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Leading Through Grief

A Conversation with Nina Robertson and Brandon Williams

George Floyd’s murder has sparked outrage and change in Minneapolis and around the world. During this heavy, traumatic moment, how do Black leaders continue to drive change and take care of themselves? Nina Robertson, Step Up’s Youth Employment Program Director, and Brandon Williams, the Minneapolis Foundation’s Criminal Justice and Safe Communities Fellow, are living it. Chanda, Nina, and Brandon talk about their personal experiences with the police, their involvement with the Minneapolis Foundation’s Fund for Safe Communities, and the importance of fighting for transformational change – even at a time of exhaustion.

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Chanda Smith Baker  00:11

Thank you, Brandon and Nina for your willingness to come on Conversations with Chanda. Conversations with Chanda is a podcast recorded as part of the Minneapolis Foundation’s impact effort. I am super happy to talk with each of you on this Friday afternoon. So welcome. I’m going to just start out, Brandon, and have you introduce yourself and talk a little bit about the work that you do at the foundation.

Brandon Williams  00:36

So I’m Brandon Williams, I’m our criminal justice and safe communities intern for our community impact team. And my role is to support the work that Chanda does with establishing a relationship and supporting a lot of the organizations in the community and achieving criminal justice reform and ensuring safer communities throughout Minneapolis. So outside of establishing and retaining those relationships or figuring out what groups are coming together and leading work, innovative ideas, and really achieving criminal justice reform, and figuring out ways to innovate ideas for insuring safer communities throughout Minneapolis.

Chanda Smith Baker 01:17

And Brandon, you graduated from Augsburg in what year?

Brandon Williams

2019, 2019. Yeah, 20 years ago, you know,

Chanda Smith Baker

2019. And then, after you graduated, you then went to do an internship with a city?

Brandon Williams 01:34

Yes, yes, I worked for the city attorney’s office, I was their criminal division intern. So go and sit in on cases, work with our trials team, and even work with some Dorsey and Whitney lawyers, with their trials as well.

Chanda Smith Baker  01:48

And Nina, you have a relatively new role. Would you mind introducing yourself and say a little bit about the work that you do?

Nina Robertson  01:55

Yeah. So my name is Nina Robertson, I am the director of the set up youth employment program. So I work for the City of Minneapolis. And this is a fairly new role. It’s just about a year now that I’ve been in service step up in this capacity, though I’ve been with step up for about four years now, prior to my work with step up in supporting Minneapolis youth and their career development and making sure that they have an opportunity to make money this summer, many Minneapolis and people having opportunities to make money. I worked in other youth, youth advocacy programs and community, particularly in North Minneapolis. So I’ve worked with Freedom Schools movement with beacons network through the YMCA, I’ve worked at Northside achievement zone working with their school time partners. So I am a youth worker by trade. And this is kind of what I’ve been doing for a while.

Chanda Smith Baker  02:50

That sounds really awesome. I’m curious on how COVID 19 has impacted the summer step up internships?

Nina Robertson  02:59

Yeah, geez, I feel like we’ve just been in like waves of seeing impact in different ways. But I, you know, I’m really excited with where we’re seeing things land. So we are not able to offer as many internship experiences as we would in a traditional program here. In some ways, it’s actually significantly reduced. But many of our employer partners who just were in spaces to figure out like, how can they design like an internship experience, because there’s so many unknowns like people were in the office, so many of our partners are still not back into the office are just now starting that process. And typically, internships will be started about now. But we’ve kind of taken some interest in that of those companies and said, How can we support the system in a different way? If it’s not a job experience, but how can we pull resources and figure out how else can we support Minneapolis, young people. So we will have a small scale internship program, we’ll have roughly about 400, internships, some in person experiences, some remote, all of our partners have been brilliant and thoughtful in creating meaningful experiences and ensure safety has submitted safety plans to us. We are also all partnering to roll out a summer professional development experience that will convene over the course of five weeks, and we’ll pay young people for that experience. So that is still in development. But the idea is that we launched that sometime in July. And so we’re really excited about that, and, and trying to offer that to as many young people as we possibly can a lot of impact, but we have like hit the ground running, like how can we support young people in different ways and just be really innovative and thoughtful. But then also, you know, pulling our partners and asking for support. So, I mean, what we can do,

Chanda Smith Baker  04:43I

It’s been amazing to see the creativity and the nimbleness of organizations and I you know, it’s my hope for sure that coming out of this that there’ll be some of those innovations that will be long standing, and it feels like maybe being able to actually serve more people because we’ve used and technology in new ways.

Nina Robertson  05:02

That’s right. That’s what we’re experiencing. Yep.

Chanda Smith Baker  05:05

Yeah. So one of the, you know, one of the reasons that I wanted to talk with the two of you is really just following the George Floyd. Murder, and the unrest that’s happening. You know, there’s just been so much turmoil, I think that we individually faced, I think, organizationally and from a community that we decided we were just going to have conversations with folks that have been impacted. And, Brandon, you know, you’re a young African American male that has essentially grown up watching these images over and over again. Can you talk about what that means? Because I often talk about my kids growing up in a time period where technology is different cell phone use is different. We’re recording these things and playing them over and over again, how does that How has that impacted you?

Brandon Williams 05:58

The truthful thing is, it’s bittersweet at some moments, because technology allows us to be more informed. So you can look on your phone, you can scroll down on Twitter, you can scroll down on Facebook, you can have friends send you things instantaneously. And that is that’s a beauty. And that’s one of the benefits of being in a modern society. But the flip side to that is how quickly we are re traumatized to things. And once you think about it, watching a video of George Floyd’s murder, it’s such a powerful thing to sit and watch. And it’s so traumatizing. Because you think, you know, your immediate reaction is like, Why is no one doing anything, right. And then you have to sit there for almost a you know, for almost nine minutes, eight minutes and 46 seconds, and realize what type of work is being done. You know, and that’s one instance. But then, if you think about it, for people who have to watch those videos, who have to inform other people who have to spread it throughout the community and say, This is what we got to watch out for. Even for some of the teachers, the counselors, the parents in the community, they are constantly re traumatized by informing other people. And by informing themselves for these things. So myself as an African American individual, not only was it you know, critical that I learned how to navigate, you know, the police navigate different communities navigate being myself in this world. Um, it’s another thing to now navigate social media, when it’s so you know, when society is heavily influenced by it, realize, you know, watching this could re traumatize myself. And now, you know, with the pandemic, as well, it’s like, everything is compounding. So now, you have no choice but to be on your phone or to be by a TV by the news to be constantly updated, especially when you work in the sectors that we are in where you’re constantly communicating with the public. But then you have to then figure out how do I keep my sanity, and while also being involved, encouraging other people to keep themselves involved, but also figuring out how to take care of ourselves. So it’s a lot of it is being responsive, but also being critical of what we see watching in the way in which we respond to it.

Chanda Smith Baker  08:04

And, you know, the question for you is, not only have you had to watch it, but your family has experienced it. And if you feel comfortable sharing, do you want to talk about that?

Nina Robertson 08:16

Yeah. I think it becomes a little bit difficult, like when everything started to happen and commute. And we saw community respond in a way that it did, I think, just from my personal experience of like, losing my brother to gun violence, police violence. And knowing that we had just went to my brother’s trial, the case for the officer who murdered my brother was in February. So right in the middle, like, you know, the pandemic was, you know, onset in other parts of the world, and it was coming here and we knew what was happening there. And then now this, but as we said, in court, we heard the judge talk about basically just all of these witnesses and all these people speaking to what they saw and how my brother was unarmed and how he was running away. There’s some footage right some camera footage that show him actually in a completely different space back up against the officer but because we didn’t have video of that actual footage, it was it makes people insensitive in some ways and not fully recognize the ways in which you know, we’ve This is not these are not isolated incidents. This is systemic and we’ve been at war My brother was also shot by a black police officer, just like one of the officers who was involved in the murder of George Floyd was also a black man as well. But there’s so many pieces within this and I think that when everything started to shake out in community and people they’re crying out for and people watching the video sharing the video. I’m a part of me just became more and more heartbroken. Because how did we become so just not attached to humanity to where we actually have to watch something so gruesome for us to see when we know already, right, like black people have been telling people this, the trans community have been telling people, this people of color people with mental health. Various I’ve been telling people this we have, we have the data, we have the numbers. So I think when this first began, I was to be completely honest, I was just outraged. I was outraged by some of the performative activism that we saw in community, I was in outrage by some community leaders and organizers in our community that I needed help. And when I needed help, and I didn’t, I didn’t know how to advocate for myself, I did not get that response. And I think, you know, I’m coming to a different place with how I’m processing all that’s happening to me, or all that’s happening to community, I’m sorry, not me, but community. But, you know, I’m just, I’m just trying to figure out like, there’s a place for everybody within this movement. It’s unfortunate that brother Floyd had to lose his life in the way that he did, and that the entire world saw him lose his life in the way that he did hurt him or her his cry for nine minutes. I’m trying to accept that, like, this is where we are now. And how do I still show up and fight for the black people who die every single day, and the different groups of people who die every single day and it’s not captured on camera? It’s moving us forward. So let’s just be accepting of that and really lead with community and create systemic change, like no, this is not an isolated incident. No, we don’t want incremental change. We want transformational change and naming clearly what that is. So I’ve had so many different emotions over the past couple of weeks. I mean, I’ve cried and cried and cried. I’ve shown up in community in ways that I can. And then I’ve had capacity to, but it’s definitely been a journey, and just so many emotions often contradicting each other even at times, but I’m well today, I’m surviving.

Chanda Smith Baker  12:19

Well, today, that’s a that’s a statement for you. And I think a lot of us are really taking it day by day, I hear you and your comments, and that it is something to raise up the lives that have been lost, that haven’t gone viral. You know, because it would be very easy to think that everything that has happened is video and that you’ve seen it. And we know that that is not the case. I was watching fairly closely the case for your brother, and that trial to get to justice. I’ve watched Philando’s case that that went viral. And we watched that play out, you know, the trauma just continues. And so many of us and families that have been impacted have to grieve out loud, and have it extended every time one of these incidents happen. So I appreciate that point of view and that there’s all these conflicting emotions. And I think you’re also touching on something that I know a lot of people are trying to figure out is how do I address my own emotions, my own learning and getting activated? Brandon, you know, you have gone to a couple of the rallies. And can you just talk about have you been? Have you been sort of paralyzed by all of this? That’s happened? I mean, are you so emotional that you’re unable to move or have you been activated to get engaged?

Brandon Williams 13:46

I think there was there was a mix just like Nina explained. And it’s powerful hearing her story because confliction is the biggest thing. At first, it was numbness, right. You had to sit up and watch the Ahmaud Arbery situation and realize what there be justice, you had to watch Breonna Taylor, and realize what the situation she had to go through. I was actually reading this, this screenshot in this meme. And it said this father was telling his daughter about this situation, right? George Floyd and then his mother told him about or he, you know, he learned about Trayvon Martin, his mother told him about Rodney King and then her mother told her about Emmett Till. Right there’s so many traumatic experiences that we have to live with. And that we’re told down that is passed on and then you just wonder at what time does it stop and I think that’s what causes the numbness because you have to learn how to go about it, especially when you’re working in community, where you’re, you’re, you’re someone in your family who was supposed to you know, bring home the reins and get everyone through. A lot of that times you have to numb yourself and then at some point, that numbness dies out and then you start to feel again and then it comes back heavy. And I think being at the rallies that I’ve been at has just been powerful to see how Many people have been hurting how many people are also healing through the hurt. How many people are activating through it, it’s just a powerful thing to sit back and realize that different pieces come together, right? You have people walking on a microphone, empowering people, you have the people that have lived through it, like, you know, George Floyd, his brother or his, or his family members, or even people in the community that I’ve dealt with situations, you have Jamar Clark’s sister, there, you have Valerie Castile, you just have so many people bringing aspects into it. And it’s powerful for people to see that. So for myself, realizing those different things, seeing people move at whatever pace they were, whether they were numb, whether they were hurting, whether they were healing, whether they were causing and bringing about change, that they were there in solidarity together, even allies, people that were, you know, um, you know, people don’t come in for the right reasons from out of town, or from the suburbs to stand in solidarity, and was also very important. So, for me, it was numbness, then it was a feeling of very just deep emotion, then it was anger, it was frustration, then it was wanting to do work. And I think that’s, you know, a reason why we’re all here today and why I thank you so much for being able to bring people together, despite you know what feeling they have, and to come together to figure out, you know, what’s the next step? What do we do from here? How do we prevent this?

Chanda Smith Baker  16:19

The one emotion that I didn’t hear you say, I don’t think is fear? And do you personally fear for your life when you are interacting with police? Or is it something that you’re you think about?

Brandon Williams 16:35

There was a, there was a point where I was fearful. I think that the fear is no longer for myself, but for my siblings, for my community for the people, in which I live around and function around. And I think that the moment I realized that it was a sad thing, but it was a, it was an empowering thing, where it’s like, well, I know, my destiny is something that will come and go, but I really want to do something to change those around me. And it has to do with education, and fear, I realized that fear is okay at times. But sometimes it can be crippling because, you know, once you realize police are shooting people to have a permanent, they have their hands up that are going away from conflict. At some point, I won’t be able to escape that. So I don’t want to fear something that I couldn’t escape outside of changing the system that is broken. So, um, fear wasn’t mentioned, I think, because that fear, that feeling of fear is gone.

Chanda Smith Baker  17:29

Yeah. So Nina, I’ve been a CEO of an organization and I’ve had to lead through grief. It is a complicated thing to be going through your own set of issues and have to lead an organization in which most people don’t, they don’t really care. They know it, but they expect for you to show up every day. Can you just talk about what it means to you to lead through these times whether or not it’s personal, or just what we’re going through as a community?

Nina Robertson 17:58

This is exactly where I’ve been right, like trying to figure out like, what does this look like and what is going in true leadership, effective leadership look like in this journey. While we just missed everything that’s happening in community, and me into it, to be completely honest, where we’ve been, is where I’ve been in what I’ve been practicing his transparency, and compassion and vulnerability, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and still showing up, but then also naming when it’s difficult for me to show up. Just naturally, as a black woman, as a leader in my community, as a leader in my family, my mother, also passed away in 2017. Naturally, I became the matriarch of my family, I’m the oldest of 10 young people to add this 10 Mama that had 10 children have always kind of been in like, the leadership role where you folks are looking to Me for guidance or direction and I’ve kind of tapped into all of that I’ve kind of tapped into all of these life experiences on a personal level. And, and, and focused on that to guide me through and holding space for people that are all in completely different spaces. Step Up is a collaboration of many different partners. We have government, we have nonprofit partners we work with, we just have so many different types of entities coming together to make the step up system work. And then even within that just culture of organizations and all of these different people who show up differently and have different much very different experiences and are part of different parts of community. And in the beginning of everything. I pulled us together and held space for everybody and then also shared some pieces of me and how I was feeling in that moment. And then offering space for other folks to share but then also to not share and then naming but at this time, we want to practice grace for our team, our partners, but then also our young people and community, because it was a lot, it was a lot going on. And we wanted to be mindful and thoughtful about how we were to respond to everything that was going on. So just in short, I’d say, you know, this has been an incredibly, it’s been a journey for me. And it’s really new. For me, this is my first year in leadership, even in this capacity, it’s just been a wild journey. I think that leading with vulnerability and transparency, and literally from the heart with compassion has just been powerful. Our team and our partners have responded in ways that honestly blown me away in the in the energy that everybody is still bringing it to work, because everyone is moving in different ways, has been really profound. And I’ve been told in some ways that I was so helped, it was helpful for me to step out of my comfort zone and be vulnerable, because it allowed people to feel seen and heard. So I’ve learned quite a bit about leadership these last couple of weeks. But it’s been a journey, and I’m still learning.

Chanda Smith Baker  21:07

But still, Nina one of the things that I can offer to you is, once you make it through this period of time, you will appreciate the strength that you had in this moment, and it will actually prepare you for the next thing. You know, I often share and publicly have shared that I had a cousin, Christopher Miller, who was going to be a police officer, he had just graduated from the academy that was shot and killed my very first week of being CEO at Pillsbury United communities. And I often say I was at the height of my career professionally and super excited and getting all kinds of recognition for ascending into that role. And I was personally at the pit of the worst grief I’ve ever felt in my entire life. And you know, I had to show up every day, and then I would just fall apart on the weekends. And, you know, there’s so much that I learned about myself in that moment, I wouldn’t have wished for that moment. Let’s be clear on that. But since it was given to me, I have learned a lot about what does it mean to dig deep, to stay focused on your goals? And to just kind of understand the responsibility. You touched on responsibility a little bit. And I think some of this is also, you know, pressure we put on ourselves, because we have we’re all oldest here. I’m the oldest sister. You’re the oldest of 10. Nina and Brandon, you’re the oldest of eight. Is that right? And I guess I really didn’t realize that until you were talking Anita. But Brandon, like, what does it mean to be the oldest of eight kids? And what does that helped you learn about leadership and bringing people along.

Brandon Williams 22:53

In 2015, my brother was shot, he was shot seven times in front of our house, we lived on 2411 Golden Valley. And it was about two blocks away from Penn and Golden Valley, which some people considered, you know, very dangerous. But for my family, you know, when you live in community, a danger is a part of the lifestyle in which you learn to love your community, because everyone have an image and what they see, but you know, the potential, but you also know, you know what to come in and out of the community. And when he was shot, it was just very, it was a traumatizing thing. times after that I was gracious with realizing that he was still alive, right that there was some hope for justice. And with that, that I had many other siblings in which we had to find a way to motivate them to still go out and live their lives, right to still be able to, to navigate life. And I think that’s what showed me true leadership is responsibility. Because at that point, everyone could have been very devastated. We could have given up, we could have lost hope it was a very sad situation. But the beauty of that was realizing that I did have, you know, five other siblings, now there’s eight of us. But at the time, there was only seven of us. I had other siblings that was wondering, how will we make it through? What did that mean? Where they next? It was on the front of our house? So how do they, how do they dodge it, and it was just navigating those things. But the biggest thing to me was realizing that I play a part of it all. So I can either be an example for change and transformation. Or I could be an example for giving up hope and losing effort in which I understand why a lot of people go down those avenues and sometimes it takes you to find yourself and realize why. You know why exactly is this the case? And why did this happen? And then also finding value and when you don’t understand why you still activate you still be willing to transform it you still get up and play your part in the community. So it’s a very beautiful thing. There’s frustration all the time because people say I think I’m a daddy, right? With my mother Being a single parent, but at the same time, I try to tell them that they must be better than everyone, even myself, you know. And looking beyond that

Chanda Smith Baker  25:10

For a second, let’s talk about folks that maybe feel hopeless. I know, we all have moments of hopelessness, but for those that are really living in tough situations, and, you know, often they’re perpetuating the violence. But, you know, in the aftermath of George Floyd, we saw a lot of young people, and maybe not so young people that made a choice to cause destruction in our community. Do you at all relate to why they did that? Not? How, not the action, but Could you relate to that at all? Either one of you, Nina, yeah,

Nina Robertson 25:48

I can jump in. When everything happened, and the video surfaced, I think that I probably shared the same anger and hurt and cry that many people in community conveyed. And in some ways, we’re kind of in, you know, I didn’t go out and harm community in any way. I stayed in my home and dealt with my emotions, but I understood the cry. And then I also understood how young people before we were infiltrated. But how young people, you know, were actually on the frontlines and organizing and desperately wanting their voices to be heard desperately naming the change that they wish to see, and clearly articulating their demands. And to be completely transparent. I was inspired, I felt seen, I felt heard. And I wanted to support young people, the best that I could, because I understood though, that that their cry is valid, and how they were feeling is valid. But then we also need to help young people organize in ways where we could actually, well, maybe we’re not, you know, tearing down our communities, or in some ways, or maybe we are not perpetuating or being a part of violence, or even putting ourselves in danger, which I believe in protesting. So I do believe that there’s a time and place for everything. But that got me to thinking about, you know, when I was in my deep sorrow, and heartbroken and grieving my, my stuff all over again, grieving the life of George, it’s so many people, and my brother and my mother, who all lost, we lost to violence, horrific, horrible, horrible violence, I was able to kind of come out of that a little bit and start to think about how could we direct young people and this was the energy I brought to my team, right? Take care of yourselves, do what you need to do. But how can we support young people who are on the battlefield? And how do we not judge young people? And how do we not further create a division between them? And like, we work for the City of Minneapolis, right? Like how so how can we truly show up and charge them to activate and say our response is make sure we got these partners making sure that we let young people know that we hear them, we see them and we value them? And then we’re going to do something for them this summer in partnership with them? Yeah, I did resonate with it. And I understood it. And I understood the cry. And I had hoped every single day that are sitting, and that our elected officials and that and police officers and organizers and everybody in community understood well. So I tried to tap into my networks to make sure like, I think what they’re trying to say is this. And this is you know, give people some different ways to understand things. I’m just, I’m just forever inspired by young people. And I’m just trying to figure out, how do we show up to make sure that we can help them focus, get the training and resources that they need to continue to show up and be heard so that like, effectively be her? So that’s kind of where I’ve been living with all of this. But again, there’s a place for everything. So I think that’s to come.

Chanda Smith Baker  29:13

In Brandon, did you resonate with that at all?

Brandon Williams 29:15

Oh, very myself to put a very simply, I think the world is focused on logics, right? And a lot of people I’ve experienced, especially young people is focused on necessity, right when you think about it, is it logical? People will say Is it logical to burn down the buildings and the businesses around the community in which you’ve raised up in which you’ve seen grow in what you have to go to? And you can make an argument or you know, probably wouldn’t refute that it isn’t logical but at the same time is it necessary once you see these videos of people saying they can’t breathe? That they’re not heard that they’re not felt you hear the stories of people you know, having their doors knocked in? I’m in my house I’ve even been raided. I’m in in houses we live in probably about five times. And the police have found nothing but they left our homes, you know, just crazy. It’s insane to me to think about when people think of logical, you know, they think about their own safety. But for these people who think like, this is where I’m going to raise my kids, this is a country that I’m supposed to believe in. This is a country that I’m supposed to pour my income, my work, and my lifetime, and but I’m not even recognized in my lifetime, my humanity isn’t valued. And it’s definitely a necessity to do what you feel is important to get your point across. But after that, we have to come together as a community and realize, you know, what does that mean as a whole? How do we take our individual beliefs, our individual feelings, our individual responses in react to what this world is saying, and react to what’s happening. So I very much resonate. I was there at the, you know, at the protest, and I was there at the point where they turned into riots, I was trying to, it was so close to Augsburg. I was trying to connect with people I knew and tell them to be mindful and be careful on the part of that was being in solidarity with them and tell them like I hear you, I hear you. I feel you understand, to some degree, but let’s figure out what’s best for everyone.

Chanda Smith Baker  31:09

I don’t know if I really thought about this. And so listening to the two of you, you know, the world is basically paying attention to this entire situation. They’re, they’re protesting, they’re writing they’re tuning in. They’re both hopefully, just as disgusted by the murder. And hopefully, they are seeing the ways in which we’re showing up that hopefully leads us through this moment. But I am curious to know whether or not you think the world would be paying attention in the same way. Had the riots not happened? If it was just the murder? Would you know what we shouldn’t even say? But if it was just the murder, of George Floyd that went viral? Do you think that the world would be paying attention and the conversation around race, racism and addressing systemic challenges? And barriers would be as prominent is right now? Nina?

Nina Robertson 32:07

I would say, I honestly think that the riots, the people really, like we, here in Minneapolis, we started the uprising. And all of these pieces, photos of new developments that often many people in those neighborhoods likely could not afford for right to move into a photo of that on fire, tells a different message that I think resonated with people who have been marginalized and oppressed and are part of all these systems of domination all over the world. Everybody got in, we could actually do that. We could actually stand up and say, No, you can’t do that to us. And you won’t continue to do this to us, and that we are practicing our agency. And so that’s exactly why I resonated in some ways because it and I don’t condone, you know, I’m away like violence and fires and all that way. But I do think that, you know, there was all of these incidents that happened combined, that made the world a part of this movement, so many people in all different, just cultural groups, everything were resonating with black people, and our experience and our lack of true liberation. And people stood up and practice their agency. And I think that everything that happened in some ways, and I would even say before we were infiltrated, and people really started to come in and completely destroy our communities, which that that right, there was a whole bunch of different masks that needs to be dealt with. And it’s problematic. But I do think that the ways in which our people responded in those initial days of fighting back needed to happen in order for it to be on a global on a global scale. And I would say sister Dr. Angela Davis, she named this in 2014. And her book freedom is a constant struggle. She literally named that in order for a movement to be effective and gain momentum. We would need it to be on a global scale. She literally named that I couldn’t believe it. I literally was reading it. I dropped my book. It was like we’re there right now. Wow, look at that. The movement is happening. And

Chanda Smith Baker  34:25

It was televised, right?

Nina Robertson 34:28

It’s televised. I’m like, How do I like let me make sure I’m informed so that I can show up. And all of these places where I have privilege, like make sure that I am doing my part.

Chanda Smith Baker  34:38

Yeah. How about you, Brandon, do you think it would have happened?

Brandon Williams 34:41

Not necessarily. I think that things to this caliber hasn’t happened since the Rodney King riots. And I think if we would have let it be there. If we would have said okay, well one officer was charged or we just want to fight for that amount of justice or we just want to be acknowledged, then it would have been settlements. I don’t think that it would have sparked, this especially coming from a place on, you know, in Minneapolis where you think of it, we have some of the worst racial equities. We have some of the worst economic and income disparities throughout our nation, for some places say, Okay, we’re even fed up and to have allies come in and see that stands. I think that’s what then spread the message that you have a right to be fed up to, even if it’s a little bit of disparity, it’s wrong. So we’re all standing up together. And I think that’s what sparked such a international change, even spreading globally to Paris, and, you know, Germany, a lot of different places that have spread,

Nina Robertson 35:37

I would like to add one more point, two times, I would even say that it was so radical, and I am, I am like, fully on board with different like radical approaches to policy, and in all systems of oppression that perpetuate oppression, and domination, but that we actually have to show up with more radical approaches in order to be seen and heard. And that is what is being received. Right now. People literally just went from having not a full understanding of how police systems work, but because this all type of things happening community that some would say like that’s so extreme, that’s so radical, because those things happen there were introduced here to us. Now all of a sudden, all these other things that people were like that you can never do that that’s like a utopian idea, like, What do you mean, abolish the police, like those were things that abolish prisons, abolish the death penalty, like these are all things that we know people been fighting for this work for many, many, many, many years. But people in our community did not recognize that actually, we can do those things, and that it’s not so radical when people are out here showing up the way they’ve been showing up. So I think it’s just necessary scores. So

Chanda Smith Baker  36:48

Let’s talk about the abolishment of police, right? Like I’m not an abolitionist, I can’t personally envision a community without some sort of police officers. Hopefully, I can envision policing in a more community oriented way. I don’t even know if I can envision it without harm to black people, to be honest, where I am right now, I’m curious on whether or not you guys are abolitionist as it comes to policing, I can speak first.

Brandon Williams 37:19

I think in terms of abolition, that is a powerful thing. And I think that we have to work there, we have to plan to work. And then we have to work that plan to fit within abolition. Because when you think of Abolishment, we have worked in such a system that relies on police, you know, 911 is universally everyone from kids are taught how to respond to violence in any situation and what to wait for. I just think that for the communities in which I’ve seen, police have done more damage than they have done healing. And it really took me that when I was in college, I had to realize that the police are responsible, or even law enforcement as a whole, they are responsible for a lot. And then we put a lot, a lot of that humanity on the police, they respond to drug calls, they respond to, you know, if you have if there’s a fire, if there’s a mess of anything, you know, from murder, to drugs to any of these situations, we put that solely on one agency, and then that agency dictates where it goes. But if you think about it is humanity represented within that agency, once you see them, you know, sticking their knee on people’s necks, then justifying it then getting off. And then you know, you have been non people of color administrating other non people of color on how to handle people of color. I just think that that wasn’t the right logic to deal with the situation. So when it comes to Abolishment, I think that we’re very reliant on this system right now. And that it can be very dangerous to abolish the system and start over without a plan. But the more that we work the plan to reform the system as we’re thinking about removing it, and then work towards what it means to actually get people out. That’s, you know, social workers, you have community healers, you have people that are dealing with the drugs and the different situations that come with that, to effectively administer that. I think that’s the right path to go. So I’m not fully for Abolishment right now. I think that we have to look at how to how to delegate dedicate the role to different people.

Chanda Smith Baker  39:15

So when I hear about folks that say disband or defund what I actually hear in their explanation afterwards is that the police department would be significantly reduced and things that officers should not be responding to our responded to by the proper professional. But on you know, just without any further explanation, it sounds like policing will go completely away. And we will be out here basically protecting our own communities. Nina, what is your kind of position and your understanding of what does it mean to disband or just defund the police department?

Nina Robertson 39:56

Yeah, so um, I am not a policy strategist nor expert. But I will say that I would identify as an abolitionist. And I think that my experiences and my understanding of the current police system current like now and just how it originated, this system was developed and built upon capturing slaves and killing Native Americans like that is what this system was built to be. And I struggle incredibly when we say talk about reform. In some ways, I do think that reform is a process of abolition, that will have to happen, as well as defunding the police and divesting what have to happen before we get to a place where we completely dismantle the police system. But I got to this place, and I believe in and I believe that we should be very bold and radical, I believe we should be so radical in naming it and it’s going to be scary, it’s going to be hard. We are smart people, we can develop all of these different systems for what safety could look like. But then also now pushing back and say, and you also need to stop defunding education and divesting education, you also need to have a more radical poor approach to housing inequity in our communities, you also need to have a more radical approach to employment, and what can we do to make sure that people are able to survive, because that actually leads to violence, and then you show up, when we do need help ready for combat, I don’t need the military on my front porch. Because my son who’s autistic, just hurt himself or whatever, I don’t need you to come into my home, with your hands on your gun. But because that system was designed in the way that it is how my brother was murdered, because of feeder in officer literally named in court, I did what I was trained to do. And the judge heard him and said, he’s right, if we actually get into law, whether the judge is a good person believe Black Lives Matter or not, the judge landed with, according to the law, and how this brother, this man just mapped out His experience is that he did what he was trained to do, which was actually to kill Black Lives, like that is what he was trying to do. They hunt us, target us, kill us, jail us for slave labor. So I just have so many different spaces with the system where I’m like, I don’t believe in that system. And I have a more radical approach. And I do one day see a world where we can secure safety ensure safety in our communities, and black people will not be hunted, will not be murdered, will not be jailed for silly, petty crimes, and for labor, for big corporations labor for capitalism, I see a world where that, and I feel like right now is that opportunity to name that and be bold in it. But then also follow all of these other systems. So Chanda, you literally named it to that when we hear these things. Some people get so afraid. I literally spent like hours on Facebook trying to explain to people like it is scary, I’m afraid to but this is this is not something that would happen like that, like tonight, right? Like it’s on voted on. And next thing, no cops are all fired, like no, it would be a completely different transition. And that could be different versions of policing that could still survive. But perhaps it is not connected to this police force. It’s its own unique entity, like we can build up that and see what that looks like. I believe in community safety, I see so many ways that it could work. If they stopped giving some billions, trillions of dollars to these systems, we can start thinking about all of the ways in which people are oppressed and start putting more money into that. And then changing how we respond to crises. That’s where I keep going, like we need to change how we respond to crises. And it also is my last point on this is to my experience with police officers, my brother’s dead, but even when I was a child, I don’t really see crime being solved very much in our communities. I didn’t grow up knowing that I can call the police if I have a crisis. And I don’t call the police very much. I actually can’t recall the last time I called the police. I don’t we don’t use 911 in my household. And I and I often, you know, and I share this broadly with people I for sure would never ever call the police on black folks. You know, I just have a completely different understanding of how that system works and how that’s not a solution, even in crisis if that’s not a viable solution to me. My mother was murdered in my community that I live in, and I couldn’t even get support from police officers. They wouldn’t even call me back close my mother’s case right away. So there’s so many pieces without I’m like, you don’t solve crime. Do you have any people reached out to me when my mother was murdered? And it’s literally similar situations where nothing, nothing was resolved. They never got the help that they needed, people in community are talking about it and know who did different crime. But the police ain’t even asking them and they’re like, well, they won’t comply with us. So now we got a couple of things here, there’s a trust issue like that has to be fixed. And if your system can’t do it, we got to redesign it. Because we’re not, we can’t interest safety. So I struggle with seeing how this the current system in place just because I was built, just because it’s positioned in the in the prison industrial complex, how like that, to me, I’m like, No, I, we got to be so radical, that approach, and everybody come to the table in designing what it could look like. And the end goal is liberation for black people, black and brown people, all people. That’s kind of why I’m an abolitionist,

Chanda Smith Baker  45:49

I hear you. So I’m going to talk a little bit about the fund for safer community where both of you are advisors. But before I go there, I think I want to like on reflection of what you’re talking about, and why I think it’s important. And why I’m so happy to have both of you and others advising decisions at the Minneapolis Foundation for that fund and really beyond is that if we had an advisory made up of people that thought the way I did had the same experience as I did, it wouldn’t be necessary. And that you for all the reasons that you have expressed Nina and I have a different relationship with policing, then I have had, I haven’t had a sibling, murdered by the police and go free. I have not had a mother that was murdered and not been taken care of. Like, that’s not my experience. And I think why that’s important is as we have broad listenership and. And even when we talk about white allies, or white people that are listening, and trying to figure out how to understand an issue, I’m never going to understand what you went through. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t understand what might improve the situation. So the next person doesn’t have to go through it. And our ability to hear and listen, and I think this, you know, also speaks to me the points that both you and Brandon, were raising about just the anger of the young people in the streets. And when you’re gone on her, and when you haven’t seen justice, and when you have seen things or been the victim of things, right. You haven’t seen adult or systems show up for you, why would you show up for the adults or for the systems. I have age on me, I have experience on me, you know, I’m parenting. I had, I had parents and community that looked out for me, but had I not had all of those factors, who knows how I would have responded in an instance like that. And what I am really adamant about expressing is that the issue was brown and black men are getting murdered by police. The symptom, the way that it showed up is the writing. But that’s really not the crux of the issue. And so for those that are kind of stuck on the behavior of those folks, we really need to stay consistent on how do we eliminate officers that are abusing their power, and the officers that fail to intervene. Brandon, do you have anything that you want to add to this conversation before we move over to the fund?

Brandon Williams 48:25

Just briefly, that’s the most powerful thing to realize is that people have different experiences. And the moment that you have your experience and your reaction, right, you see a building on fire, and you think, wow, like, wow, why would that? Why would anyone do that? That’s so extreme. It’s so radical. And then some people have different responses for me. My realization of law enforcement would be what, there’s this memory I have of me playing a game in my mother’s house. We lived right across from ascension, over on 17th and DuPont, and being on 17th. And Dupont. It was really interesting because there was this community where my family will come over, we will have family members come over people from the community will come over my mom was like the parent that welcomed everyone in we have barbecues and everything. So I was playing a game. And I remember seeing these police officers come up with their guns on me flipped over my game flipped over my TV had me lay over put the you know, put my hands behind my back. And I think this is what a part of me that had to let that fear go was I was just like, I was so shocked that I wasn’t like panicking. I didn’t cry or anything. I wasn’t looking for my mother. But it was just crazy to see how like how forceful they was. And then after that they took me downstairs I see like our door broken in. I see our tables flipped over. I see everything in our house kind of upturned. And then afterwards, they just left they apologize. On the left. My mother was some papers and they said that they were they’re looking for drugs and questioning. but they didn’t find anything. Like they didn’t find nothing but prescription pills for my mother and my uncle. And with that, it was just crazy to realize like they came in and kicked our door and we have to find a new door, we have to figure out how to how to fix the things that they broke in. They took money, said that it was probably related to drugs, but there was billing statements from that or, you know, pay stubs for it. And it was just realizing that there was no type of no type of like reconciliation for that not was it for the police officers not was it for understanding that they were completely wrong, there was no correcting that wrong. But for us, literally, we spent the next two days putting everything back together cleaning up the house. And there was no type of acknowledgement of that. So my response to it is like I understand what it’s like to not feel heard, to not feel seen to be completely trampled on, and to not have no other avenue or resort, then to do something that’s illogical, that you feel like okay, they won’t understand what’s logical to me, which is simply having conversations and saying that it’s real. But maybe if I do something that causes them to rethink what’s logical, and why I’m going through this, then that at some point will bring about change. So I definitely understand sometimes why I come to that point.

Chanda Smith Baker  51:12

And do you think I mean, was it just the stereotype because you have a large family, and people were coming and going, that they just made assumptions that neighbors maybe were calling and made assumptions about your family that led to that, like you really honestly, you just don’t know,

Brandon Williams 51:27

I don’t know, I think that the small chance of them connecting black people, drugs violence together, was worth them completely destroying our house. And it happened three times at that house, it happened twice more, and they didn’t find anything, and happened five times to me in total. So I think the small potential of them finding something for them was worth destroying in a large outcome that it happened. So with it being black people, I will make that statement, what does being black people, and with them seeing people coming in and all around, I think it was just unfamiliar to them the understanding of community and now collective it is when you don’t have a place to call home. And my mother, you know, was welcoming people to come over and eat and different things like that.

Chanda Smith Baker  52:11

Well, I’m sorry that it happened. There are families like yours that have interactions on a fairly regular basis, and which being disregarded becomes normalized. Yes. And it feeds into your identity. And you both are, you know, younger than I am. And, Nina, you’ve talked a lot about your sort of passion for young people. And we’ve talked about the educational system. And I think that, you know, I can only imagine that after the police raid, your sense of safety and security is, you know, washed away in your own home, confusion is set in, I don’t know how your mind explained something that’s unexplainable to kids, and then they have to show up in a school system that just wants them to focus and not and not have a place to process. You know, I don’t know how we evolve all of our systems. Nina, I’m open to the abolitionist point of view. You know, my experience is I’ve had negative experiences, no doubt. But I also have family members that are police officers. And so it’s a difficult sort of conflicting, right, we’ve talked about being conflicted. There’s lots of things that conflict in this, but before we go, I just want to talk a little bit about the fund for safer community, which is a fun, that was started after the Parkland shooting, where the Foundation put dollars in donors put dollars in to really support communities being safer. Brandon, I came in contact with you when you were interning at the city, for the city attorney and wanted to bring you on to the foundation to help us drive work around how do we create safer communities through that fund, community level violence. And now we’re working on long term systems change in criminal justice reform, and reforming police departments. Will you talk just a little bit about give us a sense of who the other advisors are? To the fund? Yeah,

Brandon Williams 54:11

So, the other advisors or other young adults that are in their system, just like me is we have different people that are in government relations. We have a few other people that have also been offenders of violence, and I’ve realized what their damage has done to the community, and then want to reverse that and now be a part of the change in the leading effort. We have a few college students that are very inspired and dedicated to policy work and want to realize some of the work that’s being done in the community, but also give their insight and be dedicated to supporting people who have platforms that have organized work in at one to be heard.

Chanda Smith Baker 54:50

So that’s fund. We have a grant round that went out to just improve safety and now we have other grant rounds that are going out, you know, again to help reform community I have talked also publicly about this is the same fund that I’ve talked about on previous podcast, because we had an infusion of $2 million into this fund from the Justine Rusczyk settlement. And I say that because right now more than ever, while I had no control over that settlement, I do have some control on how those dollars are being spent. And if I can spend those dollars to help reform a system that cause the end of her life and cause into the life of so many unjustifiably, I think we would have done our work. I don’t think it’s a panacea. But I do think that the brilliance and the proximity that each of you bring, specifically the two of you, and your leadership on this fund, will help us do more than we could have done if we went alone. So, I really appreciate you being part of that for your continued advisement. And I guess my last question is going to be just around philanthropy. And I asked this of every of all the guests in terms of, you know, what do you think is required of philanthropy now? And what might be ways and that philanthropy should be thinking about its work moving forward? Nina you want to go?

Nina Robertson 56:16

Yeah, I can jump in. So I would say that, with all of this, the conversations in community around safety, and police reform and police abolition, just different systems of now people understanding, like what would it take for black people to actually move towards true liberation. I think that that like on a global scale, people really do care about this. And they have shown that they really do care about this, we see on Amazon that certain books are completely sold out, folks are trying to learn how they could show up different or how they have perpetuated some anti blackness and white supremacy in some ways. So very, very grateful for that. And now I keep thinking about like, as things start to turn, and as we start to see policy shift, and we’re demanding that policy shift in different ways. I think that this is an opportunity, we’re going to need all of it, we’re going to need public, private, government, we’re going to need individual community members who just who have resources, we’re going to need to pull all of that into this space and do it together, in order for us to reach a true place of liberation for all people, and specifically black people who have layers of just systems of domination like over us in which have kept many, many of our people in our communities down. So, I think that right now is the time to invest in community based programs. What gets me excited about being a part of this fund and of this group to look at proposals and to look at organizations and partner with organizations who want to who are thinking really thoughtful about how to engage community, like we need to put more money into this. I mean, this directly connects you, as you know, whether we’re talking about police reform, or abolition or both, wherever spectrum we are landing, we’re going to need community to be involved, and for community organizations, to be well funded, so that we can truly address the needs for people to survive, whether it’s housing, whether it’s youth development programs, whether it’s education, mental health resources, we have organizations and entities here. So, when I was reading through my proposals and learning more about different organizations, it just got me like, Wow, I’m so grateful that we have funds in this way, you know, to disperse to community so that we can do this work. And my hope, and prayer is that this continues is that folks really do care about the liberation of black people, and pour into funds such as this, so that we can truly find community and all of our partners, from what I saw, were really thoughtful about authentic community engagement, bringing people into the fold and talking to them about what do you need to survive? So I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s a responsibility of everybody and I and I truly believe in it. And I think that the time is now for us to ramp up.

Chanda Smith Baker  59:23

Yeah, thank you. And there are ways for people to contribute to this fund. And we will post that alongside of this podcast. You know, in my opinion, having you guys at advisors are also introducing you to form of philanthropy and you’re introducing me to points of view that I can’t see. And so again, just very grateful, Brandon, you want to answer the same question.

Brandon Williams 59:47

Yes, yes, collaboration and innovation are the two biggest things right? And that’s why I’m really proud and amazed by the way in which platforms have been provided at the at the foundation because it takes some times, we have to reinvent the wheel, right, and if not even reinventing if we get to change part of that system. And that’s what’s powerful. I just think collaboration and innovation is very important. Because in terms of innovation, when it comes to grant making, or when it comes to fundraising, there’s a lot of people doing work on the ground, that aren’t recognized that have don’t have the most resources that don’t have things like a grant writer, there might be a language barrier, there might be citizenship issues, and to be able to navigate that and realize how to fund that work. It takes thinking outside of the box and thinking outside of what’s normal. And sometimes that does take a radical approach because you have to take a leap in what you think about fundraising and donor and giving now it takes some time for people to pioneer that work for other people to catch on. You know, like you see, now Adidas is giving over 100 million, and you have Nike giving money, and you have people changing their policies. Sometimes it takes that change and innovation for other people to catch on. So, I just think right now, it’s about thinking outside of the box and figuring out in what ways do the community need to be supported, not for performative reasons, like Nina mentioned, but more so of actually caring for people in the work that’s being done,

Chanda Smith Baker 1:01:12

one of the things that I love the most is just the network of the advisors of this fund. And we’re seeing people apply for funding that we’ve never heard of that are out here doing amazing work, that you guys are really sponsoring them into the process, they’re learning philanthropy in a way that feels comfortable to them. And Brandon, we opened up proposals and people can submit them by video, in the case that they weren’t comfortable writing. And we’re really exploring, I would say through this fund, what are some low barrier ways in which we can make impact and help others be more impactful? So thank you, again, for both of your leadership. I’m going to just offer a few minutes for either of you to say anything in closing that you have not said that you wanted to say, if you want to feed me a question, feel free to do that, or just jump in. And in conclusion.

Brandon Williams 1:02:09

I can start off, the last thing I want to end off with is a lot of people we talk about law enforcement and abolishing or keeping them. I think that we have to come to understand that there is a heavy force of work with doing law enforcement, because law enforcement means you know, enforcing compliance, right. And when you think about that law enforcement right now, they’re responsible for violence related incidents, drug related incidents, sex related incidents, traffic related incidents, mental health related incidents, white collar related incidents, and with all of those different facets, right, we would have to agree that one police force cannot deal with all of those things effectively. Once you realize that the work of the committee, the work of different foundations the work of these different organizations become very powerful, because then there needs to be support, there needs to be someone else that can pick up on a work that other people follow on some of those trainings on some of the responsive things in the community, and is great to read the grants to see the way in which different people from different communities, you have the Jewish community, the Muslim community, the Somali community, the you have the LGBTQI plus community, you have different people from communities wanting to step up and be that voice of reason and be, you know, part of community outreach to alleviate some of those gaps and problems that law enforcement or that, you know, other organizations can’t feel right now. So I think that’s something very, that that’s very important to highlight right now. And recognize that we all can support each other, whether that’s Abolishment, whether that’s reformation, or whether it’s just establishing new things we should work together.

Chanda Smith Baker  1:03:43

Sounds good, Nina?

Nina Robertson 1:03:45

I think yeah, I would say it’s really connected to what Brandon is sharing now to that. During this time, I think that we are seeing people come together in ways and support each other in ways that I think that we have not seen before, on even a global scale in some in some respects. And I think that that is the work of philanthropy, of all people coming together for the greater good of humanity and respect for and respect for people as a community. So through all of this just heartbreak and sorrow, brother Floyd had to lose his life. And we know that black people in particular, are murdered by police officers at rates that many people are now woke to and now can see and hear our cries. I think that it’s just been I think that it’s just been a powerful experience to see us all rally around each other and stand in solidarity, courage and bravery and innovation. In a time where so much heartbreak, right there have been people who been a part of the war for a long time, there’s people who just joined us. You know, when people ask me how I’m doing honestly, I’m like, I feel I feel more empowered today than I felt two weeks ago. I feel more seen today than I felt two weeks ago. It’s an inspiring time. And I’m grateful for all of our leaders in community who are really pushing the status quo and standing up to racism and white supremacy. And our allies coming together. Gen z group, though, those are the ones who are like they are showing up like they’re designing the graphics and the video. Young people have a lot, I learned this from some kids from Instagram, and they designed graphics and said, This is all the things that we need. And like, if we stopped divesting from this and stuff, I’m like, What are you talking about this information? It was just beautiful. I’m like the gens ears and they just walk in so bold and anti, like, it’s beautiful.

Chanda Smith Baker  1:06:08

It’s gonna stress the rest of us out. But that’s when change gets made true. It’s like leading through generations, right? And I become that person now where it’s like, oh, look at him. And I’m like, Why did I get to this age? Right? What did I get to this age? And like, the thing is, is that we’re actually not that far apart from each other. And I think, Nina, to your point earlier, it’s like when you bring in the wisdom, or maybe it was Lesley, when I was talking to her earlier, like when you bring in the wisdom of the elders, and kind of the bonus of the younger folks, and you get that all together the same mix, you end up with something pretty special. The problem is that when you discount each other’s positions and roles and age, and leadership, right, whether or not it’s the older generation, discounting the voice, the leadership and the brilliance of young people, or if it’s the young people saying, you know, you’re now you’re, oh, get out the way. And there’s nothing you can give or you know, I mean, we can just be we were talking about cancel, cancel culture. Yeah, right, where you’re like, you’re in leadership. I’m a protester, like, you know, F-you, you know, like, it just feels like the more we understand the type of mix, we need to bring change, the better. I think it will be so.

Nina Robertson 1:07:23

And I think that’s community engagement, the folks who have to facilitate those conversations, they had a tough job, but I really, there’s some ways that they can do it. Well, and I’m hopeful.

Chanda Smith Baker  1:07:34

Well, I want to thank you both for being in this conversation with me. I appreciate Nina, you talked about vulnerability, and transparency. And I think the best kind of leadership is vulnerable. And you guys have both demonstrated that in this conversation through talking about your personal experiences and tragedies and things that have happened, you know, I can say that I became a much more transparent leader through the murder of my cousin, because it was public that there was no choice but to go through it. I recognize that by opening up and showing vulnerability and that others are willing to show vulnerability to me, and also allowed me to lessen my armor just a little bit. And recognize that we each have a story. We all have something to bring, we all have something to give. So, thank you for the gifts that you bring to this community every single day, for your leadership and for those that you are inspired by and those that you will inspire. So, thank you want to enjoy your day.

Souphak Kienitz  1:08:38

That’s Chanda Smith Baker, Brandon Williams and Nina Robertson. To learn more about the Fund for Safe Communities, please go to To listen to more episodes and learn more about upcoming events, please visit You can also follow Chanda on Twitter @ChandaSBaker. This is Souphak Kienitz from the Minneapolis Foundation. Thank you for listening to Conversations with Chanda.

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About Our Guests

Nina Robertson

Nina Robertson is the Director of the Step Up Youth Employment Program. Nina is a North Minneapolis native with a background in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota. She is a dedicated youth and family advocate, with expertise in collaborative program design. Nina has worked with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Movement, the Minneapolis Beacons Network, YMCA Greater Twin Cities, Plymouth Christian Youth Center, and the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ). Nina has over 10 years of youth development and advocacy experience and is passionate about effective, progressive community development.

Brandon Williams

As the Criminal Justice and Safe Communities Fellow at the Foundation, Brandon’s responsibilities include chairing the advisory board for the Fund For Safer Communities, supporting the Senior Vice President of Impact with community-oriented work, and working to further ensure justice and safety in our community. Brandon came to the Foundation in September of 2019 after working in the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office over the summer as their Criminal Division Intern — gaining valuable experience with the building, investigation, and trial preparation of cases. Brandon is a 2019 graduate of Augsburg University with a degree in Political Science: Pre-Law. He previously served as President of the Augsburg Day Student Government and is still an active member of his alma mater community.