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Cultural Center

The Northside is one of the more diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis.  Many urban immigrants as well as political refugees and international immigrants have made their home in the Northside community.  According to one interviewee, there are more than 67 languages spoken in the homes of public school students in Minneapolis.  The diversity that is celebrated as a strength can also create problems with the development of unity in the school.



Population Changes

The Northside community was originally established as a Jewish neighborhood.  As the Jewish population created successful businesses and gained more money and capital, they began to move to suburbs where they could enjoy a life outside of the urban setting.  Their legacy can be seen in the many temples that have been converted to churches around the city.  They have also left an open atmosphere to talk about diversity.

African Americans began moving in in large numbers, as was typical of the '60s and '70s in which there was a trend of moving to urban centers for more industrial jobs.  They are the predominant influence on the community and their culture has saturated the Northside.  Possibly most visible today is the hip hop scene that draws from the strength of the Minneapolis music culture that Prince left behind as he headed to fame.  One notable Polar that added to the potency of music in the '80s was Andre Cymone, the bass player for Prince's first band, Grand Central.

Laotians and other Southeast Asian ethnicities make up a large percentage of the population, further adding to the diversity of the neighborhood.  The U.S. government changed immigration laws in the Immigration Act of 1965, which allowed a traditionally banned racial group into the United States for the first time.  Additionally, refugees displaced from the Vietnam War entered the United States in the late '70s and early '80s, as promised by the government for their war effort.  The refugees resulted in a change in the traditional immigrant concept because they did not have resources to rely upon or formal education to help them set up life here.  The first generation faced a number of problems and changed the economic situation of the Northside community.

Jim Freund discusses changes in the North neighborhood:



Ethnic Conflicts and Division

With so many different cultures living as neighbors, it is understandable that conflict would arise.  People who couldn't understand each other or their customs would not mix and might be suspicious of their neighbors.  This would result in a segregation of sorts in which ethnicities would band together to protect themselves, at the expense of creating a larger community.  With the addition of ESL (English as a Second Language), students were expected to jump into classes without the knowledge of the language or basic education.  Some classes became more about education in basic English or other skills.  As George Roberts mentioned in his interview, his teaching methods changed to accomodate these changes.  Instead of reading the fairy tales, he might ask the students to act one out, which is something they could do across cultures.

The complex interactions and teaching styles that had to change in North were met with begrudging acceptance, as some teachers believed that they should teach the basic English curriculum instead of this new modified agenda.

North as a Cultural Center

Despite the problems that diversity has caused, it has also allowed North to emerge as a victor.  North High now boasts the highest graduation rate (95%) of any of the public schools in Minneapolis.  Despite its reputation in the media and gang violence, North has become a center for education.

Not only has North become well known for their academic programs and a model for other schools, it has also become the cultural center of the Northside community.  Without a Jewish Historical Center or a Ukranian Cultural Center that exist in other parts of Minneapolis, groups from the Northside had nowhere to go to be together.  North became the place where different groups, and also student organizations, could meet outside of class.  North High is also the only place big enough in the community for larger events to take place, such as the talk with Archbishop Desmond Tutu that occurred just this past summer.  The community views North as a place where larger events, which span different ethnicities and purposes, can take place.

North has facilitated this sense of family and community within the physical neighborhood. This diversity is a source of pride for North High, in that it facilitates better racial relationships and understanding between ethnic groups.  Patrick Ryan, in his own research of a Midwestern high school, said that "minority groups and women have used educational institutions to gain greater access to participation in American economic and political life."  North, because it is the only place where people can go to congregate, has broken down ethnic and social barriers to create a larger sense of community.

George Roberts discusses North as a cultural center and graduation: