A small group of Duluthians gathered at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial on Sunday to announce their support for a bill to end systemic racism and racial injustice, set to be heard in the Minnesota Legislature later this week.

The Philando Castile Omnibus Bill 2021, HF784 and SF800, is scheduled to be heard by the Government Finance and Election Committee hearing at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. In order to raise awareness and support for the bill, Minnesota Equal Opportunity Partnership representative Henry Banks highlighted its features in a small public gathering.

"The world is now waiting to see how Minnesota leaders step up to meet the ongoing challenge of systemic racism and racial injustice and address the inequities generated by the inadequate administrative application of equal access and opportunity laws," Banks read from a prepared statement. "The bill requires redirecting little more than 0.5% of the state’s projected $52 billion general fund budget, and I cannot stress this enough, no new funds, to support these initiatives over the next biennium and beyond."

The initiatives supported by the $335 million would be invested throughout the state to fund African American and African immigrant organizations coordinating culture and heritage preservation, entrepreneurial and business training and housing stability initiatives, providing culturally competent health services, coordinating crime and violence prevention along with recidivism-reduction services and expanding urban agriculture. The funds would also support operating Philando Castile family and community service centers in cities across the state and support education-related causes such as school breakfast and lunch debt forgiveness. If the bill passes, Banks stated that a Philando Castile community service center would be started in Duluth.

Another $22 million would be invested in ending systemic racism by strengthening the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, auditing the Equal Opportunity Administration and requiring Minnesota peace officers to be culturally competent before being certified in the state.

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"Understand that this is a starting point. We are asking for less than half a percent, while we contribute$1.5 billion to the state. We're asking for a return on investment," Banks said.

Duluth City Councilor Terese Tomanek read a letter of support, which was signed by fellow council members Renee Van Nett, Roz Randorf and Janet Kennedy.

"We believe that this legislation will aid our city and state's efforts towards advancing causes related to recognition and lessening of systemic racism," Tomanek read. "This legislature is a beginning, and we will work with all leaders to ensure Duluth will do our part to ensure equitable treatment of all."

The bill has also received support from state Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth. Stephanie Williams, of the MEOP, read a letter of her support.

"The past year has highlighted that it’s not enough to just talk about the work we need to do to end systemic racism in Minnesota. Moreover, incremental steps aren’t sufficient to meet the needs at which the moment we find ourselves right now," Williams read, on behalf of Olson. "Our BIPOC communities are counting on bold action to truly address Minnesota’s ongoing, vast racial disparities. The key investments contained within the 2021 Philando Castile Omnibus Bill represent perhaps the most comprehensive package of solutions to advance the cause of racial justice we’ve ever seen in the legislature, and I’m a proud coauthor of the bill."

Gov. Tim Walz has agreed to support the bill at the MEOP meeting earlier in the week, according to Banks.