EAGAN, Minn. — Following a series of meetings throughout the 2021 season to determine the continuation of active engagement and commitment to various social justice causes, the Minnesota Vikings Social Justice Committee and the Wilf family on Thursday announced approximately $1 million in contributions toward the expansion and/or launch of multiple initiatives.
The newest commitments bring the total donated by the Wilf family and Vikings to $6.5 million since 2018.
The allocations were made in the following focus areas: 1) reducing socioeconomic disparities; 2) expanding the adoption of educational curriculum on racial equality and Black history; and 3) advocating for law enforcement reform and criminal justice reform.
The following organizations were selected for 2021:
LightsOn!, a program that replaces traffic violation tickets with repair vouchers, aims to help low-income individuals break the cycle of poverty while improving police-community relations and public safety. The organization was founded in Minneapolis following the death of Philando Castile to help put safer cars on the road and improve interactions with the police and community members, while offering a new approach to societal problems, and has since expanded to markets across the country. In March 2021, RB Alexander Mattison and representatives from the program met virtually to discuss the plans to expand its reach. By mid-2021, LightsOn! had more than 100 law enforcement partners and more than 160 auto service center partners and had provided over 4,000 vouchers. Since 2020, the Vikings donations have helped fund approximately 200 vouchers.
TurnSignl is a Minneapolis-based, on-demand and real-time service that provides 24/7 legal guidance for drivers from an attorney while their camera records the interaction. When drivers are stopped by law enforcement officers or involved in a car accident, they can access live video chat with an attorney at the press of a button or voice command. TurnSignl attorneys are vetted and trained to de-escalate interactions between police, drivers and passengers. The Vikings donation has led to 2,000 free subscriptions for community partners.
Be the Change Scholarship
Following the murder of George Floyd, the Vikings created the Be the Change Scholarship with a $125,000 endowment that will generate approximately $5,000 annually to benefit African American graduating seniors in Minneapolis-St. Paul who are pursuing post-secondary education. The Vikings Social Justice Committee recently committed another $100,000 to the endowment, meaning the academic scholarships will not only continue but will increase in coming years. The 2021 recipient, Salaam Day, was selected following his essay submission and was congratulated by Vikings linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr at the Minnesota Vikings Museum.
Classroom Champions connects volunteer Olympians, Paralympians, student-athletes and professional athletes to kindergarten-through-eighth-grade classrooms through a social and emotional-based curriculum and mentorship experience. Mentors share life lessons, discuss goal-setting and perseverance and demonstrate leadership to encourage positive growth in the classroom. With the help of Classroom Champions, the Vikings created a community-based program, Be the Change, to share players' stories so students can listen and learn from one another's journeys of anti-racism and social justice. Former and current Vikings players have lent their personal stories and time to participate in animated videos that address tough topics. One-hundred percent of teachers reported that Classroom Champions improved students' resilience in the face of obstacles, and 94 percent reported that Classroom Champions improved student grades.
In partnership with S.H.I.E.L.D. 1, the Vikings and Little Earth Community in Minneapolis are working together to rebuild the community through agriculture and urban farming. Following the murder of George Floyd and the burning of local grocery stores, Little Earth became a vital community resource, providing daily emergency aid to more than 1,000 people, in addition to its 1,200-plus residents. Little Earth is the only Urban Native American-preference HUD housing community in the world and represents more than 35 Tribes. S.H.I.E.L.D. 1, foundedby Demario Davis, Josh Norman and Drew Brees, and supported by Eric Kendricks, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, strives to accelerate economic mobility in under-resourced communities by increasing capacity and creating opportunity to be self-sufficient.
The Vikings will further expand the team's commitment to All Square, a local nonprofit social enterprise that invests in the minds and lives of formerly incarcerated individuals. Centered on a craft grilled cheese restaurant, professional development institute, and forthcoming civil rights law firm, All Square's mission is to ensure that those impacted by the criminal justice system have the support and opportunities they deserve to become our country's future leaders, business owners, legal practitioners and entrepreneurs. The Vikings engagement will focus on All Square's Fellow & Fellow Alum Fund, as well as the Randall Smith Memorial Fund. Randall Smith, who was tragically killed in November, was an integral member of All Square. Smith played a role in developing the organization's programming in the Twin Cities community and had formed a strong bond with the Vikings as part of his work to create a better world for all. The money from the memorial fund will be directed toward the futures of his two children.
Additional Organizations Supported in 2021:
•Jewish Community Relations Council
•The Link–Juvenile Justice Program
•Northside Achievement Zone
•Our Children Minnesota
•Page Education Foundation
•People Serving People