Bruce P. Corrie, PhD, Cultural Destinations, LLC
ALANA (African American Latino Asian and Native American) Cultural Destinations are vibrant spaces where one can enjoy an authentic ethnic cultural experience while growing the local economy. Think of walking into an ethnic restaurant and seeing murals on the wall, music from that culture and new food to experience. As you eat you hear multiple languages and see diverse people. At times, you might hear ethnic musicians play delightful tunes as you eat. For a moment you are in another world capturing that far away experience right in your neighborhood. That is a Cultural Destination. The development of ethnic Cultural Destinations is a very powerful strategy because it pivots the current polarization in our discourse on racism into a positive experience for all. When we break bread together it opens new doors to deeper relationships with others.
The Dynamic Potential of Cultural Destinations
Cultural Destinations are powerful cultural spaces that can benefit everyone – people seeking a global experience in their local neighborhoods, people seeking to learn and understand a different culture, people building their cultural intelligence and cultural relationships, and entrepreneurs seeking to build wealth through their cultural treasures. It is a very powerful space because it builds the individual while serving the community.
In Saint Paul the construction of the Green Line spurred the development of these Cultural Destinations as the community came together to ensure that the harmful displacement that tore the African American community apart through the construction of the freeway, I 94, would not occur again. Little Mekong, Rondo and Little Africa began to take shape as business and cultural districts adding to cultural destinations in Frogtown and District Del Sol. The Intertribal Cultural Corridor emerged in recent years building on the cultural assets of the Native American and immigrant communities of the Eastside of Saint Paul. In Minneapolis one can find cultural destinations in the American Indian Cultural Corridor, the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, Central Avenue, 38th Street, Lake Street, and Broadway. Other areas in the metro one can find cultural destinations are in the Brooklyns, Burnsville, Eden Prairie and Maple Grove. In Greater Minnesota we find Cultural Destinations in Rochester, Willmar, Saint Cloud, Duluth, Worthington and Moorhead and in many smaller towns (See www.culturaldestinations.org for virtual tours of these cultural destinations).
A cultural destination can take many forms – a cultural corridor, a cultural node of a block or a two to three blocks, or a larger geographical area of many blocks taking legal shape as a business or cultural district. The specific use of the term Cultural Destination is the focus on the ethnic economies of the ALANA (African American Latino Asian and Native American) communities as a cultural space for wealth building.
There are 7 core elements of a Cultural Destination
First, it celebrates the value added by our ALANA communities to their local economy and community. This value is expressed through the vibrancy of ALANA cultural assets building wealth. The economic value of the ALANA communities to Minnesota is estimated to be at least $1.4 trillion dollars. Each of the ALANA communities adds value to the local and national economy in various ways. For example, African American workers in Minnesota, help produce $58 billion in goods and services in Minnesota, support over 300,000 jobs and $7.5 billion in taxes and accounted for 35 percent of the growth in the labor force between 2010-2020.
Nationally, for example, the Asian Indian community have income larger than the economy of Arkansas and 18 other states. These estimates document the fact that ALANA people offer great value to their local community and the power of Cultural Destinations as economic engines of growth.
The second element of Cultural Destinations is that they celebrate the cultural assets of the local ALANA community. This strategy pivots from the experience of racism which denied the value of the ALANA people and their cultural assets, to one where ALANA cultural assets are foundational to wealth and community building. At the Little Mekong Night Market or Little Africa Fest or the Rondo Parade in the University Avenue area one can experience the exuberance of ALANA cultural assets and people actively and authentically “enjoying cultures.” “I am excited to my African culture celebrated in the heart of Saint Paul,” is a common reaction Little Africa visionary, Dr. Gene Gelgelu, receives in the community.
The third element of a Cultural Destination is that it offers a space for cultural placemaking – how cultural assets facilitate the building of meaningful relationships between people and build community cohesion in vibrant ways.
Recently, with a small grant from the Legacy Funds and the Minnesota Humanities Center, we hosted three Cultural Placemaking events at beautiful Cultural Destinations in Saint Paul, Eden Prairie, and Saint Joseph around cultural breads. At Eden Prairie a small group of people learned about Indian Naan and experienced the way the owners of Pizza Karma, Dr. Subashini, Mahi and Raj, transform the Naan into a new, flavorful, and healthier pizza. At Krewe in Saint Joseph, Chefs Mateo and Erin shared their version of the traditional New Orleans African American bread pudding in their New Orleans themed farm to fork restaurant. At Agelgil, owners Tsegerada Cherinat and Konjit Kidane, shared the details about Ethiopian Injera and how it could be enjoyed with various delicious dishes and traditional Ethiopian coffee. In each of these events, strangers began the journey of friendship while enjoying cultures in a vibrant cultural environment involving music, art, and cuisine.
The fourth element of a Cultural Destination is that it offers an opportunity to build cultural intelligence – the intelligence needed to engage effectively with someone from a different culture. As one visits a cultural destination, sample a new food, and experience the music and art of the destination, we become more familiar and comfortable with the new culture, and it draws us to delve deeper to establish meaningful relationships with people and organizations from that culture.
The fifth element of a Cultural Destination is that it offers a “human” space to engage with the other as a person. We discover common threads that connect us – for example, we all eat bread in some form or the other. Discovery of such common bonds between diverse people is the social glue that binds us together as a community.
The sixth element of a Cultural Destination is that it builds wealth in the local community. The business receives revenue, hires workers, buys supplies, pays taxes and serves as an anchor institution in that neighborhood or community. For example, the activities of Little Mekong had an estimated impact of $6 million in additional revenue for the local businesses. Local artists play an important role in this process through their talents and become in effect as Little Mekong visonary Va-Megn Thoj calls them, “community developers.”
The seventh element of a Cultural Destination is that it is a win-win strategy. ALANA communities are energized through the celebration of their cultural assets and at the same time it builds wealth in these communities. People who visit the cultural destinations gain a global experience enjoying cultures and building cultural intelligence. Artists and others involved in the creative economy have their talents and skills leveraged in a unique way. Cultural Destinations can stop the progress of gentrification by keeping wealth and ownership of assets within the local community. Local communities can benefit from cultural heritage tourism bringing visitors to the area.
Resources for Business and Organizations to build cultural intelligence through Cultural Destinations.
Businesses or organizations seeking to build cultural intelligence and relationships both within their organization and with their customers and stakeholders, Cultural Destinations offers a new and attractive strategy.
Here are some examples of how experiences with cultural destinations can help build cultural intelligence in a business and organization.
· The website, www.culturaldestinations.org offers some resources to help you enjoy cultures at Cultural Destinations. There are virtual tours of cultural malls, cultural museums, cultural destinations across Minnesota and nationally and globally. Then get in your car and visit these cultural destinations.
Cultural Destinations – Minnesota - https://www.culturaldestinations.org/minnesota
Cultural Malls – Minnesota - https://www.culturaldestinations.org/culturalmalls
· Small teams from a business or organization could take a “walking tour” of a cultural destination. For example, AEDS takes students from Concordia University every year for a walking tour through Little Africa, where they learn about its history and development and sample African food.
Walking Tour Little Africa - https://www.culturaldestinations.org/littleafricatour
The Minnesota Humanities Center has pioneered immersion experiences that include Cultural Destinations in Little Africa and Hmong Town.
Hmong Town Immersion Experience - https://www.mnhum.org/event/learning-in-community-hmong-st-paul/
· Let’s Break Bread – a strategy of Cultural Destinations, LLC, offers community building through experiencing cultural breads. This could be done at your business or organization or at a cultural destination. People learn the history and culture around the bread, learn how it is made and eaten, sample the bread, engage in conversations with others.
Let’s Break Bread - https://www.culturaldestinations.org/breakingbread
Minnesota as a Global Destination
As we support and develop ALANA cultural destinations across Minnesota, our state will emerge as a Global Destination, where one can experience the rich cultural experiences of the world right here in our neighborhood.
At the Minnesota State Fair this year, the million plus people who attend the fair will have the opportunity to experience cultural destinations from across the state at the Cultural Destinations booth in the Education Building. Visitors to the booth, will learn how to enjoy a cultural dish, gift ideas from our many cultural malls, culturally inspired fashion and the vibrancy of our cultural artists and media.