Meet Four DEI Leaders of Minnesota

In the realms of education, sports, medicine, and media, these trailblazers are pushing us beyond ”Minnesota Nice” toward results in diversity, equity, and inclusion
Clockwise from upper left: Yohuru Williams, Amina Jaafar, Tru Pettigrew, Anjali Bhagra
Clockwise from upper left: Yohuru Williams, Amina Jaafar, Tru Pettigrew, Anjali Bhagra

All photos provided

In the last few years, Minnesota has seen a number of prominent killings by police officers and has found itself at the center of national attention on racial disparities. The murder of George Floyd, in particular, caused people to examine how they fit into (or hinder) the goals of a broad social justice movement. Because tragedy doesn’t exist in a vacuum, we asked four of Minnesota’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leaders about how everyday work decisions and company culture can make a better future.

Amina Jaafar of Twin Cities Public Television

It wasn’t one thing that brought Amina Jaafar to the field of diversity and inclusion—or, as Twin Cities Public Television puts it, inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). Instead, TPT’s chief inclusion and strategy officer entered it through moments of disconnection—when she was the only person of color in a space, when people became afraid of Muslims after 9/11, when her counseling-psychology graduate work perpetuated stereotypes about Muslim women. Continue reading

Anjali Bhagra of Mayo Clinic

Anjali Bhagra originally entered the diversity, equity, and inclusion field after experiencing a lack of resources for parents, particularly women, who worked in medicine. Parental leave was lacking; work evaluations didn’t account for parenting needs. There weren’t lactation rooms or guidelines that supported lactating parents, nor was there round-the-clock daycare. Conversation after conversation, she started to change that. Continue reading

Tru Pettigrew of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx

After Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man, was shot in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, Tru Pettigrew walked through the doors of his local North Carolina police department and asked, “Do I have to worry about my son? Where do you all stand?” Those questions led to a conversation with one of the officers, which led Pettigrew to create diversity training that was eventually given across the country. Continue reading

Yohuru Williams of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas’s new Racial Justice Initiative (RJI) is not diversity training, according to its founding director, Yohuru Williams. “When you think about training,” he says, “it’s this idea where you’re going to break behaviors or encourage a certain level of dialogue and interaction simply based on what happens in a given afternoon, without establishing the foundations for how we got here.” Continue reading

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