MPR News’ memorable stories from 2021 – MPR News – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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Minnesotans could be forgiven for seeing 2021 as an unhappy rerun of 2020. COVID-19 continued to make daily life difficult. Communities still grappled with police shootings and calls to address racial injustice.

Still, amid the year’s struggles Minnesota saw a homegrown Olympian make history, and people found ways to connect and rebuild in a world searching for a path back to normal.

MPR News reporters covered joys and concerns across Minnesota in 2021. Here’s a look at some of the stories they felt compelled to tell.


Hope, resilience at White Earth amid pandemic

A man sits in his office chair next to a somewhat cluttered desk

Dr. Carson Gardner, medical director of the White Earth Nation’s tribal health department, has helped lead the fight against COVID on the tribe’s northern Minnesota reservation.

Dan Gunderson | MPR News 2019

Native nations in Minnesota were able to manage the early months of the coronavirus pandemic with relatively few cases and deaths, but that all changed in early fall.

Dr. Carson Gardner, medical director of the White Earth Nation’s tribal health department, offered an honest description of what it was like to be in the midst of COVID-19 in Indian Country, where resources are limited. Listening became one of his most important tools.

“While we’re social distancing and mask-wearing, we still talk to each other,” Gardner said. “We talk about problems and frustrations. We laugh together. We cry together.”

— Dan Gunderson, Moorhead


In Minneapolis, a ‘safe space’ to process trauma after George Floyd’s murder

A woman sits at the end of a row of purple chairs.

Pastor Jalilia A-Brown inside of Shiloh Temple International Ministries on March 12.

Evan Frost | MPR News file

Shiloh Temple started offering counseling and other services for community members at the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis cop convicted of murder in the 2020 killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

This story was an example of ongoing community efforts to help heal from generational traumas that were highlighted again by Floyd’s killing. I appreciated these individuals opening up about how they felt during a time of collective pain and grief in Minnesota.

— Nina Moini, Minneapolis


Dessa on making art in a pandemic

A woman poses for a photo.

Writer, singer and podcaster Dessa on a south Minneapolis rooftop on April 2.

Euan Kerr | MPR News file

Several years ago my talented colleague Chris Roberts told me I should always remember that while Dessa is recognized as a performer, the core of her being is as a writer. She has proved this time and again, not least with her memoir “My Own Devices,” which mixed stories of touring with the neuroscience of falling in, and out, of love.

So getting Dessa’s take on the pandemic and how she had kept things together during performance lockdowns just made sense.

We borrowed space on a rooftop in Uptown Minneapolis with a view of the city and sat down for a socially distanced interview using my 10-foot boom-pole microphone. And as happens every time I do an interview, I came away with a sl


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