As a young kid growing up in Detroit, I played a lot of street/outdoor basketball. The games were intense, competitive and involved a lot of trash talking. Sometimes there were hard fouls, bad language, pushing, shoving and strong critiques (PG Version). At the end of the game when the last point was made, this cry would go out from someone on the winning team, “Next!” Next meant that the winning team had completed their assignment. They had won the game by scoring 11 or 15 points and they had won by two as was required in street/outdoor basketball. Next was also the call for the next team to get off the sidelines and try to defeat the winners. The next team was typically comprised of individuals selected by a captain who had called next and added members to his team that were interested in playing with him/her. The members were granted permission to play in the next game by the captain, but only after the captain sized up their skill level by either previously watching them play or looking at their height, weight and size and guessing whether they would be an asset or detriment to the team. The selection was tough, but when picked the team who had next would have to show up and play to beat the team that had played and won before them.
On January 7, 2019, in the Office of Inclusion for the State of Minnesota a new team will have “Next.” The Dayton administration team of James Burroughs, Chief Inclusion Officer, and David Collier, Senior Aide to the Chief Inclusion Officer, had a nice 2 1/2 year run in the Minnesota Inclusion Arena. This team of two Black Men who were strangers to each other came together through a mutual connection and without knowing whether they could play together and be successful as a team they decided to play together. During our games of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, we have encountered intense fouls and competition. We have had back screens like the murder of Philando Castile set against us that knocked us to our knees. We have had sharp elbows and intense trash talking from the community saying that you do not represent your people and you are just a representative of “The Man.” We have at times been pushed into the corner and the ball has been kept from us so we could not focus on shooting, but instead just pick up rebounds and set some picks. Two Black men leading at the point guard and shooting guard at times scared away some members or our Minnesota Nice team, but in spite of these challenges we persevered and kept hooping.
While on our run, we made some great shots along the way. We stepped back to the three point line and raised our diverse employee percentage from 8% to 13.1%. Nice shot. We then went to our crossover move and took our employee with disability percentage from 4% to 7.1%. Nice move. We also took a page from Magic and went for our baby skyhook and took our diverse employee business percentage from 5.4% to 7.8%. While shooting the baby skyhook we also got fouled and had to take a free throw that helped increase our black owned business percentage spend from $135,000 to $2.4 million. We still are not shooting a great percentage at the line because these numbers are against a $2 billion spend, but we are getting better. Good shot. As we continued to play and get our rhythm we noticed the crowds looking at our moves and even cheering us on at times. Some people watching were the NAACP, AALF, Latino Lead. CAALS, MABL, People of Color Career Fair, Minority Chambers of Commerce, St. Paul and Minneapolis Chambers of Commerce and other community members that would cheer, but also hold us accountable when we threw the ball away or missed a big shot. The nature of fan accountability.
On January 7, 2019 at 12:00 pm our run will be over. We will have to high five each other and turn over the court to the Walz and Flanagan administration. They have “Next.” The next Chief Inclusion Officer and his/her aide will have to take it to the next level. It will be their turn to take the shots, drive the ball and score at the goal. They will also have to rebound the ball, play defense and show the area that they are in the game and playing to WIN! Just as the captain of a team in street/outdoor ball has to pick their team carefully, we hope the Walz/Flanagan team will do the same. Make sure the next team has “Game.” They will have 4 years on the court to beat our numbers so I am confident they will give us a run for the money. As David and I take our ball and towel and go home, we will reminisce about the victories, the defeats and what we learned along the way. We will cherish the new friends who challenged us to be better. We will also have respect for the opponents that fought hard against us because they made us better players. We are now teammates for life. Although we did not make the street/outdoor ball hall of fame, we did show some young people along the way that all Minnesotans can play in this game and do well.