Minnesota Humanities Center

How Can We Breathe – A Time to Listen, Share, and Be Heard

Posted August 25, 2020

At the dawn of the formation of our country, and even begrudgingly to this day, the existing political and social hierarchy of our nation has sought to deny and frustrate the inalienable rights of African Americans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Since the video of the murder of Mr. George Floyd went viral this spring, an estimated 15 million people have marched, protested, and demanded justice in 2,000 cities across the United States and 60 countries around the world.  The protests come as we grapple with a global pandemic that has resulted in more than 800,000 deaths worldwide and has created widespread economic, housing, and food insecurity issues.

This week, in an attempt to understand our history, heal and make sense of the tragedy of Mr. George Floyd in the shadow of the worst pandemic in more than a century, the Minnesota Humanities Center and Sweet Potato Comfort Pie® is proud to partner and launch the How Can We Breathe community conversation series.

In the four-part conversation series, you will first hear from The Mamas, then Elders and Youth, next Artists and Meaning-Makers, and then conclude with Policymakers and Community.  During the community conversation series, we will examine how protests and uprising can drive systemic change and identify strategies for how African Americans can be honestly seen, sincerely heard, and fully empowered within our democracy.

During The Mamas presentation, you will hear three stories of mothers that have lost a son, one at the hands of law enforcement and two to violence within our society, and how they have found strength to heal, pursue justice and extend forgiveness.  While we say the name of George Floyd let us also remember the countless men and women that came before him who were similarly denied their life and liberty.

Because ensuring that all are heard is valuable in our democracy and that policymakers hear the great solutions existing within community, all participants will be provided with an opportunity to reflect upon the wisdom offered by the panelists. Please register by Wednesday to participate in The Mamas conversation.

In addition to the panel conversations and subsequent story circles, the Minnesota Humanities Center and Sweet Potato Comfort Pie ® will be distributing sweet potato comfort pies throughout the Twin Cities and in the virtual community conversation host cities of Duluth, Mankato, Rochester, and St. Cloud.  The pies will be distributed to positive change agents working to build an inclusive Minnesota.  The How Can We Breathe partners will subsequently amplify the work of these positive change agents in an effort to strengthen and broaden the network of democracy builders.

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted last night in apparent response to another high profile law enforcement shooting of an African-American man, “We shouldn’t have to see one more video of a Black human being brutalized and/or gunned down by police in a clear case of excessive or unwarranted force. Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness.”

While we humbly acknowledge that the How Can We Breathe conversation series is but one of many actions that will need to be undertaken in order to redress the establishment of the racial caste system in the United States it took more than 400 years to create, our democracy is in crisis and all people who are committed to its highest principles and ideals need to stand up and be heard. We look forward to seeing and hearing from you during the How Can We Breathe conversation series and at future Minnesota Humanities Center events as we work to build a more perfect union.

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By: Kevin Lindsey

Kevin Lindsey is CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center.