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A Creative Response to Injustice: Humphrey Fellows Visit Duluth, Minnesota

How do communities heal from injustice? This question was at the heart of a February 2013 trip to Duluth organized by the Humphrey Fellowship Program at the University of Minnesota Law School and Human Rights Center. Humphrey Fellows traveled to Duluth to witness the harm caused by racial injustice, human trafficking, and poverty, as well as community attempts to repair that harm.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship is a Fulbright Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Fellows are distinguished mid-career professionals from developing countries and emerging democracies, selected on the basis of their potential for future leadership in their home countries. The Law School and Human Rights Center host a cohort of 12 Fellows working in the areas of law and human rights.

The Fellows' first stop was the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in the heart of downtown Duluth. The Memorial was constructed in 2003 to honor the memory of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie—three young black men who were lynched in 1920 on the site where the memorial now stands.

The Memorial has become a symbol of Duluth's effort to recognize and heal from the lynching. Seeking racial justice and community reconciliation, the Memorial Committee has coupled remembrance with active engagement through community education, curriculum development, website development, and an annual scholarship to a high school senior demonstrating interest in racial justice and equity.

Fellows spoke with Memorial Committee members about their work to address the racial injustice that still exists in Duluth and learned about the work of the Un-Fair campaign, a program designed to shed light on invisible forms of racism.

The Fellows' second day in Duluth began with a meeting with Duluth Mayor Don Ness, City Councilor Jen Julsrud, Deputy Chief of Police Robin Roeser, and Human Rights Officer Bob Grytdahl to learn about the city government and efforts to address human rights concerns at the city level.

Next came a discussion with staff at the Safe Haven Shelter and members of the Duluth Trafficking and Prostitution Task Force on violence against women and human trafficking. Fellows and task force members shared common experiences of working to assist victims of human trafficking—a truly international problem—and to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators.

The last stop on the trip was very affecting. Fellows visited Life House, a drop-in center for at-risk youth, many of whom are homeless, abused, or neglected. Their vulnerability puts them at risk for violence, exploitation, and human trafficking. Life House serves as a resource and safe haven for many young people, especially during the cold Duluth winters.

The ride back to Twin Cities was quiet as Fellows processed their experience. Like all cities, Duluth is filled with stories of injustice, but there are other stories, too, stories of creativity, resilience, and healing.