The Black Experience in the Northland with Dr. Verna Thornton

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Black History Month provides a good opportunity to talk about the triumphs and struggles black people over the years in this country. It is a time to share history and to discuss what needs to be done to continue to grow in understanding.

Changes have been made to improve the challenges that have faced the black community, but more still needs to be done. People are talking to each other, but we may not be listening to what is being said.
WDIO wants to give black people the opportunity to let their voices be heard in the Northland. Our series called ‘The Black Experience in the Northland’ gives the community that opportunity.

Minnesota is approximately 7 percent black. In Duluth, that percent is 2.28 based on an article by

In communities and areas like the Northland, there is also a need for racial diversity and equity. Dr. Verna Thornton talks about a big focus that can make these places more diversified.

Dr. Thornton is an Obstetrics and Gynecology Women’s Health Service at Community Memorial Hospital.

“People of color come to this city, and they leave because there is nothing to keep them here,” said Dr. Verna Thornton. “So, if you want to hire people that is one thing. But you want to retain people and build a culture. Remember, a city or a culture’s strength is built on diversity of thought, opportunity, and look…ethnicity."

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.

Dr. Thornton said it is important “to change the systems by which racism exists. You cannot straddle the fence. Either you are against racism, and you are going to do your part to make it go away, or you are on the other side, and you are willing to participate. There are no two sides about it.”

When people do not see someone that look like them, or someone with their values in a common space, they tend to feel unwelcomed.

"The middle class is what sustains the United States of America regardless of ethnicity. When you do not have a big black middle class here, you do not have the social organizations and the infrastructure such as more churches, hair salons, barbershops, hair supply stores. I am just naming a few where…music teachers, movie theaters where it is not self-segregation but an aggregation of people with similar culture views and outlooks where we can support one another,” said Dr. Thornton.

When these locations and organizations exist, it creates a positive space for the community to come together as one. Where racism and the lack of diversity is not just a hot topic for discussion.

Other ways that we as a city can help promote more diverse and inclusive in communities is to not be afraid to ask questions. We, as a community should not make assumptions based on a person’s skin color, or where they come from. The public needs to identify and acknowledge potential unknown biases. Finally, learn about your surrounding area and understand that there could be language barriers.

If each of us remembered to bring these steps into our daily lives, our community will continue to move forward to be better for everyone.