The group that pushed Minnesota to observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday as a statewide holiday finds itself in a difficult spot this year.
The Council on Black Minnesotans was created by the Legislature in 1980 to advise the governor and the Legislature on issues affecting the state's black population. The council is currently without a leader after a state inquiry found misuse of funds.
It's also one of 25 boards, councils and agencies under review by the state's Sunset Commission to determine whether they should continue operating.
Rosella Collins-Puoch, interim chair for the council, said it's seeking to move forward despite the uncertainty.
"The board that we have in place is very committed, very talented, very passionate about the work," Collins-Puoch said. "I believe the sunset commission is aware of that and very much wants to support us."
Collins-Puoch said the council plans to hire a new executive director and has set up committees to focus on urgent priorities like education, economics, mental health and juvenile justice.
"We have some disparities in our community but we can help ourselves," she said. "We want rest of society to see us in that way, to believe in us."
Blacks in Minnesota have a per-capita income that's less than half that of whites, and a life expectancy that's six years shorter