Local Roots Spreading

The face of the next generation of politicians

Illustrator: Stevie Lacher

Illustrator: Stevie Lacher

Not all heroes wear capes. It would be appropriate for Phillipe Cunningham to wear one, however, given the work he intends to take on in north Minneapolis. Cunningham is running for City Council of the Minneapolis’ Fourth Ward with the intent to revitalize north Minneapolis’ community through the development of local businesses, youth programs—specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community—as well as environmental programs such as urban agriculture and ensuring that there is less air pollution from recycling plants. He is the face of political dedication, passion, and optimism for which so many are yearning.

Born and raised in rural Iowa, Cunningham spent the first years of his career teaching special education in South Side Chicago. Upon moving to Minneapolis, Cunningham became highly involved in local politics, serving as Mayor Betsy Hodge’s advisor for youth development and racial equity. He single-handedly developed a program to intervene in and support the lives of the most disenfranchised youth. In this era of political disenfranchisement and recognition of racism and sexism, Cunningham himself—a transgender, queer man of color—embodies the diversity and fortitude of north Minneapolis. His personal representation of north Minneapolis defines him as the man for the job.

He is challenging incumbent Barb Johnson. Johnson has held her seat since 1998, and may prove to be a tough opponent. Given the recent success of Ilhan Omar, who defeated incumbent Phyllis Kahn (who had held her seat for 42 years), it is hopeful that a new generation of politicians will be gaining power in Minneapolis through true grassroots organization and dedication. His campaign kickoff demonstrated this sentiment exactly: Speaking about his past and his goals for the future, Cunningham was surrounded by his community of friends and future constituents, all of whom were excited and hopeful in what feels like bleak times for those who do not feel they are accurately represented by the current generation of federal politicians.

Though local politics is not sexy, it is the most effective way to bring about change in one’s community. Phillipe Cunningham embodies this truth, and is surely the man for the job.