had time to participate in any of the Black History Month programs happening across the state agencies, you still have eight workdays to join in!  

In coming days there will be a special film screening of Nana’s Porch and discussion with the producers; a Mind, Body and Soul Convening with Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero; leaders of Mapping Prejudice will update us on the expansion of their racially restrictive housing covenants project; a “MixTape of Black Stories” listening session featuring reflections of Black youth and young adults living in northern Minnesota and a special celebration at Pimento Kitchen’s newest location in St. Paul. These are just some of the programs planned for the rest of February and beyond. An agenda for the Black History Month programs may be found here.   

Local 1001’s Galen Sjostrom, a transportation program specialist at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), is just one of the many Equity Justice Black Caucus (EJBC) Employee Resource Group (ERG) members who has been working with partners at multiple state agencies to organize and promote programs throughout Black History Month 2024. He said this year marked a deliberate pivot toward a more collaborative, community-driven approach by ERG members, which included partnering with other state ERGs as well as state Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices.  

This year’s more collaborative approach to planning and promotion seems to have yielded results: several of the events attracted more than 300 attendees. Popular presentations so far have included Markus Flynn from Black Men Teach (hosted by the Department of Health), ReConnect Rondo executive director Keith Baker (hosted by MnDOT) and Rondo historian Marvin Anderson (hosted by the Department of Labor and Industry) and environmental justice expert Dr. Sam Leguizamon Grant (also hosted by MnDOT). 

Eighty percent of St. Paul’s African American community once lived in the bustling Rondo neighborhood until construction of Interstate 94 demolished the neighborhood in the 1950s and ‘60s. Although less well-known, a similar story played out in northern Minneapolis with the construction of I35W. 

Local 1002’s Moi Boudoir, co-chair of EJBC ERG and a Title 1 program specialist working with neglected, delinquent and at-risk children and youth, has also been organizing the Black History Month programs. He said he was especially impressed with the ReConnect Rondo program, “The program about Rondo was extremely enlightening, especially since I’m from Minneapolis, and learning about what happened to that community and why was very educational,” Boudoir said. 

“The programs may be concentrated on Black history but we’re really talking about all of our history – we’re talking about the history of America. The more we learn about each other, the more we can understand each other,” he added.  

Sjostrom concluded: “I have seen so much evidence, year after year, of just how much of a sense of belonging my state colleagues and I feel when we engage with regular, community-focused, culturally-oriented events like these. I feel a greater sense of common cause with my colleagues than I have at any other point in my career, both within Minnesota state service and beyond.”