Senior elected as youngest chairwoman for human rights commission

First black, female chairperson elected to Park committee

Senior+Amaya+Fokuo+informs+students+about+the+upcoming+Black+History+Month+show+on+Feb.+28.+Amaya+is+also+the+head+of+the+Human+Rights+Commission.

Neb Bekele

Senior Amaya Fokuo informs students about the upcoming Black History Month show on Feb. 28. Amaya is also the head of the Human Rights Commission.

Samantha Klepfer

What is your role in the city of St. Louis Park?

My current role is Human Rights (Commission chairperson) for the city. I was appointed about two years ago and I was reappointed a couple months ago. Our whole thing is bringing support and racial equity to different parts of the city, so a lot of our time is spent (assessing) racial bias crimes. We also work with the city and media organizations on bringing more community input. A lot of the problems we’re seeing right now is that we aren’t reaching enough demographics within the city. 

Why were you recognized?

A couple of weeks ago, I was elected to the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of St. Louis Park. It’s kind of a big deal because no one this young has ever been elected to the chairperson (position) and also, I’m a person of color.

What did you have to do to get elected?

We have a nomination process that we go through during our meetings. We bring up in a previous meeting that we have the nomination coming up because we do the election (for chairperson each year). We were in a delegating period where we were deciding who was bringing our best interest in, and the timeline and it landed on me. I didn’t assume I’d be in the running, especially as such a young student and only being on the commission for about one and a half terms now. It began with just a conversation and then it slowly turned into an actual vote and then it was officiated.

How do you feel about being elected?

I’m really excited to be elected. Being a person of color it’s really important, the representation within our community and within our school and within such an ever-changing diverse area, such as St. Louis Park. I feel that I bring a youth perspective. I’ve worked a lot with other initiatives within the city, but this is the first time that I’ve ever been put into such a high position that my change can actually affect on more systematic levels. 

What are your duties as chairperson? 

It’s a lot of one on one with City Council and with our liaison for our committee. There’s a lot of paperwork that gets involved, which I, of course, love, but just a lot with the planning of activities, events, leading meetings, meeting with other organizations that we want to work with as a commission and steering whatever our next initiative is.

What goals do you have for yourself and for the commission?

We just implemented a new mission statement and a new “purpose” to our commission. Right now we are using that new mission statement that we’ve created and testing it out on the community to see if it correctly assesses what we were seeing. From there, we’re going to be doing a series of talks. Our first one is going to be about racial equity and we’re having Alicia Sojourner come in. She’s the head of the racial equity department at the city. From there, I’d like to expand the talks to talk about racial disparities in healthcare, talking about education and race, just opening the floor up to different areas, and how racial equity but also human rights issues affect day to day areas of life.

How are you hoping to take what you’ve gained and use it in the future? 

My goal is to work in government, that is definitely my dream. I would love to start local and then move to federal. Taking this type of management work, planning work with a connection to housing and the housing crisis and racial equity (is what I want to do). I plan on taking this experience to my next years in college and hopefully afterwards to help guide me. 

How would you recommend students get involved?

For kids who want to start slow, talk to your teachers. A lot of them know about good programs and different areas that you can get involved in. Coming to meetings. We love having diverse feedback. A lot of times we get the same people coming to the same meetings. We want to open that up to more people in the community. Don’t be afraid to show up at City Hall. Just come one day and say hi to someone and ask if there’s something you can do; you’d be amazed at how many different areas and initiatives we have in St. Louis Park.