The Quilt, Our Podcast, and Looking Towards the Future
Just over a year ago, the first edition of The Quilt was released by The UpTake and Voices for Racial Justice. The Quilt: Policy, Art, Healing has become a symbol for our organizations of the power of partnership and an umbrella for nearly a dozen other projects, all themed around or related to The Quilt. Needless to say, even with the recent uprising and the pandemic, it’s been an incredibly challenging, but also, powerful year for community organizing and community journalism, and we’re grateful for the support. We’re more powerful together and The Quilt is proof of that. We released The Quilt magazine in October, 2019, and planned several community events for 2020 to use it. Below, we share highlights of the events we were able to hold, and then offer some reflections about what we are planning for The Quilt in the future.
On February 1, 2020, our organizations co-hosted an incredible event at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which consisted of a panel followed by a community conversation. Both the panel and community conversation brought together and centered the voices of Indigenous women from different generations who discussed the actions of the recent legislative task force created in Minnesota to work on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, as well as ways that other non-Native communities could work in solidarity with Native communities to support the task force. In the words of one of the panelists “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is not just a Native issue, but a human rights issue.” The panel consisted of youth voices, elder voices, and voices from generations in between. Being part of this event was unforgettable and has really served as a model for how all of The Quilt’s work in the community has to happen.
On February 29, 2020, just a few weeks after the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women panel and community conversation, we held an Equity in Bonding event in collaboration with the Racial Equity & Joy Coalition- a group of non-profit leaders and community organizations that came together to work on racial equity at the Capitol. That event focused on the legislative process of bonding and racial equity, and was held in North Minneapolis at the Oak Park Community Center. One of the ironic yet memorable moments of the event happened during the panel and community conversation when we experienced a citywide blackout. The Lieutenant Governor and her staff were there, as were other state legislators and community members. We all sat in the dark learning about the ins and outs of legislative bonding – not a very exciting topic on the surface, but one that has a lot to do with who gets access to what resources in our communities, like electricity?
We were all happy to learn that the bonding bill that finally passed during the fifth special legislative session included investments to help build more equitable communities across the state. To us, the bonding bill was truly a testament to Lieutenant Governor Flanagan’s words, “When we listen to, partner with, and invest in communities, we get better results. I’m grateful to the community leaders and legislative partners who worked with us to get this done, including $30 million dedicated to BIPOC communities…”
Two weeks after the Equity in Bonding event, the pandemic hit and our work was forced to change shape. We were in the midst of preparing for another community conversation on the 2020 Census and had just begun talking with partners from Common Cause MN, the Community Stabilization Project, and others about hosting a conversation around the question “How can the Census be a Tool for our Liberation?” We tried for weeks to continue planning online from our homes before collectively deciding to pause and focus on COVID-19 relevant issues, such as emergency funding for immigrant and refugee communities, stopping rent payments for apartments, and other pressing issues.
Eventually, Voices for Racial Justice hosted a digital “roundtable” discussion on the Census In collaboration with community partners. The event was held on Facebook Live with questions largely informed by COVID-19 and the uprisings that happened as a result of the murder of George Floyd. For example, one of the questions we asked was “Why should people fill out the census during times of crisis? I’m thinking about COVID-19 and the pandemic, but also about police brutality and the civil unrest we just went through because of the murder of George Floyd. What is at stake for BIPOC communities and the census?”
As you can imagine, the responses were varied and nuanced. More than anything, it seemed like people just appreciated having a space to reflect on the heaviness of the moment, as well as its relation to the Census and policy. Unfortunately, The UpTake did not participate in this event; however, their early planning efforts contributed to the event in many powerful ways for which all of us who helped organize the event were deeply grateful.
The Quilt Podcast
Before COVID-19 threw all of our organizing efforts into complete chaos, Voices for Racial Justice, The UpTake, and a few other organizers, met at a coffee shop in Saint Paul near the Capitol to discuss an idea that had been on all of our minds- a podcast.
The Quilt already consisted of a print and online magazine and a digital platform. Why not a podcast? As the pandemic began, The UpTake and Voices for Racial Justice gathered digitally with community partners to explore the power of storytelling in this moment we were all living. We began to ask, where do we draw hope and purpose and clarity for the path forward?
The result was the idea of a collaborative digital space for ongoing storytelling, The Quilt Podcast. The podcast brings together Voices for Racial Justice, The UpTake, and other community partners we have built deep relationships with – individuals and organizations: artists, legislators, organizers, and advocates. Our hosts are: MK Nguyen, Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez, Cirien Saadeh, Brett Grant, & Luna Allen- Bakerian. The Quilt Podcast fosters conversations at the intersection of public policy, community organizing, journalism, art, and healing. Season one seeks to understand and answer the question, “What is this moment calling for us to do together?”
Check out our inaugural episode from November 17th, 2020
Next Thursday from 12-1 pm CST, we will be live recording our next episode, this time hosted by Kevin Reese, dedicated to National Black Lives Matter (BLM) Week of Action. Our goal is to lift up voices of Black folks, especially Black women laying the groundwork to stop all levels of violence on Black people, Black student’s culture, bodies and nervous systems in our schools. We will be featuring Chauntyll Allen, Marika Pfefferkorn, and Danyika Leonard as they speak to their organizing on 3 education campaigns: Increasing Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota, Ethnic Studies, and Solutions Not Suspensions. Tune in on Voices for Racial Justice’s facebook page where the episode will stream live!