Starting in 2018, with the support of the Bush Foundation, FREC began making mini-grants to support anti-racism/racial justice work in Greater Minnesota. Here is a summary of our first round of grants. It’s our hope that these summaries will help organizations connect with work going on in their area and get ideas for applying for grants.

Commissioning Your Bias, Duluth Art Institute

FREC’s $2,000 grant supported a program developed by the Duluth Art Institute to help people unpack their unconscious bias. The bulk of the grant paid for commissioned art to support the curriculum developed by the Institute’s Executive Director Christina Woods.

commission your bias
“Minnesota Nice” by Carla Hamilton

The Duluth Art Institute commissioned artist Carla Hamilton. She created a 5-foot by 3-foot mixed media poster titled “Minnesota Nice.” (The Duluth City Council recently recognized Hamilton for the impact of her art. Carla, who is black, grew up in Wrenshall, MN and lived in Germany for 18 years. Two years ago, she was arrested while walking down the street in Duluth. Hamilton told that story through her art. The art exhibition led to many policy changes in the Duluth Police Department regarding arrests of people of color.)

The Duluth Art Institute has held three trainings (as of Feb.15) around unconscious bias using this artwork as a focal point. Each session has included five community leaders in the non-profit sector, arts organizations, and healers. Sessions are scheduled through September.

Participants are exposed to a shared experience using the art. The art initially pushes participants into a zone of uncomfortably where they unpack the “why” behind their response. Throughout the session (2.5 hours) participants record and discuss constructs such as racism monoculture, and white fragility. By the end of the session, participants uncover an unconscious bias and pledge to work on understanding the root causes.

“The purpose of using art instead of a personal story in revealing hard truths is to create common ground where white fragility has a more difficult time surfacing. Art as a shared experience allows for a collective conversation without people feeling apologetic. White fragility is discussed later in the training.”

Community Arts Alive, an Arts Engagement Workshop, St. Cloud, Aug. 17-18, 2018

FREC’s grant of $1,500 supported a Community Arts Engagement Workshop with Vanessa German, John Gebretatose, and Alyssa DiVirgillio (Blackout Improv)

The event began Friday evening with a keynote address by German at GREAT Theatre’s Learning Lab; 60+ attended. German “is the founder of Love Front Porch and the ARThouse, a community arts initiative for children, created to stack the deck in matters of justice, worth and healing. She recently presented TED talks at Harvard and MIT and she has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s All Things Considered.” When audience members arrived, they were asked to respond to two questions: “Where do you see art in your community?” and “Where do you find yourself belonging in community?” (Answers were collected on sticky notes.)

Saturday’s day-long workshop had 28 artists and non-artists participating. They explored two modes of creative expression, Improv Theatre (with John and Alyssa) and sculpture (with Vanessa). Each group got to participate in both mediums. Then the two groups came back together to discuss community, how creativity manifests through us individually and collectively, and how people can deepen the connection to each other – and to the places where we live and work – through engagement and support for the arts.

“The day ended with a call for participants to continue to engage with Community Arts Alive efforts as we plan to further explore community-based arts solutions that will connect and celebrate ALL of St. Cloud’s populations, especially those currently without a voice or access to arts opportunities.”

Itasca Community College/Grand Rapids Human Rights Commission: Green Card Voices of Central Minnesota, Dec. 3, 2018

FREC gave a $750 grant to support the “Green Card Voices” program on campus.

The Green Card Voices of Central Minnesota brings in immigrants for a public event to share their personal narratives to foster increased understanding of the human side of the ongoing immigration debate. Approximately 80 people attended the event.

Green Card Voices also brought a traveling exhibit (eight-foot-tall banners) featuring 18 first-generation immigrant and refugee stories from 12 different countries of origin. The stories in the exhibit come from community members who live, work, and serve in Central Minnesota. The exhibit stayed on campus for more than a week. (College write-up here.)

The Itasca Community College is in a largely white region of northern Minnesota, and the Green Card Voices “helped us bridge the diversity dialogue in a meaningful way,” their report said.

Mankato State University: “Immigration in the Trump Era” Presentation by Attorney Afia Yunus, Sept. 11, 2018

FREC gave a $1,500 grant to Mankato State University’s Multicultural Center to bring Attorney Afia Yunus to talk about “Immigration in the Trump Era.”

Yunus, who has law offices in Philadelphia and Chicago, had a 90-minute lunch with 20 faculty, staff and administrators who work with international students. Later she spoke to 80 community and campus members at a public event. “She focused on how new federal policy affects current MSU Mankato students including the seven countries on the travel ban 3.0 [and] DACA students,” the final report said. “She provided insight and suggestions for students on their next steps regarding their immigration status.”

“The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the Kearney Center for International Student Services will collaborate to provide staff and faculty development sessions over the next few months for those who advise international, DACA, documented and undocumented students.”

Here is a link to event promotion.

Social Justice Coalition of Greater Rochester: Initial Regional Convening

FREC’s $1,000 grant supported an initial convening of organizations in the Rochester region focusing on social justice work, March 10, 2018. FREC members William Moore and Tim Johnson participated.

Organizers felt the Rochester region needed a new and more effective approach to equity work. They had a half-day gathering that drew 41 individuals representing 26 organizations in attendance. The grant supported meals, travel reimbursements, and materials for attendees.

“Our intention was to discuss the tenets for effective collaboration, have an open forum with FREC members to discuss the coalition’s formation and methodology, and a working session to hammer out a preliminary framework for the operation of the new group,” their report said.

Two representatives from FREC attended and presented on FREC’s founding and answered audience questions. They provided materials on the FREC model, which were ultimately adapted to create coalition norms.

The SOCIAL JUSTICE COALITION OF GREATER ROCHESTER was formalized following the initial meeting. It also established an online community to share information, coordinate work, and promote social justice activities. This forum is very active and already proven effective in facilitating cooperation among participating groups.

The SJC plans to adopt a single activity each year to work on collaboratively, following the FREC example. “We are extremely grateful for your interest in and support of this endeavor. We know that we are stronger together and our ability to draw on FREC’s experience has made a tremendous difference.”