The work of Healing Roots was begun by Janice Barbee, a woman of European descent, within the Cultural Wellness Center, a community nonprofit in South Minneapolis led by Elder Atum Azzahir, a woman of African descent. Beginning in 1994, many community discussions revealed that European American's lack of understanding about culture, and particularly about our own culture, is itself a barrier to working together with people of other cultures and to our ability to envision a society where everyone belongs. It is also a barrier to our own health as European Americans.
Janice began monthly discussions into exploring European American culture and identity and continued them at the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis for 15 years. The elders and people of many cultures who participated in events at the Center contributed immensely to our learning and understanding.
In the early years, Sara Axtell joined Janice Barbee in designing and facilitating discussions and workshops at the Center, and a few years later, Craig Hassel joined to create a core team. An apprenticeship program was begun, and Maureen Springer, Anna Vangsness, Kristin Swartz, and Emma Sutton became the first apprentices, helping to facilitate discussions and workshops.
In 2011, Janice left the Cultural Wellness Center and formally created Healing Roots, a community of people dedicated to learning together to help contribute to a just, equitable, and healthy society. Our team continues to hold monthly discussions and the workshops that developed out of these discussions. We also continue to develop new workshops and tools for changing systems, as we support each other to be teachers and facilitators, identify what we need to transform in our culture, and apply the wisdom from our root cultures.
We wish the thank all the people from many different cultures at the Cultural Wellness Center
who shared their knowledge and wisdom with us over the years, particularly the elders.