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3 toma kusoma

A Call for Resilience

An Open Message to Our Grantee Partners

As new Minnesotans, my family and I are settling in during a most unsettling time. Even with spring budding and the hopeful news of more vaccinations, I am deeply aware of the trauma our communities hold.

I started at McKnight in the middle of a pandemic, on the cusp of the George Floyd murder trial, six weeks before the senseless murders of Daunte Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo, and in the midst of mass shootings that have claimed the lives of too many across our nation. We are compounding and revisiting the trauma experienced last year individually and collectively.

As a newcomer, I know I cannot truly understand your experience or the constant pressure at play. What I do know is how we handle this moment matters. As someone who lived and led for decades in Detroit, I witnessed and worked to overcome the darkest days of that city. I learned that in hard times, we can and must build muscle memory to do things together and to do them well. These moments give us the stamina to handle even tougher things in the future.

From my past experiences with crises, I have also learned that when a nation comes and lands on a place to tell its story, it rarely gets it right. In these moments, we have to stand together as a community, get clear and consistent about our own story, and be purposeful about what it is we want to create.

“We are in a perfect position to create something new together, capturing the possibilities of what an equitable and just region and state look like.”—TONYA ALLEN, PRESIDENT

I recognize and admire the incredible strength and resilience you have shown over the last year—and that you will continue to call on, especially during events like those of the last few weeks and in these intense times. We see the work you are doing on the ground and in your communities, and we are grateful to be in partnership as we work toward a more just, creative, and abundant future for all.

Let us be propelled by the fact that we are in a perfect position to create something new together, capturing the possibilities of what an equitable and just region and state look like. To do it, we must stay in the present with clarity for the future. We need to care for ourselves and our communities yet keep our eyes fiercely focused on building an equitable Twin Cities and Minnesota. We must honor this moment and the lives of Mr. Floyd and Mr. Wright by transforming our pain into purpose.

My husband, Louis, often says, “Superheroes can’t get tired, because if they do, what are the regular people to do?” In this spirit, I know that we will endure a lot that will make us exhausted, frustrated, stressed, and exhilarated. Yet you—in your healthiest form and in your highest leadership—are needed in our communities, now more than ever. We need our superheroes fit.

I came to Minnesota because I saw an extraordinary opportunity here to work side by side with leaders like you. I was called to help build a sustainable, just future for Minnesota and beyond, making sure every person can thrive. If this state can forge progress on these issues—in this moment when the whole world is watching—we can be the standard-bearer for the rest of the nation.

Our future relies on your ability to be resilient in this moment. Thank you for all you do for Minnesota, and I look forward to our work together.

April 2021