Happy Black History Month! To celebrate Black history and the critical contributions of Black leaders across our state, we’re honoring Black Minnesotans who are making history right now with their work in the Minnesota Legislature.
Here are a few ways Black Minnesota legislators are making history in Minnesota and paving the way for a more equitable state:
Restore the Vote is now Minnesota law
Last year, in a historic victory, the Minnesota Legislature voted to restore voting rights for over 50,000 Minnesotans across the state.
The Restore the Vote Act returns the right to vote for formerly incarcerated people who now live, work, and contribute to our communities. The law was championed by Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, who, in addition to being the first Black Senate president in Minnesota history, led the charge on bringing the bill to life.
Currently, in the United States, one in 19 Black Americans of voting age is disenfranchised from the right to vote. This means that 5.3% of adult Black people living in our country can’t access the right to vote.
In Minnesota, disenfranchisement among Black adults is about 4.4x higher than for non-Black adults.
Restore the Vote takes necessary steps to prevent the unjust exclusion of Black people and all people affected by the criminal justice system from the fundamental right to vote and participate in our democracy.
For the first time in 164 years of statehood, Black women served in the Minnesota State Senate
In the 2022 midterms, millions of Minnesotans made their voices heard, rejecting conservative extremism, opting for diverse leaders with strong policy visions, and taking back progressive control of the Minnesota Senate.
Prior to 2023, a Black woman had yet to serve in the Minnesota Senate. But, now, there’s not just one, but three creating change in Minnesota. The three electeds include:
- Senator Erin Maye-Quade who is one of three first Black women to serve in the Minnesota Senate as well as the first out lesbian in the Minnesota Senate.
- Senator Zaynab Mohamed who became one of three first Black women, the first Somali woman and the youngest woman elected to the Minnesota Senate.
- Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten who advocated for the CROWN Act, an expansion of the Minnesota Human Rights Act to prohibit race-based discrimination, specifically concerning hair.
Minnesota’s youngest senator championed Driver’s Licenses for All
Senator Zaynab Mohamed might have been the youngest Senator at the Minnesota State Capitol, but that didn’t stop her from reaching far and wide during her first term.
As the chief author of Driver’s Licenses for All, Senator Mohamed shepherded historic legislation that allows Minnesotans to earn a driver’s license regardless of their immigration status.
Much more to come in 2024
In 2023, Black leaders in Minnesota made history. But there’s still much more work to come.
We can’t wait to see how progressive leadership at the Capitol will continue to work together to invest in our communities and build a better Minnesota.
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