James Burroughs: Doing the work

April 4, 2023 | By Insight News

James Burroughs seeks to strike a work-life balance between his job at Children’s Minnesota, caring for a 10-year-old daughter, and his commitment to give back.

He plays a major role at Children’s: Senior Vice President of Government Community Relations and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. He’s also been deeply involved with the founding of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE), formed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. While no shortage of entities expressed early outrage and a desire to foster change after the tragedy, many have already left the table.

“It’s the history of this country for people to be motivated by crisis,” says Burroughs. “The closer you are to one, the more motivated people are, and the further away you get from it, the signal seems to fade.”

Through the participation of 50-plus member organizations, MBCRE has been stepping up to lead a number of initiatives, such as the First Independence Bank Deposit Challenge. The goal of it is to increase community investment in a Minority Deposit Institution that, in turn, invests in community by offering mortgages and loans. There’s the MBCRE program with The Partnership that’s training a cohort of mid-level Black managers. And there’s a new, weekly MBCRE policy newsletter, which partners with local Black-owned press to send out updates on the current Minnesota Legislative session.


Burroughs was first recruited to help found the MBCRE by his colleague James Momon, who led Global Inclusion at General Mills, and is now Chief Equity Officer at 3M.

“This tragedy happened in our backyard and James said, we gotta do better in this space of diversity and inclusion,” recalled Burroughs.

As colleagues, they imagined the state’s business community being more responsive to the underlying disparities that Floyd’s murder had laid bare.

Burroughs served as one of the MBCRE tri-chairs alongside allies, Reba Dominski of U.S. Bank, and Lee Anderson of General Mills. The three met weekly with other leaders from the Twin Cities as part of an all-volunteer operation. Shawntera Hardy served as interim director, until Tiffani Daniels came aboard in 2021 as managing director. She’s an executive on loan from General Mills.

“We talked about what needed to get done,” said Burroughs, “narrowing it down to philanthropy, economic development, and public safety.”

Initially, more than 70 large and small businesses and nonprofits joined the MBCRE, including Children’s Minnesota, U.S. Bank, Target and General Mills.

“One thing that stood out right away is that Minneapolis might not have looked like the best city to move to if you were Black,” Burroughs observed. “It looked like a concentration of Black men, mostly unarmed, had perished at the hands of local police. So potential talent might think: ‘I don’t want to come to a state where this is happening to a particular population and they’re not addressing it.’”

Burroughs said it made the coalition ask itself, “What responsibility does the MBCRE have to help improve conditions, so that Minnesota is a better place for people to move, start or continue their careers, and also feel valued?”


“Black people with living-wage jobs contribute to the economic viability of neighborhoods, and people investing in their communities helps narrow disparities. So we said, ‘Okay, let’s make that a priority.’”

The coalition has also made its presence felt at the Minnesota State Legislature, supporting such issues as raising standards for policing and speaking out in favor of the recently passed CROWN Act.

In his role at Children’s Minnesota, Burroughs is responsible for advancing equity and inclusion across the organization, as well as leading advocacy, government affairs and community relations.

One aspect of his work is Community Connect, which goes beyond the doctor’s office, to look at other determinants of health, from housing, to food security, to gun safety.

“Last year, in partnership with other community organizations, we held a successful gun buy-back program. It was an opportunity for people to turn in their firearms with no questions asked, have them disposed of by the proper law-enforcement authorities, and get a gift card,” he said, adding: “The goal there is to get more guns off the street for a safer environment.”


For years Burroughs, who is a Morehouse grad and has a law degree from Georgetown University, held a variety of jobs from nonprofit general counsel, trial attorney, to being Governor Mark Dayton’s first chief inclusion officer.

Though Burroughs no longer practices law, he says, “I want to make sure that those who are underserved get served by those in political office.”

During winter months, he enjoys traveling to sunnier climates where he can get in a few rounds of golf.

He also enjoys hanging out with his daughter, Teresa, who’ll turn 11 in May. She’s a fan of ice skating and drawing.

“She forces me to draw with her, but she’s a much better artist than I am. We also watch a lot of Anime movies,” said Burroughs.

As the ice thaws and the season transitions to spring, the third anniversary of George Floyd’s murder is fast approaching in late May.

“We shouldn’t be waiting for a crisis to say, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do.’ Business should always reflect our values and our core. And yet,” he said, “sometimes it’s just true that it takes a crisis to get us going.”

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