In the Burroughs | Children's Minnesota | The Kid Experts

If we’re going to eliminate racial disparities in our state, Minnesota’s business community has to be on board. Our state’s future depends on it.

It’s been three years since George Floyd was murdered. Our work to end racial disparities isn’t close to being done. And it can’t be solved without Minnesota’s business community. Tiffani Daniels leads the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE), a group of 50 companies (including Children’s Minnesota) working to build a more just and prosperous state with and for Black Minnesotans.

Why Black Minnesotans? Because, as MBCRE says, “Across a whole range of economic, education, and health measures, the gaps between Black Minnesotans and white Minnesotans are among the widest in the country.”

Three years after Floyd’s murder, we’re no longer in crisis mode, but we can’t lose focus. How do we stay committed? Daniels shares her thoughts on that and more.

What progress have you seen in the last three years?

Tiffani Daniels: I have seen Minnesota acknowledge the amazing work that Black leaders are advancing and the MBCRE has had the opportunity to work alongside a handful of those leaders. 

  • It was an honor to partner with Sen. Clare Oumou Verbeten — one of the first Black woman senators in our state’s history — to design and launch a leadership development program for Black mid-level corporate employees in collaboration with The Partnership, Inc.  
  • We’ve partnered with the Black co-founders of TurnSignl, an app motorists can use to contact an attorney during a police stop. 
  • We launched a Deposit Challenge with First Independence Bank of the Twin Cities, and it’s been a gift to see Damon Jenkins’ leadership up close and help him realize the vision he has for this community.  
  • I have also been tremendously inspired by the vision for Minnesota’s first Black community foundation under the leadership of Lulete Mola.  

Progress looks like empowering and supporting Black leaders and that has been on full display in the last three years.  

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Tiffani Daniels: Keeping people engaged. As James Burroughs noted in this feature on his work: “People tend to be motivated by crisis, and the further away you get from the crisis, the more the signal fades.” As the pace of our lives has picked up again, as the macroeconomic environment puts pressure on other aspects of businesses, we lose the fire we felt so acutely in 2020.  

What’s been the biggest surprise?

Tiffani Daniels: One of the core values of MBCRE since its inception has been to center Black Minnesotans unapologetically. For the corporate community to thoughtfully and intentionally engage with Black communities, there is a significant amount of trust that needs to be re-established. I have been surprised at how the presence of a Black-led, Blackcentered MBCRE can help build and smooth pathways from corporations to engage and invest in the community.  

What’s been the most gratifying moment for you as managing director?

Tiffani Daniels: There have been a few moments that have demonstrated the transformational potential of MBCRE. A moment that will stick with me is the passage of the CROWN Act in Minnesota earlier this year. The CROWN Act was first introduced a few years ago and while it has passed the House before, it had not been heard in the Senate. This year, MBCRE partnered with Children’s Minnesota to bring the story of the CROWN Act to the Senate and why businesses cared about its impact. I had the opportunity to share my testimony, alongside Dr. Marc Gorelick (Children’s Minnesota’s president and CEO), about how the CROWN Act supports an inclusive workplace and why inclusivity is good for business. I told my personal story of wearing braids in a corporate setting and how it made me feel. That was one of the first times my personal story collided with my role as Managing Director and it reminded me why it’s so important for Black people, especially women, to continue to lead.  

Tiffani Daniels speaking
Tiffani Daniels speaking after passage of the CROWN Act.

What keeps you motivated to do the work?

Tiffani Daniels: I believe in the power of business and how it can help Minnesota be a great place for everyone to live.  

How do we keep the business community, policymakers, the general public, etc. focused and motivated long enough to make substantial change?

Tiffani Daniels: That is an important question. It starts with shifting the narrative from racism as a moral issue to an economic issue. Citigroup estimates the economy would see a $5 trillion boost over the next five years if the U.S. were to tackle key areas of discrimination against African Americans. In Minnesota, the opportunity cost of racism is $287 billion because of the wage gap, loss in lifetime earnings because of the achievement and skills gap, loss in home ownership and loss in business revenue because of the capital gap. Our economy depends on us addressing the disparities that Black people face. After we establish the “why,” it’s about showing glimpses of progress to compel more progress.  

In the past three years have your thoughts about the work evolved?

Tiffani Daniels: I was more encouraged three years ago. Now, I’m more clear-eyed and strategic. I also recognize that there is opposition for the progress we’re working towards. Acknowledging your opponent helps strengthen your game.   

Thank you, Tiffani, for candidly sharing your experiences and reflections.  

Children’s Minnesota CEO Marc Gorelick and I recently sat down with our counterparts from other Minneapolis health systems to talk about the impact George Floyd’s murder has had on our work to advance health equity. 

The conversation was hosted by the American Hospital Association. You can watch it here. 

James Burroughs, a black man, is looking at the camera with a serious expression. He is wearing a gray shirt and a black suit jacket.

James Burroughs
Senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer

James Burroughs is the senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer at Children's Minnesota. He is responsible for advancing equity and inclusion in all parts of the organization.
Follow James on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Julianna Olsen