Youthprise, President Marcus Pope: Roe vs Wade What does it mean for young people in Minnesota?

As a fairly new President with just six months in this position, I find myself wrestling with the complexities of leadership in this historic moment. While trying to enjoy some downtime this past weekend, I could not help but grapple with the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the precedent established in Roe vs. Wade and its implications for Youthprise.

Our young and diverse staff is top of mind – a staff of which over 1/3 are age 25 or younger, and the majority of whom identify as women. I am concerned about their wellness, their sense of autonomy, and their livelihood. I'm also thinking about our mission – to increase equity with and for Minnesota's Indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth – and how the decision impacts our ability to realize this ambitious declaration.

Our staff and young people throughout Minnesota have been hit hard over the past few years. They have watched front and center as we experienced three high-profile, police-involved slayings of Black men. They were forced into a legal battle with the state to gain the right to collect unemployment benefits to which they were entitled. For years, they have endured some of the worst racial disparities in the nation for multiple socioeconomic indicators. Clearly, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is yet another blow that fundamentally changes the lives of many who are already dealing with a multitude of challenges. Pundits predict that a ban is not likely to be adopted in Minnesota. That might be true – for now. But the fact is we do not know what the future holds.

Even so, there is no question in my mind that I must speak out on this egregious violation of civil liberties, especially for Minnesota’s Black and Indigenous communities, for whom the pregnancy-related mortality rate is up to four times higher than their white counterparts. I am also concerned about Greater Minnesota (including rural communities), where nearly half of the state’s maternal deaths occur given the persistent challenges in accessing health care. Yet, as the President of a nonprofit that is largely dependent on the benevolence of others, I understand that giving voice to this issue presents great risk. What about the $10 million annually that needs to be raised to advance our mission? What about the bipartisan support needed for our policy agenda that impacts hundreds of thousands of families in Minnesota? How do we maintain our ability to financially support a cadre of nonprofits and individual youth throughout Minnesota? All of this is weighing heavily on my mind.

In such a polarizing social and political environment, how do we balance the practical conflict between particular constituencies that resource our mission and those that execute and benefit from our important work? We live in a culture where disagreement on one “hot button” issue often leads to an inability to cooperate on any issue for the betterment of our common good. This culture is so endemic that it is already producing significant adverse outcomes while it ultimately threatens our democracy. I am truly struggling as a leader to navigate all of this, and I'm not afraid to admit it. Honestly, I don't think I'm alone.

So, what can we do? On Friday, we gave our staff a day of respite so each person could process, recharge, and tend to their own well-being. We will continue to allow space for our team to work through these issues individually, and as they desire, collectively. As a learning organization, we will become even more thoughtful about our policies, benefits, and culture to ensure we are a safe place that promotes reproductive justice for our staff internally. We will continue our financial support of organizations that work diligently to create and maintain equitable access to opportunities for Indigenous youth, youth of color, and low-income youth. And in the weeks and months ahead, we will double down on our commitment to ensuring that the young people and allies have a platform and the opportunity to be heard.

I am unwavering in my stance that the High Court’s decision poses a significant threat to Youthprise’s mission and the health and wellness of the amazing staff that power it. I’m disheartened that speaking out may indeed come with negative consequences. I acknowledge that we may have stakeholders with divergent opinions and beliefs that do not align with our position on this issue. I can only hope that these stakeholders will continue to embrace the heart of our mission and choose to remain valued partners with Youthprise for the sake of promoting equity for Minnesota's youth.

As a fairly new President with just six months in this position, I find myself wrestling with the complexities of leadership in this historic moment. While trying to enjoy some downtime this past weekend, I could not help but grapple with the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the precedent established in Roe vs. Wade and its implications for Youthprise.

Our young and diverse staff is top of mind – a staff of which over 1/3 are age 25 or younger, and the majority of whom identify as women. I am concerned about their wellness, their sense of autonomy, and their livelihood. I'm also thinking about our mission – to increase equity with and for Minnesota's Indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth – and how the decision impacts our ability to realize this ambitious declaration.

Our staff and young people throughout Minnesota have been hit hard over the past few years. They have watched front and center as we experienced three high-profile, police-involved slayings of Black men. They were forced into a legal battle with the state to gain the right to collect unemployment benefits to which they were entitled. For years, they have endured some of the worst racial disparities in the nation for multiple socioeconomic indicators. Clearly, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is yet another blow that fundamentally changes the lives of many who are already dealing with a multitude of challenges. Pundits predict that a ban is not likely to be adopted in Minnesota. That might be true – for now. But the fact is we do not know what the future holds.

Even so, there is no question in my mind that I must speak out on this egregious violation of civil liberties, especially for Minnesota’s Black and Indigenous communities, for whom the pregnancy-related mortality rate is up to four times higher than their white counterparts. I am also concerned about Greater Minnesota (including rural communities), where nearly half of the state’s maternal deaths occur given the persistent challenges in accessing health care. Yet, as the President of a nonprofit that is largely dependent on the benevolence of others, I understand that giving voice to this issue presents great risk. What about the $10 million annually that needs to be raised to advance our mission? What about the bipartisan support needed for our policy agenda that impacts hundreds of thousands of families in Minnesota? How do we maintain our ability to financially support a cadre of nonprofits and individual youth throughout Minnesota? All of this is weighing heavily on my mind.

In such a polarizing social and political environment, how do we balance the practical conflict between particular constituencies that resource our mission and those that execute and benefit from our important work? We live in a culture where disagreement on one “hot button” issue often leads to an inability to cooperate on any issue for the betterment of our common good. This culture is so endemic that it is already producing significant adverse outcomes while it ultimately threatens our democracy. I am truly struggling as a leader to navigate all of this, and I'm not afraid to admit it. Honestly, I don't think I'm alone.

So, what can we do? On Friday, we gave our staff a day of respite so each person could process, recharge, and tend to their own well-being. We will continue to allow space for our team to work through these issues individually, and as they desire, collectively. As a learning organization, we will become even more thoughtful about our policies, benefits, and culture to ensure we are a safe place that promotes reproductive justice for our staff internally. We will continue our financial support of organizations that work diligently to create and maintain equitable access to opportunities for Indigenous youth, youth of color, and low-income youth. And in the weeks and months ahead, we will double down on our commitment to ensuring that the young people and allies have a platform and the opportunity to be heard.

I am unwavering in my stance that the High Court’s decision poses a significant threat to Youthprise’s mission and the health and wellness of the amazing staff that power it. I’m disheartened that speaking out may indeed come with negative consequences. I acknowledge that we may have stakeholders with divergent opinions and beliefs that do not align with our position on this issue. I can only hope that these stakeholders will continue to embrace the heart of our mission and choose to remain valued partners with Youthprise for the sake of promoting equity for Minnesota's youth.

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