In early 2013, Opine Season was just a concept—an op-ed page for the Twin Cities featuring a collective of smart, courageous, progressive voices.
I recruited poets, artists and activists as weekly columnists. Right out of the gate, on March 4, 2013, we were unlike anything the Twin Cities had seen, or read.
There were nine of us—two different writers contributing new opinion pieces every day, Monday through Thursday. Our writers explored subjects that either scared or simply eluded mainstream media: Race, gender identity, assimilation, patriarchy, economic inequality, media malaise and more. We wanted to spark conversation and debate, awaken readers to issues they hadn’t tuned into and pressure (re: shame) mainstream media in the Twin Cities to recognize and take on these topics. In all of this, to varying degrees, we were successful.
None of our writers were paid beyond reader feedback and public impact. After our first four months, it was difficult to maintain the daily publishing schedule I’d believed was essential for growing our voice, influence and audience. When some of our early writers dropped away, I recruited others to step in. Career and family commitments have forced most of us to stop contributing altogether. For this reason, Opine Season is formally closing as an active op-ed page.
The site will live on as an archive for all our published work, and I want to highlight a few of the pieces that most resonated over the past 16 months.
“An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin,” by spoken-word and hip-hop artist Guante, drew nearly 64,000 unique visitors, from all over the globe, on its first day on the site. Now at more than 120,000 views, it is far and away our most-read column. Guante also authored a widely read follow-up, “Practical Ways We Can Stop Centering Everything Around White People’s Feelings.”
In our opening week, memoirist and author Kao Kalia Yang struck a chord far beyond the Twin Cities Hmong population with “Remembering Cha Vang.”
Chaun Webster was among the first writers to shed light on a news item flying beneath the radar of mainstream attention with “A Few Things I Think We Should Learn From MCTC’s Attack on Professor Shannon Gibney.” Webster, who now owns the recently opened Ancestry Books in Minneapolis, was among several writers of an open letter who challenged the Walker Art Center to engage with “peoples of African descent” around a screening for “12 Years a Slave.”
My column “MPR’s Current Plays the Same Old Tune” sparked a crackling debate in the comment thread about public media’s responsibility to represent a broad audience.
We had potent guest contributors such as theater artist David Mura, who generated a great debate of his own with “The Problem(s) With Miss Saigon (or, how many stereotypes can you cram into one Broadway musical).”
With one exception, all of our writers took on something they hadn’t before—an opinion column. They did so with grace, humor, passion, wit, keen eyes, strong voices and commitments to challenge the status quo. Kyle Tran Myhre (Guante), Kao Kalia Yang, Vina Kay, Ricardo Levins Morales, Lolla Mohammed Nur, Chaun Webster, Colleen Kruse, Brian Lambert, Thadra Sheridan and Hannah Cushing—I want to thank all of them for jumping onto this with just a notion and idealistic purpose.
Lastly, I want to thank every reader who commented, (dis)liked or shared a post and thought of Opine Season as part of their Twin Cities news diet. Keep your eyes out for all our writers—you haven’t heard or read the last of them.