February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the past and present achievements of Black and African American people. It’s a time when we also acknowledge the struggle they have and continue to face in the effort to gain full citizenship, both nominally and in practice.
This February, Seward Co-op’s SEED Recipient is the Cultural Wellness Center, a nonprofit founded and sustained by African Americans which works to unleash the power of people to heal themselves and build community. One of the Cultural Wellness Center’s main efforts is to establish their future world headquarters, called Dreamland on 38th Street, just across 4th Ave. from the Seward Co-op Friendship store. Not only will this be a hub for Cultural Wellness Center activity, it will also play a significant role in reinvigorating a historic corridor of Black culture and business that one thrived in and around the intersection of 38th St. and 4th Ave. SEED donations in February will help the Cultural Wellness Center on their journey to breaking ground on Dreamland in fall of 2024.
The history of this neighborhood goes back many decades, but an igniting spark came in the form of the Dreamland Café, founded in 1937 on the same ground where the Cultural Wellness Center plans to develop their world headquarters. Dreamland Café was started by Anthony B. Cassius, a refugee from the Tulsa riots, who established with Dreamland the first integrated restaurant in the Twin Cities. Anthony Taylor (they/them), Community Development Lead at the Cultural Wellness Center, says that Dreamland was “a business where for the cost of a soda, the young hotheads could conspire against the system.” In addition to a record store, barber shop, grocer, and other Black-owned businesses, the area was also home to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the longest family-run African American newspaper in Minnesota, as well as the Tilsenbilt Homes District, a housing project that was one of the first in the country to offer FHA-insured mortgages to all buyers, regardless of race, as well as the first privately developed project in Minneapolis to be interracial.
The Cultural Wellness Center was founded in 1996 as the living legacy of a health initiative called Healthy Powderhorn, which ran the previous two years as a study into why some Black babies lived while others were dying at a higher rate than white babies. As it turned out, Black children with access to African cultural traditions, connectedness, and community were thriving. Today, the Cultural Wellness Center is focused on finding a solution to the problem that losing culture and community is making people sick. In more recent years, this drive has linked deeply to real estate development, which creates a physical space for culture, connectedness, and community to be tied to lived geographies. Dreamland on 38th Street will be that center. It is especially significant because of its connection to the past booming neighborhood of Black middle class life, culture, and validation in the South Minneapolis corridor where the Friendship store sits today.
The future Dreamland on 38th Street will include an incubator for African American entrepreneurs, a community gathering and event space, and a guided self-study community archive to support people to dig deeper into and document their own story. For Anthony Taylor, the most exciting thing to look forward to is the creation of a place where the community is able to validate their own humanity and study themselves from a legacy standpoint. Ultimately, as Anthony explains, the Cultural Wellness Center believes that African American people and history highlights a continuous struggle for liberation that has benefitted everyone on the planet and is deeply rooted in what’s most American in terms of striving for opportunity. Seward Co-op is honored to support the Cultural Wellness Center through their selection as the February 2024 SEED recipient.
This February, round-up to support the construction of Dreamland on 38th Street and join Anthony Taylor on Friday, Feb. 2 at the Friendship store for a breakfast hour to learn about the history of Dreamland on 38th Street, the Cultural Wellness Center, and the surrounding neighborhood. Coffee and baked goods will be provided.