Anti-Racism Initiative Finalists

The Mission Award for Anti-Racism Initiative recognizes an organization that actively engages audiences in anti-racism activities. Nominated organizations should:

  • Work to eliminate prejudice and racism in society;
  • Demonstrate a commitment to pluralism and inclusivity; and
  • Develop unique and thought-provoking strategies to combat racism.

Voting has closed for the 2023 Mission Awards. Thank you!

2023 Anti-Racism Logo

2023 Anti-Racism Initiative Finalists:

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center  |  Native Governance Center  |  Sweet Potato Comfort Pie

HQB photo 1

Early Learning Center participants being read to by a member of the Hallie Q. Brown team.

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc. (HQB) is an African-American, nonprofit multi-service center located in the Summit-University neighborhood of Saint Paul. Founded in 1929 to serve the African-American community of Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, the organization has since expanded to not only serve our historical service area, the Summit-University neighborhood, but to support participants from across the Twin Cities Metro. HQB’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our community by providing access to critical human services, fostering and promoting personal growth, and developing community leadership.

Throughout HQB’s history, they have addressed the impact that systemic racism has on the African-American community in Saint Paul by offering programs that mitigate such impacts. Whether it be by providing basic needs that support the health of BIPOC participants in a way that is culturally relevant and empowering, offering BIPOC children and their families access to affordable childcare and before/after school programming, or applying professional standards to the archiving of Rondo’s vibrant and proudly Black past, the organization has always and will continue to center anti-racism in their work.

Since George Floyd’s murder in 2020, the nonprofit realized that Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, with its almost century of serving a predominantly African-American participant base, is uniquely qualified to take on a leadership position in advocating for anti-racist education amongst stakeholders in their community, in the Twin Cities Metro, and the State of Minnesota as a whole. These two factors, the immense need for leadership in anti-racist education and our capacity to meet this need, led to the development and implementation of our Anti-Racism Awareness Initiative.     

The Anti-Racism Awareness Initiative is composed of several elements, all geared towards improving community education and dialogue around Anti-Racism and Critical Race Theory, including:     

  • Providing education sessions for boards, senior leadership and company/organization staff on such topics as Critical Race Theory, systemic racism, redlining, Slavery, Jim Crow, and their impact on today’s society and structures
  • Providing corporate and community groups with place-based engagement on Black history with a primary focus HQB’s and the Rondo Community’s history, as well as collaborating to participate in service projects
  • Providing expert consultation and panel participation on the practical applications of Critical Race Theory, diversity, equity and inclusion and guidance to success
  • Hosting community conversations, advocacy dialogues, special events, and listening sessions to begin addressing the impact of systemic racism on communities.

HQB’s Anti-Racism Education Initiative has directly impacted participants in several ways. To begin, each business, corporation, nonprofit, or other group taking part in the organization’s educational sessions not only received personalized sessions that delve into the historical trends that undergird systemic racism in the United States, the way racism appears in daily life, and the usage of Critical Race Theory as a framework for developing anti-racist policies, but also received follow-up work materials to help them build upon and utilize what they learned during their educational session.

Feedback from participants highlighted the positive impact these offerings had for them, with participants reporting an improved racial equity fluency within their organizations, an ability to better identify how racial privilege has influenced their lives and the lives of others, a demystification of Critical Race Theory, and an expanded toolbox of practical methods to apply this knowledge to their organization’s work.

Native Governance Center Featured Photo_MCN

NGC leadership program members, the Rebuilders program, in community with one another at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community's Hoċokata Ti cultural center. 

Native Governance Center (NGC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Native nations in strengthening their governance systems and capacity to exercise sovereignty. With a constituency of approximately 228,000 people, NGC supports 23 Native nations sharing geography with Mni Sota Makoce, North Dakota, and South Dakota, in addition to Native leaders and members of the public.

Native Governance Center is ultimately working to cultivate a Native nation rebuilding movement. The organization envisions this movement leading to a future where all Indigenous people can thrive on their own terms. NGC has three main program areas: Tribal Governance Support, Leadership Development, and Community Engagement.

The organization strives to further the Native narrative change movement through its programs. The movement is an effort to challenge prejudice and racism. Many of us learned stereotypes and untruths about Native people during our K-12 education. On top of that, our major institutions — such as the media, pop culture, and government — exclude modern-day Indigenous voices. Exclusion leads to invisibility, further fueling the creation of damaging myths about Native people.   

NGC’s strategies for challenging prejudice and racism are unique. In 2022, Native Governance Center created a new short video series, Wings with Wayne, that bridges the gap between outdated learnings and real Indigenous narratives. The show is a spoof on the popular YouTube series Hot Ones. In each episode, NGC’s executive director Wayne Ducheneaux II visits with an Indigenous changemaker to explore what sovereignty means to them. And, true to the show's title, they also enjoy some very hot wings.

Native Governance Center also hosts several free events each year that are thought-provoking and educational. The organization sees the value of having hard conversations, prioritizing topics that will engage a variety of viewpoints. Previous event topics include blood quantum, Indigenous representation, and appropriate terminology. NGC’s event panels feature Native leaders from a variety of sectors, demonstrating that Native people are still here and thriving.

NGC’s online resource library, featuring beginner-friendly videos and publications focused on taking action, reached more than 59,000 people in 2022. The library includes popular guides to land acknowledgment and beyond land acknowledgment, which have been cited and used by thousands of individuals around the world. NGC’s land acknowledgment work has been featured by USA Today, CNN, the Star Tribune, and Stuff You Should Know (podcast), among other media outlets.

NGC’s resources inspired the following projects in 2022 and 2023, among others:    

  • NGC’s beyond land acknowledgment resources inspired the creation of a new honor tax program benefitting and created in partnership with a Native nation. Called the Mni Sota Makoce Honor Tax, the program directs voluntary rent payments to the Lower Sioux Indian Community. Rent and mortgage payments give us access to living space; voluntary land taxes recognize our access to stolen Indigenous land.
  • Native Governance Center’s community engagement content encouraged a local congregation to create a customized six-week land acknowledgement journey for their members. The journey includes 12 hours of video and written content. The ultimate goal is to engage their congregation in creating a land acknowledgment statement that is non-performative and goes beyond simply checking a box.
  • NGC’s narrative change initiatives led to contact by a summer camp that recently used the names of Native nations to label their cabins. After conversations with NGC staff around harmful narratives, camp representatives underwent a process to research and understand the harm they were causing Native people, and engaged with local nations to identify respectful ways their camp could teach about, and uplift, Native people.
  • Author Ko Kim wrote a children’s book on healing from microaggressions, crediting NGC for the guidance she received from the organization’s style guide on decolonizing language.

Native Governance Center is committed to advancing pluralism and inclusivity by creating programming that embodies its value of “be a good relative.” NGC believes that all of us have a role to play in helping Native nations thrive. When Native nations succeed, surrounding communities succeed, too.

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie photo

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie's photo exhibit, "Character Values: Upholding Our Beloved Community," on display at the Breck School Cargill Theater.

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie’s (SPCP) mission is to advance racial justice and equity, heal damage caused by race-based trauma, and elevate marginalized voices and experiences. Based in the Twin Cities metro area, the organization’s initiatives have impacted communities throughout Minnesota. It began in 2014 when president and founder Rose McGee felt a calling to bring sweet potato comfort pies (which she considers the “sacred dessert of Black culture”) to Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the police murder of Michael Brown. There, Ms. McGee discovered the “power of the pie” to bring healing to hurting people, to open conversation and to catalyze change.

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie continues its transformative work in two ways. First, by strengthening, healing and uplifting the Black and other BIPOC communities and secondly, by creating multiracial communities of care for allied racial justice action. It is with both these points of focus that SPCP creates vibrant intersections and drives change. SPCP programming has led to collaborations, education, lifelong friendships, career opportunities, policy change and ripple effects throughout the Twin Cities, Minnesota and, in fact, the world (in 2021, SPCP was named in the Japanese press as one of the year’s “Top Positive Stories”).

The organization has multi-faceted programming that includes the powerful Black cultural food tradition that centers the sweet potato comfort pie for comfort as well as celebration; group bakes and story-circle workshops exploring racial experiences and healing; BIPOC-centered speaker series and educational events; special healing retreats for those most impacted by racial trauma; original community-based artistic productions; youth/elder mentorship programming; and large alliance-building live events.

The two largest events include the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday of Service, which has been held every year since 2014 and draws crowds of 400+ people. The event is kicked off by the Procession of the Pies, one person carrying one sweet potato comfort pie representing each year of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s age if he were alive today. The event also features speakers, artists, storytelling, video and facilitated conversation about racial justice. Another signature event takes place each year for Juneteenth. This year’s events include a four-city tour of an original play that tells the story of Juneteenth. The play, “Kumbayah: The Juneteenth Story,” was produced in partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center and will be performed in Minneapolis before heading out to St. Cloud, Rochester and St. Peter.

Another signature artistic production is the photo exhibit Character Values: Upholding Our Beloved Community, which features portraits and biographical poems honoring community heroes who embody building Beloved Community.

Additional programming includes the Black Women’s Healing Retreat, the Rose Service Scholar youth/elder mutual mentorship program for Black youth and elders, award-winning speaking series that amplify BIPOC voices, and more.