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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
Arabella Foss-Yarbrough, second from left, interrupted a July 16 gathering outside the Minneapolis apartment where police fatally shot Andrew Tekle Su

Brooks: Competing fundraisers offer snapshot of a Mpls. tragedy

In the traumatic aftermath of yet another Minneapolis police shooting, two online fundraisers became an online scorecard.
Marlo Brown assisted customers who lined up out the door to purchase newly-legal THC edibles at Nothing But Hemp on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue on Frida

Brooks: Minnesota businesses chew over new edibles law

This was going be a big summer for Minnesota medical marijuana. This was going to be the summer the state finally let them sell edibles.
FILE - This June 25, 2019, file photo shows a sign outside a Walgreens Pharmacy in Pittsburgh. “Our company policy allows team members to step away

Brooks: The battle for reproductive rights moves to the front register

A Wisconsin Walgreens clerk doesn't want to sell you sinners a condom.
Authorities and officials from the Animal Humane Society removed 47 cats from a hot vehicle at a rest area near Harris, Minn., in mid-June.

Brooks: 47 cats rescued from hot car will find new homes; maybe their human will too someday

The felines were rescued in mid-June from an overheated SUV where they had been living with their owner at a Chisago County rest stop.
Brooks: Brandons are ready to go reclaim their name

Brooks: Brandons are ready to go reclaim their name

NASCAR racer Brandon Brown — of "Let's Go Brandon" fame — is ready to reclaim his good name, with the help of a 9-year-old Brandon from Minnesota.
The one-act play “Watermelon Hill” tells the story of pregnant teens sent away to the Catholic Infant Home in St. Paul in 1965.  From left to rig

Brooks: As Roe ruling loomed, Woodbury school shied away from play about pregnancy

School officials nix a play about pregnant teens for fear of "the current political climate."
Maureen Onyelobi is the first law student accepted into an accredited American law school while incarcerated. She starts remote classes at Mitchell Ha

Brooks: In pipeline from prison to law, she marks a first in the nation

Mitchell Hamline Law School is the first in the country to enroll a student who is still imprisoned
Afternoon tea service at the Lynhall.

Brooks: A restaurant, an angry customer and a reminder about being kind to the ones who showed up

Community rallies around the Lynhall after reports of a customer's threat to "destroy" it on social media.
Anti-abortion marchers and abortion-rights supporters at the U.S. Supreme Court on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January 2005.

Brooks: South Dakota versus the abortion ban

South Dakota found out that total abortion bans aren't what the majority of voters want.
Brandon Brundidge, age 9, sometimes felt anxious about new experiences because of his autism. Then one day he spotted a “Let’s Go Brandon” sign

Brooks: In a twist, 'Let's Go Brandon' helps a Minnesota boy let go of his fears

A sign meant to make someone feel bad accidentally made one little boy feel pretty good.
The Survivors Memorial in Minneapolis, honoring survivors of sexual violence, was dedicated in 2020.

Brooks: Vandals don't silence Survivors Memorial at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis

With thousands of dollars donated to repair the damage, the memorial is proving as resilient as the survivors it was created to celebrate and console.
Lutunji Abram opened her new bakery, Lutunji’s Palate, in downtown Minneapolis last week. Robbers broke in the first night, but she remains upbeat a

Brooks: A downtown Minneapolis bakery's first week has the bitter and the sweet

A grand opening, a break-in and a small Minneapolis bakery's first week in business.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections is setting up a pilot program to operate tattoo parlors within prisons. The aim is to reduce the spread of hep

Department of Corrections to open tattoo parlor at Stillwater prison

Minnesota prisons are getting into the tattoo businesses
Joan Mondale's urn was created by her pottery mentor Warren MacKenzie.    Joan Mondale's memorial service was held   Saturday, February 8, 2014 at Wes

Brooks: Walter Mondale's urn rich in family and history

Made by Stillwater potter Warren MacKenzie, the urn once held the ashes of Mondale's wife, Joan
Brooks: A young author checks herself into the library

Brooks: A young author checks herself into the library

Delighted librarians have turned Forest Lake fourth-grader's debut novel into de facto e-book.
The Minnesota state flag is seen as displayed in the State Capitol building rotunda on Thursday.

Jennifer Brooks: Oh say can you see a better flag for Minnesota

Legislature gets serious about finding a state flag with less nudity and racism.
Minnesota-born artist Wayne Brezinka’s exhibit, “Facing War: An Invitation to Reflection on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” opens this weekend

Brooks: The art of protesting the Russian Embassy

A Minnesota-born artist put his support for Ukraine into his art, then put his art where Russia's diplomats can't miss it
Gov. Tim Walz laughed as he joked with a bipartisan group of fishing partners at the 2019 Governor’s Fishing Opener on Fountain Lake in Albert Lea,

Brooks: A scaled-back Minnesota fishing opener tries to preserve the traditions that matter

Has Minnesota become the sort of place where political divisions mean we can't even fish together?
Volunteers across the Twin Cities are packing care packages for the for the United Way’s Flavors of Our Community food drive. Each package is a care

Brooks: Minneapolis, St. Paul volunteers give the gift of comfort food

United Way drive collects culturally-specific pantry staples
Business owner Anissa Keyes tackled another round of trash removal. She purchased the historic Camden Park State Bank building in north Minneapolis, h

Brooks: Spring cleaning in the Camden neighborhood of Minneapolis

A north Minneapolis entrepreneur working toward the future takes out the trash.
Debra Pedro is retiring and closing the Maplewood Perkins, marking the end of an era for a community gathering place.

Brooks: Closing time at Deb's Place means the end to a longtime gathering spot

In the last days of the Maplewood Perkins, regulars returned to share a few meals and memories.
Twin Cities teachers including MFT, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59, and ESP, Education Support Professionals, rallied at the Minnesota St

Brooks: For these Minnesotans, some jobs are worth striking for

While some quit in search of better jobs, others stay to try to improve conditions at the jobs they have.
Minneapolis residents, firefighters and descendants of John Cheatham cheered as Cheatham Avenue replaces Dight Avenue. The street, once named after th

Brooks: Cheatham Avenue leads Minneapolis into its future

A street once named after the founder of the Minnesota Eugenics Society now honors Minneapolis' first Black fire captain
Schoolteacher Ruth Karnowski, a Minnesota native, was forced to flee Ukraine ahead of the invading Russian troops. From a refuge in Slovakia, Karnowks

Brooks: Minnesota teacher who fled Kyiv bears witness for Ukraine

Class continues for Ruth Karnowski of Little Falls, who is working now from Slovakia for the sake of some of the war's littlest refugees.
Family, politicians and ALS advocates applauded DFL state Sen. David Tomassoni during a news conference earlier this month highlighting proposals to e

Brooks: Sen. David Tomassoni won't battle ALS alone

Lawmakers, scientists and celebrities unite to fight a disease that has taken some of Minnesota's favorite Minnesotans
Pro golfer Tom Lehman, left, and Darwin Dean, president of the Upper Midwest Bronze Amateur Memorial Golf Tournament, are working to preserve the Hiaw

Brooks: Park Board takes another swing at Hiawatha golf course

Preservationists and pro golfers rally around the Hiawatha golf course
North High School students visited their rooftop solar garden that will soon provide power to the school and the north Minneapolis neighborhood.

Brooks: Solar garden powering and empowering north Minneapolis

For neighbors in north Minneapolis, a solar garden represents more than just a chance for cheaper electric bills
If you visit the 4-H building at the Minnesota State Fair, you’ll see a sign above the door: 4-H Welcomes You.

Brooks: 4-H welcomes LGBTQ+ youth

Minnesota 4-H stands up for, and with, LGBTQ+ youth
Jasmine Robles hangs two more hearts on the COVID-19 memorial at Edina City Hall. There are 113 golden hearts in the window. One for every resident lo

Brooks: The COVID pandemic and Edina's broken hearts

At a time when many are eager to move on from COVID, Edina remembers.
Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis, said the shooting by police in her apartment building left residents shaken.

Brooks: For lawmaker, a shooting by police hits home

Rep. Esther Agbaje was home when SWAT team opened fire in her apartment building
Two years ago, at the start of the pandemic lockdown, traffic in the theater district was light as the marquee message above Brave New Workshop on Hen

Brooks: Downtown boosters work on 'Reanimating Minneapolis'

Downtown Minneapolis shifts from trying to get through COVID to learning to live with it
Substitute teacher Craig Nilles led a physical education class at Eagan’s Woodland Elementary in October 2021.

Brooks: Minnesota's irreplaceable replacement teachers

Substitute teachers hold Minnesota schools together as the pandemic tears everything apart.
Storyteller Abby Johnson reads to children during Ojibwe Story Time at the Duluth Depot. The weekly event not only introduces children to Ojibwe tradi

Brooks: Once upon an Ojibwe story time in Duluth

The St. Louis County Historical Society and Ojibwe authors open a new storytelling chapter.
Kim Griffin, took a sample from Gianna Cassidy, age 1 1/2, during a COVID test with five members of her family in the parking lot of Masjid An-Nur Mos

Brooks: North Minneapolis community finds a way to get COVID tests, residents living again

When there weren't enough COVID tests to go around in north Minneapolis, a community rallied.
U.S. Navy veteran John Ferman at a Memorial Day ceremony at Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery in Minneapolis in 2019.

Brooks: A fitting final resting place among pioneers and soldiers in Minneapolis

Longtime volunteer Jack Ferman's last wish was to be buried at Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery.
Pro-Trump supporters pushed back against police at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

Brooks: One year after Jan. 6 and deeper in denial

A violent attempt to overturn an American election should have changed everything. It didn't.
Capt. John Cheatham spent his life protecting the lives and property of his neighbors in Minneapolis. In 2022, one of the streets he safeguarded will

Brooks: Mpls. will change infamous street name to honor trailblazing firefighter

Capt. John Cheatham spent his life protecting the lives and property of his neighbors.
In January, Vault Health testing assistant Kenny Smith helped Gettanjali Mittal with her COVID test at the Minneapolis Convention Centers, one of the

Brooks: By spit or by swab, testing is powerful pandemic weapon

If you're looking for a test, Minnesota makes it easier and cheaper than most states.
Kol and Annabell at the 2016 Anoka County Fair. From the upcoming book, “The Unchosen Ones,” by R.J. Kern.

Brooks: New book celebrates Minnesota kids who didn't win at the county fair

"The Unchosen Ones" offers lessons on resilience.
In this pre-pandemic photo, Ryan Malecha, who served on the Mayor’s Youth Council from 2018 to 2021, gives an update to the Northfield City Council.

Brooks: In Northfield, a student's place is in the boardroom

Youth on Boards program in Northfield shows just how much high school students can bring to the table
Randy Flowers, a street outreach worker for St. Stephen’s Human Services, checks in on someone sheltering in a rail yard. Give to the Max Day is Nov

Brooks: On Minnesota's Give to the Max Day, a chance to help the helpers

There are so many amazing groups and causes. This is your reminder that it's possible for one act of kindness to change someone's life.
Tracey Williams-Dillard, right, publisher/CEO of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, talks about how small Black-owned businesses like her newspaper wea

Brooks: New series turns spotlight on Twin Cities Black businesses

The new season of the show begins streaming Tuesday on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
David Hrdlicka was 33 years old when he was shot down on a bombing run over northern Laos on May 18, 1965. His 90th birthday is coming up on Dec. 30.

Brooks: David Hrdlicka has been MIA for 56 years and he's still missed

His former St. John's Prep classmates spent more than a decade seeking answers. They keep going, in honor of their friend.
Prof. Jason Sole teaches criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Brooks: Once a felon, Jason Sole is now a Minnesota criminal justice professor

This is a chance to learn about policing from someone who has been policed.
Minneapolis City Hall.

Brooks: Minneapolis voter hit with the only thing worse than an unsolicited campaign text message

If you're a woman with an opinion in public, someone will try to weaponize male anatomy against you. The number that had been texting her has been disconnected.
LaToya Lewis and her son, Malik, who is hospitalized with COVID and pneumonia. Malik’s developmental disabilities are making it hard for him to tole

Brooks: A family's desperate search for COVID care for their disabled son

Malik Lewis is battling pneumonia and COVID — and the tubes and wires keeping him alive.Malik, 21, has a sweet smile, a loving family,…
Activists pulled down the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of the Minnesota State Capitol in June 2020.

Brooks: Columbus fell and state is picking up pieces

A year and a half after a dented Columbus was carted off to a state warehouse, there is still no paperwork, no procedure, no plan for where it should end up.
After GOP gains in northern Minnesota in recent elections, the state DFL opened a new outreach office in Ely, Minn.Photo courtesy of Mary Louise Icenh

Brooks: In the red spaces on the election map, the DFL makes its pitch

The 11 offices outside the Twin Cities are places to organize volunteers, hold meetings and distribute yard signs ahead of next year's midterm elections.
File photo by Brian Peterson • brian.peterson@startribune.com Bison were hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800s. This herd at Blue Mounds Sta

Brooks: At the bison auction: Sold to the buffalo-est bidder

Once home to huge herds, Minnesota now has about 5,000, maybe 10,000 bison, depending on who's counting.
The new Northfield logo.

Brooks: Minnesota schools begin to part ways with outdated mascots

Minnesota, thousands of whose citizens fought and died to preserve the Union, is home to at least half a dozen high schools with Confederate mascots.
LaTwanna Williams

Brooks: Photographer seeks to show young women what real beauty is

The hope is to start chipping away at years of Instagram messaging about which of their selfies are good or bad; which of their features are flattering or flaws.
Young cannabis plants grow in the Otsego facility run by Vireo Health, one of two companies the state allows to grow and refine medical marijuana. The

Setting the record straight on long-ago offenses

Sometimes, a misdemeanor can feel like a life sentence.It wasn't much marijuana. Enough to roll a few joints.Enough to slap a college student with a…
Craig Schafer, seen here in a 2012 Star Tribune photo, was instrumental in bringing a damaged beam from the World Trade towers to Marshall. Visitors s

Brooks: Spirits in the steel at Minnesota's memorials to the World Trade Center

That broken beam in Marshall, Minn., is as close as most of us will ever get to ground zero.
This copper tool found at Historic Fort Snelling dates from 3,000 to 8,500 years ago.

Brooks: Fort Snelling archaeologists offer the public a chance to dig into history this weekend

Nothing connects you with history like holding a piece of it in your hand.
Copper tool that dates from 8,500 to 3,000 years ago recovered from Historic Fort Snelling in 1973.Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

Brooks: Fort Snelling archaeologists offer a chance to dig into history this weekend

Nothing connects you with history like holding a piece of it in your hand.
In Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 19, 2021, a near-capacity crowd filled the room. The Minnetonka School Board held a work session and meeting that i

Brooks: Minnesota school boards are at the breaking point

It was always a thankless job. Then came the pandemic, and a thankless job turned joyless.
Up, up and away to your (adjective) Day at the Minnesota State Fair!

Up, up and away to your (adjective) Day at the Minnesota State Fair!

After a no-fair year, the Minnesota State Fair is back. Whether you're planning to get vaccinated, mask up, and attend — or if you're sitting this one out — here's your chance to fill in some blanks and remember what makes Great Minnesota Get-Togethers so great.
Photo credit: Paul Warder The Southside Back in the Day festival started more than a decade ago, with a group of neighbors who were looking for a happ

Brooks: Back in the Day Festival prepares for day of joy near George Floyd Square

The 11th annual gathering promises good food, great music, local vendors, drum lines, double-dutch jump rope exhibitions and joyous reunions.
Justin Stafki, 17, of White Bear Lake, walked away from the Great Big Wheel after a ride with his mother, Barb, just as the rain started to fall Thurs

Brooks: Minnesotans aren't sure they want to get together at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year

The delta variant is surging just as the fair is drawing thousands of people with very different comfort levels on the issues of masks, vaccines and eating horse paste.
Circle Pines City Council Member Dean Goldberg, aka Census Man, celebrates the huge effort it took to get this small city to hit the 5,000-population

Brooks: Small Minnesota cities hit or miss a crucial census benchmark of 5,000 strong

Census Man always knew he could count on Circle Pines.For one last time last week, City Council Member Dean Goldberg donned his cape, his mask…
Jennifer Carnahan, shown in 2017.

Brooks: Jennifer Carnahan wants you to remember the real victim here: Jennifer Carnahan

Jennifer Carnahan wants you to remember the real victim here.The FBI had swooped in to arrest top GOP donor Anton "Tony" Lazzaro on child…
Rather than an expanded Public Works truck depot next door, East Phillips residents hope to turn this site into an Indoor Urban Farm, with space for t

Brooks: In Minneapolis's arsenic triangle, East Phillips residents ask council for a greener future

What Minneapolis wants is not what East Phillips needs.
One of two very long lines for cheese curds at the recent Kickoff to Summer at the Fair. The raw anxiety of getting together with that many people ami

Brooks: Vaxxed but not relaxed? Minnesotans debate whether they'd feel comfortable at State Fair

For 3 million fully vaccinated Minnesotans who did everything right, Jennifer Brooks asks: Is it still OK to get that Pronto Pup?
“Get vaccinated. Save a life,” said Teto Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Image Barbers & Stylists in north Minneapolis. Wilson’s is one of more than

Brooks: Twin Cities shops take a shot at protecting customers from COVID

More than a dozen Black-owned barber shops and salons across Minnesota have thrown open their doors to the federal Shots at the Shop initiative.
Photo by David Joles  In 2006, U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, left, and Hy Rosen, then-director of the Greater Lakes Food Bank, shared a moment following a hu

Brooks: A love letter from Jim Ramstad's hometown(s)

If you want a measure how beloved a public figure is, look to see how many different places stake a claim to them.
COVID patient Greg Beaudoin, who spent 54 days on a ventilator while hospitalized in the spring and experienced two strokes because of the virus, work

Brooks: Heat waves, smoke clouds and the battle to breathe easy in Minnesota

The climate is changing, and not for the better: Our bodies are choking on Canadian wildfire smoke, roasting through heat waves, then choking on wildfire smoke again.
Barway Collins

Brooks: In Crystal, a monument to a little boy lost

If a playground seems a strange place to remember a murdered child, imagine how much worse it would be to forget.
A scene from a 2013 vigil in St. Paul to honor victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE)

Researchers follow trail of sex trafficking to Minnesota massage program

Something seemed very wrong at the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.There was a locked closet with student files the registrar could not access.There…
Valerie Castile spoke about her son to protesters including activist Brandyn Tulloch, left, on the anniversary of Philando Castile’s killing

Brooks: A change of law, a change of heart, on the anniversary of Philando Castile's killing

The Minnesota Legislature changed the law to ban lunch shaming for good five years to the day after he died.
A group of Civil War veterans, including Henry Mills, gathered on the steps of the second Minnesota Capital in this photo from about 1910.  Photo cour

Brooks: Minnesota Historical Society looks to the future

In the worst days of 2020, MNHS was urging Minnesotans to be mindful of the history we're living through.
In a 2018 protest over what they perceive as sexist attitudes on the West St. Paul City Council, residents brought boxes of tampons and maxi pads to t

Brooks: The Women of West St. Paul give to the maxi

It was a protest that started with a creep who crept through the night in 2018 to dump a box of maxi pads on the doorstep of West St. Paul's first female mayor.
Derek Chauvin at his sentencing Friday.

Brooks: Let Derek Chauvin's sentence be the start of the conversation

Sometimes there's no neutral ground. You stand with your neighbors or you stand against them.
“We might as well call this Hitler Boulevard,” former state Rep. Phyllis Kahn once said of Dight Avenue in south Minneapolis.

Brooks: In Minneapolis, all roads lead away from Dight Avenue

Charles Fremont Dight lived in a tree and wrote fan letters to Adolf Hitler and founded the Minnesota Eugenics Society.Minneapolis named a street after him.It…
In this 2017 photo, families celebrate at the annual Twin Cities Pride parade-watching part. After a year without celebrations, the community is looki

Brooks: Twin Cities Pride festival set to return after a long pandemic year

An event that usually requires six months of meticulous planning came together in a matter of weeks.
Nae Totushek lights candles in honor of Deona M. Knajdek, late Monday, June 14, 2021, in Minneapolis. Knajdek was killed a day earlier when a vehicle

Brooks: Deona Knajdek fought so Minneapolis wouldn't look away from its pain

Deona Marie Knajdek took to the streets.Winston Smith Jr. was dead, gunned down by law enforcement on the same day city work crews plowed through…