Trauma Recovery Project

Trauma that’s related to social issues like gun and family violence, mental health problems, alcoholism and drug use, mass imprisonment, out-of-home placement of children, and general lost human potential impacts Minneapolis’ Northside community more than most  Minnesota communities.

As part of its mission to improve the quality of life in urban communities, UROC launched the Trauma Recovery Project (TRP) in spring 2013 to create a roadmap for recovery from such trauma through a comprehensive strategy for positive change in the lives of families and the community as a whole. Building on community expertise and the University’s research in the area of healing and historical trauma, UROC convened  teams of families, University researchers, community leaders, healthcare professionals, and representatives from the faith community in an effort to identify trauma-related issues that are important to the Northside community. These teams made up the six workgroups whose members carried the project forward.

In May 2015, UROC was awarded a $187,530 Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant to expand the work of the TRP through a series of community meetings, discussions, and workgroups aimed at producing action plans that address individual and community trauma. Workgroups were invited to apply for sub-grants through the TRP Community Innovation Grant Program Partnership Packets (see Resources below)

Behavior Health Practitioners Workgroup


Members of the Trauma Recovery Project’s Behavior Health Practitioners Workgroup were no strangers to the devastating effects of trauma. As licensed counselors and healers, the practitioners’ approach to the project was both action-based and reflective.

Galvanized by the November 16th shooting of North Minnesota resident Jamar Clark just blocks from UROC, and the subsequent demonstrations outside of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct, the Behavioral Health Practitioners used UROC as a basecamp for healing.

The team created a triage space which offered a respite, as well as counseling for bystanders and demonstrators. They held healing and listening sessions at UROC and workshops on self care for the public, as well as for fellow Trauma Recovery Project workgroup participants.

Realizing that practicing self care and learning how to reach out to other practitioners were keys in helping clients and patients, the team examined their profession’s approach to trauma through workshops like the “Addressing Historical and Complex Trauma in the African American Community: Clinical Perspectives on What Works.” They adopted a Psychological First Aid Training Module that provides tools to trauma-informed community members. And they provided a space for the professional black male perspective in conversations around law enforcement and violence/excessive force through a two-part conversation series titled: “In the Wake of Violence: Perspectives of Black Men Who Are Therapists.”

Culture, Families, and Learning Workgroup

Because culture is vital to health and healing, the UROC Staff Workgroup reached out to Atum Azzahir, executive director and elder consultant in African ways of knowing with the Minneapolis-based Cultural Wellness Center, for her thoughts on how to bring the voices of families to the project.

Azzahir, who had served as a moderator for the Tutu sisters event, was particularly interested in pursuing conversations about trauma through truth telling and speaking candidly from the heart about pain and loss. Before formally partnering with UROC, Azzahir sought approval from elders in the North Minneapolis community about the possible involvement of the Cultural Wellness Center in the project.

The resulting workgroup — named Culture, Families, and Learning — focused its energy and resources on working independently through weekly truth telling and community circles. Events included truth telling and community healing ceremonies and discussion events primarily focused on people of Black and African heritage. The workgroup also produced a number of print materials, which explored healing through truth telling circles and self study.

Workgroup Members

Atum Azzahir, Founder & Executive Director, Cultural Wellness Center
Atum Azzahir is the founder and Executive Director for the Cultural Wellness Center. She is a cultural activist, a teacher of African thought and spirituality, and a member of the Hennepin County Medical Center and Community Campus Partnerships for Health Boards of Directors. Atum has received several awards for her work in Cultural Wellness & Community Health.


Faith Leaders Workgroup


With encouragement from North Minneapolis spiritual leaders Pastor Alika Galloway of Kwanzaa Community Church and Bishop Howell of Shiloh Temple, UROC staff facilitated the formation of the Trauma Recovery Project’s Faith Leaders Workgroup

As caregivers on the front lines of trauma, the faith leaders began their work with a half-day retreat entitled, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Responding to the Invisible Wounds of African Americans’ Trauma” that aimed to help lay leaders and clergy understand how trauma is manifested in the lives and relationships of African Americans. Over the next three years, the group hosted more than 30 workshops and training sessions for fellow clergy, as well as lay people, on such topics as “Let‘s Look at Trauma” and “Trauma, Faith, and Healing in the Community: Let‘s Go Deeper.”

As an outreach effort and self-reflection exercise, the faith leaders compiled presentations, resources, poems, images, prayers, scripture, and songs into the Trauma, Faith and Healing in the Community Resource Packet. To sustain the work, a Trauma Recovery Project/Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant helped the Faith Leaders Workgroup hire a part-time assistant to aid in outreach to children suffering from trauma and expand its work into the Latino community.

University of Minnesota Researchers Workgroup

Just as academic research doesn‘t easily translate to day-to-day life, community knowledge often doesn’t lend itself to bar graphs and pie charts. Instead, the goal of the Trauma Recovery Project‘s University Researchers Workgroup was focused on repairing and building trust—trust between the University and the community, and trust between the researchers and other Trauma Recovery Project workgroup members.

Their first charge came from the Culture, Families, and Learning Workgroup in the form of questions: Why are you interested in working on issues of trauma and why are you interested in working in North Minneapolis? The researchers took up these questions, discussing issues of relationships and trust-building, ways of recognizing and embracing knowledge, researcher identity and motivations, and strategies for healing rifts between the University and Minneapolis‘ Northside community.

In the conversations that followed, researchers reflected on their personal and professional identities. They valued the opportunity to bring their “whole selves” to the discussions and appreciated the “vulnerability” of their voices in the project. They expressed excitement about the impact of seeing “research as practice” while conducting trauma-informed work.


The Youth Workgroup


Because the voices of youth were critical to the Trauma Recovery Project, UROC allocated two Trauma Recovery Project/Bush Community Innovation Grants to University of Minnesota Assistant Professor Katie Johnston-Goodstar, an expert in the practice of Youth Participatory Action Research, and Pastor Alika Galloway of Kwanzaa Community Church who oversees the North Minneapolis-based 21st Century Academy.

Johnston-Goodstar’s work focuses on the factors that affect the education and development of urban and Native American youth. With a Trauma Recovery Project/Bush Foundation Community Innovation grant, she was able to hire two adult leaders and to pay the youth participants in her Native Youth School Climate Study. “It may look different, but it’s still trauma,” writes Johnson-Goodstar in the Trauma Recovery Project report when giving examples as to why Native children may become depressed, quiet and disengaged, or angry and resistant after experiencing school-induced trauma.

Galloway works with University Associate Professor Ross VeLure Roholt to uncover youths’ own understanding and experiences of trauma through the use of open-ended questions about the effects of trauma and strategies for healing. Their most recent project makes use of spoken word and storytelling formats, including digital recordings and live performances.

The UROC Staff Workgroup

For more than two years, UROC staffers assigned to the Trauma Recovery Project worked as schedulers, facilitators, and support staff to the Trauma Recovery Project’s six workgroups. Staffers often thought of their work as a “bridge” between the University and community members, a “spark” that lit each new phase of the project, and the “spine” of the project.

It wasn’t until after the Trauma Recovery Project was awarded a Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant and events related to the 2015 protester-led occupation of the neighboring Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct unfolded, that staffers began to think of their role differently. Over the course of the project they had become more than just administrators of grants and schedulers of meetings — they became active participants, a workgroup unto itself, and one that had been deeply transformed.

The newly named UROC Staff Workgroup sought out ways to both reflect on the process and benchmark its progress. They worked with University of Minnesota Extension to develop a ripple-effect map which identified connections across workgroups and gave participants a deeper understanding of how their work related to the broader project. They presented on the Trauma Recovery Project in University classes and at conferences throughout the country and hosted more than 50 professional development opportunities and training sessions to support participatory leadership among project members.