Dozens of Brooklyn Park residents last evening crammed into city council chambers to witness history being made in Minnesota’s sixth largest city, the swearing in of the city’s first black council member, Wynfred Russell, who was born and raised in Liberia.

Russell, a former instructor at the University of Minnesota, defeated former council member Bob Mata by garnering a convincing 55% of the vote in November’s midterm elections to make him the second person of color elected to the council after that of his now fellow council member, Susan Pha, two years ago. In 2012, Russell, who at the time served on the city’s planning commission, ran for a seat on the same council and lost by just five votes. This time, it was a joyous occasion as friends and family cheered and recorded the historic event.

Minnesota is home to the largest population of Liberians in the United States with Brooklyn Park home to most of them. Many of them were present last night to witness the brief yet monumental event as one of their own placed his hand on his late father’s bible to take the oath of office. The bible had been sent over from Liberia a few days ago in time for the swearing in.

In an interview with Mshale shortly after being elected in November, he said he looks forward to working with others to improve the economic well being of the city’s residents.

“I also intend to focus on the small businesses of which many are run by people of color and do not get the same tax breaks or incentives other big companies get from our city,” he said. “But if we can get some grants to support them, the small business is the backbone of the economy and it will benefit our city if they thrive.”


  • Bethel is a general assignment reporter and photojournalist at Mshale. She is based in Atlanta.

About Bethel Gessesse, Mshale Photojournalist

Bethel is a general assignment reporter and photojournalist at Mshale. She is based in Atlanta.

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