Black History Month
History. Tradition. Community.
February is Black History Month.
Since 1926, and the creation of Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson, the accomplishments of persons of African descent have been recognized each February. The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights is proud to present Future History Makers, a profile series featuring emerging leaders from the Twin Cities African American community who share our ideals of advancing civil rights and removing barriers to equity. We also recognize the kinship of their work to those who are legacy trailblazers. Thus, in a brief question and answer profile, we uniquely celebrate both the past, present, and future.
Future History Maker
Future History Maker Chris Webley is the founder and CEO of New Rules North. Webley studied textile technology with a concentration in medical textiles at North Carolina State University. He has worked with Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret and Target, in the corporate retail fashion industry as a research and design textile engineer. After seven years in the fashion
industry Webley decided to take on a new and different challenge, and start his own company.
New Rules North is a truly innovative landmark destination that merges together art, innovation, and technology in a space for business owners to not only share work space but work together to invest in the local community. New Rules provides entrepreneurs with the equipment and resources needed to expand their creative and professional capabilities, build innovation in the community, and contribute to economic growth for individuals and the region. This unique approach to connecting service and entrepreneurship attracts new, young, risk-taking talent to the Minneapolis Northside.
A proven problem solver, Webley is no stranger to leading change in the Twin Cities community. After moving to Minnesota to work for Target, Webley immediately noticed that the opportunities for professionals of color to connect and socialize were nearly non-existent. Within two months he sought to change that by hosting a professional networking social where over 200 professionals of color gathered together to meet and connect.
Webley said this was his “ah-ha” moment that planted the seeds for New Rules North. Webley followed the social with a fashion showcase of local talent representing the African diaspora. Partnering with powerhouse twin cities corporations (Target and General Mills) Webley shined a light on the amazing talent possessed by a vast array of diverse creatives who otherwise would not have an opportunity to share their work on mainstream platforms. Webley’s work demonstrates the value of cultural diversity and retaining professional people of color in the Twin Cities region.
Desiring to have a broader impact on community, Webley pulled together $100,000 from his personal savings and investments to help redevelop a historic building in North Minneapolis and open New Rules. Webley created New Rules North with a vision of developing a common ground of resources needed to sustain an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and creativity. New Rules mission is to measurably contribute to the growth of individuals and communities by providing space and holistic resources that expand their creative and professional pursuits. New Rules uses art as a bridge to connect people to broader and richer experiences.
Webley wants to see the Northside thrive. Recently New Rules has partnered with the YMCA to introduce a variety of artistic professions to Northside youth. Most recently they hosted a photography exhibit where youth were taught photography, given cameras, and asked to compile portfolios documenting their community. Webley’s ultimate goal is to help continue to change the narrative of what North Minneapolis has to offer. He strives to boost economic development and opportunities for people who live there.
Webley has served on the board of the North Community Harold Mezile YMCA since 2014. He is working with Achieve Minneapolis to develop a creative professionals pipeline, helping students explore creative career avenues and provide the structure and resources needed to maintain such careers.
Webley has demonstrated a strong commitment to empowering his community and providing opportunities for artist to succeed. His advocacy is a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations.
Most Rewarding Work Experience
Right now I’m working to incentivize major corporations, nonprofits, and community members to take advantage of the New Rules event space. As a result, New Rules is planning a major fundraiser, the Investor’s Forum, that will take place March 11th. Also to celebrate Black History Month, we’ve lined up several events, kicking off the month with a major community art exhibit, opening on February 4th. Information about these events can be found on the New Rules website.
What Motivates You
Lately it’s been hard to stay upbeat and focused. I imagine I’m not alone, and often wonder what inspires my neighbors to get up each and every day and fight through barriers and disappointment, without yielding to the desire to give up. Their ability to persevere inspires me. However, at the end of the day I look to God for peace and understanding. That is what keeps me grounded and focused. I am rooted in my understanding that I do not know what the future holds; therefore I can only trust the path that God has put me on in fulfilling my personal legend.
Advice for Aspiring Professionals
Don’t be afraid to be in the trenches doing what you love, as it is all part of the growth process. Stay consistent and always remember to follow through. Be you and be proud of doing things your own way.
- North Carolina
- BS in Textile Technology and Medical Textiles
- North Carolina State University
Webley’s dedication and committment to community mirrors that of Legacy Leader Archie Givens Jr.
Archie Givens Jr. is president of the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, a Minneapolis based not-for-profit agency, and chief executive officer of Legacy Management & Development Corporation, developers of real estate and affordable housing. He has been honored on many occasions for his work in both fields, most recently with the 2001 NAACP President’s Award, the 2002 Alchemy Black Arts Award, and the 2003 Minority Business Award from the National Black MBA Association and the Twin Cities Business Journal.
A tireless advocate for reading and literature, Givens, along with his family and the University of Minnesota Foundation, led a community fundraising effort to bring a notable private collection of Black literature to Minnesota in 1985. This collection, named in honor of his father Archie Givens Sr., now resides at the University of Minnesota. It contains 9,000 rare and first edition books, manuscripts, scripts, correspondence, and other written materials, and is the inspiration for the Givens Foundation’s national programs.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Givens obtained his master’s degree in Hospital Administration from the University of Minnesota, where he pursued undergraduate studies in history and the humanities. He now serves on the University’s Alumni Board. He upholds a long-time family commitment to the community by serving on the board of the Minnesota Humanities Commission, the Weisman Art Museum, Coffee House Press, the Guthrie Theater, and Western Bank.