Sticks in a Bundle are Unbreakable: Nexus Launches 2014-15 Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute

FellowsOn Thursday, October 9th, over 90 people gathered at the Dakota Lodge at the Division of Indian Work to celebrate power in community and to welcome the new Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) fellows into the BCLI family. These 15 fellows will be the next group of advocate commissioners advancing racial equity and social justice through locally appointed boards and commissions. Meet the fellows here.

The theme of the night was centered on the Kenyan proverb, “Sticks in a Bundle are Unbreakable;” the idea that we are more powerful collectively than we are as individuals. A panel of two social justice leaders, State Representative Rena Moran and BCLI Alum Roxxanne O’Brien, shared their experiences advocating and advancing equity, while staying grounded in the community. Check out the event’s photo gallery here.

Five key themes emerged from the panelists as messages to the fellows and broader community:


  1. Being “in so deep, you can’t get out” – as a reminder to people who do community work that they do not have a choice because it affects them as individuals and their entire community; therefore, we share the collective responsibility to push for equity.
  2. People come to the work where they are; no more, no less. People come to these decision-making tables with only their experiences and it is our job to educate them on differences of opinion, strategies and impacts on underrepresented communities.
  3. Relationships, relationships, relationships. If we are not in the community, how will we know the pulse of our community? Being from underrepresented communities means we come to the work with these relationships and feel that pulse – therefore it is vital that we maintain those relationships to stay rooted and to uplift our communities together once we are on decision-making bodies.
  4. One-on-ones are a powerful tool. The reality is that in Minnesota, we have very few leaders of color at the capital, in elected office, and on boards and commissions. In order to change policies and incorporate equity into systems and institutions, we must find common ground with current leaders to reach some agreements – and one-on-one conversations are very effective at sharing and learning about each other’s stories, values and vision.
  5. We must break out of the matrix. Racial equity and social justice work can be exhausting – especially when caring for families, working one or multiple jobs, and also being expected to show up for rallies, meetings, events and/or one-on-ones. But in order to break the chain of systemic racism, we must show up and break out of the business-as-usual mode of operation. Look at what we can accomplish together in action – together we are unbreakable when we all realize our power and move collectively.

From the community members, to fellows, to alum, to the panelists and the organizers in the room – Nexus is looking forward to what we will accomplish together this year and to advancing racial equity and social justice in the Twin Cities region in the years to come.

We hope to see many of you at our upcoming Issue Series, which are open community events where we highlight the work of partners in the equity movement. Our first Issue Series will be on Organizing and Engagement on November 6, 2014, from 5:30-8pm at Gandhi Mahal in Minneapolis. Sign up to receive e-invitations three weeks prior to each event at Or contact the program associate, Angie Brown, for more information at