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 the past, present, and future.
Future History Maker
Future History Maker Susan Bass Roberts is Vice President/Executive Director of The Pohlad Family Foundation. Roberts is a result driven leader who has a passion for empowering community. Roberts serves as a role model to future generations who spends a considerable amount of time giving back, both personally and professionally.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Bass Roberts is a graduate of the Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations. Throughout her career Bass Roberts has acquired experience in philanthropy, community relations and communications. Early on Bass Roberts owned a boutique agency specializing in foundation management, community outreach and communications strategy for professional athletes. After much success Roberts was tapped as Vice President of Communications and Community Relations for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, where she managed public relations, community relations and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.
More recently, Bass Roberts served as Senior Director of Community Relations/Diversity & Inclusion for Best Buy, where she directed all charitable contributions and community involvement. She also worked with Best Buy leadership to create a culture where diversity and inclusion were key differentiators. Today, as Executive Director of the Pohlad Foundation Bass Roberts oversees all aspects of the foundation’s giving and community outreach activities, working closely with family members representing both the second and third generations of the Pohlad family.
Throughout her career, Bass Roberts has received several honors, including being named to Business First Magazine’s “40 Under 40,” and winning two “Beacon Awards” from The Cable Television Public Affairs Association. Roberts is actively involved in strengthening communities. She’s previously served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations in Columbus, Atlanta and the Twin Cities. She currently serves on the boards of The Minnesota Council on Foundations, The Minneapolis YWCA, and Breck School.
Most Rewarding Work Experience
I have worked in community relations and philanthropy for most of my career, and found the work to be rewarding at each stop along the journey. Whether it has been in creating initiatives to address family violence at the Limited Foundation, or helping underserved children through the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, to now working to improve life on the Northside of Minneapolis in my current role, I have been blessed with a career that includes helping people.
What Inspires You
I am inspired by people who take whatever life gives them and make the most of it. I have seen people emerge victorious from some of the most difficult situations, and it inspires me to keep going. My late mother was a single parent with a high school education, and we did not have much. But she built a stable life for us. She told me I could become anything I wanted to be if I worked hard and believed in myself. I still hear her voice today, and when I do, I’m inspired to be better and to do more for young people, especially those who are growing up like I did.
Advice for Aspiring Professionals
I would advise young people to work really hard in school and go to college. Higher education opens so many doors to new experiences, opportunities and people who are also pursuing their dreams. It’s not just the degree that’s important, but the total experience that expands the possibilities for your life. I would also tell them to persevere in the face of obstacles and remain positive. Life is hard, and learning to become an adult can be even more difficult. But you have to push through difficulties and get to the other side. Never give up on your dreams.
- Columbus, Ohio
- Ohio State University, BA
Like Roberts, today’s Legacy Leader Emmett D. Carson, is a proven leader who guides plantorphic organizations to do their best work. Emmett D. Carson, Ph.D. is the founding CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. An international thought leader in the field of philanthropy, in 2006 he led the unprecedented merger of two community foundations, creating SVCF. With a growth in assets from $1.7 billion in 2007 to $8.2 billion by the end of 2016, SVCF is the nation’s largest community foundation. SVCF’s 2,000 family and corporate donor funds support a wide range of causes in the Bay Area, across the nation and around the world.
Before this, Carson had a distinguished 12-year career as CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation and, prior to that oversaw the Ford Foundation’s U.S. and global grantmaking program on philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Emmett has published more than 100 works on philanthropy and is an authority on issues of social justice, public accountability and African American giving. He is consistently recognized as one of the most influential nonprofit leaders in the U.S. and has honorary degrees from Indiana University, Morehouse College, Becker College and The National Hispanic University. Emmett received both his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in public and international affairs from Princeton University and his bachelor’s degree in economics, Phi Beta Kappa, from Morehouse College.