Phillipe Cunningham

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Phillipe Cunningham
Phillipe Cunningham, Minneapolis City Council Member (cropped).jpg
Member of the Minneapolis City Council
from the 4th Ward
In office
January 2, 2018 – January 3, 2022
Preceded byBarb Johnson
Succeeded byLaTrisha Vetaw
Personal details
BornStreator, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Lane Cunningham
(m. 2015)
EducationDePaul University (BA Claremont Lincoln University (MA)

Phillipe M. Cunningham is a former city council member for Minneapolis Ward 4 and the first transgender man of color to be elected to public office in the United States.[1][2][3] Cunningham won the council position in the 2017 Minneapolis City Council election and lost it in the 2021 election.

Early life and education[edit]

Cunningham was born in Streator, Illinois, where she lived until she was 18.[4] His father worked as a unionized tractor mechanic/builder for more than forty years, while his mother was a dry cleaner employee; he is their only child.[5] He graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese studies.[4] He transitioned during his junior year at DePaul,[4] inspired by the life and work of Lou Sullivan.[6]


In his early career, Cunningham worked as a special education teacher in Chicago Public Schools on the South Side of Chicago.[7] Prior to his election to public office, Cunningham served on the City of Minneapolis' Youth Violence Prevention Executive Committee and as a senior policy aide for former Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.[8]

On November 7, 2017, Cunningham was elected as the city council member for Minneapolis Ward 4, becoming the first transgender man of color to be elected to public office in the United States.[1][2][3] Cunningham won over 20-year incumbent Barb Johnson by 175 votes.[9][7][10] He was defeated on November 2, 2021, in the 2021 Minneapolis City Council election by LaTrisha Vetaw by a 61% to 30% vote.[11] Ward 4 is the northwestern most ward in Minneapolis, and people of color and indigenous residents comprise 57 percent of the population.[12]

After Cunningham lost the election, the Minneapolis Board of Ethical Practices found Cunningham violated the city's ethics code when he deleted a Ward 4 Facebook post. Cunningham had alleged code violations by a local auto repair company and deleted the post after racial slurs were posted in the comment section. Since he was no longer council member, the city could not discipline him.[13][14]

Political views[edit]

Cunningham is a progressive Democrat.[15]

Public Safety[edit]

Cunningham advocates for the public health approach to public safety. After George Floyd's killing, he joined a group of nine city council members who vowed to end the Minneapolis Police Department and create a new model for safety.[16] Through the Safety for All Budget Plan, he secured permanent funding for violence prevention strategies like Next Step hospital-based bedside violence intervention.[17] The Safety for All Budget Plan also institutionalized a new national model of a first-time gun offender diversion program, as well as launched the City of Minneapolis Behavioral Crisis Intervention Teams, unarmed social workers to respond to appropriate mental health crisis calls.[18]

In 2021, Cunningham and colleagues allocated over $2M granted to Minneapolis from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021[19] toward combatting human trafficking and sexual exploitation, adding after school programs and youth outreach, and group violence intervention programming for youth.[20]

Cunningham was a panelist on President Barack Obama's 2020 Town Hall on Racial Justice and Policing on June 3, 2020 where he spoke about the public health approach to public safety and gave an update on Minneapolis in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's murder by Minneapolis Police Department officers.[21]

Community Development[edit]

Cunningham led the planning process for the projected $350 million dollar Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment project which was approved.[22] He also collaborated with Mayor Jacob Frey and state legislators to bring $27.5 million in state bonding investment for infrastructure redevelopment and development of a community performing arts center and amphitheater at the Upper Harbor Terminal site.[23]


Cunningham led the creation, passage, and implementation of the Tenant Relocation Assistance ordinance, which requires landlords to provide 3 months rent to their tenants, if they lose their housing due to landlord negligence.[24]

In November 2018, Cunningham drew attention for a post on Twitter for characterizing the concerns of opponents of the "Minneapolis 2040" plan, which allowed triplexes to be built anywhere in the city, as merely seeking to protect their "McMansions and bungalow neighborhoods".[25]

Personal life[edit]

Cunningham is Black, queer, and transgender.[26] On July 10, 2015, soon after same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, Cunningham married Lane Cunningham, who is a software architect and small business owner.[12] They met at Creating Change, an annual national conference for LGBTQ+ activists held by the National LGBTQ Task Force.[27] They are passionate about rescuing hard to rehabilitate pets. Cunningham has been a vegan since 2016.[28]


  1. ^ a b Johnson, Chris (November 8, 2017). "Phillipe Cunningham makes history as Minnesota trans male candidate". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Moini, Nina (November 9, 2017). "Phillipe Cunningham Focused On Lifting 'Everybody Up In The Community'". WCCO-TV. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Burns, Katelyn (December 18, 2017). "Andrea Jenkins on Her Remarkable Year Making and Preserving Trans History". Broadly. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Andrea Jenkins (September 25, 2015). "Interview with Phillipe Cunningham" (PDF). The Transgender Oral History Project. Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  5. ^ Christine T. Nguyen (February 25, 2019). "ChangeMakers: Phillipe Cunningham". Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  6. ^ Cai Thomas (September 22, 2016). "Phillipe Cunningham finds success and respect as a transgender man". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Ellis, Laura (December 16, 2017). "Strange Fruit: Black Queer Bodies Are Not For White Consumption". Strange Fruit. WFPL. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  8. ^ "ChangeMakers: Phillipe Cunningham, choice to be Minnesotan 'the best'". February 25, 2019. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  9. ^ "Phillipe Cunningham Wins Ward 4, Now 2 Transgender Members Of Minneapolis City Council". WCCO-TV. November 8, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  10. ^ Collins, Jon (November 8, 2017). "Transgender candidates win Mpls. City Council seats, make history". Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  11. ^ "Index - Election Results". Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  12. ^ a b Michael Kleber-Diggs (February 23, 2017). "A Seat at the Table: Phillipe Cunningham's vision for youth and building community wealth for Ward 4". Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  13. ^ Du, Susan (February 11, 2022). "Minneapolis board finds former Council Member Phillipe Cunningham violated ethics code". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  14. ^ "January 25, 2022 Ethical Practices Board - Adorned Meeting". Youtube. City of Minneapolis. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  15. ^ Gustavo, Solomon (2021-06-11). "Five takeaways from the Minneapolis DFL's City Council endorsement process". MinnPost.
  16. ^ Navratil, Liz (June 8, 2020). "Most of Minneapolis City Council pledges to 'begin the process of ending' Police Department". Star Tribune. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  17. ^ Littlefield, Susan-Elizabeth (2020-11-17). "'Next Step' Program Aims To Help Gun Violence Victims Avoid Retaliation". WCCO. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  18. ^ Wiese, Charlie (2020-11-27). "Minneapolis city councilmembers propose 'Safety for All' budget plan to revamp city's public safety system". ABC5 Channel News. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  19. ^ "H.R.1319 - American Rescue Plan Act of 2021". 2021-03-11. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  20. ^ Gustavo, Solomon (2021-07-01). "The Minneapolis Council is set to approve plans for distributing the first chunk of the city's ARP funds. Here's where the money is going". MinnPost. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  21. ^ "Former President Obama Holds Town Hall on Racial Justice & Police Reform". C-SPAN. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  22. ^ "City Council Approves Upper Harbor Coordinated Plan". City of Minneapolis News. City of Minneapolis. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  23. ^ Gustavo, Solomon (2021-01-21). "Supporters of Minneapolis' plan for the Upper Harbor Terminal say it will bring real change to the northside. Some who live there remain unconvinced". MinnPost. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  24. ^ Evans, Marissa (January 10, 2020). "Minneapolis City Council passes tenant relocation assistance ordinance". Star Tribune. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  25. ^ Tribune, Kim Palmer Star. "Are Twin Cities bungalow homes an endangered species?". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  26. ^ Belz, Adam (February 4, 2017). "Transgender candidates for Mpls. City Council seek a voice at the table". Star Tribune. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  27. ^ "Interview with Phillipe Cunningham".
  28. ^ "Meet Phillipe". Cunningham for City Council. Retrieved 16 February 2022.

External links[edit]