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 Jason Sole, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, is a thrice convicted felon-turned-Hamline University professor who volunteers in juvenile prisons across Minnesota and lobbies for restoring the voting rights of ex-offenders.
Raised on the South Side of Chicago, at an early age became involved in street gangs. He was charged with possession of an illegal firearm at age 18, and at age 21 he was charged with drug possession. After serving time in prison and spending several years on probation, Sole has now become a model for determination and redemption. He’s fought hard to find work, get into college, raise a family and eventually work towards a Ph.D at Capella University. For Sole attending college was an act of desperation. Sole says, “I was asked to select a major and at the time I had no idea what I wanted to do. However, I was interested in criminal justice because it was my life story. I knew it and felt it, but didn’t understand the disparities in criminal justice. I recognized I’d committed wrongs in my life but didn’t understand why my punishment was unequal in comparison to my white counterparts.”
A major in criminal justicewas a perfect fit for Sole who excelled in his studies. Motivated by his past and desire to help others, he worked hard and excelled. He completed his four year degree program in three years and was the recipient of many awards and scholarships. As a student at Metrostate University Jason served as president of the African American Student Union and was awarded the Metrostate Male Student Leader Achievement Award two years in a row. After college, Sole obtained a masters degree in Criminal Justice.
Today, Sole is nationally recognized expert on criminal justice issues. He has been an educator for nearly eight years, serving as an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University ( 8 years) and Hamline University (2 years). He is also a writer, keynote speaker, and trainer for the One Circle Foundation.
Sole is a leader in the push to restore voting rights to convicted felons and combat oppressive or collateral consequences. Sole views voter disenfranchisement as a serious form of oppression. He says, “ex-offenders are denied access to welfare benefits, public housing, education loans, and the right to serve on a jury or run for office. These barriers make it extremely difficult to find redemption.” Sole lost his voting rights in 2006 and wasn’t set to have them restored until 2026. However, after petitioning for an early termination of his probation, he was able to vote for the first time in ten years.
Through his firm, Jason Sole Consulting LLC, Sole provides juvenile and criminal justice agencies with the knowledge and resources they need to assist people affected by delinquency, incarceration, poverty, and other social ills. Sole was a 2013 Bush Fellow focusing on reducing the recidivism rate among juveniles throughout the state of Minnesota. He is currently traveling the country discussing his memoir, From Prison to Ph.D.: A Memoir of Hope, Resilience, and Second Chances. Sole says, “criminal justice is my life, it’s a lived experienced and being able to use my degree in the community is a blessing.”
Most Rewarding Work Experience
It’s so rewarding to be able to lead a group of engaged and powerful leaders who are committed to bringing change to their community. I’m amazed by the number of new activists who are interested in criminal justice reform. I take pride in connecting with people who want to get involved. I enjoy bridging gaps and creating relationship with groups that differ in opinion. Right now I’m learning that we can disagree on tactics, and yet be able to put those differences aside to unite for the greater good of community. I’m focused on building coalitions, eliminating silos of work, and finding opportunities to uplift great work.
What Inspires You
I get inspiration from various people and situations. In my pursuit of justice I’m inspired by the many trailblazing civil rights leaders who have come before me. For example, Harold Washington, Fred Hampton. I’m also inspired by my daughters. I find joy in teaching them, giving them the tools to lead well beyond my years on this earth.
Also, I look up to my mother Shelia Sole and uncle Jonathon Walton III, two people who believed in me before I believed in myself.
I must say I was blessed to be a part of the NAACP when it was led by all women. I look up to Black women in this community as phenomenal leaders, admiring their strength and ability to problem solve.
Advice for Aspiring Professionals
Go with your gut. Don’t be led by rhetoric, and be careful of who you’re aligning yourself with. Don’t be impressed solely by energetic personalities and big ideas, but instead work with people who have good hearts. Also aspire to do work that fulfills your core values.
- Chicago, Illinois
- Mestrostate University, BA
- Hamline University, Master of Criminal Justice
Like Sole, today’s Legacy Leader, Nathaniel Khaliq is someone of great recognition and respect who has demonstrated a commitment to giving back. Nathaniel Khaliq, served as president of the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP for fifteen years. As president, Khaliq lead efforts to create an anti-racial profiling agreement with the City of Saint Paul and was instrumental in securing needed changes to racially biased state and county gang databases.
During his tenure, Khaliq advocated for the hiring of more minority firefighters, policies to hire and contract with minority workers, and improved affordable housing. Mr. Khaliq has served as an interim City of St. Paul City Council member (Ward 1), and today continues to advocate for civil rights issues serving on the advisory board for the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP.