The Potluck

Lawmakers tout Minnesota Legislature’s accomplishments to reduce racial disparities

By: - May 22, 2023 3:02 pm

Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, spoke at a POCI Capitol press conference on Monday May 22, 2023. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

The People of Color and Indigenous Caucus was formed just six years ago, but members were able to tout the passage of bills this year that further racial equity, including expanding MinnesotaCare to undocumented residents, increasing funds for affordable housing and mandating K-12 schools offer an ethnic studies curriculum.

The People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, or POCI (pronounced “posse”) Caucus, includes 20 House members and 10 senators. The members — all DFL — praised the DFL-controlled Legislature for passing a multitude of policies that are aimed at righting the wrongs of past laws that caused racial inequities to fester and grow.

“We’ve done a lot, and we did it by ensuring that we were focused on inclusivity and breaking down the systemic barriers that Black and brown Minnesotans face here everyday,” said POCI Caucus co-chair Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis. “We focused on investing in our communities.”

The caucus highlighted paid family medical leave; a free college program;  limiting no-knock warrants; and expunging petty misdemeanors for marijuana possession.

The lawmakers highlighted the increase in the number of younger lawmakers within the caucus, noting that their place within the Legislature means more Minnesotans can see themselves represented in state government.

“I was the first BIPOC person in my district to hold the seat, and what I’d say to young people … (is that) ‘I’m coming in to knock the door off the hinges to ensure that I won’t be the last,” said POCI co-chair Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope.

Agbaje said the policies passed this session that address disparities were merely “the floor.”

“I think we have laid out what the baseline should look like to ensure that Minnesota is a much more inclusive and just state,” she said.

The 2023 session is scheduled to end at the end of the day Monday.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Rep. Esther Agbaje’s first name.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.