Capri Theater event on Sept. 14 will showcase personal narratives
“When I was young, I wanted to be a dancer,” remembers Anne Winkler-Morey, who by the time she’d turned 12 had lived in at least as many cities. Her family eventually settled in Minneapolis, which she’s called home ever since.
Winkley-Morey’s interests began to stretch beyond ballet when she discovered the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel among many others.
“I was really fascinated by biographies, autobiographies,” she explains, “along with history, politics, basically anything that was non-fiction.”
Just last year, Winkler-Morey became an award-winning author in her own right. Now, one of her most recent undertakings will receive a permanent space in the Hennepin History Museum.
The Minneapolis Interview Project, which Winkler-Morey began in 2016, was designed to collect and curate the stories and experiences of 100 people who have lived in, worked in, and/or otherwise been shaped by the City of Lakes.
On Thursday, September 14, the historic Capri Theater will host “An Evening of Real-Life Stories About Social Justice in Minneapolis.” This special event will feature Winkler-Morey and several people she’s spoken with over the past several years, reading from their actual interview transcripts.
Likewise, the evening will showcase photographs by local artist and educator Eric Mueller, who volunteered his time to spotlight interviewees in locations around the city that carry special meaning to them.
The path to the project
As Winkler-Morey continued to immerse herself in non-fiction and oral historians such as Terkel, she also took an interest in activism, becoming involved in the local chapter of the Central America movement.
This occupied so much of her time that she dropped out of college, before ultimately returning to the University of Minnesota where she earned a Ph.D. with an emphasis on social movements, and in particular U.S. policy towards nations such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Eventually, Winkler-Morey turned her sights inward and during a 14-month bicycle trip across America happened upon a multitude of communities “unique in beauty and culture, but similar in the things that ail them: historical trauma, unsustainable local economies, gross inequities, and crippling fears of people outside their borders.”
The result – her critically acclaimed debut memoir, “Allegiance to the Winds and Waters: Bicycling the Political Divides of the United States.”
Both Winkler-Morey’s time on the bicycle and writing the book helped her to recall the stories she heard as a child of her father’s escape from Nazi Germany. The lesson she took from that was always to “love humanity and principles, not places.”
However, following her trek around the U.S. she began to consider that human attachment to a local place doesn’t necessarily equate to nationalism, and “need not be provincialism” either. A similar sentiment is also captured by University of Kansas Professor David Roediger, who notes in his review of Winkler-Morey’s memoir, “This moving and intelligent book succeeds as odyssey, as a showcase for its author’s skills as a historian, and as a loving appreciation of a land, if not a nation.”
“What do I really know about Minneapolis?”
After witnessing everything that she had on this journey, Winkler-Morey asked herself, what, if anything, did she even know about her own city and its inhabitants, writing that “sometimes I will claim it as my homeland. Other times I feel I am still an outsider.”
So, she set forth to find out what it was she knew, but more importantly, to learn more by launching the Minneapolis Interview Project. She was especially interested in casting the experience of Minneapolitans through the lens of social justice.
Winkler-Morey’s first interview was to take place on April 5, 2016, with poet, artist, and Northside legend Kirk Washington, Jr. But Washington was tragically killed the day before in an automobile accident along Interstate 94.
Heartbroken, Winkley-Morey marshaled the strength to continue and started by interviewing some of her former students, including those who already shared her interest in autobiography. As she worked toward her goal of 100 interview subjects in the ensuing years, Winkler-Morey was amazed by some of the things she discovered.
“Each person was so different, so distinctive,” she reveals. “And yet as they were compiled, so many of these stories began to coalesce, started to echo one another.”
The roster that Winkler-Morey has assembled since 2016 consists of interviewees who range in age from 17 to 90. These subjects cross any number of social categories including race, class, gender, sexual orientation, health and disability status, migration experience, the part of Minneapolis they come from, and so on.
One anticipated revelation from the project is just how many of those participating had either moved here from or had some kind of connection to Chicago. “It’s really something to consider how much the city of Chicago has given to Minneapolis.”
But again, more than anything, what the Minneapolis Interview Project has set out to do is bring attention to the struggle for racial, social and economic justice in this city. It shines a light on many of those who have been at the forefront of these struggles, which continue today.
“Too often, those of us in this business take the long view of history,” says John Crippen, executive director at the Hennepin History Museum. “But capturing these stories as they happen is so important to our future generations. And that’s why we are giving this project a permanent home at the museum.”
For info about how to access all the entries in the Minneapolis Interview Project, visit the Hennepin History Museum at hennepinhistory.org or call 612-870-1329.
To witness some of these very stories told live and firsthand, come to the Capri Theater, located at 2027 West Broadway Ave. N., Mpls., on Thursday, September 14.
“An Evening of Real-Life Stories About Social Justice in Minneapolis” will also honor those interview participants who have since passed away, including the Minnesota-Spokesman Recorder’s very own Mel Reeves. The event is free, but advanced registration is required. To learn more and to RSVP, go to bit.ly/RealLifeStoriesMpls. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m.