The COVID-19 pandemic placed inequity into inescapable view, forcing more of us to ask how we can address the persistent and systemic divisions that leave too many outside of the circle of human concern. Community leaders with diverse lived experiences are quietly addressing these divisions, and while doing so, they are expanding our definition of belonging and broadening our vision of whom we deem essential.
Meet The Heroes
Every year, the McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits honor four change agents who exemplify this critical work of building strong communities. This year’s Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award honorees work in and with their communities — helping them connect with one another, secure resources, and tell their truths.
The dominant culture in our society often builds barriers to belonging — leaving many identities and communities on the outside, looking in. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened this unjust phenomenon, but these four honorees are finding more ways to tell more people: “you belong.” Ruth, Richard, KingDemetrius, and Rawhi are all leaning into their strengths to strengthen their communities in turn. But all are quick to note that their power lies in the collective:
“None of this is even possible without everybody helping,”says Rawhi.
And even as challenges deepen, so do the opportunities for growth. This year’s honorees believe, as Ruth says,“Everyone has the capacity to make change.” All it takes, according to Richard, is “compassion, consideration, and respect.”
These honorees shine a light, helping us see truth and find paths towards greater equity and justice — and they invite all of us to do the same.
“All of us have a light to shine,” says KingDemetrius, “Will we turn it on?”