Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson is the Metropolitan Council Member for District 6, and the Communications and Advancement Officer at Youthprise, a foundation focused on reducing disparities with and for Minnesota youth.
I was born in Minneapolis and am a third-generation Northsider. My father’s side of the family was among some of the first African American families in North. I moved away and lived in Denver, Colorado, for five years, but I knew that Minneapolis was my home and where I wanted to settle to raise my family. After our son was born, we moved back because we wanted to be around family and in a community that shares our culture and values, and because I always felt obligated to give back to North Minneapolis and the community that gave me so much.
One day I got a call and the voice on the other side of the line said, “This is the Governor. I’m super excited that we’re appointing you.” I was scared and honored. My story, though, began when a community-based group asked me to consider applying. They believed I would bring a strong equity lens and my broad experience; still, I remember thinking, “there is no way I’m going to get appointed.” My perspective is that when the community calls on us, we must answer if we can. On the Metropolitan Council, I advocate for meaningful and measurable impacts, this is what I think the nominating committee was and the community is looking for.
My biggest charge is to see what we can do to advance equity in the spaces the Council impacts. The juxtaposition of prosperity and nation-leading disparities in Minnesota and particularly in the Metro Area, isn’t something we can sustain. It is smothering us economically and socially. I’m most focused on where development meets equity and conservation. The council’s work on regional parks and trails and development allow us to innovate around equity. One opportunity for that comes to mind is Theodore Wirth Park, a touchstone in my life. There are a lot of beautiful, amazing things happening in Minneapolis, and Wirth Park is a part of that. There is a history of black kids, multi-ethnic kids, Native kids, Asian kids working at North Commons and Wirth, working as lifeguards, or at the tubing hill renting out skis. My grandmother foraged for greens and fished in Wirth Park. The Hmong and Lao immigrants did the same thing. So will the next group if we don’t displace people from communities like North and destinations like Wirth.
For me, the future is one where outcomes for people are not dictated based on characteristics they have, their ethnicity, their skin color, or their zip code. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Star Wars, Star Trek, and the new Black Panther. Whether it is the aspiration of Wakanda or the belief, we can have universal income and universal careers (jobs for all). I am at peace working for a future that we can imagine and build together without the limitations of past practices and systems.
I don’t think we can double down on existing systems and ways of being and expect a different outcome—we have to shift and envision something fundamentally different. I see a Minneapolis and Minnesota, where there are enough resources for us all to thrive. Being a part of the Metropolitan Council and Youthprise allows me to be a part of systems change and innovating.
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