Phillipe Cunningham


When I was a child and then again as a teen, my mom was locked up with a felony because of an addiction.

While in prison, my mother received no help to actually address the addiction. When she got out she carried the label of felon like an anchor. She struggled to find even minimum wage jobs that often required her to work long hours with erratic schedules and in abusive work conditions.

I’ve always wondered, How is that justice? Who did that help?

Fast forward to my career, I have now been a youth work professional for over ten years.

Currently, I serve as Mayor Hodges’ Senior Policy Aide for Education, Youth Success, Racial Equity, and LGBTQ Rights. Before that, I was a special education teacher. While in the classroom, I saw a system so broken, so failing the young people it’s meant to serve, it felt as though I was watching the school district itself hand vulnerable young people to the prison system.

This is not okay.

For the past few years, I’ve worked in Minneapolis City Hall and have found myself asking these same questions and saying “This is not okay” when it comes to the ways City Hall serves the Northside.

As a community, we face some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates and lowest environmental quality in the city, and gun violence is on the rise. We see so much talent and brilliance being lost because so many folks are getting trapped in the criminal justice system and poverty.

How is this justice? Who is this helping? And how is this okay?

I love our community and want to move us forward by improving how City Hall serves and engages the Northside.

What I consistently hear across our community regardless of political leanings, ethnicity, or age is a longing for our community to become a safe, self-sufficient, clean, and prosperous village here in the Camden community.

We all want increased safety and livability while also maintaining affordability and the diversity that makes our community so special.

We want to spend our money at small businesses in our community to get the things we need.

We want our kids to grow up into successful, civically-minded adults.

We want to be in community with one another.

These are the things - the shared vision - I am eager to get to work on as the City Councilmember for the 4th Ward.

I will proactively help us move toward becoming a Camden Community Village through building community wealth, breaking intergenerational poverty, and bringing the community together to build that village we want to see.

In the age of Trump, we face openly hostile federal and state governments and cities are now charged with protecting residents whiles also steering our community away from our collision course with our own disparities.

So, we have a choice about the direction we would like to go as a community: what I bring to the table is the ability to govern with present realities and with the future we want in mind.

This shared vision that we all have of our community operating as a village is possible. It just takes a fresh perspective, the right kind of leadership that can build bridges across differences, and the drive, commitment and experience to make it happen.