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Jennifer Brooks

Columnist | Local
Phone: 612-673-4008
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

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
The newly expanded Dubra family of Brooklyn Park celebrated last week as the judge finalized four adoptions. Photo courtesy of the Dubra family ORG XM

For adoptive families, 2020 was the perfectly imperfect time to open hearts and homes

  The four newest members of the Dubra family crowded around the screen, waiting for the judge to make it official. “All right, everyone. I’m…
Gov. Tim Walz spoke at the Capitol on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, about the problem of homelessness for veterans in Minnesota.

Homeless outreach workers help the veterans who need more than our thanks

Minnesota counted at least 308 homeless veterans on Veterans Day 2020, 100 more than last year.
Biden supporter Ani Aikens, left, handed the megaphone to Trump supporter Adam Heikkila, center, during an impromptu civil moderated debate following

Brooks: In some states, they bury the hatchet — literally

A Delaware tradition offers a template for the rest of us in times when we agree on very little.
In this 2018 photo, pro-legalization advocates marched from Christ Lutheran Church to the Minnesota State Capitol during Cannabis Awareness Day. AARON

Brooks: Will legalization of pot in S.D. waft to Minnesota?

Lots of issues split along partisan lines — blue against red, liberal against conservative, us against them — but not marijuana. Never marijuana.
When the pandemic closed the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory to the public, penguins from the nearby Como Zoo strolled the Sunken Garden with their keep

Brooks: If you need a break from politics, remember the penguins!

At the Como Park Zoo, someone is piloting a remote-controlled shark around a tank for no other reason than to make a penguin happy.
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Brooks: Reaching every Minnesota voter, when every vote counts

In a democracy, they say, the people end up with the government they deserve. Minnesotans worked hard this year to get out the…

Flap over Minneapolis deputy chief's 'white boys' comment missed point

Minneapolis Police Deputy Chief Art Knight gave half a quote to the paper the other week.He was talking about a defunct diversity program that used…
One year after his heart stopped during the Twin Cities 10 Mile, Tyler Moon is back on the road with his wife, Amy. Bystanders and other runners saved

Brooks: A runner with heart gets back in the race after a year of healing

Last October, an irregular heartbeat sent Tyler Moon into cardiac arrest near the 8-mile marker of a 10-mile race in the middle of Summit Avenue.
Gina Patierno, left, and her daughter Elissa Raduazzo took a walk through the nation’s first memorial to survivors of sexual violence, located at Bo

Brooks: Minneapolis has first memorial to survivors of sexual violence

The new Survivors Memorial, at Boom Island Park, is a reminder that survivors surround us, like veterans of some forgotten war.
A man wearing a mask walks past posters encouraging participation in the 2020 Census, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood

Brooks: Minnesota's last competitive sport is the 2020 census

Each response is an affirmation: We're here, our children are here, we count.
Senate President Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, adjourned the Minnesota Senate on Monday, Oct. 12., until audio problems could be resolved the start of the

Brooks: At the Minnesota State Capitol, masks and loathing

It was the fifth special session of the pandemic and some Minnesota lawmakers still hadn’t figured out masks. Some wore their masks slung uselessly
Hoping to encourage empathy for people incarcerated during the pandemic, JustLeadershipUSA put up billboards outside prisons across the country. This

Brooks: Being in prison in a pandemic makes life 'very, very small'

"He's scared. I don't want my son to die." Those words, from John Carlos' mother about her incarcerated son, stretched across a billboard in Faribault.
Customers and fans of Chey Car luxury car service donated more than $17,000 to help owner Chey Eisenman buy some new wheels and get back on the road a

After one more terrible turn to 2020, Chey Car's customers rallied to get her back on the road

If you've ever wondered whether the few bucks you chip in to a good cause make a difference, here's your answer.
President Donald Trump, shown during his visit to Duluth on Wednesday. Just over a day later, the president announced that he tested positive for the

Brooks: Get better soon, Mr. President

Getting sick and getting hospitalized is the harshest possible way to find out how wrong you were.
An early vote center in downtown Minneapolis for the 2020 primary election.

Brooks: The plan is to have a plan for voting in this election

Six months into the pandemic and six weeks out from the election, we're all adapting, especially those who count votes.
Boys and Girls clubs are opening around the Twin Cities this week, including the Southside Village club located a block from the intersection where Ge

After a traumatic summer, after-school programs prepare to listen to the kids

  It’s been six months since Mark Graves had to tell anyone to stop running in the halls. And he cannot wait to do it…
Brooks: Doctor dreams of Twins logo that looks more like team and its fans

Brooks: Doctor dreams of Twins logo that looks more like team and its fans

In the summer of 2020, as Minnesota burned and its people suffered and died in a pandemic, a Twin Cities doctor turned to Minnie and Paul again as a source of unity.
Tiwanna Jackson, owner of Tweak the Glam Studio on Lake Street, rebuilt and reopened on Lake Street. She held her belated grand opening in August. All

Brooks: Work on Lake Street to recover from riots continues, even on Labor Day weekend

More than 70,000 people donated more than $10 million to the effort to rebuild. Now what businesses really need, says the Lake Street Council, is to see people walk in.
Learn the secrets of making seed art with these DIY instructions

Learn the secrets of making seed art with these DIY instructions

State Fair seed art champion Jill Moe offers a beginner's guide to making your crop art masterpiece.
Learn how to felt a special Minnesota State Fair souvenir

Learn how to felt a special Minnesota State Fair souvenir

Missing your State Fair souvenirs? Make your own "Blue Ox, Blue Ribbon" keepsake with official Star Tribune felt ornamentalist, Jennifer Brooks.
After Ken O'Brien lost his beloved Yorkie, Oliver Bruce, he learned he wasn't alone. He was surrounded by an entire community that understood the hole

He lost his emotional support animal and found a community ready to support him

  Sometimes the smallest things help us through the hardest times. Oliver Bruce O’Brien weighed 8 pounds. He had bright button eyes, a sweet fuzzy…
Haley Puckhaber positioned the desks in her fourth-grade classroom at safe distances for incoming students at Friendship Academy for the Arts while ge

Minnesota teachers prep for a school year like no other

For most school districts, this entire year offered two equally bad choices.
With a pound of butter and a few tools, here's how to carve your very own butter head

With a pound of butter and a few tools, here's how to carve your very own butter head

A State Fair master guides us through the sculpting process using a one-pound butter brick you can find at most grocery stores.
Crews worked Thursday to clean up glass and board up the broken windows at the Nordstrom Rack on Nicollet Mall.

Brooks: Once again, it's hard for anything to feel normal in Minneapolis

It has been 95 days since George Floyd died and all that's changed is that we're angrier at each other.
Julia Rainey, 29, left, and her mother, Tonya Rainey, were among the residents of a tent compound in Powderhorn Park in July. Minneapolis park police

Brooks: Encampments are sign of homeless crisis bigger than any one of us

Government agencies, nonprofits and activists are trying — sometime collaborating, sometimes clashing — as they respond.
U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Angela Hardy’s employer consistently ranks as Americans’ favorite government agency.

Brooks: Neither rain nor political heat keeps postal workers from their appointed rounds

Every once in a while, Minnesota postal workers get a reminder that the U.S. Postal Service is still America's favorite federal agency.
Miranda Gray-Burlingame test-drives one of the newest handmade wooden toys at Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minn. Her family-owned shop is one of many Minneso

Brooks: Lark Toys stands firm on masks — and draws fans

One Lark staffer, a former preschool teacher, likes to compliment the masked children she meets. Maybe that's something we all need to hear.
State Demographer Susan Brower spoke to a kindergarten class at Bethune Elementary School in Minneapolis on Dec. 20. Census takers, hired from the com

Everyone should count: Minnesotans, don't get left out of census

  We’ve counted almost three out of every four Minnesotans, give or take. It’s three out of four if you’re filling out the 2020 census…
Nancy Gossell voted early in the Minneapolis Early Vote Center.

Brooks: Minnesota aims for full ballot boxes, empty polling places this Election Day

Half a million Minnesotans have requested absentee ballots already. That's half a million people who won't have to wait in line on Aug. 11.
A couple wrapped in crude swastika masks shout and gesture defiantly from the back of the checkout line at a Wal-Mart in Marshall, Minn., on Saturday.

Brooks: Swastika-swaddled shoppers were the symptom, not the disease

This isn’t who we are, we told ourselves when the neighbors went shopping with swastikas wrapped around their heads. Shoppers howled through their Nazi…
Minnesotans are finding ways to make the strange, distant summer of 2020 fun for their kids and themselves. Coach Chris Brosell tossed Vivian Shanks a

Brooks: This weird, Plan-B pandemic summer might just have some fun in it yet

For everything the summer of 2020 took from us, there are people working to give us something back. Like Zoom calls with goats.
Father Time Antiques in Duluth requires masks. “It will save lives,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said of the practice.

Brooks: At last, a mask mandate for Minnesota

Maybe there will be protests. But it's hard to argue that this is a radical policy leap when Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio did it first.
In 2000, then-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura entered a packed gym at Murray County Central by going through a large paper hoop reading, "THE MCC REBELS

Brooks: Minnesota's baffling collection of Confederate high school mascots

Murray County Central is one of the few districts willing to take a hard look at its mascot.
The Minneapolis Farmers Market adapted to COVID-19 with masks and pandemic precautions. Now, the family farmers wait for the crowds to return for a ta

Brooks: Minnesota farmers markets adapt to a pandemic summer

Farmers are hoping a trip to the market is one sweet summer treat Minnesotans can still savor.
Brooks: Young eyewitness to Floyd's killing is writing children's book

Brooks: Young eyewitness to Floyd's killing is writing children's book

Judeah Reynolds, age 9, is going to tell her own story. The story of what happened that day she walked to the store, and in the days that followed.
With new safety measures in place, Debbie Manke, right, took in the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory as she took photos of her daughter Stephanie St. Ger

Flower Power: Reopened conservatory in St. Paul offers a break from pandemic gloom

When the pandemic closed the conservatory doors, the gardeners opened a window.Through the cold, gray spring, as the virus spread and Minnesota shut down, people…
The only Confederate flag that really belongs in Minnesota is the one its soldiers captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. During a rare public displa

Brooks: Minnesota put the Confederate flag in its place 150 years ago

They’ll be racing again at the Elko Speedway this Fourth of July. Fast cars, fireworks, a responsibly sized crowd, and not a Confederate flag in…
Minnesota officials urge anyone who's joined a protest or mass gathering to get tested for COVID-19. But the clinics conducting those tests are still

Brooks: Short on masks, gowns and help, clinics use what they have to test as many as they can

  They don’t have enough masks. They don’t have enough gowns. They don’t have enough help. But at Open Cities Health Center, they use what…
The statue of Christopher Columbus lies on the ground after it was toppled in front of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul last week.

Brooks: With Columbus statue gone, Minn. Capitol works to tell a more complete history

If you listen to just one side of history over and over, you can miss the most important parts and the most interesting people.
Josie Johnson, center, preparing for the March on Washington in 1963. Five decades of marching, advocating and Civil Rights work later, Johnson watche

Brooks: Minnesota civil rights leaders reflect on the power of the streets and the long road to justice

  Josie Johnson had always felt a bit of hope. She stayed hopeful as a teenager in Texas, gathering signatures on a petition to end…
Residents and volunteers came and went from the Sanctuary Hotel at the start of June.

Brooks: A sanctuary closes, and a city faces its failure to protect and serve

With all the heartbreak and havoc, the Sanctuary Hotel was a bright spot, an uplifting story of a community taking care of its own. And then it was gone.
Witnessing history George Grice, far left, 4, of Minneapolis joined other children at the George Floyd memorial outside Cup Foods.

Brooks: The kids are watching as we face hard questions about George Floyd

They know what happened to George Floyd, as well as to too many black men and women before him.
The Minnesota National Guard is protecting a rare unlooted or shuttered grocery store on Cedar Avenue and 26th, several blocks from Lake Street in Min

Exhausted neighborhoods reel after a week of fire, fear and self-defense

The neighborhood’s last grocery store, encircled by National Guard troops and vehicles, was open for business. “They protect everything,” said Hamza Wadi, taking a break…
Dozens of volunteers processed donated items outside U.S. Bank on West Broadway in north Minneapolis on Saturday.

Brooks: Minneapolis residents turn out in force to mop up, put out fires

Who the rioters are is less important than who we are.
Greta McClain and two other artist painted a mural of George Floyd on the wall of Cup Food Store .

Brooks: While the Twin Cities region rages, a neighborhood grieves a singular loss

A mural of George Floyd in south Minneapolis is an act of creation in the middle of so much destruction.
Protesters near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct station on Tuesday after a rally and march over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

Brooks: George Floyd and the city that killed him

Something's not right in Minnesota, land of some of the worst racial disparities in America.
Volunteers from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities unloaded boxes of donations for the Little Earth community in Minneapolis. Since kids can't

Brooks: Boys & Girls Clubs adapt to pandemic by meeting kids where they are

For some families, a global pandemic barely registers as a traumatic event compared with everything else they've survived.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda delivered the Easter benediction as a livestream on the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary. Hebda announced that Catholic chur

Brooks: Not attending church won't kill anyone, but rushing to reopen might

Minnesota's Catholic conference and the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are promising every precaution. That might not be enough.
Veterans Gene Szumski and Thomas Skrzysowski helped prepare for Memorial Day in Dupont, Pa.

Brooks: This Memorial Day, communities remember what they lost and hold on to what they have

The pandemic threatens our lives and our livelihoods. But for everything the virus takes, there are people who find ways to give back.
Artist Cathy Bratter, who relies on lip-reading, models a transparent face mask. Ordinary masks can muffle speech and hamper communication.

'I never felt handicapped until now.' Minnesotans with hearing loss face a masked world

For thousands of Minnesotans with hearing loss, the masks we've come to rely on are a barrier to communication.
Nick Houkom and Teresa Cahill, nurse managers at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, modeled two of the new protective gowns desi

Brooks: U students saved local hospitals from running out of PPE

A small group of students from the University of Minnesota just invented a new Class 1 medical device and got it into production. It took them two weeks.
Dr. Timothy Roach

Brooks: Caring for COVID-19 patients forced Blaine doctor into isolation from family

This is the price some pay to protect the rest of us.
A masked House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, prepared for a recent session under the new normal of social distancing.

Brooks: In a Legislature on lockdown, Capitol gets used to a new normal

Among the signs: It falls to the lawmakers themselves to fill in as chaplain and open each session with a few good words in these bad times.
Student walk on campus at Macalester College in 2017.

Brooks: From the Class of 1970 to the Class of 2020, with empathy

The 50th reunion might not happen until the 51st, but Macalester's Class of 1970 is more worried about the Class of 2020.
Nurse Ruth Vercheck of Nura Pain Clinic volunteered to make free home visits so patients in debilitating pain don't have to leave home in the middle o

Across Minnesota, nurses make free house calls to patients in pain

Rather than take medical supplies the hospitals need, the nurses hit the hardware store.
Owner Deb Pedro and staff like Tracy Korhonen at this Maplewood Perkins know their regulars so well, families as them to call if someone doesn't show

Brooks: A neighborhood restaurant misses its neighbors

Most of us would drive by Debra Pedro's place — the Maplewood Perkins — without realizing it is hurting, too.
Micah Roth of Nordeast Makers assembled some of the thousands of protective face shields that Twin Cities volunteers are manufacturing on home 3-D pri

Brooks: Minnesota volunteers help to fill broken links in hospital supply chain

Across the state, they are filling the gaps with little more than 3-D printers and goodwill.
Art student Cedar Thomas smiles in front a collection of upbeat signs and decorations meant to cheer the neighborhood. Someone tore it all down and le

Brooks: Chalk up this artful gesture to someone with a big heart wanting to help

Cedar Thomas is an artist, a college senior and one of millions of Minnesotans making the best of these difficult times.
Jeanne Calvit, founder of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, with some of her colleagues, in healthier times. The St. Paul-based cent

Brooks: The art of the possible continues, despite it all

The coronavirus might shut down almost everything else, but the art goes on at Interact, a visual and performing arts center for people with disabilities.
Teresa Thomas, founder of the social networking business 50 Fun Things, took to Facebook to help people brainstorm ways to have fun and stay healthy w

Brooks: Minnesotans try to make the best of the worst of times

Staying happy and healthy while staying at home is the challenge now for 5 million-plus Minnesotans.
Twin Cities restaurants emptied their kitchens to give the food away at Public Kitchen + Bar in downtown St Paul to anyone who needed it.

Brooks: To keep their neighbors safe, the one thing they can't do is their job

  The one thing Justin Sutherland can’t do right now is his job. “All we’ve done, all our lives, is feed people,” the chef…
This isn't the book launch party that author Sheletta Brundidge and her family had planned. But orders for "Cameron Goes to School" -- the story a lit

Brooks: Minnesota children's book finds audience as schools, libraries close

The middle of a public health emergency is terrible timing for a book launch. But that was just the beginning of the story.
The scene at a past St. Albert the Great's fish fry, which routine attracts more than 1,000 diners.

Brooks: Minnesotans work to stay close while socially distant

For the next few weeks or months, keeping our distance will be the surest way to keep each other safe. The distance comes at a cost
A year ago, a blizzard collapsed the Hoffman family's barn in Chatfield, Minn., killing several cows and nearly driving a century-old family farm out

Brooks: Minnesota dairy farm survives and thrives after a blizzard of bad luck

The new year has been kinder to the Hoffman family after their dairy farm almost went out of business.
Shelves that held hand sanitizer and hand soap are mostly empty at a Target in Jersey City, N.J., Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Brooks: Just put down the mask, wash your hands and other virus advice

Despite practical, affordable and common-sense advice, pandemic panic has emptied store shelves across the city, state and country.
Amy Klobuchar spoke at a campaign rally in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020. She dropped out of the presidential race shortly after the event.

Brooks: Every campaign that ends breaks somebody's heart

At Klobuchar headquarters in northeast Minneapolis, they were clearing out the campaign bus. Yard signs. Leaflets. “Amy for America” buttons. The candidate’s staff piled them…
Tucker Jensen's love of local music and musicians lives on in Radio Five Watt, the internet radio station he helped start in Northeast Minneapolis's F

Brooks: On Radio Five Watt, Tucker Jensen's love of Minnesota music and musicians lives on

On Tuesday, a year after they lost Jensen to cancer at age 29, his family, friends and fans will gather at a benefit concert to celebrate his life and continue his work.
Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and other Republicans announce a slate of bills during a news conference on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, at the s

Brooks: Which view of the Twin Cities to choose?

Outside the Twin Cities, looking in, some state lawmakers don't like what they see, while the mayor of Minneapolis is a lot happier with the view.
Blama Massaquoi. The world took more from Massaquoi than it gave, and he repaid that cruelty with compassion.

Remembering Blama Massaquoi, who gave the world more than it took from him

The 34-year-old died in Cottage Grove on Feb. 11, from injuries suffered half a lifetime ago, as a schoolboy abducted and tortured during the Liberian civil war.
Mississippi Mushrooms is closing, but their landlord/hometown is giving them a little more time to sell off their equipment and the hundreds of pounds

Brooks: No room for mushrooms in Minneapolis' Upper Harbor Terminal plans

The city of Minneapolis has big plans for the land. But Mississippi Mushrooms wasn't part of them.
A pedestrian walks past a sign for the Iowa Caucuses on a downtown skywalk, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines. The first-in-the-nation presidential

Brooks: What Minnesotans saw at the caucus to end all caucuses

We still don't have a winner in Iowa. We still don't have an explanation.
Neighbors, police officers and members of the St. Paul Town Hall Facebook group gathered in support of El Burrito Mercado after a takeover style robbe

Brooks: Customers show support for St. Paul's El Burrito Mercado after frightening robbery

  For 40 years, El Burrito Mercado has been there for St. Paul. This week, St. Paul was there for El Burrito Mercado. “It’s a…
Counties still have to ask themselves: Are refugees welcome here? Or are we some sort of Beltrami County? Shown is the crowd at the Beltrami County Bo

Brooks: Minnesota's Pope County, in Trump Country, votes unanimously to welcome refugees

When the County Board met on Jan. 7, the vote was a swift, uncontested yes.
A look at several Minnesota driver's licenses that were made available starting in 2018.

Brooks: Real frustrations pile up over obtaining a Real ID

Minnesotans tell of making multiple return trips, juggling taller and taller stacks of documents, hoping each time they've hit on the correct paperwork combination.
Most North American churches don’t make it past the 80- or 100-year mark. Especially in Minnesota, which has been losing churches — and churchgoer

Brooks: Fight to save a small church turned into a battle for the ages in Cottage Grove

The leadership of the Grove United Methodist Church assured people all week that nobody is setting the elderly adrift on Mississippi ice floes to make space in the pews for younger, cuter families.