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Keiona Cook Works To Bind Community Together Again, One Stitch At A Time

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities mother is is on a creative quest to unite the suburbs with North Minneapolis and, as WCCO found, is truly stitching the Twin Cities community together.

Keiona Cook is a woman of many talents -- a designer, an author and a master seamstress -- on a non-material mission.

"The idea altogether was: how could I, as an individual, unite communities all over? How can I write a positive narrative about love through sewing?" she said.

Cook is a proud graduate of North High in North Minneapolis and Savannah College of Art and Design. She now heads up Lovely's Sewing, a downtown Minneapolis program for kids from all over the Twin Cities.

"I love the fact that my kids are coming from Edina, from Plymouth, from Maple Grove, from north Minneapolis, from south Minneapolis. They are coming from everywhere. I encourage this, I embrace this," she said. "We are shifting the way love works by gathering in a space that is very, very diverse on purpose."

Meleah, 8, is a student of almost two years. Her mother says it's been a lesson in art and a lesson in life.

"We happen to live in the suburbs and we commute to the cities for the class," Christina Hallquist said. "There's a difference in the way schools are handled, programs are handled, between the two communities. And I think that's a great bridge to gap for her because that's an experience that she doesn't normally get at home."

It's an experience that starts with yoga so she can center the kids and get their attention. She already has their admiration. Her students have said such things as "She's a wonderful teacher," "What I like about her is she teaches cool experience things," "She always brings joy to us and she teaches us how to sew," and "She is like the awesome auntie and she makes me real happy."

And happiness is what she is trying to promote amidst a shattered and divided city.

"We have to invest in the minds of people in the Northside just as much as we invest in the minds of people in Edina," Cook said. "I always wanted to create an environment of love, where I could show love to you regardless of your race, regardless of your background, regardless of your religion."

One tangible example: for the kids projects, Cook make them all use a patch of the same fabric in their projects so that they all go home and remember they are all united.

It's a message that's being received.

"I like Ms. Keiona's class 'cause I like to see different type of skin colors, and it's like diversity," 7-year-old student Reyonah Lovely said.

Cook is an artist on a mission to weave a city together.

"We are shifting the mindsets of the youth, one stitch at a time," she said.

Cook offers classes to kids and private lessons to adults. Her company is a nonprofit, so she takes donations to sponsor a child through her program.

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