Untangled Roots

Minnesota is the land of more than 10,000 lakes and many more distinct stories and ideas which deserve a closer look. Introducing Untangled Roots, a new podcast from the MPR News North Star Journey project. MPR journalist Brandt Williams and media entrepreneur Jonathan Rabb unpack the untold stories of communities of color.

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Ep. 15 Living your Black life in Minnesota
We spoke to dozens of Black residents who told us what they think about living in Minnesota.  Some lamented the lack of Black cultural spaces and the prevalence of a form of ‘niceness’ that isn’t actually nice. However, some told us Minnesota has lots to offer and has the potential for much more. Plus, St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter III gives his ‘elevator pitch’ for why Black people should want to live in the capital city. 
Ep. 14 Do we have a thing?
This episode of Untangled Roots was inspired by a conversation between co-hosts Brandt Williams and Jonathan Rabb. If you had a friend coming to town and they said “I want to do the Black ‘thing’ in town,” what would you tell them to do? Cities with larger Black communities often have at least one ‘thing’ - like a unique cultural festival or some other draw for Black people. Do we have a thing? Do we need a thing?
Ep. 13 Black on the job in Minnesota
Minnesota is home to Fortune 500 companies that hire top Black talent.  However, those employers often struggle to retain African American workers. Too often, Black professionals, especially those recruited from out of state, face isolation on the job and a feeling of disconnection from the larger Black community.
Ep. 12 In a state of disconnection
Civil rights icon Josie Johnson says it's important for African Americans in Minnesota to connect with each other.  However, that can be particularly tough for African Americans new to the state.  Guests offer ways to build those intra-racial relationships and build a stronger sense of community for Black Minnesotans. 
Ep. 11 What it means to be Black in Minnesota
Co-hosts Brandt Williams and Jonathan Rabb, who both grew up in Minneapolis, talk about how the city they call home became the center of worldwide attention in 2020.  The killing of George Floyd by a police officer touched off protests around the globe.   Rabb, who was living in California at the time, said the protests and unrest made him move back to the city. But he asks, “Why do I care so much about this place that often does not care about me?”
Ep. 10 The future of ethnic enclaves
Economist Bruce Corrie discusses ways that cities can help secure the viability of these vital community assets. He says incubators and cross-cultural collaborations are possible options. Corrie also says St. Paul cannot afford to lose an enclave like Little Mekong, which contains a variety of southeast Asian-owned businesses.
Ep. 9 The economics of ethnic enclaves
Va-Megn Thoj of the Asian Economic Development Association, says some immigrants and refugees who start their own businesses, do so out of necessity, not because they want to be their own boss. He says some would rather not have to work the long hours for small profits. But too many can’t get hired for other jobs. 
Ep. 8 Role of enclaves in building communities
Enclaves like Little Mekong are more than just areas with great places to taste cuisines from around the world.  Places of worship, culturally specific service providers and other businesses are also central to the vibrancy of enclaves. Guests discuss how Mexican American immigrants and refugees from Somalia have benefitted from these institutions. 
Ep. 7  Making a way
Immigrants and refugees from Southeast Asia in a section of St. Paul, known as ‘Little Mekong’ have overcome hurdles and restrictions to create this unique enclave. 
Ep. 6  Enclaves as pathways to cultural connections
Ethnic enclaves often both benefit members of the communities as well as the wider community. In this episode, Untangled Roots explores the synergy between enclaves and surrounding areas.
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