This May, a group of 30 Northwooders went on a guided tour of Minneapolis conducted by John Mayer, the founder of the City Vision organization. The purpose of such a tour is to learn more about our surrounding community, as well as the culture and different religious groups that are an established part of the city.
The tour started with an introductory video about immigrants and refugees in Minnesota; how these people got here and some of their heart-breaking stories about loved ones left behind.
Transitioning from such heavy stories, the group stopped at the Midtown Global Market, where camel burgers from Safari Express were the order of the afternoon meal. In addition to the new cuisine, the Northwooders learned about the vast range of ethnic diversity in the various restaurants and shops in the area; all family-friendly and waiting to be discovered by other friendly people.
Continuing on from the Midtown Global Market, the tour then ventured into the Chicago/Lake area and other areas such as the Phillips Neighborhood and Powderhorn Park. In these areas, it is not unusual to see a Halal Market (kosher meats) on one corner and a Super Mercado (Latino super market) on the other.
Kaycee Clark, one of the seven teens that participated on the tour, told us about her experience on the City Vision tour.
Q: Your tour started out with a video; can you summarize your reaction to it? And did the overall diversity of the area surprise you at all?
A: I don’t remember a whole lot about the video, but I remember being struck by the sheer amount of different people groups we have in the Twin Cities and the fact that there are a lot of each. I knew we had diversity, but I didn’t realize it was quite so diverse. I also remember being surprised by the amount of cults and Wiccan groups around here. There are two Wiccan groups based in Coon Rapids, the city I live in. [It’s] so strange that I never really was aware of the space around me.
Q: From there, your focus switched to trying new cuisine (camel burgers). Did you like the switch and what was that transition like for you?
A: I enjoyed switching to a more hands-on part of the tour where we ate food. I just love food and eating in general so I was not disappointed. The transition was pretty smooth just because we hadn’t really seen a whole lot yet.
Q: There are a large number of various religions that are practiced in Minneapolis. What does that say/mean to you?
A: The fact that there are so many religions practiced in the area is astounding to me. I think it shows that people can find their place here. It’s home to many different kinds of people.
Q: In comparison to driving through the city on your own, how different was this tour experience?
A: This tour was different than just driving around myself cause I got to see things and have them explained to me. You might not even know the different people or different kinds of church buildings or religious meeting places if you were exploring by yourself. I honestly don’t think if I read all the signs for the buildings we passed that I would even grasp how diverse it is. But when someone lays it out in front of me, I really see the fullness of it all.
To really get the full diversity out of the tour, new terms and facts were also shared with the un-stereotypical tourists. New words like “ethnoburb” (an ethnic suburb, since white suburbanites are moving back to the city while ethnic groups are moving to the suburbs), “glocal” (global + local), and “Paganistan” (a nickname for Minneapolis due to it being one of the largest areas that modern-day witches call home in the U.S.).
In addition to the new vocabulary, the Northwooders learned that Minneapolis is the most literate city in the U.S., ranks number one in bike-riding cities, volunteers the most out of any other U.S. city, and is the future home to a 300,000 square-foot Muslim Youth Center mosque (which will be the largest Mosque in America).
The Northwood participants were also somewhat staggered by the fact that over 100 languages are spoken in the Phillips Neighborhood alone. They learned that South Minneapolis contains the second largest concentration of Tibetans; and the largest urban concentration of Native American, Somali, Hmong, Oromo Ethiopian, Liberian, Karen Burmese, and Anuak populations in the U.S.
In order to deal with such a wide range of diversity, the Hennepin County Medical Center translates 216 languages in order to provide and care for their patients. At times, one tour participant told us, “most of us felt like we were on a tour in another county – the sites and people were so diverse. There is hope in the city, and we can choose to be a part of that hope.”
For more information on City Vision or about registering to take a tour, visit their website.