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 Devean George is regarded as a hometown hero who made it big in the NBA and then returned to his north Minneapolis roots as a community organizer and nonprofit housing developer. Born in 1977 in Minneapolis, Devean attended high school at Benilde-St. Margaret’s and went on to become a standout basketball player at Augsburg College. In 1999, he made history when he became the first-ever NCAA Division III basketball player selected in the first round (23rd overall pick) of the NBA draft. Throughout his 11-year career in the NBA, Devean played for the Los Angeles Lakers (with whom he won three NBA Championships), the Dallas Mavericks, and the Golden State Warriors.
Near the end of his playing career, George had a vision for his future. It included real estate and bettering people’s lives. George says “I wanted to become a person that helped people. There are a lot of people who suffer that aren’t involved in the bad stuff going on. I figured out that playing basketball was not the end goal. I figured out that playing basketball was probably just to set up for what I’m doing now.”
Today, retired from the NBA, Devean remains committed to positively impacting the North Minneapolis community that shaped and supported him. His desire to give back was the driving force behind the formation of George Group North, his real-estate company specializing in multifamily residential development, mixed-use projects, and property redevelopment and management, and its charitable subsidiary, Building Blocks, which is focused on mentorship programming, affordable housing, and sustainable community development.
After working to rehabilitate individual homes and apartments, 2012 Building Blocks proposed Commons on Penn, a 47-unit affordable housing apartment complex at 2201 Golden Valley Road. It opened in 2015 after receiving financial assistance from the city, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and several philanthropic donors.
George believes the work he is doing will serve as a foundation for transforming lives in the North Minneapolis community. He says, “Housing is the foundation for anything else that you want to do in life. Without stable housing people aren’t worried about education, eating healthy or anything else.” George who’s already broken barriers in the sporting arena is perfectly positioned to continue that tradition now empowering lives and developing communities.
Most Rewarding Work Experience
Completing the 47 units at Commons At Penn, because it was incredibly difficult to complete. And the positive testimonials I get from the family’s living there about how it has touched them and their kids’ lives. Also, the love I receive from the community.
What Inspires You
I am inspired by achieving success. I feel really good when I reach the goals I’ve set for myself. Overtime I’ve realized that I can only control me and my work ethic, so I set goals I can attain and celebrate when I do.
Advice for Aspiring Professionals
Keep fighting through the tough times because they will come. It makes the end so much sweeter. I see so many people give up when times get hard in whatever they’re doing, and they don’t realize the finish line is so close.
- Minneapolis, MN
- Augsburg College, BA
Like Devean George, today’s Legacy Leader, Cora McCorvey is a respected leader who lead the charge to create affordable housing for community. Cora McCorvey was the first executive director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority after the agency separated from the City of Minneapolis in 1991. On Feb. 10, 2017 she retired after 25 years leading the MPHA and 40 years in public service. Under McCorvey’s leadership, MPHA became a place where thousands of families call home. She is credited with creating one of the most diverse workforces in Minneapolis with more than 50 percent of her staff comprised of people of color. Seven out of the past 10 years, MPHA has been recognized by the National Association of Minority Contractors as Affiliate of the Year. Cora McCorvey is a visionary and a leader who has made a lasting impact on the communituy.