From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Ron Harris
Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Before we even begin to shape a more equitable future, we need to reconcile with our past racial injustices as a country that are still playing out today.

The public sector is the one entity constitutionally tasked with looking out for the wellbeing of its citizens. When that is weakened, who steps up to fill that space?

When I think about when George Floyd was murdered, my team and I spent a lot of time on the ground and witnessed how organic leadership developed in the midst of crisis. White supremacists were coming into our city and we had neighbors naturally band together, setting up communication lines, ensuring that one another was safe and that our elderly neighbors had access to medicine and basic needs.

As the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Minneapolis, part of my work is developing a strategy for building resilience and understanding how to capture that organic leadership so that we can build capacity and support for community-led emergency response. Minneapolis has and continues to take up a lot of space in the racial equity conversation, with good reason. The spotlight is on us and if we can develop a blueprint here, a place with some of the biggest disparities in the entire country, we can serve as a model for others on how we not only bounce back, but how to bounce forward from crisis.

As a Black man in America and as someone who deeply understands what anti-blackness is, working with Living Cities and going through their series of anti-racism training helped bring language, theory and practice to what we intuitively already know. Through funding, Living Cities also allowed us to partner with youth led organizations and scope out how we find a place for youth in these conversations. If we are shaping laws, regulation and our city’s future, why wouldn’t we include those that are going to be spending the most time in that future? We need to prepare our youth to take on that leadership and empower the next generation of resilience champions.

Published: March 11, 2021