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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
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

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

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.
Lutefisk is made by processing dried fish for weeks on end in smelly, caustic baths. Some Minnesotans went to great lengths to get their fill this pan

Brooks: Lutefisk a 'Happy Meal for 2020'

Where there's a will for lutefisk — or lutfisk, if you trace your roots to Sweden rather than Norway — there's a way.
Traffic creeps behind snowplows heading south on I-35W in Minneapolis during an early 2020 snowstorm.

Want to give snow saviors a name? Enter the name-a-plow contest

With plow appreciation at a seasonal high, MnDOT is launching an effort to help Minnesotans form an even deeper bond with their friendly neighborhood plow.
Minnesota’s free statewide COVID-19 testing program whisks people through testing centers like this one in the downtown Minneapolis Convention Cente

Brooks: This year, give the gift of COVID status

The line for a COVID-19 test is nobody's idea of the Happiest Place on Earth."This isn't Disney," said Shawn Baxley, vice president of field operations…
On Veterans Day, Tom Arneson of Brooklyn Center, who served in Vietnam, paid his respects at the Vietnam memorial on the grounds of the Minnesota Legi

Brooks: A second chance for veterans gets one last chance at Minnesota Legislature

A bill about second chances gets its last chance at the Minnesota Legislature on Monday.The Veterans Restorative Justice Act would steer veterans — struggling…
Randal Thom of Lakefield, Minn., walked to the highway to wave Trump flags with supporters during the August primary election.

Brooks: Minnesota GOP needs to learn from past, look to future

The generation that rebuilt after Watergate watches the next generation face its own stinging defeat.
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 under…
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.
Cameron Brundidge, left, and Judeah Reynolds played at Beaver’s Pond Press in St. Paul.

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 from…
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.