Now more than ever, it’s important to remember to take care of each other. COVID19 has turned many of our lives upside down, and as we continue to do our part to flatten the curve, folks are thinking critically about how to support our frontline responders. This week on Onward On-Air, hear from Steve Grove, Co-Founder of Silicon North Stars and Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Opportunity in Minnesota, Mary Grove, Co-Founder of Silicon North Stars and Managing Partner at Bread and Butter Ventures, and Pastor DJ Criner from St. Rest Baptist Church, who will share strategies for supporting those who are working to protect and heal our communities.
OOA Episode 04
[00:00:00] Jake Soberal: [00:00:00] welcome to onward on air. My name is Jake sober all, and I'm your host. We'll unpack. Today's show through the frame of two cities. First, Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we'll visit with Steve and Mary Grove. Steve, the director of employment and economic development for the state of Minnesota and Mary, the founder of newly launched bread and butter ventures in Minneapolis, their stories are unique, timely and relevant.
[00:00:38] First they live just a short distance away from where the murder of George Floyd took place. Second though, they are the founders of a program called Silicon North stars. Where they're endeavoring to connect young people from that same area to technology skills that they can use to access opportunity in the tech industry.
[00:00:57] Certainly the sum of their work paints, a more hopeful picture for a way forward in that deeply hurting region. For the second frame, we're going to visit my hometown of Fresno, California, where we'll talk to DJ Criner. Pastor Criner leads st. Rest Baptist church, a historically black church located just a couple of blocks away from our headquarters had Bitwise South stadium for his conversation.
[00:01:21] DJ Criner uses as the lens for his remarks, Christianity of faith that he and I share, whether that's your story and belief system is perhaps irrelevant. What DJ Criner's remarks challenged us to do is examine whether we're living out our belief set authentically. And whether we're rising to the hope that it calls us to in this challenging moment, we think these are important conversations and we think you're going to enjoy them.
[00:01:46] Thank you for joining us. Let's get started. We are really excited to be joined this morning by Steve and Mary Grove. Each of them has a number of titles, but the primary roles are Steve as the commissioner of [00:02:00] employment and economic development for the state of Minnesota and Mary, uh, very newly as the founder of bread and butter ventures in Minneapolis.
[00:02:08] Good morning guys.
[00:02:09] Mary Grove: [00:02:09] Good morning. Great to be with you,
[00:02:11] Jake Soberal: [00:02:11] Maren Jake. So I want to get started really right where you're sitting. I read an article, I think, in the star Tribune, that was pretty recent, that described a day in the life of the Grove family. But you all's context is busy. You're helping to address really intractable issues of.
[00:02:27] Employment and economic development, amidst a pandemic in a city that has been at the center of the universe when it comes to racial inequity in our country and marry you among other things are running a deeply mission, focused nonprofit. You have just launched a new venture fund, right? And also you guys have twins that are under the age of five.
[00:02:49] What is it like to be in the Grove household right now?
[00:02:53] Mary Grove: [00:02:53] You know, it's, it's chaotic, but it's very purposeful and it's every day is a new adventure, I would say.
[00:03:00] Steve Grove: [00:03:00] Yeah, we got a lot on her plate, but we're close to family, which is great being here in Minnesota. So they get help from mom and dad. And, uh, you know, I think part of our.
[00:03:09] Whole reason of moving back here to Minnesota, we had been in Silicon Valley for over a decade, was to really invest in the community that we care about and to put down roots here. And so, you know, lots of different ways to do that, whether it's through government or through the private sector or through the nonprofit world, but it's a city and a place that needs revitalization at a time when our country needs the same and we're excited to be doing it.
[00:03:31] Jake Soberal: [00:03:31] Yeah. And I'd love to hear you dig in a little bit more there. So I'm calling today from Fresno, California, you all from Minneapolis, certainly places with difference. But for most of the world, if you're not in San Francisco, LA or New York, you're just in the middle. And these are cities that many times get overlooked.
[00:03:47] And then the career focuses that both of you have picked up are decidedly sort of. Coastal in where people go to do the biggest and brightest version of it, at least stereotypically. Tell me about the decision to [00:04:00] shift from Silicon Valley to home in Minneapolis.
[00:04:03] Mary Grove: [00:04:03] That's right. Jake, we did, we made the big move, you know, a couple of years ago in 2018.
[00:04:08] And so Steve and I actually met at Google and we both spent a very long time there. Steve spent about a dozen years at Google and YouTube, and I spent close to 15 years at Google. And so. Even though we lived and worked in Silicon Valley in the heart of technology. We always believed in saw through our work firsthand that innovation wasn't just happening there.
[00:04:26] It was thriving everywhere. And our motivation to move to Minnesota. That was really twofold. One was professionally. It was this. Joint belief about where the future of the innovation economy is headed. And we believed that it was headed to places outside of Silicon Valley places in the middle of the country with deep historical sector expertise, in a number of areas that are really exciting and critical to the success of the future economy.
[00:04:51] And then on a personal note, as Steve alluded to, I, you know, I'm married a very proud Minnesota native, and we have a huge family certainly here in Minnesota, but the Midwest more broadly. And though I grew up in California, I'm from, I was born in Iowa. And so we felt like this would be a wonderful time to raise our young family here as, as part of this community.
[00:05:10] So that really drove the change. And we've been really diving in both feet first or the past couple of years.
[00:05:17] Jake Soberal: [00:05:17] Totally. And one of the things that I feel like gets lost our work at Bitwise focuses among other things on activating the tech sector and opportunity in it in unlikely places. And so we're in inland, California cities, principally you all the context is of course, Minnesota.
[00:05:32] I think that when you talk to folks familiar with Silicon Valley and you ask them to think about what it might look like to stand up vibrant tech ecosystems in places in the middle of the country, their assumptions about the starting point are very wrong. Uh, they, they, the context is not, is not accessible to them.
[00:05:50] I wonder if you'd talk a little bit about what you view as the starting context of trying to support tech growth in a place like Minneapolis and how that's [00:06:00] so wildly different than the expectation in Silicon Valley. Well,
[00:06:03] Steve Grove: [00:06:03] places like Silicon Valley places like, you know, Boston, New York, their ecosystems didn't happen by accident, right?
[00:06:11] There's a lot of factors that came together to make those places hotspots for innovation, you know, out in California, you had the defense industry, which was a huge early funder of Silicon Valley technology projects you had. In the late seventies, uh, the leaders in Boston put together one of the first ever state funded venture efforts to put state tax dollars into this target ecosystem to grow, to grow that ecosystem.
[00:06:33] And so one of the things about any startup ecosystem in our country right now is that it takes a lot of different players working together. It takes business, it takes government, it takes the entrepreneurs, it takes venture money. And I think one of the things that we've seen coming here is. To make that happen in Minneapolis and st.
[00:06:49] Paul is I'm trying to bring a community together. So whether that's through, you know, Silicon, Northstar's bringing people together to help younger people rise up in technology and get careers in those spaces, whether it's getting our state government to play a more active role, it's got to be an all hands on deck effort and a very intentional effort to build the kind of ecosystem that can give rise to that kind of innovation.
[00:07:07] One of the really unique outliers of the twin cities is we have the highest per capita. Rate of fortune 500 companies here. So we are really blessed with a strong corporate sector and that leads to a lot of them access to talent. It leads to a lot of problems that need to be solved. It can always be solved in times of big companies.
[00:07:24] So you've got this kind of adjacent starving ecosystem that grows. And then inside of state government, we've really worked hard to play a more active role in that growth too. So we've put together a program called launch Minnesota, which puts money into innovation grants for very early stage companies to get them started.
[00:07:39] It builds out educational resources through funding, to different hubs across the state to help them grow their entrepreneurial education efforts. So it's really an all hands on deck effort to build startup ecosystems. And we are just one part of it here, but it's, it's one of our favorite parts I think about being in
[00:07:54] Jake Soberal: [00:07:54] Minnesota.
[00:07:55] DJ Criner: [00:07:55] And how would you describe
[00:07:56] Jake Soberal: [00:07:56] where you're at in the journey? I mean, so there is a beginning and I think it's [00:08:00] important to acknowledge. We all forget the many years that it took to get to whatever your marker in the sand is. Is the Apple IPO or, or any number of different events where Silicon Valley had made it.
[00:08:09] There was a long time between when folks are beginning to think about catalyzing innovation and creating West coast companies in the Silicon Valley and actual success. But then there is an end point in which you say we've got a really vibrant and self-sustaining in many respects. Startup ecosystem.
[00:08:25] Where would you put Minneapolis in that journey today?
[00:08:28] Mary Grove: [00:08:28] It's a really interesting opportunity, right? If you, if you rewind a look at Minnesota history, we have such deep roots in innovation across so many sectors in the earliest stage, whether it's, you know, IBM here, Medtronic, the innovations and the railroad, really across a lot of the literal backbone sectors of the earliest phase of our economy.
[00:08:47] When I think about Silicon Valley, you know, that that actually happened very, very quickly now. I think we have an opportunity to go back to our roots, so to speak and. Create that next generation of startups based on our historical roots. So for example, the venture fund that we just launched bread and butter ventures, our core focus areas are threefold and it's no accident.
[00:09:09] What they are. They again, map into Minnesota's historical roots. So health tech health care tech is one of our big focus areas. A second is food and agritech or agriculture tech. And the third is enterprise software, and we believe that Minnesota has unparalleled assets in this area. Well, both our corporations, but also our startups, but it's not known nationally as a person who arrived here two years ago from the coast.
[00:09:33] I tell you, there's so much more happening in our state than is known outside of our borders. And part of it is, you know, Simmons by nature are humble, hardworking folks who don't like to toot their own horns, but the reality is for the benefit of our ecosystem. That's exactly what we're trying to do is leverage these assets.
[00:09:49] Invest. In both companies in the ecosystem and just tell the story nationally and globally,
[00:09:55] Jake Soberal: [00:09:55] it's so important. And I appreciate it. Something that you said Steve of, it's not just one thing. [00:10:00] It takes government and the private sector in corporates and a variety of other things. And one of the things that I appreciate, even in that living room there is that you guys are using multiple tools.
[00:10:09] And one of the programs that, that you all are responsible for is Silicon North stars. And I'd love for you one to begin by sharing just what is the thumbnail, but also. How does that fit into this fabric that we're talking about there in Minneapolis?
[00:10:22] Mary Grove: [00:10:22] It's a great part of the reason that we are in Minneapolis today.
[00:10:25] So, you know, back in 2013, Steve and I started this nonprofit together, we called it Silicon North stars. And the mission of our organization is to educate and inspire young Minnesotans. Specifically from economically underserved backgrounds towards futures in tech. And we believe that, you know, seeing is everything and that the talent's there it's universal.
[00:10:46] It's the access, the access to opportunity that is not. So we've created this, you know, back in 2013, we were both, we were living in Silicon Valley, working at Google. We had no plans to move anywhere and we wanted to together work on a passion project that. Helped build a bridge from, you know, where we lived at the time with where we had roots and we're from, so this nonprofit began and in our first year we just bootstrapped it together.
[00:11:10] The model was let's select cohort of rising ninth graders. So summer before high school and bring them out to Silicon Valley for a week long, all immersive tech bootcamp, we did the best of tour. So we took them episodes of Google, YouTube, Facebook. Stanford a number of startups. We did design thinking mentorship, and then we ultimately had them form startup teams and pitch their ideas at a live demo day.
[00:11:35] So that first year it was a riveting experience for us and for them. And. We quickly realized, well, what happens next? They start high school. They're going to need support. They're going to need, you know, support throughout the journey. So we quickly layered on Minnesota meetups, which are these quarterly, get-togethers trying to help connect them into different parts of the twin cities, startup ecosystem.
[00:11:57] So, you know, you could visit a startup, you could visit a [00:12:00] company like best buy learn about how they're leveraging technology. Visit a college campus here locally. Then fast forward to 2018. When, you know, Silicon Northstar's gave us a vantage point and sort of a window into Minnesota, and we felt a comfort of this community is awesome.
[00:12:17] There's a lot of opportunity. Let's be a part of it. And we felt that comfort in coming here. So since 2018, we've really tried to. Focus on expansion of the program. And you know, we're here on the ground now we're passionate about it. And so last year 2019 was the first year we decided, you know, Minnesota is arrived.
[00:12:35] We don't need to go to Silicon Valley to be inspired. And last year we ran that same formula for the summer camp that I just walked through, but completely in the twin cities. And it was a phenomenal success in that, you know, students had a great, great inspirational week, but then they thought the connections they made could be enduring and long lasting beyond a week long camp.
[00:12:56] And so this year, year seven of the program, a unique year in the world, but we're really proud to have just launched our college scholarship program. And that is students who are rising seniors in high school can apply for. A scholarship to help upon their acceptance, to postsecondary educational.
[00:13:15] Jake Soberal: [00:13:15] That's so terrific.
[00:13:16] And how have you all experienced? I know that our program at geek Ys Academy and similar programs around the country are grappling with how do you execute something that is so deeply relational and in person amidst COVID. And so how has that impacted the program and how are you guys adjusting in this current reality?
[00:13:34] Mary Grove: [00:13:34] Sure. So each year each cohort has been roughly 16 to 20 students. So if we add that, you know, historically we have 120 students now in the program and we consider them all active Silicon Northstar. So what's unique about that as our oldest cohort are now juniors in college, our youngest cohort are freshmen in high school and they all interact with and learn from one another.
[00:13:53] So we have that, that core 120 students this year in light of COVID-19. We haven't been able [00:14:00] to. So we hit pause on that hosting and in-person summer camp for, for obvious reasons, but yeah, instead have focused to fully virtual, but to actually actually increased the frequency of the programming we put on.
[00:14:11] So everything's virtual over zoom. We host programs monthly versus quarterly. And so our idea for 2020 is we're just going to really go deep on supporting our current 120 students. Once it's safe to reconvene in person, we absolutely will start getting together in person. And then. The summer camp we'll hit go again summer.
[00:14:30] But in the meantime, it's a great opportunity for us to deepen our engagement with our students. You know, we say economically underserved backgrounds. Yeah. Our criteria, but here in the twin cities that disproportionately maps to people of color, many of our students are in grants. Many of them come from really challenging, uh, personal background stories.
[00:14:49] And it's really just a tenacious, courageous group of young people who are really, really proud to support.
[00:14:55] Jake Soberal: [00:14:55] And with that, let's take a quick break.
[00:15:00] I wonder both for you all in your work and for the students that you serve and here, particularly acutely, because you are in Minneapolis, how has the killing of George Floyd weighed heavily on effected changed that reality? And how are you seeing folks sort of cope with it?
[00:15:20] Steve Grove: [00:15:20] It's a difficult time in Minnesota.
[00:15:21] It's a difficult time and the world. And, you know, I think for the students that we serve in Silicon, Northstar's almost all of them are students of color. Many of them live not only in neighborhoods near, uh, where George flood was killed as do we, but in neighborhoods. Where the destruction that filed the civil unrest after his death took away the businesses and grocery stores and pharmacies and, and really the commercial lifeline of the neighborhoods in which they live.
[00:15:51] And it's a profoundly uncomfortable time. And I think one of the things we've tried to do is just to keep talking and to keep holding these [00:16:00] conversations, to keep reaching out, to see how the students are doing, to engage with them, to, to learn from them and to try to. Use this moment to make all of us smarter about the systematic injustice that exists certainly in Minneapolis and certainly across the country and try to turn it into something good, you know, is it, this can be an inflection point for our city and our state and that this can be the moment at which things really started to turn.
[00:16:25] I mean, we, as an ecosystem here have known about the racial disparities in our economy for a very long time. And it's one of the odd ironies of Minnesota. It is. The land of 10,000 lakes. And it's also blended with 10,000 nonprofits. There are ton of organizations out there trying to make this state a better place.
[00:16:43] Yeah. I'm the highest voter participation rates in the country, highest amount of donations per capita of people to causes. They care about. And yet we have the second worst disparities between whites and people of color when it comes to income. When it comes to housing, when it comes to health, it's shameful, it's embarrassing.
[00:17:01] And our small nonprofit, it is one of many efforts that has tried to tackle that. And here we are, uh, how much has really changed. And so I think this is a moment of reckoning for, for our city and for our state to say, if you want to see real change, you better to be doing markedly different things. So I think it's, it's an uncomfortable time because even people who are fighting for justice and who have fought for it for a long time, are looking around and saying, well, gosh, is this working.
[00:17:27] And can this be a moment where new things can work. And I think those solutions are just going to come from folks and governments are in powerful positions, but as income from the young people, it's going to come from the students like ours, who are in high school and who are facing these injustices and full of rage and passionate about it.
[00:17:43] But also. Want to bring new ideas and create a new future. And so, you know, it's a time of rebuilding and just rebuilding. I think it's also a time of re-imagining and that's, that's a task before us, as a state right now is to really reimagine this state's economy, reimagine the equality that exists here.
[00:17:59] And, [00:18:00] you know, the small part, the Silicon Northstar action plan that I hope is to bring a support network to these students and a safety net to these students that they might not otherwise have. Because when you look at the research of all the gaps between whites and people of color, as it relates to.
[00:18:14] Any kinds of issues. If you give people of color, the same opportunities, whether it's college spending a household, they get married. If they use sort of all the right things by the textbook of what leads to stability, there's still major gaps in wealth and opportunity. And a big part of the, the big part of reason is systematic racism.
[00:18:32] And then also the kind of support networks and safety nets, and informal pathways that exist for people who aren't of color aren't there. And so I think. To the extent Silicon arthritis can play a small piece of helping create some of those opportunities and avenues. We hope we can make a little bit of a difference
[00:18:48] Mary Grove: [00:18:48] and I'll just add, you know, from the student perspective, we're really proud of, of how our students are rising to be leaders, whether it's in their families, their schools, their communities, anecdotally.
[00:18:59] So the week after George Floyd's murder, we hosted a virtual zoom meet up immediately with no agenda. Other than we want to hold this. The safe space open, you know, virtually for everyone to discuss, reflect, share anything. And it was a deeply moving powerful experience where, you know, sometimes hard to do this stuff virtually where students really opened up about their personal experiences, both some of our black students, our white students as allies.
[00:19:26] And it. It was very eyeopening. Even for us as a team who felt like we knew the students reasonably well to understand this entire other dimension of, you know, one student shared that. And he is a multiple time award winner model student who said, my approach has just been to be heads down my whole life and try to do it the best I can because then I think then I'll be safe.
[00:19:45] But the reality is the second I walk out the door, I'm still just a black kid and people are afraid of me and they have the same stereotypes. And then there was one of our young women. Who's white. And she was talking about, you know, what it is to be an [00:20:00] ally, the intergenerational conversations she's having with her parents and her parents, friends, and their generation.
[00:20:05] We have another student who was leading some of the riots in st. Paul, but another student who has a Facebook group where she's leading a group of young artists who were producing some of the beautiful art that we see on the buildings that are boarded up around the cities. And so I'm really proud of.
[00:20:20] We had that space to share, but then out of that, everybody emerged and said, you know, I feel optimistic for the first time in my life. I'm being heard. Uh, someone had shared, they feel, felt more heard in the past two weeks and they had in their entire life. And I thought we just want to be a small part of amplifying and supporting and helping them.
[00:20:38] Jake Soberal: [00:20:38] I think there's a lot to be encouraged by the conversations. And the talking is, you guys say that's happened since the murder of George Floyd. I'm deeply interested, Steve you're in the room where a state is actually trying to figure out how it reimagines what's next. And you know, so much of we've spending a lot of air and time on this conversation around reopening and it occurs to us that that rushing out to reopen.
[00:21:05] Without a different conversation. It means that we're rushing back to something that we've just observed, serves the future. Well, in the many really poorly, how do we get back to that as quickly as possible? Like the conversation in communities around the country. Whereas I think you're right. This is an opportunity for.
[00:21:21] And inflection point and there are real and concrete things that we might do differently. And we don't have all of the answers here, but we heard in last week on the program from the seed program in Stockton mayor, Michael Tubbs has launched a basic income pilot program. Really interesting. And they're getting some things right.
[00:21:38] And they're getting some things wrong, but it's different. We're engaged in a coalition of folks around the country. That are pursuing something called the digital new deal, where we think about tech apprentices to rebuild state digital infrastructure. At scale, I wonder with a focus on taking lower third earners, which are disproportionately people of color from excluded there's places I'm interested in inside of that [00:22:00] cabinet in Minnesota.
[00:22:01] What are some of the specific things that are being taught, talked about that we can do differently as we not, not rebuild, but we remake our economy coming out of this moment.
[00:22:11] Steve Grove: [00:22:11] Well, it's a great question. I think a lot of people say we need to get back to normal. I'm so tired of this. We need to get back to normal.
[00:22:17] And I think, no, actually we need to do better. I think if anything, the. Killing of George Floyd, right in the middle of a pandemic, just really accentuated that fact, right. That this is. And the fact that when you look at the disproportionate rates of those infected by COVID-19 massively skewed towards people of color.
[00:22:36] When you look at the unemployment rates and where they've gone bad for everyone, but much, much worse for people of color, particularly blacks and native Americans. And so, yes, we need to reopen our economy and that's been the bulk of the strategic dance that every state is doing right now to get that right.
[00:22:53] And to get that right from a health perspective and to do it in a safe way. And we spend a lot of time on that topic and my colleagues and I are, are leading an effort to ensure that we get that right. But that's just the first step in a broader journey. And so, I guess just speaking personally, I came into government having worked at Google for 12 years.
[00:23:10] This, this whole government thing is sort of new to me and I. I don't think I'd have done it. If I didn't think I could approach it in a somewhat different way than maybe someone who had been in government for a long time would have approached it. And so we had an in we're engaging on an agenda of a lot of things that were different about how to do economic development, whether it's, how to deliver workforce training, how to use the internet, to help people learn more and learn faster how to reimagine some of our funding structures, how to make it more efficient, to get money, to grow your business, or to be incentivized, how to get government more involved in the startup ecosystem.
[00:23:39] And those things were moving along and, you know, we're making some progress. But this is a moment where we think that that can rapidly accelerate and has to rapidly accelerate. When you look at some of these trend lines on, for example, the trend towards increased automation that is only going to accelerate.
[00:23:52] Now, we've had massive, you know, buckets of our economy be put on pause because, because it's now more viable do so [00:24:00] and necessary to do so for cost saving. And so how do we reimagine the future in which new skills are needed that are sort of automation adjacent versus waiting to be replaced by a robot.
[00:24:08] And so we're having lots of discussions on how. Our government's effort can help business on that front, whether it's training, whether it's partnerships. I think when we think about equity in general and where the money goes and how the money is spent, because that's really what my department does. It spends money to grow our economy.
[00:24:25] How are we building equity into every single process that we have in place? We put into play last year, a policy where every single program had to have a goal as it related to equity. And we used it for the OKR system from Google to do that. So you've got, you know, an objective and then a measurable result and that's been coming along pretty well.
[00:24:42] But this moment has really accelerated that as an area of focus for us and given us really kind of an excuse to move quicker. And so if anything, I think this moment, whether it's COVID, whether it's the murder of George Floyd, it's given government. An excuse to move a lot more quickly than it ever did before, because the urgency is just so much higher.
[00:24:59] We're trying to take advantage of that. If you will, to push some of these changes that build, you know, a modern government that is required to help build a modern economy.
[00:25:08] Jake Soberal: [00:25:08] And I want to talk about a different sector and one of your many hats, Mary you're a venture capitalist. I think the question on everybody's mind is why haven't you invested in Bitwise?
[00:25:22] we should. But today you actually launched or announced the launching of your new venture fund, uh, bread and butter ventures. Would you share just a bit about the, the mission and focus there?
[00:25:33] Mary Grove: [00:25:33] Absolutely. We're super excited today to be announcing bread and butter ventures, which is the evolution in a fund that my partner rent roll started four years ago called the syndicate fund.
[00:25:46] So Brett and I are teaming up as the two general partners in this, this next iteration of the work, which we're calling bread and butter ventures. And the idea behind first, the idea behind the name. So it's a nod to. One of [00:26:00] Minnesota's nicknames, which is, you know, our home base here. We were nicknamed the bread and butter state back in 1902 for our excellence and flour products and dairy.
[00:26:08] So we love the nod to that. I mean, it's also our desire, particularly launching an effort in the midst of COVID-19 right. We want to focus. Be very laser focused on the bread and butter sectors of the future of modern economy and those three sectors and our, in our mind, our food and ag tech healthcare and enterprise software.
[00:26:27] So we are an early stage meaning we ended up invest specifically in seed stage companies. And what we can invest broadly, but our areas of expertise are really in those three map, back to the bread and butter of our firm. And we want to help support companies, you know, through scale, we want to invest globally.
[00:26:45] This is not a fund just to invest in Minnesota, but it is a fund specifically built to leverage our home field advantage if you will. And that's, you know, some of the metrics that Steve alluded to earlier are. Incredibly strong base of fortune 500 companies, our backbone connections into the end, as I mentioned.
[00:27:03] So we believe that we want to back, you know, the best teams in the world, no matter where they are, they are, and then bring that, that secret sauce of Minnesota's infrastructure to support them and help them scale. So it really is the evolution of, of longstanding work. We are launching. With the head of platform as well.
[00:27:19] Stephanie Rich, who's a phenomenal entrepreneur and a creative collaborator. And she's, I'm really excited because it's less common platform. The notion that is becoming much more common in venture capital, but usually when a firm is more mature, has a larger, you know, a pool of capital under management.
[00:27:38] So we were launching out the gate with platform because we believe so deeply in engaging with the community, making those connections back into the portfolio, you know, from day one,
[00:27:47] Jake Soberal: [00:27:47] Is such exciting work. And I'd love to have you touch on where we're in a moment where there is such focus on diversity and particularly in venture.
[00:27:57] And you've got SoftBank launching a large fund, Google [00:28:00] allocating, more dollars to existing black led funds and new funds as a, a woman period. As a person of color period, you've, you've lived an unlikely story in venture capital. Do you feel as though this moment is actually causing or leading to things that will effect lasting change in the space of venture, as it relates to diversity in both leadership and investment?
[00:28:22] Mary Grove: [00:28:22] I certainly hope so. And I, I remain very hopeful. You know, if we look at the statistics, we know the state of the industry is quite dire, both from a. I'm an LP perspective, meaning the limited partners who invest in venture capital funds to the GP, the general partners who make the investment decisions and write the checks to who receives the capital.
[00:28:40] And, you know, today we know that less than 10% of venture capital, for example, goes to female led companies less than 1% goes to black founders. And, um, I think the stat now is. I think it's roughly six or 7% of investment partners at firms across the country are women less than one center or black. And so, you know, these are not great numbers to work off of.
[00:29:02] I truly believe. And we watched Twitter, VC freak you out a few weeks ago, and everybody posted their pledges and commitments, which I think is an excellent step in the right direction. And now the imperative is. On us as an industry to do the work. And I, I really, I believe that we have put diversity equity and inclusion front and center with bread and butter, but the reason that we're doing it, yeah, it is.
[00:29:23] We truly understand that that's the right thing to do for business. That is the best way to return fund to our investors. Return the capital back to our investors. We know diverse teams lead to better outcomes. And how can we not create these siloed networks, but bring people into the network. One of the things that I.
[00:29:40] That I hate most about the industry I love is it's completely network-driven business, right? The warm intro is the way to get a meeting and we're doing it differently. And we certainly love to take introductions from our name at work. But one of the things that I'm my partner Brett has done for years, that I will begin doing this week.
[00:29:57] And so will Stephanie on our team is doing open [00:30:00] office hours every week for any company, literally anywhere in the world who wants to talk to us about anything, it could be to pitch their company. It could be for advice, it could be. I don't know, help with the college application. It literally could be anything.
[00:30:11] So I think that, you know, we, we often hide in plain sight and we definitely want to approach it differently.
[00:30:17] Jake Soberal: [00:30:17] Well, between trying to lead recovery economically in a state launch, a venture fund, lead a VC. We're so appreciative for you all making the time to visit and just share out the view from each of your important stations of leadership, and really, really appreciate the stories.
[00:30:33] So thank you so much for being with us today on the show.
[00:30:36] Mary Grove: [00:30:36] It was a pleasure. Thank you, Jake.
[00:30:37] Steve Grove: [00:30:37] Thanks for having us check. Thank you guys.
[00:30:40] Jake Soberal: [00:30:40] So impressed with the work that Steve and Mary are doing. It's span its reach and its focus are really, really important in this moment for our second segment, we're going to dig in with pastor DJ Criner, who leads Fresno's st.
[00:30:52] Rest Baptist church, a historically black church located just a couple of blocks away from Bitwise, South stadium, where we're headquartered. DJ is a friend, and I'm excited for you to hear from him. Let's dig in.
[00:31:07] I am just delighted to get to visit today with. Somebody who I really admire from our local community. Pastor DJ Criner, the pastor of st. Rest Baptist church, DJ. Welcome to the show.
[00:31:18] DJ Criner: [00:31:18] Oh man. Thanks for having me brother. I really, really appreciate it, man.
[00:31:21] Jake Soberal: [00:31:21] I got it. Something at the top DJ we have now in the last couple of weeks had some threads of Stockton.
[00:31:26] So we visited with mayor Michael Tubbs, who, a friend of mine, somebody I really love. We have visited with Suki Samra who is leading a program there. Called seed doing some really amazing work, but I do know that you've got stocked in roots and so we need to make something really, you got to pick one Stockton or Fresno.
[00:31:46] DJ Criner: [00:31:46] Uh, Fresno.
[00:31:48] Jake Soberal: [00:31:48] That's the only right answer.
[00:31:50] DJ Criner: [00:31:50] The mic is the mayor and Stockton. And he does not claim Franklin, which is the high school that he went. So I needed him to, to hype Franklin high school up a little bit more brother. Come on, [00:32:00] man.
[00:32:02] Jake Soberal: [00:32:02] That's exactly right. I'll pass on the message. Although, you know, the guy's got a, uh, an HBO special now, so I don't know.
[00:32:09] I see this teacher turn in my tech.
[00:32:11] DJ Criner: [00:32:11] But you can see the cover is like Mike right in the front of the cover. I was like, come on, man. I'm like kinda, I was like, brother, you designed that yourself, man, I can't wait to watch it comes alive.
[00:32:21] Jake Soberal: [00:32:21] If I got to design my a movie poster, I'd be right in the center too.
[00:32:27] DJ Criner: [00:32:27] Yeah,
[00:32:28] Jake Soberal: [00:32:28] it was good. I'm so happy for him. I have observed, so we don't know each other super well, but we travel in a lot of the same circles, both in our civic work. And then also in our work, in the faith community. And one of the things I've observed in you from the jump is you have a love of this city and the people in it.
[00:32:47] And my sense is it's a response to a unique calling and story. I'd love to hear that story and, and hear about how you got to that love.
[00:32:54] DJ Criner: [00:32:54] Oh man. So of course raising Stockton, we saw like the tale of two cities, which is similar to what a mayor Audrey said before I got, came to Fargo in the nineties, that there is a tale of two cities and almost in every city across our nation.
[00:33:08] There's two different sides of town, which if you're not careful over the course of time, historically, whether it's systemic or whether it's just ingrained in the fabric of the city or the Mason, you'll find that there's almost a two city mentality without even knowing it almost actually cross the tracks.
[00:33:25] You're almost walking into a totally different city and that's how I wasn't a there, but I could do nothing about it because I was only a kid graduated from high school. And then I left Stockton and I always wanted to make sure that South side Stockton, where I stayed at, which was historically African American Brown and poverty stricken that didn't have the infrastructure as you would in North side town that we would have to legally leave one side of town just to go to Denny's or go to an eye hop or go to a mall or even a movie theater.
[00:33:57] I thought even growing up this isn't right, [00:34:00] like something. Isn't right about this. So when I came to Fresno and I started at Fresno state, all I saw was North side Fresno. And then I was introduced to West side Fresno due to me joining st. West Baptist church. And I saw like, dude, this doesn't look right.
[00:34:14] Like why is West side Southwest Fresno look totally different from North side Fresno, even when it comes to infrastructure or even when it comes to businesses, what are we doing to our city or saying we love Fresno. And then I started discovering that there were. People who were saying that they left Fresno, but it was only really a part of Fresno that they loved because another part didn't, so that same kind of low.
[00:34:37] And I just started saying, if we can love the least of these, that Christ talks about. Then we are loving God. Right? So how can we say we love Jesus and Jesus came to love even the most disenfranchised poverty stricken kind of individuals that was ostracized to a lonely out in a poverty called Gentiles.
[00:34:56] And we can't do that. And we're not even dealing with Jew and Gentile. We're not even dealing with really black and white as many times as much as we're dealing with North versus South. So how do we bring about a thing of love with each other and. It was really just falling in love with a whole city all at the same time, being madly in love with West side Fresno and finding out and seeing how can we bring that same kind of love that's in the heart of West Fresno.
[00:35:22] To the city of Fresno. So that one day we can have one Fresno instead of the tale of two cities.
[00:35:28] Jake Soberal: [00:35:28] Yeah. And it's such a big issue. I run a technology company that is deeply focused on equity. We designed a bit wise to be able to get black and Brown people into the technology industry. And I've done it thousands of times.
[00:35:42] That is what we do. And we do it here in our city, but I'm convicted of, you're sitting at Bitwise in downtown Fresno, and there is about a 10 block stretch before you get to West Fresno, but they are, they are worlds, worlds apart. And what we say in our city is it there's certainly diversity [00:36:00] across our entire city.
[00:36:01] But what we say at a macro level is that if you are black, Brown, or poor you're on that side, And if you are white and wealthy, you're on this side. This is in 2020. We're not in like the Jim Crow South. You lead a predominantly black church on the West side of Fresno County. So that, that is the, that is the side that I described as people of color and usually lower levels of economic attainment.
[00:36:26] How do you see, what do you see as our way out? Because I mean, we talk about Autry talks about it. What is it a decade ago now? Ashley talks about it. So Audrey was a mayor then Ashley square engine. She's talking about it. Lee, probably less so, but still is mentioning it. And we're still there. What are the practical things that we do to get out of it?
[00:36:47] DJ Criner: [00:36:47] Well, number one is what's being done across our nation, but more than anything else in our city, which is the conversation, here's what a lot of people don't quite understand whenever you're dealing with favoritism, the people or the person or the child has to deal with a child. Okay. A child that is favored doesn't really know that they're the favorite of the family.
[00:37:06] They don't see it because from the time of being born all the way up until the realization of that child and that parent discovered that, okay, maybe I am treating a child favor. All you see is a 10 being treated as a child, being treated as a child in the family. However everyone else other kids can see, okay, this child is being they're a little bit different, right?
[00:37:24] This child is being treated different. It's really not until the child who was treated as a favorite, actually sits and actually sees what his own eyes and here. With the two years that he has, what a minute there is a difference. Why do I have a room by myself and everyone else is sharing a bunk bed, right?
[00:37:41] Like what's going on. It's not the child's fault at all. It becomes a child's fault when the child realizes and sees that there is a problem problem, and continues to operate in a privilege of being the favorite child, because the parent is not going to change the philosophy or the ideology of continually the treat, the child favorite until the [00:38:00] favor child opens up his mouth.
[00:38:01] Or her mouth, unless the parent know, Hey, this is not fair. I refuse to be treated differently from everyone else. Right. That's what we're doing. Now you have individuals who have been victims and I mean, victims hear me out victims of white privilege who are finally opening up their mouth and saying what individuals of color have been saying for so, so long something isn't right.
[00:38:24] But. The system never heard the people who were being treated horribly because they never had a voice scripture. It's our job. Jeremiah says it right to be the voice for the voiceless to speak up for justice. But those that have been injustly treated for years and years and years. And that's why it's important for people who have an opportunity to sit on a platform.
[00:38:47] Not because they want to, but because if they're calling, they have been born to have that platform. To speak to those who are already on that platform and tell them something isn't right. I do believe bro. I really, really do believe that we're at a very, very good pivotal point in our nation. A very, very pivotal point in our lifetime where if something is to change, it has to change now because people are finally listening and they're our allies.
[00:39:14] Who are not kissed by heavens rays that are sharing in that pain. They may not understand the pain. They may not feel it, but bro, there's a sharing of the pain and those people who are in pain are not just black folks anymore. And they're like, you know what, something isn't right. It's what dr. Kane said in 1963.
[00:39:34] And the, I have a dream speech. He says many of our white brothers as evidenced by their presence here today have come to realize that their freedom is tied with our freedom. Meaning if we want to see freedom, we have to understand freedom only exists when everybody's free. It's not when one people are free, but others are still down.
[00:39:54] That's not freedom. That's that's an exchange of power, but when everyone's free, [00:40:00] then we understand, okay, true freedom has taken place. And I really believe we're at a very pivotal point that we can't go backwards. It we're going to see change. It has to start with healthy, serious, uncomfortable conversations, listening and not defending, and then fighting without trying to fight each other.
[00:40:17] Jake Soberal: [00:40:17] Hmm, that analogy is so helpful. That's really, that's really good. Now I want to dig more into that, but we're going to take a quick break and we're going to come right back.
[00:40:32] All right. We're back with DJ Criner, the pastor of st. Rest Baptist church, and DJ, where we left off, you had shared really something that, that illuminated privilege and that the privileged individual doesn't doesn't necessarily grow up, knowing that they're privileged and that there's an intentionality.
[00:40:48] To saying, I want to relinquish this privilege. If we're going to experience change for the individual who's being excluded or, or less than in cases of the United States of America who are being targeted specifically for their differences. I want to dig into that because we have a lot of these conversations, DJ I'm in panels, you're on panels and we're in disconnected scenarios.
[00:41:08] We're not disconnected you and I, I run a and very public business at the center of our city. That is a mile from your church and you lead one of the more public and outspoken churches in our city. So I am eager to learn from you here. I am a privileged, wealthy white man in Fresno, California. What do I do?
[00:41:31] What, how, how could, how can I behave differently to be an actor in that change that you were describing?
[00:41:37] DJ Criner: [00:41:37] The idea of Lynch? Um, that, and it scares a lot of my white brothers and sisters, because it sounds like I'm privileged. And I asked to be privileged or I'm walking in that privilege on purpose. When a lot of my white brothers.
[00:41:49] And sisters will combat that by saying, but these are, you don't understand. I was born in poverty. I was born. What would a single parent, you know? And I understand it, that you're absolutely correct. [00:42:00] But remember again, like the favoritism of, of a child. You were born with something that bees you got to be United States has already lifted as a form of privilege, which is the skin color.
[00:42:11] And as a result of that, my skin color already puts me at a disadvantage, whether or not I was born in an affluential family, or I'm not, I'm already at a disadvantage because from 19. 15, if you want to take it back to the birth of a nation, the original birth of a nation black folks were seen as cannibals while Klu Klux Klan was lifted as the heroes and present Woodrow Wilson stood up and gave it a standing ovation and said, this is the greatest film in American history.
[00:42:41] And it wasn't until 10 years ago that that was declared a race film. Or even in slavery where black folks were, were seen as, as a villain to one slave upstairs wives, because they were afraid and telling their kids and their wives, that if you get around a black man, he's going to rape you. And even to this day, we find black folks walking in the mall and it could be the same group of black people.
[00:43:03] Numbered by the same group of white folks. And those black kids will be seen as a threat. Not because they've done anything wrong, but because of the color of their skin, it's almost like the look of a snake. The snake doesn't have to do anything. He's just a snake. So instantly this make my bite us.
[00:43:20] That's not. Your fault. That's not any white person's fault unless they are feeding into that narrative and building that narrative to scare America. So here's the question. What do I do? I'll give you this, bro. And hopefully I'll explain it. When my wife was pregnant with my first child for nine months, my wife was complaining about walking, about being in pain.
[00:43:44] And I'm a man, bro. I'm played football dude. Like I'm like. Hello? Wait, it ain't that serious. Let's walk around the horn. Hey, I'm tired. Right? Come on. Let's do this baby. Got a drink. I need to make sure I get a boy. Now it became a girl. That was my punishment by God. [00:44:00] Let's move. Let's look, let's go. Let's go.
[00:44:01] Let's go, bro. The night that she went into labor, I thought it was Braxton's Hicks because I had been to this dog on Kaiser five times and they said she's not ready. But this time it was actually her going into labor. So the entire time when she's in labor for these 11 hours, I'm telling her babies, come on, baby, we got this, I'm trying to crack jokes.
[00:44:21] My wife is speaking in tongues, but they're not the Holy times. It's a different time that she's talking, bro. So when she's actually about to push, I'm telling her, Hey, stop crying. We got this, we got this. The doctor who's delivering the baby brother looks up and says, would you shut up, please? You're not me making it better, actually making it worse.
[00:44:44] So I had to change because I'm thinking I'm helping her. By telling her, but I don't know her pain. I will never know her pain. Cause I will never be a woman. And because I'll never be a woman, I will never have a child that I can birth, which means I'll never know the pain that she's experiencing. So what the nurse told me to do is get close to her because does your husband whisper in her ear?
[00:45:07] If you can fit in the bed, get in there. Of course I couldn't. Alright and whisper in her ear and just tell her baby I'm with you. I got you. I'm going to walk you through this. We'll get through this together. And actually it caused my wife to calm down. And my wife, I actually started talking to me instead of focusing on the pain and she pushed the doctor was telling her push down.
[00:45:29] I'm telling her the same thing, but because my tone changed and I started late listening to her pain. Well, I started crying cause now my wife's in pain. So I got in pain. That's what needs to happen? It's those who are privileged, not because they asked to be just so my wife never asked to be a woman and I never asked to be a man.
[00:45:47] It's what I was given as a result of that. Instead of me trying to tell her. How she needs to be. I need to listen to her and the closer I get to her, the more I start experiencing and feeling the pain that she's [00:46:00] in. That's right. What needs to happen? And that's what many of our white brothers and sisters.
[00:46:04] Are doing right now, brother, and it's changing a lot of things, honestly.
[00:46:07] Jake Soberal: [00:46:07] Yeah. That's so good. And I know I need to hear that. And I know that so many in our city and around the country need to hear that. I appreciate that DJ. Um, I want to talk about, so, so there are differences in our skin color, but we also default to a core identity of sameness.
[00:46:23] You and I, we are both, uh, believers in Jesus Christ. And that, that puts us in the category of the church, a church that is very much alive in this moment. But I'm curious as to your feeling, what do you think the world is seeing from the church? Right now and particularly the United States, what do you think the United States is seeing from the church?
[00:46:47] Because it is an institution just like we, we see something from the president and we see something from the mayor and we see something from, you know, sports, the churches and institution. What do you think our country is seeing from the church right now?
[00:47:00] DJ Criner: [00:47:00] Confusion. The nation has sent confusion. The nation is saying to churches, and unfortunately they're saying a church that is.
[00:47:08] Silent. And when they are speaking, they are using scripture to cover the sins of people, the sense of racism. And then they're also saying another church who is actively fighting and against it because of scripture. And I think we have to be very, very careful when a leader uses the church background as a means of making a statement and using the Bible, holding it up, but not.
[00:47:35] Quoting scripture as a means of bringing peace. I think we have to be careful because if a pastor was to make a statement in front of a church, the church itself would listen to that leader above anybody else. We have to be very, very careful about using scripture and using our word as a means of bringing division instead of unity.
[00:47:57] Now, what does that mean? I think based on scripture, we [00:48:00] need to preach the entire scripture and not a scripture that fits us or scripture. That makes us feel good because Jesus, it's not this quiet, passive individual. Well, that many of us are trying to suggesting is because of the moment. Jesus was very radical.
[00:48:18] He was very personal and he fought for the needs and the means of making sure that people no matter who they are, had an opportunity to experience the same grace and the same mercy and the same justice. This is the same Jesus bro, that dealt with racism and his face. I mean, he's sitting with a woman at the well.
[00:48:37] And this woman walks up to him and immediately sees him and notices. He doesn't look like me. Not only does it not look like me, our faith is the same, but our religious practice, this is different. You see what I'm saying? So I said, Oh my God, I'm not even supposed to be talking to you. Tell me if that doesn't sound like the 1960s.
[00:48:55] Right. I can't even talk to you. And then I know that you're a teacher, which means I have some sort of theology. It may not be the accurate practice of understanding extra Jesus, but I know a little bit about theology, right? Because what you say, you sound like a prophet or you sound like a teacher.
[00:49:11] However, you got to understand this church is so separate that I can't go up there. That sounds like discrimination and segregation. Right. I have to work. Sit down here. My people have to stay down here while your people can worship up there on the mountain and Jesus combats it immediately. Plus a sweetheart.
[00:49:33] There's gonna come a time where it's not gonna matter. You worship for they that worship me must worship me in spirit and in truth, it's almost like Jesus is saying, I know. And unfortunately the issue of race, segregation and discrimination will always be. So I'm going to create a spiritual realm where it's not going to matter what they do, what matters is what us as a church do.
[00:49:57] Jake Soberal: [00:49:57] I think that's so important. And I think whether [00:50:00] you're from the Christian tradition or not, whether that's your chosen faith or not, there's a story of. Of Jesus Christ. And it is a story that is intended to that is influential in the lives of so many in our country who ascribed to the Christian faith.
[00:50:14] What I feel like is lost in this moment is this immense opportunity for the evangelical, the Christian community to raise their hand and say our whole book, our whole theology is a book about racial justice. That's inspired by a God. And why aren't we saying that DJ?
[00:50:34] DJ Criner: [00:50:34] Because it's uncomfortable because it's not the, it's not the word that has been preached for years, bro.
[00:50:41] If we are going to say that, think about what we have to wait, what we have to combat, what we have to demount. We have to denounce it years and years and years of the way evangelical preaching has hid behind scripture to cover racism. I mean, we have to almost go all the way back to slavery brother. My boy, Brett bell preached on this one time at st.
[00:51:03] Rest where he's like, dude, it was preached in slavery that literally freedom and being delivered from slavery was a sin it's of your master. It's taking the book of Philemon and using it as a means of telling slaves. You must stay in slavery and worship and serve your master. And if you go against their master, it's the same removing the book of Exodus completely out of the Bible and slavery and telling people like Matt Turner, who was one of the only ones that can read to only preach Genesis, go exactly to the book and to passage.
[00:51:39] I believe that because Genesis nine or Genesis eight, excuse me. When Noah son. Looked at saw NOLA uncover and he immediately cursed Cayman who was considered the darker race and said, your job is to serve your brother, chef it's. It's almost suggesting that slavery was a calling of God for black people, because it was a curse for black [00:52:00] people to be black because of what their answer to answer to answer is the answer to be it when their dad was drunk, brother, that doesn't even make sense.
[00:52:08] So think about all that we have to do. We have to almost take years and years back and say, yeah, there was a time where scripture was not taught in its entirety. There were certain passages that was left out, but we were pinned for that. Not I repeat because I'm not the one that I did it, but there was people who have been treated unfairly and put folks have used scripture as a beams of it.
[00:52:30] And so brother that's, that's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable for a father to both talk to their children when they're 20 years old and apologize for what was done when they were five years old, it's very uncomfortable. It's easier just to act as if it didn't exist and to move forward at the age of 20 that's okay for the father, but it will damage the relationship of the child that still remembers how he or she was treated at five years old.
[00:52:56] Jake Soberal: [00:52:56] And so DJ, if we take the church in its whole, in the United States, are we right now saying to the world that we hear you, we understand you're upset, but we want to choose our material possession. We want to choose our preferred political ideology over the Bible that we claim to be our, our playbook. Is that literally what in the aggregate the church is saying?
[00:53:18] I know.
[00:53:19] DJ Criner: [00:53:19] And the guys that people yes. In the eyes of the unsaved, absolutely. In the eyes of those that are questioning every single day, especially as an African American pastor in a Southwest community that has to deal with the absence of. Support many of the times. Absolutely. It's the question of, well, DJ, explain this.
[00:53:39] Explain slavery explained how Christianity and the Bible was used as a means of keeping slaves, oppressed. Or explain how the Klu Klux Klan uses across in burns it, and it's never denounced or it never was denounced Stan and the Klu Klux Klan grand dragon, the leader of the grand dragon movement at that particular [00:54:00] time was a very prominent pastor of the South.
[00:54:02] Explain that. And the explanation is that was, then this is now that was wrong. Completely wrong. Well, DJ, where are you? Are your white pastors who are standing with you? I'm naming a few of them. I'm naming them, bro. But that's not enough, unfortunately, to a lot of unsaved individuals who are, or even saying, I mean, I'm not gonna lie to you brother.
[00:54:22] There are many of our same brothers, including our white brothers who were like, DJ, where is your friends? DJ. And you can name them all that you want to brother, but it's gonna take as much. I feel it's going to take a move of the Lord, which I believe is happening. To wake up people that have been sleep for so long.
[00:54:43] And to see if we are going to dismantle this thing called racism, it's going to take Jesus. And us walking and operating and the photo authority of what Christ left us when he said go. Yeah. And so all nations, we're going to have to follow scripture in its entirety. Not attempt to hide behind scripture as say, just pray about it or speak peace.
[00:55:09] Yes. You must speak peace, but we have to understand bro. Peace does not mean everything goes well. Peace means that while everything is going crazy, you're well, And we have to be able to stand and say, if I lose friends, because I'm saying something that they may not, like I'm saying scripture. And what I'm saying based on scripture is that we must tear down the hostile walls of, of, of segregation that is existing between Jew and Gentile or today, between black and white.
[00:55:37] And if we're going to do it, we got a call out, right? We got a call out wrong period,
[00:55:44] Jake Soberal: [00:55:44] your corner. I'm gonna ask you a question that maybe is unfair, but it's the context of our city. Is it possible? Is it even possible that it was God's designed to take and plant. Wealthy churches. We're talking churches with millions and millions of dollars in their bank, account and coffers that get refilled [00:56:00] every Sunday, along one street in Fresno.
[00:56:02] It's knees. They're there. You literally go along Fresno, go along NIS Avenue in Fresno, and you've got dozens of churches with million dollar bank accounts. While at the South end of our city people languish in poverty. Is it even possible that that was God's designed?
[00:56:17] DJ Criner: [00:56:17] Hmm, I don't think it was God's original.
[00:56:20] Um, there's a, there's a thing that's called his. It's perfect. William, his permissive will. I believe he permitted it. I don't believe the Lord is smiling all the time addict that there are two separate sides of town. As one thing, to have a tale of two cities where one side of town is more privileged than the other side of town by way of really designed.
[00:56:39] But I think it's even harsher to see that there is also the church as a whole that is falling in line with that same kind of narrative, you know, that's, that's, that's scary. I do think that it's man's design, unfortunately, bro. And I'm not saying it's that pastor divine or that church churches divine, but there are individuals who operate in leadership of our, of cities for a long period of time that intentionally wanted their churches to be separate from the areas of poverty.
[00:57:06] Do I believe that God can work things out for the good absolutely bro. I mean, many of us probably think about it. I don't think many of us would even believe that the social demographics that are represented across our city and across the nation of. Of that stratification table or the lower lower the, the, the middle class, the upper class would exist if we didn't see it visibly.
[00:57:27] So we didn't see that there are, it's called church Avenue on these, right. If we didn't see that you can drive down church and kit 12 churches, literally, and every one of those 12 churches are beautiful edifices. I mean, it's absolutely gorgeous, especially three cross. There's a coffee shop there. It's beautiful.
[00:57:46] I mean, there's no hate or anything. I'm, I'm proud of my brothers for creating the coffee shop, but also know that Southwest Fresno, there's not even the idea of being able to create a coffee shop, let alone going to [00:58:00] get coffee. There was one coffee shop in the entire side of Southwest Fresno, and it's really a donut shop that serves coffee.
[00:58:08] I mean, just thinking about that. If you don't see it, you would never believe that it's reality. Because many times brothers and sisters on church Avenue, which is North side knees never come to church Avenue, which is an actual street in Southwest Fresno. Where there are no churches on you sit on saying, and that's infrastructure.
[00:58:31] No, brother. I think God allowed his permissive will to take place. And I believe his design is to show that racism discrimination still exists. And unfortunately, the enemy has used edifices as a means of visualizing it, even though the heart of men is not to public.
[00:58:48] Jake Soberal: [00:58:48] Yeah. And I am just. Daily sat in Dubai.
[00:58:52] The reality that we have a theology in Christianity, whether it's your theology or not. The theology of Christianity is one of justice. It is one of reconciliation. And it's one that acknowledges, Hey, our starting spot is that the world is broken. Let's build and live within that tension and the tension that that creates.
[00:59:11] But we as a, as a religion, as a church, as an influential people in the United States are telling the world, no, we don't see your hurts. We don't, we don't even see them. And that just pains me. I so appreciate you sharing today, DJ, and I appreciate your leadership in our community, your willingness to speak truth.
[00:59:32] And man, I want to work together towards what, what you've described and laid out here for us. So thank you for joining us on the show today.
[00:59:40] DJ Criner: [00:59:40] Thank you for having me, brother. I love you, bro. And I want that chair brother, when you're done with it, the, when you sit in there, I may not be able to fit in it, but at least I can have it in the office.
[00:59:48] Jake Soberal: [00:59:48] I'm going to get your address and we can get you a chair
[00:59:54] in this moment. It is difficult to imagine a heavier or more inspiring conversation than [01:00:00] the one that we just wrapped with. Pastor Criner. Before, reflecting on that. I want to say that the, the work being done by Steve and Mary Grove in Minneapolis is both important and expansive. Whether we're talking about Silicon, North stars or working in the state Capitol, I am thankful to have their leadership in Minnesota and impressed by it.
[01:00:19] In my conversation with DJ today, I was, I was both convicted and also left hopeful. Here's an individual who's context is dramatically different than mine. Who is leading a church that is different than my church, but ascribes to the same faith. He does his work just a couple blocks away from where I do mine, but yet there are miles and miles between what I heard from DJ as a commitment to closing that gap and an invitation to work with him and doing.
[01:00:45] And I'm so thankful for that. Thank you for joining us today, between now and next time you can find firstname.lastname@example.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Take care. Onward on
[01:00:59] DJ Criner: [01:00:59] air with Jake's overall was produced by
[01:01:01] Jake Soberal: [01:01:01] Bitwise industries. In association with studio to be
[01:01:05] DJ Criner: [01:01:05] this episode was directed by Gordon Howell
[01:01:07] Jake Soberal: [01:01:07] and produced by Randy Guerra.
[01:01:09] DJ Criner: [01:01:09] The associate producer was Rigo Aguilar. The executive producer is Joaquin Alvardo. This podcast is edited by Chloe bands.