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Minnesota Men of Color

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Images from a poster used by Minnesota Men of Color, ca. 2000. The organization’s founders, Nick Metcalf and Edd Lee, are pictured at the top right and bottom left. Photographs by Chuck Smith.

Images from a poster used by Minnesota Men of Color, ca. 2000. The organization’s founders, Nick Metcalf and Edd Lee, are pictured at the top right and bottom left. Photographs by Chuck Smith.

Minnesota Men of Color (MMC) was a non-profit organization that served gay and bisexual men of color, women of color, and gender-non-conforming people of color between 1998 and 2003. From its headquarters in Minneapolis, MMC reached clients that majority-white LGBT groups had overlooked, focusing specifically on those who were Native, Latinx, African American, and Asian American.

MMC began as a social group for queer men of color. Nick Metcalf (Čhetáŋzi; Yellow Hawk), a Sičáŋǧu Lakota student from South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation, had moved to Minnesota in 1994. There, Metcalf became involved in the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force at its south Minneapolis headquarters. Metcalf identified as a two-spirit—a person with a non-binary gender identity who plays a crucial spiritual role in some Native traditions.

By April 1997, Metcalf had met Edd Lee, a gay Korean American man working for the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. The pair recognized the demand for an organization tailored to the needs of people of color in the Twin Cities. Together, they organized MMC’s first meetings, which were informal.

In 1998, in one of its earliest projects, MMC surveyed residents across Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. It found that 160,000 Twin Cities residents identified as gay or lesbian; of those, about 33,000—20 percent—were people of color. (“Bisexual,” “transgender,” “genderqueer,” etc. did not appear as answer options.) The survey’s results confirmed MMC volunteers’ belief that their target population was growing and in need.

MMC applied for tax-exempt status from the IRS as a non-profit 501.c3 organization and received it in March 1999. At about this time, they hired a handful of paid staff and moved into an office space at 1433 East Franklin Avenue in the Philips neighborhood of Minneapolis—an address they shared with the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force. MMC staff crafted a mission statement that expressed their commitment to social service, education, and empowerment.

When MMC received formal recognition as a non-profit, its flagship programs—Somos Familias and Ikĉé Wiĉáŝa—had already been active for two years. Their non-English names (in Spanish and Lakota, respectively) reflected MMC’s intention to support people of color whose languages, ethnicities, and cultures were underrepresented by the white mainstream.

Somos Familias (We Are Families) reached out to people living with HIV/AIDS by offering a bi-monthly educational series; a bi-monthly discussion group; a peer helper network; and a drop-in support group. MMC staff created an original Somos Familias curriculum, designed for classes of no more than eight people, that covered disease management, spiritual health, and medication adherence.

Ikĉé Wiĉáŝa (Common Man) focused on HIV and STD prevention. With some components targeted at groups and others at individuals, the program followed a curriculum of its own that addressed coming out, intersectional identities, safer sex, body image, and drug abuse.

Contrary to its name, MMC employed and served people who identified as women—both cisgender and transgender. Its staff collaborated with the Womyn of Color Building Project, and the two organizations shared office space on Franklin Avenue. An MMC-organized social group called Gender Girls welcomed members who had been assigned a male sex at birth but deviated from masculine gender norms. They included trans women, drag queens, cross-dressing men, and genderqueer people.

Between 2001 and 2003, MMC continued to create programs and build partnerships with other LGBT groups, from the local (Twin Cities Black Pride) to the national (LLEGÓ, an LGBT Latinx organization). In early 2003, it moved from its Philips office to a space inside the Sabathani Community Center at 310 East 38th Street.

Soon after the move, the Minnesota Department of Health cancelled its 2003–2005 funding contract with MMC. The Office of the Legislative Auditor reviewed MMC’s management of grant funds received between 1999 and 2003 and concluded that it had not complied with rules related to accounting, staffing, and oversight.

Without its primary source of funding, MMC could no longer afford to operate and scaled back its projects. After a period of inactivity, it officially disbanded in 2009.

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  • Bibliography
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Acain, Angeline. “Yellow Hawk and the Child of His Heart: An Interview with Nicholas Metcalf.” Gay Parent, November/December 2002.
http://www.gayparentmag.com/yellow-hawk

Franklin, Michael David, ed., et al. Queer Twin Cities: Twin Cities GLBT Oral History Project. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Gold, Rachel. “Men of Color Create Vision, Plan.” Focus Point 4, no. 21 (October 15, 1997): 1, 13.
http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16022coll34/id/2386

Tretter 268
Minnesota Men of Color records, 1981–2007 and undated
Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis
Description: The collection contains administrative records, correspondence, newsletters, reports, articles, educational materials, and project and program records created by and concerning Minnesota Men of Color.
http://archives.lib.umn.edu/repositories/13/resources/2102

Office of the Legislative Auditor. “Special Review: Department of Health Grants to Minnesota Men of Color.” October 30, 2003.
http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/fad/pdf/fad0357.pdf

Van Cleve, Stewart. Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Related Images

Images from a poster used by Minnesota Men of Color, ca. 2000. The organization’s founders, Nick Metcalf and Edd Lee, are pictured at the top right and bottom left. Photographs by Chuck Smith.
Images from a poster used by Minnesota Men of Color, ca. 2000. The organization’s founders, Nick Metcalf and Edd Lee, are pictured at the top right and bottom left. Photographs by Chuck Smith.
Poster produced by Minnesota Men of Color, ca. 2000. Design by Benjamin P. Constantino; photography by Chuck Smith.
Poster produced by Minnesota Men of Color, ca. 2000. Design by Benjamin P. Constantino; photography by Chuck Smith.
Nick Metcalf (Čhetáŋzi), with adopted son, Sonny (Hokšíčala Čhaŋté Ma Yuhá), on the cover of Gay Parent magazine, November/December 2002.
Nick Metcalf (Čhetáŋzi), with adopted son, Sonny (Hokšíčala Čhaŋté Ma Yuhá), on the cover of Gay Parent magazine, November/December 2002.

Turning Point

In April 1999, Minnesota Men of Color receives its first grant from the Minnesota Department of Health: $150,000 to be spent in support of HIV/AIDS education programs.

Chronology

April 1997

A group of self-identified gay and bisexual men and gender-non-conforming people meets for the first time in Minneapolis. Its members call themselves Minnesota Men of Color (MMC).

June 1997

MMC participates in the Twin Cities Pride parade for the first time.

October 1998

Members of MMC hold a visioning meeting to plan the organization’s future.

April 1998

MMC organizes the first “Celebrating Ourselves” conference, held over three days at the University of Minnesota.

May 1998

MMC applies for grant funding from the Minnesota Department of Health.

December 1998

MMC officially forms.

March 29, 1999

MMC receives tax-exempt status from the IRS as a not-for-profit (501.c3) organization.

June 2000

MMC participates in the first Twin Cities Black Pride celebration.

November 2000

The Minnesota Board of Health approves MMC’s HIV/AIDS prevention curriculum.

2001

Twenty-five percent of MMC’s clients are transgender or cisgender women.

January 31, 2003

MMC receives a second grant from the Minnesota Department of Health.

March 31, 2003

The Department of Health terminates its contract with MMC.

October 30, 2003

After reviewing MMC’s use of state funds, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) concludes that MMC staff failed to comply with grant terms related to service levels, recordkeeping, and reimbursement.

Winter 2003

MMC shutters many of its programs.

2009

MMC officially disbands.