Press Release: Northeast Minnesota Equity Summit 2022

In collaboration with regional and statewide partners, Northspan hosted the second annual Equity Summit on November 10 at the Iron Trail Motors Event Center in Virginia, Minnesota, as an opportunity to engage around themes related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) and forge a more inclusive future in northeast Minnesota.  

Over 100 participants gathered in person to explore the topic of “Belonging in Northeast Minnesota” through a variety of lenses, such as workforce efforts and youth engagement. Community leaders, businesses, educators, creatives, and individuals from workforce and economic development as well as government, health care, philanthropy, and other sectors were in attendance.

Participants share during a panel discussion at the Equity Summit in Virginia, Minnesota, on November 10, 2022.  

The summit opened with a Native-led welcome and blessing by Grand Portage Tribal Chairman Robert Deschampe. The day’s agenda included a keynote presentation, panel discussions, and breakout sessions:  

  • Keynote speaker Suriya Vijayasarathy covered the topic of creating inclusive workplaces for individuals from minority or underrepresented groups. With a background in social work and a MPP from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Suriya helps organizations lead change across sectors including government, education, and nonprofits.  

“Fostering true belonging requires humility, courage, and connection.” —Suriya Vijayasarathy, Equity Summit 2022

  • Panel discussions explored the theme of belonging in terms of race, culture, gender, age, and other forms of equity. One panel focused on equity efforts in Cook County while the other panel (pictured above) shared perspectives from across the Northland. 
  • Breakout sessions allowed participants to mingle and learn about different efforts underway in the region related to JEDI. Organizations in the public and private sectors shared their roles in the community and covered current programming and initiatives. The sessions included presentations from the St. Louis County BIPOC Leadership Team and Minnesota North’s St. Louis County BIPOC Leadership Team.

Keynote speaker Suriya Vijayasarathy speaks with a summit attendee.

A closing conversation asked the question, “Where do we go from here?” Participants brought a diversity of perspectives and experiences to the discussion and walked away with ideas for taking action in the community. 

“Community members from across the Northland came together to share stories and ideas. Many attendees told us they learned about an individual or initiative for the first time and are looking at ways of uniting efforts. It’s connections like these that amplify and support progress toward an inclusive and equitable community.” —Amber Lewis, Welcoming Community program coordinator 

The summit was part of Northspan’s Welcoming Community program with the goal to increase belonging of underrepresented community members and trust between people from different backgrounds and lived experiences in northeast Minnesota. You can find resources from the summit, including speaker bios, action guides, and toolkits, on the Northspan website: Equity Summit 2022 Resources 

Participants mingle during one of the summit’s breakout sessions.

Northspan’s Welcoming Community program is funded in part by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, and the Northland Foundation. 

You can view past media releases and other announcements on the Northspan blog.    

For more information, please contact Welcoming Community Program Coordinator Amber Lewis at  


Northspan’s mission is to be expert navigators, transforming ideas into accomplishments. The organization specializes in creative thinking, enterprising strategies, and systematic approaches to help businesses, communities, regions, and organizations prosper in a global economy, working cooperatively with economic and community development partners to leverage resources for measurable, sustainable results. Learn more at