The Black Experience in the Northland with Diona Johnson

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Feeling wanted, loved, and supported can be easy when you feel like there is space for you. Whether at work, school, or in your community. As Black History Month continues, the discussion of finding a way to improve the challenges that people in the black community face switches gears to ‘finding spaces’ where you feel comfortable.

In our series called ‘The Black Experience in the Northland,’ WDIO is giving black people the opportunity to speak up and let their voices be heard.

Last week, we talked with Dr. Verna Thornton about sharing similar cultural views, and how it is hard to feel welcome when there isn’t a broader range of social organizations or infrastructure in the city.

Related Story: The Black Experience in the Northland with Dr. Verna Thornton.

Creating infrastructure and social organizations are key values in a community to build a common space to help people feel welcome. People of color come to the Northland but many end up leaving because there is not a cultural base that will give them a reason to stay.

In communities and areas like the Northland, there is also a great need for space for people. Diona Johnson talks about a big focus on people feeling supported when they feel like there’s space for them.

Diona Johnson is an intercultural specialist at the College of St. Scholastica, and a licensed Mental Health professional at Peak Behavioral Health. She is also a musician going by Afrogedo, with her band Afrogedo and The Gemstones.

"Being a community that people of color want to live in. You know! So, that’s a lot to unpack, but you know a lot of people leave here because they don’t feel welcome,” says Johnson. “They don’t feel like there is space for them because they’ve experienced racial violence and in some respect of another. I think it is about creating infrastructure within this communication that makes people want to stay here."

As we move forward into the future, many things should be done to make cultural communities feel connected. Some of those system changes start with having opportunities for people to come together as one.

"When black people, African American people see that the community actively acknowledges that their safety and well-being matters, then they feel that they belong here and want to stay here," says Johnson.

Finding a space, a community of people with similar interests and values, is a goal that our region needs to build toward to help black people and people of color feel safe. This is a goal that could help make people of color feel respected, and feel like they are truly a part of the community.