Re-Envisioning Equity

Photo Sarah Whiting

Since May, I have been working as the Hennepin County Disparity Reduction Coordinator. There are seven areas led by county-appointed domain leaders: education, income, employment, health, housing, transportation, justice. My role is to assist with strategy to change the current conditions — in tandem with city, county, and state organizations — around racial disparities. 

I grew up in poverty in the small town of Ford Heights, Illinois. As of 2011, the per capita income there was $12,217. My childhood experience is why I have dedicated my life to public service for almost 20 years. 

In some ways, the community of my childhood is much like impoverished communities in Minnesota. There are not enough voices at the table that move policy forward to enable growth and well-being for all of us.

Leadership — in every area of government and business — with roots in communities of color will be better able to identify and address policies and protocols that overwhelmingly and negatively affect people of color. 

That’s not just good for the 853,343 of people in our state who are people of color. It is good for everyone. 

It Is About Representation

Did you know:

  • Since U.S. Congress first convened in 1789, our country has had 12,249 individuals serving as representatives, senators, or both. Only 153 of them have been African-American.
  • The current 115th Congress started in 2018 with 51 African-Americans — that is only 9.5 percent of voting members in the House and Senate. 
  • Of the 112 women serving in Congress as of October, only 21 are African-American. 

Although these numbers represent a sad and glaring truth, there is hope. The 115th Congress does at least have the highest number of African-Americans than any Congress we’ve had before.

I bring up national statistics because I have grown to realize how much representation in leadership is necessary for a community to thrive. When diverse voices are not invited, or do not feel welcome, to join conversations in rooms where important decisions are being made, the dollars that are distributed don’t include that community. 

I have also grown to realize how important it is that women are represented in our political offices, just as it is important that African-Americans and other minorities are represented. 

There are tremendous strides we can make in this mid-term election to start to change that. 

De’Vonna Pittman is an author, activator, and influencer who works to create spaces so that people are empowered to be their greatest selves.