Sondra Samuels & New York Times columnist Tom Friedman

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A recent conversation titled “Handle With Care” featured Sondra Samuels, founder and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, and Tom Friedman, columnist for the New York Times. They talked about the state of our democracy.

Friedman wrote in a June 2 column for The New York Times: “I am from Minneapolis. I was born in the Northside, a few miles from the street where George Floyd was killed. No one there is doing more today to make sure that disadvantaged families in that neighborhood have the tools to succeed than my friend Sondra Samuels, the founder and president of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ). NAZ is working with parents, students and local partners to drive a culture shift in predominantly black North Minneapolis to end multigenerational poverty through education and building family stability.”

Their December 3 conversation addressed the question of how to bring people together in this age of divisiveness. Friedman cited NAZ as an example of how people want to support what works. He also mentioned the town of Willmar as a success story, realizing that in order to survive it needed to welcome immigrant workers; it was not easy.

They reflected on the Obama presidency, which had delivered a sense of complacency that racism in the U.S. had ended — which was premature. Friedman has credited Samuels for pointing out that “Minnesota Nice” often hides what is actually racism.

Samuels wrapped up by saying that “the definition of anti-racism is being intentional.”

Find the full conversation here, which includes a synopsis of the achievement gap in Minnesota for education, health, housing, mental health, and food security.

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Sondra Samuels essay, Minnesota Women’s Press, 2017

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