Editor’s note: This editorial first appeared in the March print edition of Mshale.
The formation of the United Black Legislative Caucus in Minnesota is long overdue but also comes at the right time. We applaud this development and look forward to it being a defining moment in not just Minnesota politics but in our Upper Midwest region.
We take this opportunity to congratulate the elected leaders who have taken this step. It also shows unity by people of African descent in harnessing their numbers to be more effective. The unity we are specially talking about is that of black people born here and are not of immigrant stock and the unity with their immigrant brothers and sisters that are now part of the elected body.
This is indeed a very special moment for all black people in our state. That the caucus launched on Black History Month is noteworthy. Not only was the month of February Black History Month, the caucus was formed just a few weeks after we celebrated a visionary leader in the name of Martin Luther King Jr., and in February we celebrated the birthday of another visionary and fearless leader called Rosa Parks. We also recently saw the first black person born on African soil sworn into the US Congress – Ilhan Omar.
We applaud the legislators for taking note of the fact that black people are no longer monolithic but that we share a common interest in advancing the agenda of people of African descent.
Minnesota, a high achieving state income wise, standard of living and educationally ranks at the top of the nation in most of the scores but when it comes to black people, it is considered the worst state to live in if you are black.
This year also marks 400 years of black people being sold in Virginia as slaves, ancestors by the way both African-Americans, other blacks and African immigrants share.
Blacks in Minnesota are trying their best to achieve but face a myriad of obstacles for what is supposed to be a good state to live and raise your children, a fact except when you happen to be a black person. Even the Minnesota legislature shares the shame of inequities. Black form just over 6% of Minnesota’s population but there are only 6 legislators in the legislature or 3%. The state can do better than this.
The launching of the caucus comes at an opportune time as just a few days later after launching; the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage was also set to release the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage 2019 Legislative Agenda.
One of the agenda items the Council is working on is the Restoration of Voting Rights (HF40). This particular legislation if passed would re-enfranchise over 50,000 Minnesotans, including over 20,000 people of African descent, native or immigrant. As part of its priorities, the Council called on the entire Minnesota congressional delegation to support continuation of Deferred Enforcement of Deportation (DED) that affects mostly the Liberian people in Minnesota.
The Black Legislative Caucus and Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage should therefore be commended for working together to advance the interests, and wellbeing of people African descent in Minnesota.