100 episodes

A journal exploring the history and culture of Minnesota communities. Inform these stories: mprnews.org/nsj

North Star Journey MPR News

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    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

A journal exploring the history and culture of Minnesota communities. Inform these stories: mprnews.org/nsj

    Heavy rains and climate change challenge Minnesota agriculture, farmers of color

    Heavy rains and climate change challenge Minnesota agriculture, farmers of color

    After two years of drought-dried fields, Minnesota farmers are facing the opposite problem — extremely soggy soil and flooding following several inches of rainfall that washed out roads and continue to push up river levels this week.

    “All I’ll say is uffdah,” Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said.

    “A lot of the crop in Minnesota didn’t get planted [yet]. We’ll get some of the final acreage here later this month … this week is going to kind of put a nail in the coffin for some of the farmers who are trying to get in,” Petersen said Thursday.

    Marcus Carpenter, founder of Route 1 — an organization working for greater racial and ethnic diversity in farming — agrees.

    “It has been a tough season,” Carpenter said. Among the several hundred farmers involved in Route 1, many have had their crops washed out.

    “When you have farmers of color who have very little acreage to deal with in the beginning, having an entire washout can be detrimental for them, both economically … and from a community perspective.”

    Overall, the median Minnesota net income for farms was $44,719 last year — down more than 76 percent from 2022, according to data and analysis from the farm financial database FINBIN and the University of Minnesota Extension.

    Carpenter said farmers of color in the state make somewhere around $20,000 annually and are challenged by limited access to finances and market entry.

    Listen The changing face of Minnesota farming

    Delayed planting also contributes to food access and availability and health equity, according to Carpenter.

    One in four Black Minnesota households experiences food insecurity, according to Second Harvest Heartland — that’s compared to 4 percent of white households.

    “Farmers of color most of the time are not only growing for their families, but they’re growing for their communities,” he said.

    Farming and climate change
    Addressing climate change, Petersen says, has been a top priority for the Walz administration.

    “As we see these extremes … really, a lot of it comes down to soil and so we’ve been working very hard on soil health,” he said.

    To support cover crop usage, conservative tillage equipment and other methods of cultivating and maintaining rich soil, the state Legislature has prioritized funding loans for farmers.

    State grants, Petersen says, are popular too. The state also partners with the USDA for outreach.

    “We see farmers adapting quickly to soil health practices and also showing good profitability on those,” Petersen explained. “There’s a lot going on, but it almost has to” with a changing landscape.

    Route 1, too, prioritizes education, especially around soil health, Carpenter said. The organization also supports green infrastructure like rainwater collection and cover cropping and is actively finding ways to feed communities despite climate change.

    ‘Farmers are the largest gamblers ever’ Scientists and ag representatives plan for climate uncertainty

    Listen Farming on the frontlines of the climate crisis

    “As we’re dealing with the elements outside, we’re also teaching practices of sustainable farming on the inside that can have an impact on these emerging farming communities, Black and brown communities,” he said.

    Earlier this year, Route 1 acquired the first Black-owned freight farm in Minnesota, KARE 11 reported. The modular, hydroponic farm inside a shipping container can grow more than 200 pounds of produce per week, year-round.

    Learn more about Route 1’s community-supported agriculture, hyperlocal produce production, emerging farmer programs and more on their website, route1mn.org.

    • 8 min
    V3 Sports aquatic, recreation center looks to bridge racial gap in north Minneapolis

    V3 Sports aquatic, recreation center looks to bridge racial gap in north Minneapolis

    V3 Sports will hold its grand opening on Saturday. The aquatics and recreation center is one of the largest private investments ever in north Minneapolis at $126 million.

    MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke to the executive director of V3 Sports, Malik Rucker, and Ayanna Rakhu, who planned all of the swimming programming.

    • 9 min
    North Star Journey Live: What Happened in Alabama?

    North Star Journey Live: What Happened in Alabama?

    In many ways, Lee Hawkins’ childhood in Maplewood was typical for families in the 1980s. He rode bikes, spent hours exploring the landscape, played rudimentary video football games. He and his sisters were raised by two loving parents and spent hours at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church each week.

    But in other ways, Hawkins’ experience was unique. His family was Black in a mostly white suburb, part of the “integration generation.” He found community both with his peers at North St. Paul High School and at the barbershop he frequented in the Rondo area of St. Paul. And his parents, especially his dad, could be volatile, wrestling with the effects of intergenerational trauma that had roots in Alabama, where Hawkins’ father grew up.

    North Star Journey Live: What Happened in Alabama? Ending cycles of trauma in Black America

    Reconciling those two truths led Hawkins to dive into his family’s history. The result is his new podcast, What Happened in Alabama? It’s an honest look at what 400 years of unaddressed trauma can do in individuals, in families, in communities. It’s also a nuanced narrative of Hawkins’ own life. How could the father he idolized also be violent? How could he break the cycle of trauma so that future generations would know their history and be able to heal from it?

    Hawkins lives in New York now, but he came home to Minnesota in May to talk with MPR News host Angela Davis about his journey for a special North Star Journey Live. On stage at the Minnesota History Center the night of May 22, before a crowd of several hundred people, they discussed the significance of exploring family history and intergenerational trauma, highlighting the lasting impact of Jim Crow on America and the power of truth-telling as we seek to understand our past and break cycles of trauma.

    You can listen to What Happened in Alabama? wherever you get your podcasts. Hawkins is also the author of the forthcoming book, “Nobody's Slave: How Uncovering My Family's History Set Me Free,” which is available for preorder now.

    What Happened in Alabama? on Apple Podcasts

    • 51 min
    Kevin Lindsey on Juneteenth and the importance of remembering our stories 

    Kevin Lindsey on Juneteenth and the importance of remembering our stories 

    Some people call Juneteenth our nation’s second Independence Day.  

    It marks the date on June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black Americans in Texas finally learned of their freedom, after the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation.  

    The day became a federal holiday in 2021, but Americans are still grappling with how to commemorate it.  

    MPR News guest host Nina Moini talks with Kevin Lindsey, CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center, about what the nonprofit organization is doing to mark Juneteenth and how better understanding the past can help address injustice today.  


    Kevin Lindsey was hired as CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center in 2019 after serving almost eight years as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. He’s also worked as an attorney in private practice and in the Ramsey County attorney’s office. 

    Subscribe to the MPR News with Angela Davis podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.

    Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.    

    • 48 min
    From Verona to Nogales with a Latino adaptation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

    From Verona to Nogales with a Latino adaptation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

    “Romeo and Juliet” has been reimagined countless times. The musical “West Side Story” relocated the tale to blue-collar Manhattan, while director Baz Luhrmann colorfully stylized and modernized the play in his 1996 film “Romeo + Juliet.”

    Twin Cities theater company Teatro del Pueblo’s adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” goes beyond changing the location and period.  

    Called “Romeo and Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate,” the show has been rewritten to include characters speaking Spanish and performing spoken word poetry — and centers Latin American culture.  

    “We thought that, you know, the main thing is to take Shakespeare, tweak it, but maintain that beautiful language,” said co-director and co-adapter Alberto Justiniano.

    The new play adds elements to Shakespeare’s tragedy, including examining the treatment of the working class and the range of ideologies within Latino communities.  

    “One of the things that I was hoping to bring is that connection between the Spanish and the Shakespeare,” said co-director Harry Waters Jr.  

    The play began with a treatment by Justiniano and was then workshopped over a number of years through a method called “devised theater,” where a core group of artists gave their input and changes.

    That spirit of collaboration has extended into the rehearsal room.  

    “I’ve always opened up that opportunity for actors to give us an unfettered, and, you know, uncensored reactions and their ideas. And then we sort of flesh them out and see which ones can actually work to help the story,” Waters added.  

    The play still features famous moments, including Romeo and Juliet’s chance encounter at a party hosted by Juliet’s parents and the couple’s secret wedding. This production also includes new moments and characters, including a fast-talking narrator named Santi, inspired by southern California cholo culture.  

    “The language is a combination from the old Bard ... But there’s also free verse, and then there’s spoken word,” Justiniano said.  

    The idea of “Love in a Time of Hate” came about nearly six years ago, when Teatro Del Pueblo discovered there was interest in Shakespeare among Latino actors in the Twin Cities. At first, Justiniano was perplexed.  

    “But it got me thinking, what if we were to take Shakespeare and make it our own?”

    The show is a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Chapter of the Bach Society, which will provide music for the show. Marco Real-d’Arbellas is the associate artistic director of the Society and has overseen finding compositions for the play.

    “It’s kind of going through the centuries and just picking up and finding these connections with London, Italy and Latin America,” said Real-d’Arbellas.

    Taking music that spans centuries and styles, including opera and Latin American folk music, Real-d’Arbellas is mixing both old and new music to engage audiences.

    “It’s just a real nice mashup of music and languages, which I think would really help the action of the play.” 

    The show’s setting is the future, with dystopian themes, in the city of Nogales on the border of the United States and Mexico. It is ambiguous as to which country it takes place in, however. The cast features a supermajority of Latinos.

    “There’s a couple of people that this is their first time being on stage,” Waters said of the cast.

    “What I was truly struck with at the first read-through, is that there was a roomful of brown people in the Twin Cities, who had never all worked together before.”

    Abigail Chagolla plays Juliet’s nurse in “Romeo and Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate.” The show is an opportunity for her to play a character who, like herself, is Latina.  

    “I’ve only had, like, three other opportunities where I actually got to play a Latina woman,” Chagolla said. She adds that being in a show that is so heavily Latino has been beautiful — both because of the sha

    • 3 min
    Power Pair: Brothers Anton Treuer and David Treuer on writing and Ojibwe culture

    Power Pair: Brothers Anton Treuer and David Treuer on writing and Ojibwe culture

    Anton Treuer and David Treuer spent their childhood together on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, in a house that had no electricity or running water.

    The brothers went on to graduate from Princeton University and become writers and college professors known for exploring and reclaiming Ojibwe culture.

    On Tuesday, MPR News host Angela Davis continued her Power Pair series with the Treuer brothers. They talked about their latest books and how their close relationship continues to evolve.  

    • 47 min

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