The 5th Annual One Future Luncheon

by Danielle Bylund, NAZ External Communications Manager

This year was the 5th anniversary of One Future Luncheon our largest annual fundraiser, and it brought together nearly 1000 business, education, and community leaders to celebrate and fund the scholars and families of North Minneapolis. This year’s luncheon was standing room only primarily because of our keynote speaker, Geoffrey Canada. Canada is best known to the general public from his appearance in the film “Waiting for Superman.” To those in the education community, his organization the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), is a beacon for what can be done with enough tenacity, thoughtful philanthropy, and quality leadership. The HCZ operates in Central Harlem, historically one of the most impoverished and violent neighborhoods in New York. The HCZ has radically changed outcomes for all children in the zone over the past 20 years. They boast a 97% college acceptance rate for their scholars and have changed the landscape of Central Harlem. HCZ gave the families and scholars hope, but they also followed through with results. Today, the neighborhood is thriving because of the investment in the children of Central Harlem by HCZ, led by Geoffrey Canada. NAZ is modeled after the HCZ, so the outcomes for Harlem can be achieved here in North Minneapolis with enough time and dedication to the mission. “I’m here because Sondra [Samuels] is one of the most foremost leaders in this work,” said Canada.

Mr. Canada grew up in the South Bronx. He told the audience, “When my mother told me, because I was a big comic book reader, that there was no Superman, I began to cry. I was crying because I realized if there were no superheroes, we weren’t going to make it. There was no force strong enough to come into the South Bronx and save us as kids, and I was a nine-year-old.”

After spending his entire adult life committed to the children of Central Harlem, he spoke at the One Future Luncheon because Geoffrey Canada believes that the NAZ collaborative is replicating the work that will radically change North Minneapolis.

Watch the inspiring full speech below.

Attendees also had the privilege to hear from Omiah Gregory, a NAZ father who was part of the first Father’s Foundations class at NAZ. Father’s Foundations is a class that is part of our Family Academy programming which seeks to teach parenting skills and also uncover what barriers families are facing internally. The classes are oftentimes equal parts informative and transformative for NAZ parents. The ethos behind creating a Father’s Foundations was to create a safe space for fathers to speak about topics that made them vulnerable in other spaces like trauma. According to Omiah, “I had the will to change my circumstances, but I didn’t know how. Father’s Foundation gave me the tools, the space, and the support I needed to empower myself and make the changes I’ve always strived for.”

Check out the video for the rest of his speech and a surpise visitor!

As with all One Future Luncheon’s we had some incredible entertainment including Sammy McDowell, owner of Sammy’s Eatery who gave a fantastic rendition “Wake Up, Everybody,” and an African American History performance by NCDC scholars.

The business community came out in full force to sponsor and encourage others to donate to lift up the Northside Minneapolis community, one scholar, one block, one school at a time. Our Promise Sponsors this year were Target and Pine River Capital Management. Jon Sabes, CEO and founder of Epigenetics and YouSurance was our final speaker of the day. His commitment to NAZ was a great example of the power of philanthropy.

Sondra Samuels, NAZ President and CEO spoke about the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans to set foot on American soil. From Sondra:

“While we’ve come a long way, we have such a long way to go and we don’t have much time. I am not confused at all about the preciousness of life and how I’m not sure if I have another day. None of you are. Can we finish the work? Like Harriet Tubman. We need some courageous men and women just like her who can’t tolerate injustice. She kept going back and she kept going back, to her own peril. We need some courageous folks today, some patriots. She didn’t do it alone, she had a whole underground railroad made up of white people and black people and Christians and Jews. We are doing it together, we are making an above-ground railroad.”

If you’d like to help support the generational change happening in North Minneapolis, donate here.