Community Mentorship Matters Now More Than Ever in Minneapolis. Here’s How You Can Help.

Brothers EMpowered is a community mentorship organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that was started by Charles Caine, second from left, in 2014. (Brothers EMpowered)

Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. And right now, there are a lot of tough people in Minneapolis. Besides dealing with a pandemic over the last year, just about every neighborhood in the city has had to deal with the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody on Memorial Day.

Since that fateful day in 2020, violence is up, and public morale is down across Minneapolis. The crime problem is primarily in the 3rd and 4th Precincts, but everyone living in Southwest Minneapolis (the 5th Precinct) is being impacted. The saddest part is that many of the people committing crimes and being hurt or killed are young people. Now is the time to remember that it takes a village to raise a child and figure out how we can help be part of solutions.

A number of unsung community organizations in the city already are doing this. One of those is Brothers EMpowered in North Minneapolis, led by Charles Caine, who has a simple mission: bring back that village mentality.

Caine started Brothers EMpowered in 2014 to help men of color overcome the barriers in their lives and the lives in their communities. They work with youth starting at the age of 9 and provide life coaching, mentorship, healing and restoration, business training, community peacekeeping, and community outreach.

Brothers EMpowered has a strong connection within the community in North Minneapolis. They believe there is no positive influence in the urban community without positive action in the urban community, and their community engagement mentorship program teaches youth how to engage with their community by giving back.

They have organized food share programs, school equipment drives and more. Through their programming and services, inner-city youth learn skills to develop leadership, accountability, discipline, self-respect, good work ethics, and a positive sense of purpose and direction — skills that can close the opportunity gap and help youth reach their full potential.

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) in Southwest Minneapolis has partnered with Brothers EMpowered to support the organization’s work and bring back that village mentality. At this moment in Minneapolis, we need all hands on deck to address the trauma that is impacting our communities. Young people need more positive role models, and mentorship can have positive ripple effects in youth lives to create real, generational change.

On Feb. 8, LHENA (where I am a board member) launched a fundraiser to help fund the work of Brothers EMpowered. Our aim is modest: to raise a total of $5,000. To date, we have raised $775 from 15 people. This money will support Brothers EMpowered programming, services, and events, and help them expand their community outreach. Anyone can contribute, and every contribution will help build a bridge to a brighter tomorrow and a more equitable future.

Everyone deserves an opportunity to reach their full potential. But not everyone gets that opportunity. We have an opportunity gap in America, and public safety has become a pressing issue in Minneapolis because of it.

“There are so many factors,” said Caine at a LHENA public safety forum in October 2020. “It’s an economic issue, job, housing, drug and chemical dependency issue. We have a large rate of homeless teens in this country. The educational and economic gap between Black and white is one of the worst in the nation. The main thing that we have been addressing and can address as an organization is mentorship. Bring back that village mentality. That uncle mentality. I’m a product of a mentor. So I know that it works personally.”

In these times, it’s easy to feel cynical and perhaps even powerless. But we have more power in the community than sometimes we realize.

LHENA believes in the power of neighbors helping neighbors, and we believe in the power of helping communities beyond the Wedge. That is why we have partnered with Brothers EMpowered, an organization with strong connections to the Northside.

Enhancing new and current partnerships beyond our neighborhood, fostering mentorship opportunities to develop leaders, and developing community beyond neighborhood boundaries are all priorities within LHENA’s strategic plan. Our organics recycling program, food share, small business grants, and mutual aid work all extend beyond our boundaries.

Brothers EMpowered is making a difference in Minneapolis and can make an even bigger one with our help. Working together, we have the power to increase the peace and create more opportunities for all people in Minneapolis. By bringing people together from different neighborhoods and walks of life, we can build that village all children need.

Help us support Brothers EMpowered by donating to our goal to raise $5,000 for community mentorship in Minneapolis. Every little bit counts. Give what you can, even if that’s just spreading the word about Brothers EMpowered and this fundraiser. You can play a part in funding their work to prepare youth for greatness and equip them to excel in every aspect of their lives.

Thank you for whatever part you can play to support community mentorship in Minneapolis. We’re doing something necessary and great together, and we are grateful for your love and generosity.

This is the beginning of LHENA’s work supporting community mentorship in Minneapolis. If you are interested in being a community mentor for youth in the future, we would love to hear from you.

Journalist, editor, storyteller. Author of children’s book “How the Zookalex Saved the Village.”

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