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Family Freedom Center

Updated: May 18, 2021

The Family Freedom Center is an organization dedicated to empowering Black community members and giving them a space to learn about and celebrate their culture. Xavier Bell founded Family Freedom Center as a program at Community Action Duluth in 2015. In 2016, the FFC moved on from CAD to become its own organization. Family Freedom Center has a mission to empower the Black community by reconstructing socio-cultural narratives and unapologetically embracing what it means to be Black, both historically and in the present day. Family Freedom Center does this by facilitating culturally specific and inclusive spaces aimed to engage, empower, and educate community members in Duluth and the broader Twin Ports area.

One of the programs offered is the Freedom Start-Up Business Incubator. It provides support for Black business owners, and the program is shifting its focus to youth and building entrepreneurial financial literacy. They also offer Race Awareness Workshops to schools, businesses, and organizations around the city. The FFC cultivates these workshops to fit the environment in which they’re presented, so as to more effectively convey their messages. The workshops cover a variety of topics, including historical perspectives of race, structural race advantage, threats to marginalized groups, and more. The FFC has presented to several organizations in the area such as the Superior School District and Community Action Duluth. In addition, the Family Freedom Summer programs offer a chance for families to get together to have some summer fun. One of the activities put on in the past is a trip to Camp Miller, where families can go camping. There is also a STEM program for children at Starbase. The FFC puts on a variety of workshops and activities for the community, including things like African dance, grant writing, baking classes, African American history, and more. The FFC makes a point to offer these workshops for free in order to make them accessible to everyone.

Helen Davis is the Outreach Liaison for the FFC and has been working with the organization for five years. Helen wears many hats in her role of Outreach Liaison, from putting on educational workshops to taking people to appointments, as well as throwing community get-togethers and checking in on elders in the community. She is fiercely protective of the people she serves, and she feels most fulfilled when she’s helping improve people’s lives and bringing positivity to them. Helen is dedicated to investing her whole self to this work. She spends every waking minute (when not with her family or studying for her Social Work degree) on her projects with the FFC. She says, “Everything I do is coming from the heart.” She is also very humble, and she enjoys helping people without needing accolades or recognition.

One of her favorite things to see is children and elders connecting at their events and workshops and enjoying each other’s company. Cross-generational relationships are essential to a strong community, and FFC aspires to build and strengthen them. FFC makes a point to offer these workshops for free in order to make them accessible to everyone. “[The workshops were] no cost, because a lot of people cannot take their family out to do things with them, so we bring it to them.” Input from the community is especially important; Helen states, “You can tell us what we need to do to help you. We’re not going to do what we want to do, we want to do what y’all asking us to do to make this grow, to make it build for you all.” Helen sees the FFC growing and extending its reach in the future, and they are currently striving to own a permanent office that is more accessible. Their current office is at the top of a flight of stairs, which makes it hard for some members of the community to access their services. Helen’s ability to reach out and help others is pivotal to her life, and it affects every aspect of how she approaches her work. The FFC plans to continue to grow their community connections and provide spaces for people to celebrate their culture and engage with their neighbors. They are always looking for input from members of the community on how to improve their services, and anyone interested in sharing their thoughts.

Helen began her journey with the Family Freedom Center when it was a program of Community Action Duluth and Helen was an employee. Family Freedom Center incubated with CAD, and eventually outgrew its status as a program. With its own vision, stability, and leadership, Family Freedom Center became its own nonprofit and Helen moved on with it. Now her relationship with CAD has come full circle: she recently joined the board of directors of Community Action Duluth and will be able to influence future organizational decisions.

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