Anti-Racism Initiative Finalists

Logo for 2024 Minnesota Nonprofit Mission Awards for Anti-Racism Initiative with purple graphic surrounding text

The Mission Award for Anti-Racism Initiative recognizes an organization that actively engages audiences in anti-racism activities. Nominated organizations should:

  • Work to eliminate prejudice and racism in society;
  • Demonstrate a commitment to pluralism and inclusivity; and
  • Develop unique and thought-provoking strategies to combat racism.

Participants of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute's "Leaders are Readers" program hold books

Participants of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute’s “Leaders are Readers” program.

Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute (PPGJLI) is a Minnesota, nonprofit whose mission is to encourage literacy among Black children living in the St. Paul/Ramsey County community. By providing free book distribution and read-aloud events, the organization has attained its goal of helping more than 30,000 Black children experience the joy of reading. They are also on a trajectory of meeting their second goal of training 100 new Black authors.

Students who are not proficient in reading are 4x more likely to drop out of school and dropouts are 3.5x more likely to be arrested during their lifetime. 85% of children in the juvenile justice system are not literate. PPGJLI’s goal is to create new pipelines to success by improving literacy rates and inspiring the next generation of leaders.

PPGJLI employs unique and thought-provoking strategies to combat racism as evidenced through racial disparities in education and the emergence of the school to prison pipeline. PPGJLI works to increase literacy within Black communities by targeting Black elementary students and their families, schools, libraries, and community organizations. Its two core programs support Black people of all ages by developing their literacy, artistry and strengthening their cultural roots:

Leaders are Readers: Children cannot experience the joy of reading without hearing and reading relatable books. Pre-school and early elementary school children need to hear stories with self-esteem building messages about children like them. Our program provides intergenerational reading circles where Black authors read and discuss their books with children and families. Read-aloud sessions are free and open to all youth, but intentionally centered in public schools, libraries, and community organizations in historically Black neighborhoods.

PPGJLI distributes age-appropriate books by Black authors about Black characters experiencing Black culture and values with messaging that encourages Black students to experience the joy of reading. These books are distributed without charge through schools, libraries and community organizations in historically Black neighborhoods.

100 New Black Authors: PPGJLI promotes cultural preservation through its workshops, competitions, and trainings for emerging Black authors of elementary school through retirement age. Workshops are conducted by Black professional educators and published authors. The winners’ manuscripts are published, and distributed throughout the United States.

PPGJLI’s impact on Minnesota communities has been astounding. Through their innovative Leaders are Readers program and curriculum, they’ve helped countless children discover the joy in reading while promoting diversity and inclusivity. By distributing over 25,090 books, inspiring 5,658 students, and facilitating read-alouds for more than 30,000 listeners, PPGJLI has touched countless lives and empowered young minds to create positive change.

Furthermore, their programming has instilled values of personal leadership, social responsibility, and cultural appreciation in the next generation of leaders. For over eight years, PPGJLI has provided the community with an arsenal of tools to help dismantle barriers of racism and inequality in our communities. Their commitment to promoting social change through education illuminates their dedication to creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

The most revealing indication of PPGJI’s impact is seen through the stories of young students who discover the power to make positive changes through literacy. By cultivating young Black students’ joy in reading PPGJLI is sowing the seeds of change in Minnesota communities.

A group of individuals participating in our 2023 Fall Alma Ritmica Dance program, aimed at promoting physical and mental well-being through movement and social interaction.

A group of individuals participating in the Alma Ritmica Dance program, aimed at promoting physical and mental well-being through movement and social interaction.

Raíces Sagradas Community Mental Health provides no-cost, linguistically accessible, and culturally grounded mental health therapy, community healing circles, and psychological evaluations (required for immigration processes), to low-income, uninsured, Spanish-speaking immigrants and refugees from over 15 countries. Through comprehensive mental health services, Raíces work aims to break cycles of intergenerational trauma, address root causes of mental health concerns, and foster individual self-sufficiency for lasting well-being in Hispanic communities.

Access to affordable mental health services is profoundly limited for immigrants due to widespread lack of health insurance, a scarcity of Spanish-speaking therapists, and financial constraints for out-of-pocket payments. In 2023, surging mental health needs drove a spike in Raíces’ demand. During the last quarter of 2023, their Intake Coordinator handled 150+ inquiries, resulting in 45 calls advancing to screenings and yielding an 80-person waitlist surge—further underscoring service urgency.

In a time when therapy sessions cost an average of $165/session, and immigration evaluations cost $700 each, Raíces has stepped up to confront these issues head-on. In 2023 alone, the organization provided over 4,225 therapy sessions and conducted 35 psychological evaluations at no cost to clients. The market value of these services is a staggering $650,000 annually — not counting the cost of interpreters ($45 to $150/hour) most agencies employ to facilitate therapy and psychological evaluations in Spanish, which we bypass due to our employment of skillful bilingual clinicians. This equates to an organizational cost savings of roughly $171,000 to $316,000/year in translation and interpretation fees per year that can instead be directed to serving our clients and the broader community. Raíces remarkably provided these services on a mere $250,000 annual budget, benefitting more than 900 people yearly at no cost to them.

Raíces’ work is guided by the fundamental belief that everyone deserves happiness and healing regardless of background or circumstance. In this critical moment marked by rejection and ostracism for many immigrants, their services foster compassion, empathy, and solidarity.

Raíces is the only nonprofit in Minnesota offering culturally sensitive therapy that is both free of charge and provided in Spanish to uninsured immigrants who do not have adequate resources to pursue support or safe spaces to share their traumatic stories. Therapies are facilitated by a team of Hispanic clinicians who understand cultural norms, consider the whole person’s needs, and invite clients to participate in actively co-creating their treatment plan.

Raíces also organizes “Healing Circles” offering social support and trauma awareness to the broader Hispanic community. Healing Circles are discussion-based educational circles aimed to normalize conversations of mental health and help-seeking, establish safe spaces where Hispanic community members can gather to share their stories, and integrate new learning into their individual, family, and community experiences.

Through linguistically, culturally, and financially accessible therapy, healing circles, and psychological evaluations, Raíces aims to create a more equitable landscape for healing by breaking down negative cultural beliefs surrounding pursuance of professional mental health services in Hispanic communities and increasing awareness and normalization of help-seeking behaviors through outreach, education, and partnerships with trusted community leaders.

Simpson Housing Services' employee posing with client

Simpson Housing Services’ mission is to house, support, and advocate for people experiencing homelessness. With over 40 years of exemplary leadership and service, Simpson has helped thousands of people gain long-term stability. Key programs include an extended-stay shelter; supportive housing programs for youth, single adults, and families; and developmental and educational services for children. Annually, they support 2,000 people transitioning out of homelessness, including 300 families with 650 children.

BIPOC are over 80 percent of Simpson shelter guests and housing participants but 7.6 percent of Minnesotans (U.S. Census, 2023). The agency understands that this disparity is a direct result of systemic racism, which must be addressed. The organization is working to become anti-racist by dismantling racism and saviorism internally and externally.

Simpson challenges existing systems by partnering with people to achieve independence from systemic barriers and empowering them to break generational cycles of poverty and homelessness. Simpson staff are guided by these core principles:

  • Believing in a transformational model, which provides people with the life skills and support they need to sustain housing stability, rather than a transactional model that centers saviorism and dependency on systems.
  • Working cross-functionally to provide the resources and tools people need to live the lives they want.
  • Recognizing people’s unique needs and circumstances.
  • Helping people pursue their dreams, including education, home ownership, and their children’s academic achievements.
  • Collaboratively improving programs and services. Simpson provides participants with stipends for their input and for leading peer learning sessions.
  • Valuing people’s lived experience, inherent dignity, and innate strengths.

The staff developed a transformational framework, in which participants determine their goals for stability and are equal partners, based on five pillars:

  • Setting expectations for participants.
  • Having authentic conversations incorporating curiosity.
  • Achieving true collaboration with participants.
  • Believing in people’s potential.
  • Conducting future planning.

BIPOC staff leaders developed an anti-racism framework, which guides the agency’s work from programs to operations and builds on a culture of collaboration, authentic relationships, openness to change, and long-term investment in racial justice. Key examples:

  1. Valuing and committing to spaces led by BIPOC staff, such as the Anti-Racism Lab, where Simpson staff learn about white supremacy, share experiences, and create solutions.
  2. Investing in equitable policies and benefits, including free legal, health, and financial tools available 24/7, and recruitment and retention. BIPOC comprise 49% of staff and 36% of internal promotions to management positions.
  3. Committing critical resources and time (1,200+ annual staff hours) to mandatory trainings, which deepen trust and shared commitment among staff and volunteers. Sessions include unpacking bias and addressing microaggressions; understanding intergenerational trauma and utilizing compassionate accountability with the Black community; and creating volunteer programs based on community, not saviorism.

Externally, the agency challenges systemic racism by advocating for change with partners, government agencies, funders, and supporters. Key examples:

  1. Educating the local healthcare industry, such as pediatricians and medical students, on how racism impacts BIPOC health disparities.
  2. Asking grant funders to collect strengths-based data linked to goals rather than data that re-traumatizes participants (sexual abuse, trafficking, incarceration). This practice helps the staff and participants build trusting, supportive relationships.
  3. Advocating for government agencies and private funders to change short due dates, which impacts smaller agencies without dedicated grant writers.
  4. Partnering with developers and property managers to create equitable tenant screening requirements and improve participants’ access to housing, which impacts other renters.
  5. Revising their in-kind donation process based on what participants want and need – not what people want to give.

Simpson is moving beyond difficult conversations to create systemic change within the agency and community. They invite everyone to do anti-racist work, dismantle systems, and collaborate to achieve racial justice.