Over a year ago, I sat down and used Post-it Notes and journal entries to create a makeshift vision board that included these words: Strategic partnerships. Philanthropy. Real estate. Writing. Art. These scribbled words described my thoughts about an ideal occupation, even if it was many jobs cobbled together. More precisely, I was passionate about the possibilities of bringing these words together in ways that connect the Black community with resources and opportunities.
Fast forward in time, and I am six weeks into my new role as Program Director of Economic Ecosystem grantmaking at The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. The scribbled vision has morphed into reality, and I am excited to work for a private family foundation that has committed its resources to investing in the advancement of north Minneapolis through community-led grantmaking.
In 1944, Jay and Rose Phillips, who set roots in north Minneapolis, created a foundation to make a difference in the community, particularly for those who were underserved and experiencing discrimination. Decades later, their descendants are living into that legacy as they intentionally return to the Northside to restore, uplift, and build the area—by, for, and with community—with a focus on education and economic development.
Delving into my new role over the past few weeks, I have been honored to meet with many of the foundation’s strategic partners and community stakeholders, including:
- TRI-Construction, an equity partner, site developer, and future fellow tenant of the 927 West Broadway building. TRI will eventually become the full owner of the 927 Building.
- Domonique Jones, a community leader taking the helm as executive director of the newly formed Property in Partnership Commercial Land Trust, our nation’s first commercial land trust.
- Members of the foundation’s real estate advisory committee, including Renay Dossman and Sharon El-Amin, who work in partnership with other committee members to direct foundation dollars to address community needs.
- Warren McLean and Stephen Obayuwana with Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON), a nonprofit that supports the development and sustainability of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Anissa Keyes, CEO and Founder of Arubah Emotional Health Services and a developer who recently purchased the historic Camden State Park Bank Building on 42nd and Lyndale Avenue North with plans of welcoming 14 small community-based businesses to the space.
- Alfred Babbington-Johnson, CEO and Founder of Stairstep Foundation, who recently purchased the Regional Acceleration Center with Build Wealth MN, Inc.
- Tito Wilson, an entrepreneur and activist who recently purchased a building for his barber shop and other businesses after years of renting.
- Members of the neighborhood associations that contribute to the viability and structure of north Minneapolis, including the Victory Neighborhood Association, Heritage Park Neighborhood Association, Harrison Neighborhood Association, Folwell Neighborhood Association, Hawthorne Huddle, and Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (and I still have more to meet!).
- Foundation partners such as the Pohlad Foundation, Mortenson Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and Northwest Area Foundation, which are positioned and committed to investing and leveraging resources for the greater good of our community.
This list is just a start, and I look forward to connecting with many other community partners in the next few months. But the past few weeks alone have shown me a compelling picture of the work we do together: It is broad, deep, relational, interconnected, and iterative.
Reflecting on my conversations to date, I’m reminded of the final word on my vision board: Art. It’s a term that perfectly captures our work, the varied skills we must use to be effective, and what I look forward to creating with you as we strive to to make a lasting impact.