Critical Conversations

Critical Conversations

UROC Critical Conversations is a series of public discussions that bring together scholars, activists, historians, artists, and community leaders who address urban issues and ideas. Building on UROC's many campus-community collaborations, the series is intended as a "gathering place" for urban-focused research, dialogue, and cultural events.
Below are recent Critical Conversations:


Sanctuary Through the Eyes of Women and Girls: A Community Conversation About Immigration and the Impact of Deportation and Racialized Surveillance on Families of Color
Monday, May 22, 2017
University of Minnesota faculty and advocacy leaders from the Twin Cities’s communities of color led a public discussion about the physical and mental toll on women, girls, and families of color surrounding executive decisions and recent actions by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Participants were invited to share testimony, engage in small group conversations, and explored how University researchers can better partner with communities on the issues of immigration and deportation. The event was presented in partnership with the University's Race, Indigeniety, Gender and Sexuality and Women and Girls of Color initiatives.
Economic Development and Urban Communities: A Quality of Life Conversation 
Thursday, November 17, 2016
The event will explored the connection between public and private investment in North Minneapolis and other urban communities and its impact on individual and community health, prosperity, and quality of life. Speakers included: Lea Hargett, president, Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce; Naim Madyun, associate dean for undergraduate programs, diversity, and outreach, University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development; Ravi Norman, chief executive officer, THOR Construction, Inc.; Shauen V.T. Pearce-Lassiter, director, Center Cities Competitiveness Initiative, Greater MSP; Cathy Polasky, senior policy advisor, Office of Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith; D. Craig Taylor, director, City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development; and Stella Whitney-West, executive director, NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, Inc. The event's 5 p.m. reception feature an exhibitor display of new Northside businesses, as well as businesses planning to expand or relocate to North Minneapolis. Videos from this Critical Conversation are available on UROC's Youtube channel.


The Right to a Home: The Legacy of Structural Inequality and Homeownership
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The three-week occupation of Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct galvanized communities and made headlines around the world. Many scholars believe it—and other recent protests—is tied to a historical trajectory of structural racism, housing discrimination, and economic inequality. Guest speakers include Augustine "Willie" Dominguez, North Minneapolis resident and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives; Edward Goetz, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor; Keith Mayes, professor and past chair of the University's Department of African and African American Studies; and Shauen Pearce, executive director of the Harrison Neighborhood Association.

The Raising of America: Minnesota's Early Childhood Challenges and Opportunities
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Policy makers, practitioners, and early childhood education experts and advocates participated in this UROC Critical Conversation on how a strong start for all Minnesota children can lead to a healthier, prosperous, and more equitable state. The interactive event featured a screening of episode two of the documentary series The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation, which aired nationwide on public television stations in the fall of 2015. Afterward, University of Minnesota researchers and state policy makers led a discussion on the wide range of quality in child development services and the role government should play in setting standards and ensuring access for all. Comments and ideas from the conversation were submitted to Governor Dayton’s Children’s Cabinet. Event partners included the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Health Equity Work Group, and Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health; the Medical School’s Program in Health Disparities Research, and North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program’s Community Health and Advocacy Talks (CHAT) program.

Race, Place, and the Geography of Community Safety: A Critical Conversation with Bryan Stevenson
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
UROC hosted a public conversation with Bryan Stevenson on the role geography plays in the health and safety of individuals in workplace, school, and residential communities. The discussion was followed by a 30-minute conversation among the event's 75 attendees addressing these questions: The scope and reach of our criminal justice system has greatly expanded over the past 30 years. How can we reduce the frequency with which we use the system, while still maintaining public safety? The consequences of felony records create barriers to society that can reinforce economic and health disparity and racial segregation. What are the biggest challenges for people re-entering society from long-term incarcerations? How can we break the cycle? What does it mean to be part of a community? Law enforcement is only one force for community safety — and a force that some may consider unsafe. What are others? What can you do in your neighborhood, workplace, or school to ensure your safety and the safety of others?Attendees were asked to document their thoughts and reactions to the topics. Click here to download a compilation of their comments.

The Bright Sunshine of Human Rights: Hubert H. Humphrey and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Thursday, Oct. 28, 2014
 The event featured comments by University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs (HSPA) assistant professor Paul Stone; philanthropic leader Reatha Clark King; and former Congressman Donald Fraser. UROC Executive Director Heidi Barajas welcomed everyone, and HSPA Dean Eric Schwartz gave an overview and made introductions.
VIDEO: Click here to watch a video of the presentation.

Art for Healing: The Role of Creativity in Trauma Recovery
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Minneapolis-based artists and professionals discuss the healing power of art in trauma and grief recovery during a Critical Conversation. The event, co-sponsored by KFAI radio, was part of UROC’s ongoing Trauma Recovery Project and presented as a special edition of KFAI's What's in the Mix, a community engagement forum made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
VIDEO: Click here to watch a video of the presentation.

Trauma, Faith, & Healing in the Community: Conversations with South Africa's Tutu Sisters
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The daughters of renowned South African archbishop Demond Tutu—race and gender activist Naomi Tutu and researcher Thandeka Tutu-Gxashe – spoke during "Trauma, Faith, & Healing in the Community: Conversations with South Africa's Tutu Sisters" in April 2013. The Critical Conversation examined the role faith, consensus-building, and reconciliation play in healing a community spirit that's been wounded by violence, natural disaster, or catastrophe. The events featured a moderated panel format, followed by an informal public question-and-answer period and public reception.
VIDEO: Click here to watch a video of the presentation at Coffman Memorial Union.

The Impact of Sex Trafficking and Prostitution on Community Health: Reducing Harm, Promoting Healing
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Sex trafficking and the prostitution of children is a growing concern in the Twin Cities, with Minneapolis named by the FBI as one of the top U.S. cities for trafficking of juveniles. Intimately tied to poverty, exploitation, and lack of choice, sex trading affects women, children, families, and community health. This Critical Conversation features small and large group discussions that focus on how North Minneapolis and other urban communities can take action steps to end sex trafficking in Minnesota.  This Critical Conversation is produced in partnership with the Northside Women's Space, a drop-in center that provides teens and women a way out of prostitution, and with the University of Minnesota Center for Integrative Leadership, as part of its yearlong series of events on the local and global impact of human trafficking.
VIDEO: Click here to watch a video of this Critical Conversation on the impact of sex trafficking and community health.

Cornerstones and Common Ground: Reflections on the History of North Minneapolis
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The history of Minneapolis' Northside community was the topic of Critical Conversations, UROC's series of public discussions with scholars, historians, artists, and community leaders on urban issues and ideas. The February 23 kick-off event focused on the people in front of—and behind—the camera in the recent University-produced documentary, "Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis." Cornerstone's director and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Daniel Pierce Bergin moderated a panel that included: Roxanne Givens, businesswoman, philanthropist and founder of the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center; Linda Schloff, historian, lecturer and former executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest;; Katherine Solomonson, associate professor in the University's School of Architecture and an architectural historian featured in Cornerstones; an; John Wright, professor in the University's Department of African American and African Studies. VIDEO: Click here to watch a video of the Critical Conversation.