What we need from you now

Community member carrying kid on shoulders at Open Streets on Broadway Ave

The compounding effects of intersectional oppression are prominently on display right now. We have an uncontrolled pandemic, on top of the longtime public health crisis that is institutionalized racism. Our democracy is under threat. People are unhoused in record numbers. Gaps in wealth, health, and educational outcomes between the haves and have-nots in our communities are widening even further.

Reimagined systems are desperately needed, and Pillsbury United Communities is heeding that call. Through the lens of people, place, and prosperity, our leaders are aggressively advocating for upstream change that will build long term power in our communities. Additionally, our agency has launched a public policy team and a community development corporation to reimagine the structures that govern our day to day lives.

While we use our institutional power to lay a foundation for long-term change, we remain committed to immediate and short-term relief for those who’ve long borne the brunt of our country’s violent and inequitable systems. We must be responsive to the needs of today without settling for them as permanent fixtures of life in our city.

We hope you’ll join us in seeking justice. For advice on where to start, we’ve asked a few of our leaders to share their wisdom.

Tsega Tamene, Senior Director of Population Health

Tsega Tamene

COVID-19 has been a truth teller. It has exposed what was already in plain sight to many of us. Black, Indigenous, and communities of color have experienced the disparate economic, health, and psychosocial impacts of racism well before, starkly during, and very well likely after this pandemic—unless we choose a different world.

We must reimagine, redesign, and transform systems toward health justice. In doing so, we must fundamentally shift how we think, speak, and act about health and health inequities. Namely, we must shift from treating health as a commodity to health as a human right. Shift now by:

  • Supporting frontline workers like ours who everyday disrupt health inequities that are driven by social and structural harms rooted in racism (not naturally occurring biological difference or individual behavior).
  • Lifting up local wellness and healing justice practitioners who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC).
  • Joining policy advocacy efforts calling for the transformation of our healthcare payment system to prioritize the health of all people. Amplifying the voices of community health workers, doulas, and other critical roles who are lesser valued by existing payment models.
  • Learning more about the history of medicine and racism’s impact on health.
  • Studying yourself to heal yourself. Exploring your racialized trauma and your role(s) in social change.

Faye Price & Noel Raymond, Co-Artistic Directors, Pillsbury House + Theatre

Faye Price - headshot

Faye Price

At Pillsbury House + Theatre, we employ roughly 300, mostly-BIPOC artists every year. Those folks, and the entire creative workforce, are extremely economically unstable right now because of the pandemic. This is a workforce that has been decimated like the restaurant industry.

Our artists are often activists who highlight systemic inequities and cast visions for liberation. They are called to do that imagining regardless of compensation. We need them right now more than ever, and many are being asked to do cultural labor unpaid. There is an expectation that they will always be here, but they won’t if we don’t act. Act now by:

Noel Raymond - headshot

Noel Raymond

  • Hiring an artist. Pay them generously for their time.
  • Donating to a nonprofit’s commissioning fund, so that they are able to hire artists (we have one here at PHT). If you run a nonprofit or work for one, create a commissioning fund and embed artists into your work, minimizing arduous reporting requirements and maximizing compensation.
  • Contacting your member of Congress and tell them to support the Mixed Earner Unemployment Assistance Act of 2020.

Julie Graves, Senior Director of Youth & Future

Julie Graves headshot

Julie Graves

We have built our systems and models of youth programming to complement school models. For better or worse, we live in the tangled webs of integrated systems. When Minneapolis Public Schools change their offerings, we have to pivot too. With school not returning to the status quo this fall, these structures that we’ve played off of always, don’t exist anymore. We have to figure out new ways of engaging our young people and supporting their families in the process. We have to do so in the midst of so much uncertainty about the future of school day education—this year and beyond.

Funding for youth programming in Minneapolis, particularly K-5, has been decimated in the last decade. Our stressed, barebones system of out-of-school youth programming is now being asked to completely reinvent the way it operates to support entirely new needs. We need to return to a system where every child and family has access to a community center that offers a holistic, integrated model of support—tutoring, entertainment, meals, space to just be together.

Support this work by donating to the chronically underfunded community centers, like Waite House, who provide whole-family support. Advocate for more out of school time youth funding in the 2021 Minneapolis city budget—and the state budget. This is violence prevention work. This is an investment in the future of our city.

Antonio Cardona, Director of Office of Public Charter Schools

Antonio Cardona on stage at Greater>Together 2019

Antonio Cardona

Resources are not scarce. They are inequitably concentrated. If we are serious about reimagined systems, we have to question and tactically change what we value and where we direct resources. In public education, we have a simple, yet fundamental challenge: funding for public education is rooted in property taxes that are a result of decades of purposeful housing and employment discrimination. We need to change this system.

Secondly, just as we have been talking about social determinants of health for the last two decades, there are also social determinants of education. COVID-19 and George Floyd’s murder has laid bare the ways in which the most marginalized are the first effected by societal change. Think of a tsunami. First, the water recedes, exposing the gunk just beyond the shoreline. Then, the water slams that same shoreline, throwing everything into disarray. Those on higher ground are able to escape the worst effects. This exposes what kids and families need in order to grow and learn. Stability, food, housing, health care, family businesses—all of the things that have been decimated during this time.

Take action by supporting and participating in the civic institutions that push population-level work forward; voting; completing your Census; and paying attention to city council meetings, school board meetings, and commission decisions. Support and hold your officials accountable while trying to avoid a descent into unhelpful or uneducated dialogue.

“Reimagine Public Safety” teaser video released

George Floyd memorial outside Cup Foods

We’ve been here before. But out of our pain rises the stories of how to heal, how to evolve, and how to build.

Coming later this summer, Pillsbury United Communities will be releasing the first installment of “Reimagine Public Safety,” a new docuseries exploring policing in the city of Minneapolis, and the possibilities that exist to reimagine and transform our systems of public safety. This series is one of the first initiatives from our new Policy & Advocacy team.

Don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook to see future installments and continue the conversation with our Policy & Advocacy team.

We’ve always figured out a way through. It’s time to find a way forward.

Harry Colbert, Jr. named next North News editor

Headshot of Harry Colbert, new North News editor

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Pillsbury United Communities has named Harry Colbert, Jr. as the next editor of North News.

Colbert is an award-winning journalist, has contributed as a reporter, columnist/commentator and editor for such outlets as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s The Village, Suburban Journals (St. Louis), St. Louis American, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joplin Globe (Mo.), Metro Networks (St. Louis) and KDHX (St. Louis).

Colbert joined Insight News in Minneapolis as a contributing writer in 2010. While at Insight, he has covered Barack Obama on multiple occasions during his presidency, interviewed countless dignitaries and celebrities and won awards for writing and photography. In June of 2016, Colbert was named Insight’s managing editor.

Colbert’s journalistic accolades include four Minnesota Newspaper Association awards (first place for General Reporting, two second place for Columnist and one third place for General Excellence), three National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Merit Awards (2018 Best Column, third place, 2017 Best Special Edition, second place [as both writer and managing editor] for an edition dedicated to the passing of Prince and 2016 Best Use of Photography, third place, for his coverage of the North Minneapolis uprising following the killing of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police officers) and three National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence nominations (two for Best Commentary [2018, 2019] and one for Best Business Reporting [2019]).

“We are ecstatic to welcome Harry to our team. Harry intersects a deep commitment and passion for the North Minneapolis community, and we believe he will continue to authentically tell the stories of this resilient place,” said Adair Mosley.

“I’m both humbled and honored to have been selected to lead North News in its next phase of news gathering and sharing,” Colbert said. “Kenzie [O’Keefe] has done an outstanding job piloting the ship in its inaugural phase under Pillsbury United.”

Colbert will begin officially in his role May 11.

Colbert is a proud resident of the Cleveland neighborhood of North Minneapolis.

Colbert replaces Kenzie O’Keefe who will now lead Pillsbury’s policy and advocacy work.

North News is a grassroots print and digital community news source and youth journalism training program in North Minneapolis. It is an independently operated social enterprise of Pillsbury United Communities. North News seeks to deepen understanding, empathy, and appreciation for the Northside through its coverage, expanding perceptions of a place often reduced to a single, negative narrative.

7 ways to stand with our communities during COVID-19

Waite House staff observing social distancing at food distribution site

Wanting to show up for community right now, but not sure how? In addition to a financial contribution to groups that are providing emergency relief services, here are some other ways you can support our communities in these times of social distancing.

1. Make masks for our essential service workers and community members. Our emergency food and childcare teams are working hard on the front lines to provide needed services to Minneapolis families. In less than a month, our food programs have distributed almost 100,000 pounds of food to more than 1,000 families! But, as with others engaging in front-line work, we are always in need of of face masks to ensure the safety of our team. Not only that, but many of the folks coming for services are also facing difficulty accessing masks, something we’d like to assist with! If you have some extra time on your hands and want to hone some craft skills, consider making homemade face masks for our direct service workers and neighbors. Contact Kim with questions and/or to arrange delivery: KimP@pillsburyunited.org, 612-302-3499.

2. Call in to KRSM Radio. Though we are distancing physically, KRSM Radio is working hard to keep content fresh and to keep folks connected over the airwaves. You can call 612-208-3808 and leave a message for KRSM to share with the community. Tell us about how you’ve been finding joy in these strange times; give a recipe to try; sing a song or recite a poem; share great resources available in your neighborhood; or just tell us how you’re holding up. Let your neighbors, friends, and family hear your voice!

3. Clean out your closets for Sisterhood. Feel like doing some spring cleaning while you’re stuck inside? We encourage you to take a look at your clothing closet! Located in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, Sisterhood Boutique is our gently-used clothing store that doubles as a youth social enterprise. They are always looking for clothing, shoes, and accessory donations (again, gently used please!) to add to their merchandise. So though you might not be able to make the physical hand-off until the shelter-in-place order is lifted, you can feel good knocking out this project ahead of time. Your (future) donation helps fuel a program that equips young East African women leaders with tools and skills for school, life, and more.

4. Shop at North Market. We all still have groceries to get and certainly have a lot of options from where to get them. Consider trying out our nonprofit grocery store, North Market, if you haven’t had a chance yet. It’s not only a full-service grocery store, but also a center for wellness services and a community gathering place in Minneapolis’ Camden neighborhood. It is important to note that they are taking several measures to ensure the safety of their shoppers in light of COVID-19 as well. (Plus, did you know that you can get 50% off all fresh produce EVERY Wednesday!?) Your shopping dollars help support this long sought after community food resource.

5. Read and share North News. Quality journalism doesn’t stop in the middle of a pandemic. With some extra time on your hands, grab a cup of coffee and settle in to read our Northside print (& online!) newspaper, North News. A truly community-based media outlet, North News prides itself on telling the whole stories and truths of Minneapolis’ Northside, not just the one-dimensional narratives often showcased in mainstream media. Like what you’re reading? Share it with your friends and family, and consider signing up to get a copy of the paper delivered to your doorstep each month.

6. Complete the census! Everything happening now is a reminder that our communities are in need of more resources. But did you know that those resources are often allocated based on population numbers from the census? Yep, even for recovery efforts in a crisis such as this. Not to mention housing assistance, school meals, SNAP, WIC, and so on. We only get the appropriate amount of resources if we are counted. We only get adequate political representation if we are counted. If you haven’t already, please take 5 minutes and complete the census today. This is a simple action with significant repercussions. Count your household today and encourage those you know and love to get counted as well.

7. Make a monthly gift. A financial gift is one of the best ways you can support our work during these uncertain times—and one of the best ways to support us financially is by becoming a monthly donor. We know that this will be a long-term struggle. Even after the crisis has passed, our communities will be living with the economic impacts for years to come. Help us continue showing up by signing up for a monthly gift. For as little as $5 per month, you can become part of a circle of grassroots supporters who are enabling all of our vital efforts in community.

Now more than ever, we know that no matter where we go from here, we go together. Thank you for showing up for our communities.

A day in the life of a community chef

Meals being served at Oak Park community cafe

For the chef at a Pillsbury United Communities community café, the work of preparing a nutritious community meal is an all-day affair. At Oak Park Center, which offers free community dinners Tuesday-Thursday, the chef’s day typically begins around 10 a.m. The chef begins their morning by looking through recent donations and taking stock of the inventory in the fridgeOnce the chef knows what they have on-hand, they can begin crafting a menu for the evening. 

With different ingredients available every day, developing the evening’s menu can require some creativity and experimentation. Every day’s menu is different. The chef has to create a balanced meal that incorporates whatever ingredients they have available, using as many fresh ingredients as possible, in a manner that minimizes food waste. “The number one thing that I look at is vegetation,” says Demetria Fuller, head chef at Oak Park. “Second, I make sure that we have a good starch and protein option. But I start with the vegetables, because we always have a lot of vegetables.” Spaghetti is a favorite with many of Fuller’s regulars; by using eggplant instead of beef in the pasta sauce, she can provide a vegetarian-friendly alternative that even the meat-eaters crave. 

Once the menu is set, meal preparations get underway for the evening around 11 a.m. The chef usually starts with the salad course. Whenever possible, ingredients for the salad are sourced from community gardens at Oak Park and Waite House, which are managed by the Pillsbury United urban agriculture team. Additional produce donations will also arrive from North Market, as well as other community partners. Salad can be kept refrigerated through the day, so it’s an easy task to get out of the way while the café is relatively quiet—all the better to ensure it doesn’t get missed in the commotion as dinner-time approaches. At this time, the chef also begins heating up the steam wells that keep food warm for community café patrons. 

Meal prep continues with the entrees and sides through the afternoon. Typically, a community dinner at Oak Park will serve 50-60 people over the course of a night—but just to be careful, the chef will plan for 70-100 attendees. That way, nobody goes hungry. For tonight’s meal, taco bowls, Fuller is dicing and seasoning chicken, and preparing huge quantities of rice, beans, and corn. At this scale of food preparation, the chef has to carefully manage multiple timers to ensure that nothing burns and everything is ready on time.  

At Oak Park Center, doors open for dinner at 4 p.m., and a handful of enthusiastic community members are usually waiting by the door a few minutes early. Whenever possible, the chef will greet visitors as they arrive. This helps ensure the space is welcoming to all who come through the door. “This is a safe space, with no drama,” Fuller says. “Everybody can come here [and know that] you’re somebody here.” Easy access to the chef also lets community members share their unvarnished feedback about the evening’s menu, which helps inform future meal planning. Dinner service runs until 6 p.m., with the chef remaining on-hand in case any items need replenishment or any issues arise in the dining room. 

Around 6 p.m., the chef begins to close out for the evening. They first put away any leftover food and ingredients; anything that won’t keep in the fridge gets sent home with neighborhood center staff to prevent it going to waste. Then they gather dishes to wash. Trash is taken out, and surfaces get wiped down in the dining room and kitchen. By 8 p.m., the café is cleaned and ready for the next day’s activities. 

Although the chef’s work is sometimes challenging, it matters deeply to the community members who rely on the community café for a warm meal, a safe space, and an opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors. For the chef at a Pillsbury United Communities café, every day is another chance to nourish their community. 

Public Allies convene for learning, connection at Core Week 2019

Ideating at Public Allies meeting

Earlier this month, Twin Cities Public Allies gathered at Oak Park Center to participate in Core Week. Public Allies is a 10-month Americorps apprenticeship program that focuses on advancing social justice and equity by teaching allies about leadership and placing them in key operational roles at a wide range of partner organizations throughout the Twin Cities nonprofit sector. For new and returning allies, Core Week offers the chance to explore the values of the Public Allies program through a variety of culture-building activities that exercise their creativity and empathy. It is a time for allies to connect, reflect, and build.

Ashlyn Stenberg is one of several new Public Allies cohort members; Core Week was her first week with the program. Ashlyn is serving as a communication system specialist at the Wilder Foundation, providing administrative support for a variety of projects focused on racial equity and community outreach. Although she was not sure what to expect with many of the high-energy culture-building activities, she says that by the end of Core Week, “[The experience has] already paid off. I’m seeing the benefit of putting myself out there in these spaces.” Ultimately, Ashlyn hopes that Public Allies can help her develop new opportunities that utilize her interest in health equity issues.

Roda Abda, also new to Public Allies, is serving as an operations manager at Twin Cities RISE, where she is assisting with project management and communications for a major upcoming event. After a period of trying to determine her next steps in life, Roda says that she was encouraged to apply by an acquaintance who had already completed the program. “I hope to become a strong communicator and learn to assert myself during my time as an ally,” she says.

Another new ally, Colton Taylor, was placed at Senior Community Services as a home program coordinator. In this role, his job is to recruit, organize, and manage volunteers who assist seniors with a wide range of day-to-day tasks. Like many young people in the program, Colton is eager to explore different post-college options during his time with Public Allies. “I graduated not knowing exactly what I wanted to do,” he says, “and I’m hoping [Public Allies] can help me get a clearer sense of what my career is going to be.”

Now that Core Week has come to an end, the hard work is only beginning. As our new cohort members begin their 10-month journey with Public Allies, the energy and enthusiasm of Core Week reminds us all that real learning happens when young people feel empowered to break out of their comfort zones.

North News creates hyperlocal, youth-powered journalism

Attendees and staff at Greater>Together 2018

Many residents of North Minneapolis may be aware of North News through its monthly print paper and digital platforms, elevating honest and nuanced narratives about the Northside that aren’t represented in the institutional media. What they may not realize is that in addition to its quality hyperlocal reporting, North News is also working to lift up the next generation of Northside youth voices. 

Through classroom programs and internship opportunities overseen by North News staff, youth throughout North Minneapolis are learning to tell their community’s stories and gain experience that will prepare them for careers in mass media and communications. This need is especially critical in the Northside community. “We are the only journalism education program most of our young people have access to,” said Kenzie O’Keefe, editor-in-chief of North News. O’Keefe also co-teaches the North News journalism class at North High School and expects to lead a similar program at Patrick Henry High School later this fall. 

Working under Kenzie and being a proud intern for North News over the last three years taught me the skills I needed to become a great journalist,” said former intern Daija Triplett, currently serving at Pillsbury United Communities through the Public Allies program. After the conclusion of her term, she plans to major in communications and media studies at Stetson University in the spring. “I’ve learned so much about how journalism can help connect people to their neighbors in the community.” 

Blessing Kasongoma, currently majoring in communications studies at Augsburg University, concurs: “Interning as a student reporter at North News helped me find myself as a journalist. But she said the true benefits of the North News youth program are even bigger than that. “As a person, I became bolder when it came to approaching people for an interview. I grew that way. This skill is not just for interviewing, but for everyday life. I learned to be more confident as a person.” 

The North News team has high hopes for their youth program over the long-term. “Our plan is to build on our successes, grow the capacity of our newsroom, and keep our news platforms strong,” said O’Keefe. By formalizing additional pathways between North News and the media industry, O’Keefe said, North News can ensure that all young people in North Minneapolis have the tools and resources to pursue a career in mass media. With that crucial support for emerging community voices, she said, “We envision that North Minneapolis will one day be known as the birthplace of nationally respected journalists.” 

By cultivating young people’s skills as journalists, writers, and storytellers, North News is making a vital contribution to the Northside community. When everyday people are empowered to raise their voices and influence the narrative, real change can begin. 

Public Allies volunteer to help raise youth voices

Public Alies participants in ideation session

On March 30, 2019 the Minnesota Youth Council hosted the first of its kind, Youth in Educational Leadership Summit at Patrick Henry High School. The Minnesota Youth Council is a group of youth and adults working together to empower and mobilize young people across the state to use the power of their voices to address issues affecting youth. The event featured many young speakers. Janaan Ahmed spoke about advocacy and leadership and Maddy Fernands spoke about climate justice. Edie Weinstein, a young author, spoke about her book and connecting with people with dementia. More than 200 students, parents, mentors, and teachers participated in the event.

A team of Public Allies volunteered at the event.  They did everything from provide childcare to take photos while not participating in workshops. “As a Public Ally, the experience at YELS was refreshing.” said second year Public Allies fellow You Lee. “Many times, youth voices are pushed aside to make space for adults or professionals in the room. So, it was cool to see youth-led presentations and overall coordination of the conference. I can see that the conference was a good experience for youth as they continue their work in the future.” 

Public Allies is a national movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership capacities of our young people. Since 1992, Public Allies has helped thousands of underrepresented young leaders serve our country, get on successful pathways to higher education and careers, and bring communities together to work for the common good. Public Allies seeks to find and cultivate young community leaders and connect them to the issues and causes that ignite their passion to create last change. Allies are placed with a nonprofit organization where they help address critical community needs such as youth development, education, workforce development, environmental issues, arts programming and community health.

The authentic voice of the Northside

North News reporter

Minneapolis’s Northside is a community with a rich history and a bright future. But a full and nuanced account of this neighborhood is seldom told. Instead, perceptions of North Minneapolis and its people are often reduced to a single, negative narrative: one of crime, poverty, blight, and disparity. That storyline feeds a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as policy makers, law enforcement, and community members subscribe to that narrative, little can be done to change it.

This is where community media can make a tremendous difference. By empowering people to tell their own story, community newspapers and other hyper-local media reveal the truth of a place to the wider public — and, crucially, to the community itself.

That’s the role of North News. Relaunched in 2016 by Pillsbury United Communities,  North News is a grassroots print and digital news source that works to deepen empathy and appreciation for North Minneapolis. Each monthly issue delivers original reporting and insightful stories about people and events shaping our neighborhoods, all told from a Northside perspective.

North News editors and journalists work to capture voices that get left out of the dominant media narratives. In 2018, the paper published stories about mistreatment within the housing system, life after prison, and environmental injustice on the Northside. In the paper’s groundbreaking Trauma Trooper series, journalists captured the trauma-related realities facing youth in North Minneapolis — a vital step in persuading the community and city professionals to respond.

At the same time North News opens minds, it also opens doors. The content is made possible by young writers and reporters in North High School’s daily journalism classes. 58 students have participated since the paper’s relaunch in 2016 — brainstorming ideas, choosing angles for their stories, and identifying their own experts. In the process, they grow their job skills and ambitions and become visible leaders in their community.

In the two years since its relaunch, North News has become the neighborhood’s indispensable voice, with a print circulation of 10,000 papers and online stories and Facebook posts that typically reach thousands of readers each month.

We recognize a key social issue facing Minneapolis is the lack of empathy and understanding of one another’s experiences. By painting a full and vivid picture of a dynamic community — its triumphs as well as its struggles — North News nurtures a foundation for real, inclusive change. We’re helping people tell the story they see and live, not the same old one they’ve always been told.

“I’ve learned first hand how journalists can connect to their communities and the value of the work they do. North News gives us the power and the responsibility to represent our neighborhood.” — Daija, North High alumna and former North News Intern

BY THE NUMBERS

10,000 monthly print circulation

400 public bulk drop sites and home subscriptions

58 student journalists engaged since the paper’s relaunch in 2016

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