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TruthToTell has a policy of presenting programs that address the persistent problems of racism and poverty in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Those two social cancers combine to deprive huge groups of our neighbors from adequate food, housing, education and the other basic needs we all take for granted. Among the topics we’ve covered are race and discrimination in the classrooms around here, something we wish would simply disappear, but, according to UofM’s Institute on Law and Poverty, has become exponentially worse over the last several decades. All this, despite the lip service politicians give to efforts to desegregate and improve our schools.
It looks like it may be up to the children to help where we adults have failed.
The Saint Paul Foundation, its Facing Race Initiative, and the joint initiative for face-to-face civic engagement efforts known as InCommons have joined in one project with a competition for relative modest grants challenging organizations and individuals in reducing racism in their communities. The kids won out. And we’ll talk to representatives of the two winners about their plans and projects. Let’s meet the winners:
1. Project s.t.a.r.t. Leadership – Submitted by longtime schools advocate and activist Kate Towle of Minneapolis Idea Generator and Paul Robinson of Wilder Foundation.
Kate Towle and Paul Robinson will apply the $2,500 Facing Race grant to support curriculum development, outreach and the ongoing work of Project s.t.a.r.t. Leadership – a youth-driven initiative that engages Minneapolis Public School students as leaders in racial equity work.
“The heart of Project s.t.a.r.t. is that we can’t just rely on the adults in our schools to create the environment we want,” says Towle. “We have to engage students in making our schools safe, respectful and culturally-competent.” Towle, a Hamline University alumna, is an active racial justice facilitator who volunteers for the YWCA and consults with the Minneapolis Public Schools… s.t.a.r.t., named and created by students at South High School, stands for “students together against racial tension.”
2. Youth Peacekeepers – Submitted by Jake Branchaud-Linsk of Saint Paul.
Jake Branchaud-Linsk, a philosophy and political science major at Hamline University, will use his grant to provide conflict resolution and communication training to groups of diverse high school students for use in facilitating conversations about race with younger peer groups. The inspiration for his idea came from his youth engagement work at the Dispute Resolution Center in Saint Paul, made possible by a Phillips Family Foundation scholarship. “I want to help youth apply good communication and mediation skills to discussions about race,” says Branchaud-Linsk. “Working with youth on this topic is exciting because we can make an early impact. They have their whole lives ahead of them to use the skills they’ll acquire through Youth Peacekeepers.”
Now, we’ll let the young people talk about doing something about this clinging issue. Thanks to Saint Paul Foundation’s Rowzat Shipchandler and Laura Mylan for helping us structure this show.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI lead the discussion with these committee young folks.