Reconnecting with the river: MPR and North News share North Minneapolis' river stories

by sue rich

North News devoted their July 25 issue to the community's relationship to the Mississippi River. (Photo by David Pierini for North News.)

Recently, two local media projects, MPR's "Water Main" and North News' "Reclaiming the river" issue, highlighted cultural, community and individual North Minneapolis residents' relationships with water and our Big River. 

Interstate-94 and vast blocks of industrial development may separate the Northside community from the Mississippi, but many community members feel a strong connection to their riverfront despite such barriers. Both media projects bring these perspectives to the fore, and the special North News issue successfully mixes and integrates them with coverage of local political and development issues along this fast-changing stretch of the river.

'African American women explore their ties to water'

This July, Northside resident, artist and advocate Amoke Kubat partnered with MPR to host "African American women explore their ties to water." Kubat spoke with other North Minneapolis women about the cultural, historical and spiritual significance of water in their lives. 

In their 50-minute conversation, they share historical as well as deeply personal stories where the role of water and the river takes many forms — sometimes traumatic, other times playful or relaxing, and often spiritual. 

A stunning portrait of a community's river relationship

This range of experiences is echoed in North News' special "Reclaiming the river" issue. However, while the 24-page magazine-style publication (available as a PDF and well worth the download) keeps residents' river stories front and center, it also weaves in quality coverage of current river-related political and planning issues in North Minneapolis.

The community paper deftly alternates between personal narratives, the debate around the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal (which will transform a mile-long stretch of Northside riverfront, but to whose benefit?), and the artistic, with a Q&A with the anonymous artists behind the beloved guerrilla art that covers the dome-shaped silos and sheds of the former barge terminal and port.

Stunning photos enhance each storyline. As you flip through the issue, you'll see these photos also present a cumulative glimpse of a riverfront beloved for a kind of beauty rarely featured on postcards, one where bright kayaks, heron rookeries and flowing blue waters coexist with or, depending on your perspective, are enhanced by the former industrial and urban infrastructure in their midst.

Cheers to a refreshing read and a graceful portrait of a community's multi-faceted relationship to the river.

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