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Jennifer Brooks

Columnist | Local
Phone: 612-673-4008

Jennifer Brooks is a local columnist for the Star Tribune. She travels across Minnesota, writing thoughtful and surprising stories about residents and issues.

Previously as a Star Tribune reporter, Brooks covered the State Capitol and the Minnesota congressional delegation in Washington.
Recent content from Jennifer Brooks
Storyteller Abby Johnson reads to children during Ojibwe Story Time at the Duluth Depot. The weekly event not only introduces children to Ojibwe tradi

Brooks: Once upon an Ojibwe story time in Duluth

The St. Louis County Historical Society and Ojibwe authors open a new storytelling chapter.
Kim Griffin, took a sample from Gianna Cassidy, age 1 1/2, during a COVID test with five members of her family in the parking lot of Masjid An-Nur Mos

Brooks: North Minneapolis community finds a way to get COVID tests, residents living again

When there weren't enough COVID tests to go around in north Minneapolis, a community rallied.
U.S. Navy veteran John Ferman at a Memorial Day ceremony at Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery in Minneapolis in 2019.

Brooks: A fitting final resting place among pioneers and soldiers in Minneapolis

Longtime volunteer Jack Ferman's last wish was to be buried at Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery.
Pro-Trump supporters pushed back against police at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

Brooks: One year after Jan. 6 and deeper in denial

A violent attempt to overturn an American election should have changed everything. It didn't.
Capt. John Cheatham spent his life protecting the lives and property of his neighbors in Minneapolis. In 2022, one of the streets he safeguarded will

Brooks: Mpls. will change infamous street name to honor trailblazing firefighter

Capt. John Cheatham spent his life protecting the lives and property of his neighbors.
In January, Vault Health testing assistant Kenny Smith helped Gettanjali Mittal with her COVID test at the Minneapolis Convention Centers, one of the

Brooks: By spit or by swab, testing is powerful pandemic weapon

If you're looking for a test, Minnesota makes it easier and cheaper than most states.
Kol and Annabell at the 2016 Anoka County Fair. From the upcoming book, “The Unchosen Ones,” by R.J. Kern.

Brooks: New book celebrates Minnesota kids who didn't win at the county fair

"The Unchosen Ones" offers lessons on resilience.
In this pre-pandemic photo, Ryan Malecha, who served on the Mayor’s Youth Council from 2018 to 2021, gives an update to the Northfield City Council.

Brooks: In Northfield, a student's place is in the boardroom

Youth on Boards program in Northfield shows just how much high school students can bring to the table
Randy Flowers, a street outreach worker for St. Stephen’s Human Services, checks in on someone sheltering in a rail yard. Give to the Max Day is Nov

Brooks: On Minnesota's Give to the Max Day, a chance to help the helpers

There are so many amazing groups and causes. This is your reminder that it's possible for one act of kindness to change someone's life.
Tracey Williams-Dillard, right, publisher/CEO of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, talks about how small Black-owned businesses like her newspaper wea

Brooks: New series turns spotlight on Twin Cities Black businesses

The new season of the show begins streaming Tuesday on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
David Hrdlicka was 33 years old when he was shot down on a bombing run over northern Laos on May 18, 1965. His 90th birthday is coming up on Dec. 30.

Brooks: David Hrdlicka has been MIA for 56 years and he's still missed

His former St. John's Prep classmates spent more than a decade seeking answers. They keep going, in honor of their friend.
Prof. Jason Sole teaches criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Brooks: Once a felon, Jason Sole is now a Minnesota criminal justice professor

This is a chance to learn about policing from someone who has been policed.
Minneapolis City Hall.

Brooks: Minneapolis voter hit with the only thing worse than an unsolicited campaign text message

If you're a woman with an opinion in public, someone will try to weaponize male anatomy against you. The number that had been texting her has been disconnected.
LaToya Lewis and her son, Malik, who is hospitalized with COVID and pneumonia. Malik’s developmental disabilities are making it hard for him to tole

Brooks: A family's desperate search for COVID care for their disabled son

Malik Lewis is battling pneumonia and COVID — and the tubes and wires keeping him alive.Malik, 21, has a sweet smile, a loving family,…
Activists pulled down the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of the Minnesota State Capitol in June 2020.

Brooks: Columbus fell and state is picking up pieces

A year and a half after a dented Columbus was carted off to a state warehouse, there is still no paperwork, no procedure, no plan for where it should end up.
After GOP gains in northern Minnesota in recent elections, the state DFL opened a new outreach office in Ely, Minn.Photo courtesy of Mary Louise Icenh

Brooks: In the red spaces on the election map, the DFL makes its pitch

The 11 offices outside the Twin Cities are places to organize volunteers, hold meetings and distribute yard signs ahead of next year's midterm elections.
File photo by Brian Peterson • Bison were hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800s. This herd at Blue Mounds Sta

Brooks: At the bison auction: Sold to the buffalo-est bidder

Once home to huge herds, Minnesota now has about 5,000, maybe 10,000 bison, depending on who's counting.
The new Northfield logo.

Brooks: Minnesota schools begin to part ways with outdated mascots

Minnesota, thousands of whose citizens fought and died to preserve the Union, is home to at least half a dozen high schools with Confederate mascots.
LaTwanna Williams

Brooks: Photographer seeks to show young women what real beauty is

The hope is to start chipping away at years of Instagram messaging about which of their selfies are good or bad; which of their features are flattering or flaws.
Young cannabis plants grow in the Otsego facility run by Vireo Health, one of two companies the state allows to grow and refine medical marijuana. The

Setting the record straight on long-ago offenses

Sometimes, a misdemeanor can feel like a life sentence.It wasn't much marijuana. Enough to roll a few joints.Enough to slap a college student with a…
Craig Schafer, seen here in a 2012 Star Tribune photo, was instrumental in bringing a damaged beam from the World Trade towers to Marshall. Visitors s

Brooks: Spirits in the steel at Minnesota's memorials to the World Trade Center

That broken beam in Marshall, Minn., is as close as most of us will ever get to ground zero.
This copper tool found at Historic Fort Snelling dates from 3,000 to 8,500 years ago.

Brooks: Fort Snelling archaeologists offer the public a chance to dig into history this weekend

Nothing connects you with history like holding a piece of it in your hand.
Copper tool that dates from 8,500 to 3,000 years ago recovered from Historic Fort Snelling in 1973.Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

Brooks: Fort Snelling archaeologists offer a chance to dig into history this weekend

Nothing connects you with history like holding a piece of it in your hand.
In Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 19, 2021, a near-capacity crowd filled the room. The Minnetonka School Board held a work session and meeting that i

Brooks: Minnesota school boards are at the breaking point

It was always a thankless job. Then came the pandemic, and a thankless job turned joyless.
Up, up and away to your (adjective) Day at the Minnesota State Fair!

Up, up and away to your (adjective) Day at the Minnesota State Fair!

After a no-fair year, the Minnesota State Fair is back. Whether you're planning to get vaccinated, mask up, and attend — or if you're sitting this one out — here's your chance to fill in some blanks and remember what makes Great Minnesota Get-Togethers so great.
Photo credit: Paul Warder The Southside Back in the Day festival started more than a decade ago, with a group of neighbors who were looking for a happ

Brooks: Back in the Day Festival prepares for day of joy near George Floyd Square

The 11th annual gathering promises good food, great music, local vendors, drum lines, double-dutch jump rope exhibitions and joyous reunions.
Justin Stafki, 17, of White Bear Lake, walked away from the Great Big Wheel after a ride with his mother, Barb, just as the rain started to fall Thurs

Brooks: Minnesotans aren't sure they want to get together at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year

The delta variant is surging just as the fair is drawing thousands of people with very different comfort levels on the issues of masks, vaccines and eating horse paste.
Circle Pines City Council Member Dean Goldberg, aka Census Man, celebrates the huge effort it took to get this small city to hit the 5,000-population

Brooks: Small Minnesota cities hit or miss a crucial census benchmark of 5,000 strong

Census Man always knew he could count on Circle Pines.For one last time last week, City Council Member Dean Goldberg donned his cape, his mask…
Jennifer Carnahan, shown in 2017.

Brooks: Jennifer Carnahan wants you to remember the real victim here: Jennifer Carnahan

Jennifer Carnahan wants you to remember the real victim here.The FBI had swooped in to arrest top GOP donor Anton "Tony" Lazzaro on child…
Rather than an expanded Public Works truck depot next door, East Phillips residents hope to turn this site into an Indoor Urban Farm, with space for t

Brooks: In Minneapolis's arsenic triangle, East Phillips residents ask council for a greener future

What Minneapolis wants is not what East Phillips needs.
One of two very long lines for cheese curds at the recent Kickoff to Summer at the Fair. The raw anxiety of getting together with that many people ami

Brooks: Vaxxed but not relaxed? Minnesotans debate whether they'd feel comfortable at State Fair

For 3 million fully vaccinated Minnesotans who did everything right, Jennifer Brooks asks: Is it still OK to get that Pronto Pup?
“Get vaccinated. Save a life,” said Teto Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Image Barbers & Stylists in north Minneapolis. Wilson’s is one of more than

Brooks: Twin Cities shops take a shot at protecting customers from COVID

More than a dozen Black-owned barber shops and salons across Minnesota have thrown open their doors to the federal Shots at the Shop initiative.
Photo by David Joles  In 2006, U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, left, and Hy Rosen, then-director of the Greater Lakes Food Bank, shared a moment following a hu

Brooks: A love letter from Jim Ramstad's hometown(s)

If you want a measure how beloved a public figure is, look to see how many different places stake a claim to them.
COVID patient Greg Beaudoin, who spent 54 days on a ventilator while hospitalized in the spring and experienced two strokes because of the virus, work

Brooks: Heat waves, smoke clouds and the battle to breathe easy in Minnesota

The climate is changing, and not for the better: Our bodies are choking on Canadian wildfire smoke, roasting through heat waves, then choking on wildfire smoke again.
Barway Collins

Brooks: In Crystal, a monument to a little boy lost

If a playground seems a strange place to remember a murdered child, imagine how much worse it would be to forget.
A scene from a 2013 vigil in St. Paul to honor victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE)

Researchers follow trail of sex trafficking to Minnesota massage program

Something seemed very wrong at the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.There was a locked closet with student files the registrar could not access.There…
Valerie Castile spoke about her son to protesters including activist Brandyn Tulloch, left, on the anniversary of Philando Castile’s killing

Brooks: A change of law, a change of heart, on the anniversary of Philando Castile's killing

The Minnesota Legislature changed the law to ban lunch shaming for good five years to the day after he died.
A group of Civil War veterans, including Henry Mills, gathered on the steps of the second Minnesota Capital in this photo from about 1910.  Photo cour

Brooks: Minnesota Historical Society looks to the future

In the worst days of 2020, MNHS was urging Minnesotans to be mindful of the history we're living through.
In a 2018 protest over what they perceive as sexist attitudes on the West St. Paul City Council, residents brought boxes of tampons and maxi pads to t

Brooks: The Women of West St. Paul give to the maxi

It was a protest that started with a creep who crept through the night in 2018 to dump a box of maxi pads on the doorstep of West St. Paul's first female mayor.
Derek Chauvin at his sentencing Friday.

Brooks: Let Derek Chauvin's sentence be the start of the conversation

Sometimes there's no neutral ground. You stand with your neighbors or you stand against them.
“We might as well call this Hitler Boulevard,” former state Rep. Phyllis Kahn once said of Dight Avenue in south Minneapolis.

Brooks: In Minneapolis, all roads lead away from Dight Avenue

Charles Fremont Dight lived in a tree and wrote fan letters to Adolf Hitler and founded the Minnesota Eugenics Society.Minneapolis named a street after him.It…
In this 2017 photo, families celebrate at the annual Twin Cities Pride parade-watching part. After a year without celebrations, the community is looki

Brooks: Twin Cities Pride festival set to return after a long pandemic year

An event that usually requires six months of meticulous planning came together in a matter of weeks.
Nae Totushek lights candles in honor of Deona M. Knajdek, late Monday, June 14, 2021, in Minneapolis. Knajdek was killed a day earlier when a vehicle

Brooks: Deona Knajdek fought so Minneapolis wouldn't look away from its pain

Deona Marie Knajdek took to the streets.Winston Smith Jr. was dead, gunned down by law enforcement on the same day city work crews plowed through…
Chelsea Holiday checked the operations of the express bus she would be driving to Blaine Tuesday afternoon starting through downtown Minneapolis.  Whe

Brooks: Metro Transit trains a new generation of bus drivers as commuters return to the commute

Experience has taught transit officials that their next bus driver could come from anywhere.
The line to get into Roller Garden on May 5.

Bids roll in for a piece of the Roller Garden in St. Louis Park

Fans are eager take home a piece of the past.
Neighbors in Loring Park — and the neighborhood dogs — gathered to thank Mark Clark of the city public works department for all the smiles, hard w

Brooks: A Minneapolis neighborhood gives public thanks to Public Works

For 11 years, Mark Clark greeted neighbors and visitors to the Loring Park Greenway. Off to a new assignment, he was invited back for a party by the neighborhood.
A review of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans found one to an orange farm in Mantorville, Minn. Any oranges that were able to grow outdoors in

Brooks: Orange farm in Minnesota landed PPP loan with little scrutiny

Pro Publica's review of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans turned up "fake farms in absurd places"
Minneapolis police confront protesters outside the Third Police Precinct after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII • ric

Brooks: A year in the life of the city that killed George Floyd

It is hard to move on when it feels like it is not over.
Brooks: Fishing opener offers the first big get-together, after year apart

Brooks: Fishing opener offers the first big get-together, after year apart

Minnesotans were back together on Saturday — vaxed, relaxed and newly unmasked.
Jenny Eagan of MN NORML came out to the Minnesota State Capitol, along with around 40 other supporters of legalizing marijuana, ahead of the Minnesota

Brooks: Historic vote at Minnesota Legislature shifts the debate on marijuana

People have gotten more comfortable with cannabis in recent years. Institutions have not.
If Minnesota had counted 26 fewer people in the 2020 Census, it would have lost one of its eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Behind th

Brooks: How the census heroes saved Minnesota a seat in Congress

The state that never takes the last bite of anything snagged the last available seat in the U.S. House.
As Minnesotans ease back to the places and pastimes they've missed, businesses like Lakes & Legends Brewing Co. in Loring Park are waiting to welc

Brooks: Masked up and vaxed up, Minnesotans are ready to have fun again

A Minnesotan walks into a bar.Orders a beer and takes a seat at a table crowded with friends and happy dogs and covered with bingo…
A Moorhead man told investigators that he defaced a mosque during a holy month to get a reaction.

Brooks: After attack on mosque, Moorhead refused to let hate have the last word

Volunteers drive in from miles away to help the cleanup.
On Veterans Day 2020, Tom Arneson of Brooklyn Center, who served in Vietnam, paid his respects at the Vietnam memorial on the grounds of the Minnesota

A second chance for veterans gets a second chance at the Legislature

Not every county has the resources to set up a veterans courts of its own. The Minnesota Legislature could change that.
Brooks: Art thief makes off with a piece of Grand Marais history

Brooks: Art thief makes off with a piece of Grand Marais history

"Woman Hauling Sticks" was a crowd pleaser at the Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery.
Marissa Tappy prayed Monday afternoon at the base of the fist, first installed at George Floyd Square.

Brooks: We didn't learn from George Floyd

No justice, no peace, even when you prosecute police
At HiFi Hair and Records in Minneapolis, Jon Clifford welcomes back his customers -- and all their COVID hair. He even made videos for them during loc

Brooks: Eager salons 'ready to cut that COVID hair'

The personal services industry, which includes businesses like salons, spas and barber shops, lost more jobs to the pandemic than any other industry in the state.
Proof of life, from a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination station in Owatonna, Minn.

Brooks: Hitting the road to get the vaccine

Getting an appointment is still a matter of good timing, good luck — or very good neighbors.
Daniel Brundidge, 6, found his voice by singing along to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. Now he’s the hero of a storybook written by his mother, �

Brooks: Lil Nas X satanic panic disrupts Minnesota launch of children's book

Sheletta Brundidge tells how song inspired autistic son's journey to speech.
In this 2018 photo, Dr. Nathan Chomilo checks the ears of 15-month-old Tedra Gbelia during her well-child visit as her mother Lorpu Cyrus distracts he

Brooks: The quest to get more Minnesotans to see themselves as doctors

There's something invaluable about finding one who's shared your experiences, who understands things about your life without needing to ask.
John Moe, host of the new podcast, Depresh Mode.

Brooks: He lost his job and his popular podcast, but not his sense of humor or hope

"The Hilarious World of Depression" host John Moe is back with a new podcast.
The mental health care system in this country isn’t broken, said Sue Abderholden, Minnesota executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Il

Brooks: A teen shares the story of her long wait for help

People talk about the stigma of mental illness, but it's really just discrimination: treating someone differently because their illness makes you uneasy.
Huge crowds on opening day of the Minnesota State Fair in 2017.

Brooks: Planting the seeds for a great Minnesota get-together

A great many things have to come together before a Great Minnesota Get-Together, and almost none of them can wait.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Tom Johnson in 1977

Brooks: For those baseball retirees whose careers ended too soon, the better pay and benefits came too late

Tom Johnson and 873 other retirees struck out and walked away with nothing from the pension plan
Pastor Celester Webb gets his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the United Church of God in Christ in St. Paul. Health officials are partnering wi

Brooks: Minnesota churches build faith in COVID-19 vaccine, give shots of hope to those in need

Sometimes the people who need health care most are the ones who trust the health care system least.
Before the pandemic, the Friday fish dinners at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church and School brought hundreds of people crowding happily into the gymn

Brooks: For a second year, pandemic hits the Friday fish fries

A few, like Our Lady of Peace in Minneapolis, had enough space and willing volunteers for the Friday fish fry to carry on — as carryout.
Baseball fan Logan Delaney. His father, Jeremy Delaney, is a volunteer coach who’s working to found an alternative baseball league in Rochester, Min

Brooks: Inclusive baseball league puts out the call for Minnesota coaches and players

Alternative Baseball is a place anyone with special needs can come and know they won't be judged and they won't be alone.

Brooks: In north Minneapolis, an internship becomes a vocation

The North Side needed someone needed to keep the work going. Will Wallace had the workforce.
Darwin Dean handed the first-place trophy to Mateo Martinez, winner of the 2019 Junior Bronze tournament for 7- to 10-year-olds at Hiawatha Golf Club.

Brooks: Par for the course as Park Board debate over Hiawatha course continues

For years, the Park Board has reviewed proposals to restore part of the watershed around Hiawatha while still preserving the park for the public to enjoy. Next week, the board will hold the latest of many public hearings on the updated master plan for the site.
The Minnesota Children's Museum in St. Paul has worked to adapt its mission and services to the pandemic. Here, young visitors take an imaginary b

Brooks: When Minnesotans couldn't go to the museum, museums came to us

You can sit on your couch in Minnesota and tour the Museu de Arte in São Paulo.Or you can get up off your couch…
Minnesota state troopers guarded the Capitol during a rally supporting President Donald Trump earlier in the month. Leila Navidi - Star Tribune

Brooks: Minnesota legislators vote to denounce violence at U.S. Capitol – most of them, anyway

For almost two hours Monday, lawmakers talked over each other and past each other and around and around the events of Jan. 6.
University of Minnesota student Zubeda Chaffe cooks cacabsa with other members of the Oromo Student Union. Cacabsa, a traditional Sudanese dish made o

Brooks: University of Minnesota students learn the comfort of sharing comfort foods

In the bleak early days of the pandemic, as Americans cocooned themselves in jigsaw puzzles, half-sewn face masks and bubbling tubs of sourdough starter, student…
President Donald Trump shook hands with Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, on Oct. 10, 2019 at the Target C

Brooks: Minneapolis police union chief Kroll goes out with a whimper

The cop who made Minneapolis less safe is walking away from the job.Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union, plans to retire at…
Small business like Cafe Racer Kitchen in Minneapolis adapt and endure through the pandemic — with the help of Hennepin County’s small business re

Brooks: Hennepin County tosses a lifeline to small businesses battered by the pandemic

Help went to more than 4,600 small businesses and nonprofits hurt by the shutdowns, recession and unrest of the past year.

Brooks: After the coup at the Capitol, the storm rages on

You can't say this is not who we are. This is exactly who some of us are and always have been.