Black History Month celebrates and honors the accomplishments of black Americans through time.
Every weekday this February, MPR News is featuring black Minnesotans who are making history right now across the state. Each profile will discuss what being black in Minnesota means to them, a bit about their background and their hopes for the future.
• Your story: Who's helping make things better in your community?
Farji Shaheer, 39, is program manager and director of the Next Step program at HCMC and North Memorial Hospital.
"I'd really like to see it where we can go a whole summer, maybe a whole year without anyone being shot down by nonsensical violence or emotional violence. Also, I would like to see some of the gun laws changed. But that's a different story."
Jerry Holt, 58, is a Star Tribune staff photographer. A childhood friend bought him his first camera in high school.
"My parents always instilled in me that I was as equal as anybody else. It had nothing to do with my skin color. I was no better or no worse than anyone else. And so I've never had a chip on my shoulder or anything, that I was nothing other than a perfect human being."
Me'Lea Connelly, 36, is vision and strategy lead and director of development for Village Financial Cooperative.
"My vision is that we can create a model that a lot of other black communities across the country that are facing really dire socio-economic inequities in their cities and looking for solutions and addressing that in ways that allow them to lead and allow them to have agency."
Verna Cornelia Price, 55, and Shane Price, 64, co-founders of The Power of People Leadership Institute, have helped thousands through their programs, everyone from people incarcerated in state prison to young girls of color.
Shane Price: "I think that African-Americans are experiencing a type of Renaissance. Now, I can't prove it, but I can just tell you I can feel it. There's something moving, there's something on the ground that is calling us together again, this time though with the multitude of people, and it's creating in some ways a new thinking that comes against the old order."
Verna Price: "My vision is to have every African-American child, every African child, every Caucasian child, understand the impact and significance of African-American people and what they bring to this country."
Artiera Evans, 31, is a third-grade teacher at Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center in Minneapolis. Evans received a national award from a nonprofit called Honored in part because of her work with a shy student who struggled to focus during school.
"Here in Minnesota, it's not quite as overt but we still have racism going on here. I think that being in Minnesota, it's a little bit easier to navigate because it's not quite as in your face but a lot of the subtleties are microaggressions and are definitely something that black Minnesotans have to deal with."
Walter "Q bear" Banks Jr., 59, is a DJ and operations manager at KMOJ community radio station. Banks has been broadcasting the Minneapolis sound at the station for 40 years. He's been in the studio as KMOJ has grown from a low-power FM station to a Minneapolis staple, hosting shows on almost every genre of music and directing programming.
"So for me, being a black male in the state of Minnesota is just, stand up and be black and be proud of that because there's been so much negativity that's been thrown at you of what you can't be and what you are not. Everything has been negative. But there's the positive side of when you start looking in the mirror and you see in yourself and you start believing in who you look at in the mirror."
Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, 73, was Minnesota's first black Supreme Court justice and is the founder of the Page Education Foundation, which provides scholarships and mentoring to young people of color. He was also an NFL star with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.
"You know we're — we all have different abilities and disabilities, but we're all equal. Somehow that gets lost on a day-to-day basis, that somehow because I look different I'm less than. And I dream of the day when that doesn't happen, that you see me and whatever hue of the rainbow I am, you see me just like you see everybody else."
James Badue-El serves as criminal justice state chair for the Minneapolis NAACP where he works to reduce prison recidivism. In the fall of 2018, he organized the "I'm Proof" awards, highlighting formerly incarcerated men and women making positive changes in their lives and communities.
"I don't have to be a voice for them because they've got their own voice. I haven't got to be a body for them because they've got their own body. Unless they're incarcerated then I am a body for you because you can't have your own body out here in the community, and you still need protection and security as you go through the trials and tribulations while you're incarcerated."
Michelle Walker is executive director of Generation Next. The nonprofit works to close the achievement gaps in the Twin Cities.
"We have a lot to contribute as black Minnesotans. That our voices are heard. That we are able to continue to participate in real meaningful ways, and that the knowledge that exists here is knowledge that can be shared and tapped into by many different communities that we find."
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter is a fourth-generation St. Paulite and the first black mayor of St. Paul.
"I don't know that my vision for the future of African-Americans in Minnesota is all that different than my vision for the future of everyone. Our mantra is building a city that works for all of us. And that means all of us have to get an opportunity to be a part of the decision making processes that impact our lives."
Leslie Redmond became the youngest president of the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP when she was elected to the position in March 2018 at the age of 25. Redmond is pursuing her law degree and Master of Business Administration at St. Thomas University.
"We are seeing historical waves from a political standpoint, from the arts and culture, from the professional standpoint, from the young lawyers who are up and coming. I believe that Minnesota black people are really just reclaiming their greatness and are making sure that their voices are being heard."