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U of M documentary 'Cornerstones' traces history of North Minneapolis through place-based memories

November 1, 2011

North Minneapolis’ legendary buildings and historic spaces are the backdrops for an exploration of the power of place and community in "Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis," premiering statewide at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, on tpt MN, Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Channel.


Co-produced by the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center and tpt, "Cornerstones" presents powerful stories of Northside life interwoven with themes of immigration, race relations and cultural changes through place-based memories.

Using interviews with local historians, architects, city planners, elders, artists and residents, the storyline traces cultural and social change and their impacts on iconic places such as the Sumner Community Library, Emanuel Cohen Center/Oak Park Community Center, KMOJ Radio, Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and Plymouth Avenue.

The hour-long documentary was written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Daniel Pierce Bergin, who won an Emmy award for his 2004 tpt documentary "North Star: Minnesota’s Black Pioneers." "Cornerstones" is narrated by veteran Twin Cities performer Jearlyn Steele.

“'Cornerstones' is a powerful and inspiring reminder of the places that bind us and the importance of community,” says University of Minnesota Senior Vice President Robert Jones, whose Office of System Academic Administration oversaw the production. “It’s our hope that the documentary will serve as a touchstone for common ground and a catalyst for discussions about one of Minnesota’s most vital urban neighborhoods.”

The documentary’s companion website at will feature additional interviews with Northside residents on the importance of place and memory. The site will also include interactive storytelling features and content from tpt, university researchers and community historians.

Special screenings and related events will take place during the coming year at North Minneapolis venues and elsewhere.

Rebroadcasts of "Cornerstones" are scheduled for 2 a.m., 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Nov. 14 and noon Nov. 20 on tpt’s Life Channel. Viewers should check with their local PBS affiliates for airing dates and times.

The Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC), located in North Minneapolis, produced the documentary as an extension of the university's land-grant mission to promote scholarship and public engagement for and with Minnesota communities, says Jones.

UROC’s mission is to link the university in public partnership with urban communities to advance learning, improve quality of life and discover solutions to complex urban challenges. For more information, visit

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