Close the Gap: A Community Guide

STORY: Origins of the African American Men Project

This story uncovers the African American Men Project and its unlikely origins. The project aims at enhancing the lives of African American men. It started with an awkward question asked by a Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein: Why are there so many African American men who are not participating in our oft-praised robust economy? Since then, communication and dialogue has helped to establish a nationally recognized initiative. Over 500 people are working, continuing their education, or have graduated as a result of their involvement with this project.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did the African American Men project begin?
  2. Why was it an "awkward" question?
  3. Why do you think many African American men are not engaged in the Twin Cities robust economy?
  4. What were some of the barriers for African American men?
  5. How did the restorative justice project help both the county and the men?
  6. How does the African American Men project help ex-offenders to reintegrate into community?
  7. What are some of the project successes so far?
  8. What is the connection between giving ex-offenders a second chance and the overall well-being of the community?
  9. How does it affect the region's overall well-being and you personally?
Ideas for Action

Getting the Facts

Getting the Facts Have the participants review and discuss a fact sheet developed by Hennepin County on the African American Men project and its impact at

"Awkward Questions"

Invite participants to discuss "awkward questions" pertaining to their communities. Are there problems and issues in your community that are not discussed or addressed? Why do you think that is?