Building Bridges in South Minneapolis

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Connecting people across racial divides is a tough job. This is exactly what South Minneapolis residents from the Central, Bryant, Kingfield, Regina, and Northrop neighborhoods set out to accomplish with an organization they call Building Bridges.

Last year, what started as a proposal to build a dog park in Martin Luther King Park turned into a racially charged controversy. The dog park plans are in the past, but this group came together because they believe that race-based dialogue will help “reconnect communities divided by race, time, and 35W.”

Member Lynda McDonnell remembers the very first meeting over a year ago. There were “black residents from the Central neighborhood seated on one side of the table, white folks from Kingfield on the other. And when a hapless white neighbor blurted out ‘You people,’ anger from the other side was immediate.”

Minneapolis councilmember Elizabeth Glidden brought in a facilitator to the meetings to ease tensions and one year later, the group is still going strong.

In efforts to keep the dialogue going, Building Bridges is participating in the city-wide common read of The Grace of Silence, by Michele Norris.

Norris, co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, grew up in the Field neighborhood. In her memoir, Norris explores her racial background and her families’ secrets.

The very first book discussion on September 27th was held at the Hosmer Library and drew in 27 people.

“I think it has been challenging,” says member Doris Christopher, “but I think we’re making progress, particularly as it relates to our goal to know and understand each other better.”