Q: In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge we face right now as a society?

Matthew Graves. Photos by Stephanie Glaros

Matthew Graves, Minneapolis

We’re all alienated from each other. There are systematic barriers that have been put up between individuals in all kinds of different ways. Race, gender. Certain points of view take precedence over others. But I feel like everyone has a story to tell and a great perspective. I almost don’t even want to share my perspective, because I feel like as a white, straight male my perspective has been overdone. You don’t need it. We need to hear more voices from people who are marginalized.

It’s just a frustrating situation. I wish it wasn’t the way that it is. But we have to face that and deal with it and find a way to come together from there.



Tiana Towns, Minneapolis

We definitely have things that have come to light in terms of racial tensions in our nation. I feel like there’s been a lot more pushback than I would’ve expected from a lot of folks in terms of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ phrasing. There’s some friction with that, even within the organization who labeled themselves as such. But I hope more folks will get on board and understand that there are some things we have to work on in terms of making sure that everybody is comfortable being here. And that goes for our Muslim brothers and sisters, too. They’re still not completely comfortable in our nation given the derogatory things that are said about them.

I think there are a lot of different things that could happen, like maybe some way that different types of people from different backgrounds could get to interact with each other. I think that’s a start, because you have to shift your whole mental framework after living your life the way you’ve lived it. Some of it is just how you grew up. I think that’s very tough.

Even in a workplace. There’s so many things I could say about my professional experiences, and I know some of that could be mitigated through having programs that are geared towards diversity. Finding ways that people of different backgrounds can interact more often.



Stephanie Ellstrom, Minneapolis

Society trusting one another and seeing the good in people has been a real challenge. I have a daughter who is fourteen [Bella, left] and I fear for her safety in public places based on what happened in Nice, France. I feel anxiety now that she’s older and I’m not always with her. She’s very much a downtown, city dweller and she loves being out. She’s on the bus, she’s in public places a lot. I talk to her and listen to her fear and apprehension sometimes about being out and about. But she also knows she can’t just live inside and be sheltered all of the time.

It’s hard as a parent since it’s so different than how it was when I was growing up. I’m originally from a small town in Oklahoma. I hate that kids don’t have that freedom or that trust that goes along with being a kid. But it also gives us an opportunity to talk about it and I think it’s helped us develop a stronger bond than we otherwise would have had. There are conversations I never had with my own mother that my daughter and I have to have now. She feels very sad about what she sees and hears, but it’s kind of all she’s known. Kids these days haven’t experienced what it was like to not have the heightened tension that there is today. I wish all kids could know a different world than what exists now.