They whisper it, but we do not hear. They clearly tell us, but we do not believe. They plead for understanding, and yet we justify our convictions. We see it with our own eyes, only to brush it away. They take to the streets, and we condemn the tactics. What’s it going to take for us to listen? To demand justice? To take action? Our time to listen to Minnesota BIPOC women leading the way for change is now.
Social Justice: the concept of fair and just relations between an individual and society in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges. Seems simple; easy. Little kids understand this concept of fairness and they know it when they see it. Adults, we’re exceptionally good at training them out of it until fairness becomes a measure of one’s own privilege and power against everyone else. “UNFAIR!” It’s easy to pick up the chant as long as “I’m not asked to give up some of my own power for it.”
We spend most of our time at Rock What You Got working on gender equality awareness (women, transgender women, gender non-binary). But let’s be real. Even as we are fighting for social justice for women overall, fairness isn’t truly fair, and equality is not equal. Our black, brown, indigenous, Latinx, immigrant and BIPOC transgender women are fighting a double battle – sexism and racism – and the complexities, pain, and trauma of constantly being under attack from every angle must be absolutely exhausting!
It’s not enough to advocate for justice for women in general. We believe that we must be a beacon, shining a light on the disparities, but then giving the spotlight to the women whose voices are so important, so powerful that their amplification is the elixir we need right now.
These are a few of the Minnesota BIPOC women leading the way for change:
People of Color Indigenous (POCI) Caucus
POCI Caucus, the majority of whom are women, is a group of state legislators who are driving change in education, health care, economic security, and criminal justice reform. Before the tragic and senseless murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, this group of public servants was actively seeking to tackle the significant disparities that exist for BIPOC in MN. Learn more about their agenda here https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/profile/news/15356/26700.
The Women of the People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus includes Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn (42B), Aisha Gomez (62B), Hodan Hassan (62A), Kaohly Her (64A), Mary Kunesh-Podein (41B), Alice Mann (56B), Rena Moran (65A), Ruth Richardson (52B), Samantha Vang (40B), and Sens. Melisa Franzen (49) and Patricia Torres Ray (63).
Nekima Levy Armstrong
There is no stronger advocate for justice then Nekima. As a lawyer, former president of the Minneapolis NAACP and founder of Black Pearl, a consulting firm specializing in racial equity, problem solving, community engagement and public relations, she is on the front lines of awareness and advocacy. A fearless defender of human rights and bold visionary, Nekima will continue to be a profound leader in our metamorphosis.
We were so fortunate to have Patina speak at our Rock What You Got Women Empowering Women Symposium last fall. A Mnicoujou Lakota, whose family comes from the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes, she is a fierce advocate for indigenous women and their families. Former President & CEO of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Faculty at Falmouth Institute and currently the Director of MN Tribal State Relations Systems Implementation.
Newly minted U of M Student Body President, Jael Kerandi, was “excited about everything” (mndaily.com/article/2020/01) after the resignation midyear of the previous president. She may not have expected to be front and center of one of the biggest changes to happen at the University in many years – cancelling some of its contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department after George Floyd’s murder – but her leadership, courage and ability to garner support from a multitude of students, faculty, staff and Minnesota residents was a force of passion and determination. Look for Jael to be a leader for years to come!
In 2017, Andrea Jenkins made history as the first black transgender woman to be elected to the city council of a major city – Minneapolis. An accomplished poet, writer, performer and speaker, Andrea has a long history of advocacy and public policy work in the city. As Minneapolis experienced significant pain and grief that poured out on to the streets in the form of protests, as well as fires, looting and riots, Andrea was a key voice of calm and hope as she sang Amazing Grace and read a poem. She was also instrumental in the city council vote to defund the MPD.
There are thousands of brilliant and fierce Minnesota BIPOC women leading the way for change in our communities at every level – from their city streets to their schools, community organizations and non-profits, to local city councils and county boards, at the state level and everywhere in between. We welcome you to share those leaders you love in the comments for us to follow and listen to. Tell us who we should be watching, elevating, listening to and supporting.
Justice, equality, opportunity and access can be had by all. All of us at Rock What You Got promise to listen more carefully, with empathy and compassion, and then take action to ensure change is authentic and effective. As we build our community, we will continue to use what we learned to ensure our mission of gender equality is truly equal for all our sisters.