Below are my opening remarks from the 2017 Cities United Convening, as delivered on August 23, 2017.
Welcome to Minneapolis!
I’m honored to have you all here. As I hope you’ll experience for yourselves over the next few days, Minneapolis is a city that has a lot going for it – the best parks in the country, many diverse, vibrant communities, and a thriving culture of art and creativity. We’ve also got so many beautiful lakes that we considered giving you each your own to take home. Next time, maybe.
Minneapolis is a great city, but like many cities, we’re facing a great challenge – rates of violence against young black and native boys and men remain unacceptably high. And that’s why we’re here.
We’re here because we know that, as leaders in our cities, communities and neighborhoods, we can’t allow these trends to continue to devastate families.
We’re here because we know that we can’t reduce violence just by putting more people behind bars.
We’re here because we know that young people are the lifeblood of our cities, and that to secure their futures, we must take decisive and ongoing action.
I’m proud to have Minneapolis host the Cities United Convening – a chance for us to turn what we know into action, and create safer, healthier and more hopeful communities in all of our cities.
In many ways, Minneapolis is a perfect place for this event. People around here know this, because I remind everyone as often as I can, but you may not: Minneapolis is doing some of the most innovative work on violence prevention anywhere in the country.
Because violence and poverty are inextricably linked, we’re committed to growing an inclusive economy, ensuring that all communities can contribute to and enjoy the benefits of our city’s economic growth.
We’re facing some stark racial inequities in Minneapolis, and we know they cannot be allowed to continue. So we’re investing in early learning initiatives like our Cradle to K program, to help close those disparities before they take hold in our children’s lives.
And we’re building a comprehensive, public health approach to addressing violence, one that does more to incorporate the pillars of 21st Century policing than almost any city in America. For us, fostering community engagement in public safety and growing public trust aren’t just tactics—they’re central to the culture we’re trying to create in our city.
This summer, for example, we launched an initiative that directs $500,000 to community and youth-led projects in two Minneapolis neighborhoods most harmed by violence. We solicited ideas from youth and community for how to create safe, healthy and hopeful neighborhoods. Then we supported those communities as they selected eleven strategies to bring to life.
I’m excited for the opportunity to share more about this work with all of you. And I know that we have a lot of work left to do in Minneapolis to get where we want to go. So I’m also excited for this opportunity to learn from all of you about what’s working in your communities.
Because that’s what this gathering is about. Learning.
Learning from each other about ways to address the issues of poverty and limited opportunity that plague far too many communities of color.
Learning from each other the best ways to spur the kind of innovation and investment that will transform the lives of our young people—particularly our young Black and Native men and boys.
Learning from each other about how to most effectively build pathways to justice, employment, and education, for all of our communities.
And we do this learning in support of our common goal—one that may seem lofty, but a goal I firmly believe is not beyond us: We WILL cut the homicide rate of our young Black men and boys in half by the year 2025, because we can and because we must.
This work didn’t start today. This work didn’t start with Cities United. But everyone in this room is part of a proud tradition of people who have looked at this injustice and chosen to fight, instead of looking away.
We are here.
And we are here because we know that every young person in America deserves a safe, healthy, and hopeful community. Every single one.
So welcome to Minneapolis, and welcome to the Cities United Convening.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for your commitment to your communities.
Now let’s get to work.