Three years in, Be the Bridge’s south metro chapter continues to foster conversations around racial justice, anti-racism and equity within the community.
The chapter is part of a national group by the same name, founded by speaker and author Latasha Morrison in 2016. Be the Bridge’s mission, according to its website, is to “empower people and culture toward racial healing, equity and reconciliation.”
Chapter lead Amenah Agunwamba said the south metro chapter looks to bring community members together through conversation. The group has grown to around 100 people from all over the south metro, with in-person events seeing around 10-20 people attend.
“What we try to do in our chapter is really try to create a space for these important conversations on racial unity and racial justice and healing and provide this opportunity for racial reconciliation through relationships,” she said.
The group aims to meet approximately once a month. These meetings allow members to converse, hear unique perspectives on topics involving race and educate one another. Chapter members also sometimes participate in workshops, host speakers and authors, and learn through book and video discussions.
“The most amazing thing was the diversity that was represented in the group and the likemindedness in desiring to see healing, restoration and unity among Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life,” chapter lead Joyce Mugaki said.
Around four times a year, members meet for a social gathering that typically consist of a meal and watching a video together. These social gatherings are sometimes used to celebrate various cultures, including Native American Heritage Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.
This past month, celebrating Black History Month, the chapter held a dinner celebration. This included watching the docuseries, “The 1619 Project,” and discussing pushback against antiracism education within schools locally and nationally.
Though the group formed in January 2020, members said the group really started to evolve after the murder of George Floyd a few months later.
“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Be the Bridge added something vital,” chapter member Azra Weber said. “When we were all reeling from recent world events, it connected people from different churches across denominations, race, geographical neighborhoods, and most importantly, life experiences.”
Soon after, the chapter led a George Floyd Mom’s March for Justice in the south metro, bringing community members together to discuss the issues at hand.
Agunwamba said over time, she has noticed members are more willing to engage in tough conversations about race and have their opinions change after learning from each other.
“We do have a number of BIPOC members, and they will express and tell their stories,” she said. “I think one of the powerful things is that when we have these opportunities to tell stories about personal experiences and our families and communities, I think that really does broaden people’s understanding.”
The chapter values its conversations being held in a “safe and brave space,” where people are respectful of people’s backgrounds and ideas while also understanding they may have to face some hard topics.
“Being part of Be the Bridge has been transformational for me as a white person,” chapter member Kristen Ojo said. “The environment is respectful and honest and has provided me with important opportunities to learn about racism in the U.S. … our society needs more spaces like this where productive dialogue on race can occur.”
The chapter initially grew out of Celebration Church in Lakeville and has a faith element incorporated up to the national level, but Agunwamba said people from all religions and walks of life are invited to join.
The group has discussed faith by critiquing poor experiences in the church setting and having conversations about how to make them a more welcoming, inclusive and equitable place.
Speaking to the group’s future, Agunwamba said she hopes to bring in community leaders and experts as well as host more educational workshops to delve deeper into these topics. The chapter also plans to prioritize community outreach by participating in local community drives and starting conversations with leaders and organizations like local police departments.
“I echo what other people have said when they start to learn about racism in the U.S. — that there is so much new information that we never learned in school,” Ojo said. “I am grateful that Be the Bridge has given me this opportunity to build friendships and hear the perspectives of people who look different from me.”