Building connections across a racial divide

Southwest group hopes to start conversations on race

FULTON — An interfaith group based in Southwest aimed to organize a series of conversations on race and racial disparities in Minneapolis beginning with a July 29 documentary screening.

Known as One City/One Future: Southwest Minneapolis Interfaith Coalition for Social Justice, the group plans a free showing of “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” 7 p.m.–9 p.m. at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church, 4901 Chowen Ave. S. The documentary, which premiered on PBS in 2008, explores the role of white northerners in the U.S. slave trade and the lingering ramifications of slavery.

One City member Susan Tapp said the documentary screening would be used to gauge interest in a future series of conversations about racial divisions in Minneapolis.

Like many other One City members, Tapp is active in the PEACE Foundation, a community-organizing group that has worked to reduce violence in predominantly African American neighborhoods on the city’s North Side. She and others got involved with the foundation several years ago at the urging of Ward 5 City Council Member Don Samuels, Tapp said.

“The idea came about to get some more education in Southwest Minneapolis about what’s going on in North Minneapolis … and to try and get some involvement to try and make a difference there,” she said.

“We kind of went into a lull for a little while, but now we’re reviving things,” she added.

That revival comes at a time when issues of race and racial disparities in the city have come to a head around a controversial plan to restructure Minneapolis Public Schools.

Several of the district’s best-performing schools are located in majority-white Southwest neighborhoods. In a much-discussed incident at Burroughs Community School, Principal Tim Cadotte, who is white, and School Board Member Chris Stewart, who is black, allegedly traded allegations of racism during a heated argument.

The district is phasing out a program that bused Latino children to Burroughs and considering plans for intra-district integration that could involve busing students from majority–African American neighborhoods to some Southwest schools.

The change riled both Latino and white parents at Burroughs, who argued the program was successful and should not have been touched. Their protests raised allegations that Latino students were preferred over African American students, charges Burroughs parents have forcefully and repeatedly denied.

In May, about a month after the incident at Burroughs, a group of parents from Whittier International Elementary School organized a conversation on race and racism in the city.

Adele DellaTorre, another One City member, said the documentary showing was not a direct response to the Burroughs incident.

The group would like to host a racial justice workshop in the fall with a series of events to follow, DellaTorre said.

A discussion of “Traces of the Trade” will follow the documentary screening. Community organizer James Trice will lead the conversation.

For more on the film, visit www.tracesofthetrade.org.