In 2014, when news broke that the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri would not be indicted, Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jayanthi Kyle transformed her grief and frustration into art. She teamed up with fellow musician Wes Burdine to co-write a protest song that would go on to become a fixture at racial justice protest rallies in the Twin Cities. I interviewed Kyle for the BBC’s Cultural Frontline about the genesis and impact of the song, which is titled “Hand in Hand,” and how it became an unofficial anthem for the local Black Lives Matter movement. (Photo credit: Tony Webster)
Editor’s note: Another version of this story aired on KFAI as part of the station’s Minneculture series on Minnesota arts, culture, history, and the environment.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in North America. Each July, thousands of people from around the world come to the Twin Cities to celebrate Somali Independence Day. In 2016, that event got a whole lot bigger. I reported this story for KFAI in Minneapolis. (Photo by Nancy Rosenbaum)
The Virginia-based public radio program With Good Reason assigned me to produce an audio postcard about a Native American spiritual ceremony called the Ghost Dance. Cedric Red Feather (pictured above) is a Mandan Turtle Priest based in Minnesota who organized this Ghost Dance ceremony I observed in May 2016. The segment I produced was part of a larger feature on historian Elizabeth Fenn whose book about the Mandan, Encounters at the End of the World, won a Pulitzer Prize for History in 2015. While researching the book, Fenn and Red Feather became friends. Fenn credits Red Feather with helping her to appreciate the significance of Mandan spiritual life.
In the interview with host Sarah McConnell, Fenn, who describes herself as being “spiritually challenged” says: “I recognized that it would be sheer hubris to write about a people without acknowledging the way they experience the world, even if I can’t appreciate it fully…just a respect requires me to engage with their spiritual lives and Cedric was instrumental in helping me do that.”
You can listen to the full interview with Fenn here.
Ashwini Ramaswami is a professional dancer and soloist with the Minneapolis-based Ragamala Dance Company — a group with a modern take on a classical South Indian dance form called Bharatanatyam. Her mother, Ranee and older sister, Aparna have been leading the company for nearly 25 years. Now, Ashwini is choreographing an evening-length show for the first time, and one of the people she’s choreographing is her very own mom. I reported this story for KFAI in Minneapolis. (Photo by Ed Bock.)
Kirk Washington, Jr. was a North Minneapolis-based artist and activist who was recently killed in a car accident. I spoke with some of Washington’s friends and fellow artists about his work and legacy. I reported this story for KFAI community radio in Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy Made Here/Hennepin Theater Trust).