NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Tuesday December 12th 2017

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December 2017 Alley Newspaper

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CAROLING WITH CROWS Phillips Neighborhood, Christmas 2016

BY THOMAS R. SMITH

Some people came out to greet us, others held
back, facades preserving a solemn
silence, whether of privacy, vacancy
or sorrow. Yet smiles escaped our little
roving chorus, whether for our stumbles
over the carols’ verses in Spanish, or
for having lit a few faces in windows
and doorways of South Minneapolis.

Lifting my gaze from twilight pavement
and shadowed porches. I’m not sure when
it happened. I suddenly saw them,
crows, hundreds, maybe thousands in the burnt-
orange dusk, surrounding us in all
directions, clustered crows enough to re-leaf
the bare trees, great black choir-lofts of crows,
their dark notes strung on staves of the sky.

Overhead, too, crows everywhere, flapping
through the lurid, smudged air like ash from some
vast burning which perhaps was after all
simply the crows¹ Christmas, their excitable
cawing and clacking a kind of caroling
above our earthbound song, urging us out
from our less visible darkness to recognize
also those angels of the nearer heavens.

Thomas R. Smith is a poet, essayist, editor, and teacher living in River Falls, Wisconsin. He teaches poetry at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. His new and selected prose poems, Windy Day at Kabekona, will be out from White Pine Press in 2018. He is also working on a prose book about writing the nature poem in a time of pipelines, fracking, and climate change.

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Nowa Cumig: Dennis Banks 1937-2017

By Laura Waterman Wittstock

A tribute to a life well-lived should not start with a quarrel with the New York Times, but this instance is an exception. On October 30th the New York Times called the Ojibwe patriot a militant as he had been labeled so many times before during his lifetime. The newspaper, in its apparent omniscient wisdom said he “achieved few real improvements in the daily lives of Native Americans, who live on reservations and in major cities and lag behind most fellow citizens in jobs, housing and education.” The article went on to describe the 1973 police encounter in Custer, SD. Later demonstrations in 1999 led by Tom Poor Bear in nearby White Clay, NE led to discontinuation of alcohol sales, having a major effect on the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation. The area had the highest per capita alcohol sales in the US.

To be sure, “D.J.” as he was known to many, exhibited real anger and frustration at the conditions Indian people were forced to endure, both historically and in contemporary times. The patriots of the American Revolution are celebrated today, even though they broke through the boundaries of other sovereign people, burned food supplies, killed women and children in order to starve out the military capabilities and prevent a presumed reinforcement of King George’s military. Was that a case of being militant? Very likely, but these men fighting for independence were called patriots.

Those like Dennis Banks were not fighting for independence – they fought for the equality that was called for in the treaties made with the United States. They fought for sovereignty, yes – and they broke a few windows in the process.

The article compares Banks’ admirers and critics, says admirers liked his physical features, while critics thought of him as a “self-promoter, grabbing headlines and becoming a darling of politically liberal Hollywood stars… Then in a flare of dime-store paperback writing, the article says that “[in] 1973, after a white man killed an Indian in a saloon brawl and was charged not with murder but with involuntary manslaughter, Mr. Banks led 200 American Indian Movement protesters in a face-off with the police in Custer, S.D. It became a riot when the slain man’s mother was beaten by officers.” One can hardly believe this is an obituary.

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“As the Crow Flies” and the Phillips Community

By Harvey Winje

In Native American folklore, the intelligence of crows is usually portrayed as the most important characteristic of crows. Seeing a crow was and is still considered good luck by many Native American tribes.

“As the crow flies” refers to the shortest distance between two points because the common belief is that crows fly a straight course. Actually, crows are excellent flyers that do not usually fly in a straight line but zigzag and perform aerial acrobatics seemingly for the joy of it. Crows can often be seen circling above their nests on a winter’s afternoon. Scientists say crows, like humans, pay close attention to people’s faces and are able to remember threatening or caring faces and react to them differently.

Words and phrases may be misused, be inaccurate or concepts can be oversimplified. The same thing can occur when using a single story to describe a person, culture, or community. Phillips Community and its people are often labeled and defined by a single occurrence or story, observed or reported by people outside of the community. The Alley Newspaper instead tries to lift up the many, many stories and illuminate the history of the people of this geographic area with the goal of inspiring resilience. Come and learn one or two more fascinating facts of our community’s vibrant history on Wednesday, December 13, 5-8 pm at the American Swedish Institute’s Annual Neighborhood Open House.

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Frances Fairbanks: 1929 – 2017

BY LAURA WATERMAN WITTSTOCK

An all-night beginning of the mahjon for Frances Fairbanks took place on November 8th at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. This was a place she knew intimately, because she worked there for nearly all of the Center’s 43-year history. She was one of a kind, having worked her way up through the operational and leadership ladder through talent, resolve, and a deep understanding of the community she served.

She was a member of the Red Lake Nation and often spoke of her life there. When giving advice to others she would talk about her young life at Red Lake and she would relate the advice her father would give her from time to time. She found this advice useful, not just in its content, but also in that it was something to be remembered, considered, and applied to different situations from time to time.

She was unique in two ways: she was a natural leader who had little formal training but who used well what she had learned at Red Lake; and she knew how to interact with other leaders to promote the overall American Indian community. This is an area where she compares with many of the men in Indian leadership. In her work, however, she chose not to go to other parts of the country: she wanted to change local conditions for Indian people in Minneapolis. She positioned the Indian Center to do its best work in the areas of job training; middle school education; adult education; and community discussion. She brought people together to work on issues – some the most sensitive at the time – such as perceived homophobia. Margaret Peake-Raymond led a discussion that cracked open the silence on homophobia and Frances supported this major moment of recognition for Two-Spirit people whose talents and presence were under pressure and being ridiculed. This is just one of her outstanding moments as a community leader. There were dozens of issues where convening at the Indian Center gave them more light and more understanding.

The Center shone with an art gallery, the thrill of basketball games and pow wows, the solemnity of feasts and mahjons for those who died and whose families wanted the services to be at the Indian Center. A corner store full of beadwork, beads, and many other Indian cultural and art items filled out one area and a restaurant filled out another. Read the rest of this entry »

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Last building on BLOCK 5: Lost Heritage & Trust

BY HARVEY WINJE

Messiah Lutheran Evangelical Church Pastor, Dr. Rev. Leonard Kendall, (1943-1953) instilled is us students many tenets of Lutheranism and the Bible, but outstanding to me, 65 years later, is that we must always trust that the teacher, the leader, will always “have our back.”

Trust like that in church, government and institutional leaders has lessened and, in the case of Block 5 (e. 25th St. to E. 26th St and Chicago to Columbus), been completely LOST!

A decade ago Children’s eliminated trust in institutions by Phillips Community as they disrespected and DEMOLISHED most of Block 5 and the trust of neighbors who had spent thousands of hours of their time negotiating a Land Use Covenant with local hospitals. It also damaged the trust of other neighbors including a large, local non-profit who sold multiple properties in disregard of neighborhood covenants.

“For this reason, as became brutally clear in 2004, our Twelve Block Agreement had near-fatal weaknesses. But it failed to stop expansion. In 2004, in blatant defiance of the Twelve Block Agreement, a major health care complex tracked its oversized footprints into an entire city block. Children’s Hospital surreptitiously bought out owners of 28 homes, a former church building and a gas station. It rapidly leveled all save two that were moved elsewhere, scarring our neighborhood permanently and inflicting deep trauma and distrust which, to this day, so many of our residents deeply resent. Belatedly, the neighborhood rose in protest, but to no avail. In place of the demolished buildings went a huge new clinic and 700+ car parking garage. Children’s Hospital then added its own heliport. The racket of helicopters ferrying patients in and out at all hours adds mightily to the pollution and cacophony of street traffic, sirens, generators, air-conditioning units, a hospital waste incinerator.” WENDELL PHILLIPS SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE POWER OF THE PAST Chapter 12 THE PHILLIPS COMMUNITY OF MINNEAPOLIS: Historical Memory and the Quest for Social Justice; Louisiana State University Press, 2016 pg 339.

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Letter to the Editor: While hoping for Sale, Messiah’s pianos to kids, hymnals to Africa, music to churches, and archives to smaller boxes

Dear Editor,

After speaking to you, I hear that here are many issues involved in the possible sale of the Historic Messiah Church.

I wish to address just one assumption from your paper. 

As a long-time member of Messiah, I was very hurt by the intimation that we would “trash” our beautiful sanctuary.

To me it seems inevitable that we will have to sell our property.  But that does not mean that we are not responsibly caring for our building. After 100 years of occupancy, it as an enormous task to make sure the move to vacancy is done with the dignity and love that it deserves.

For example:

We are considering Keys/4/4/Kids for our four pianos.

We are considering Books for Africa for our hymnals.

We are looking for other churches interested in inheriting our extensive music library.

We are gleaning and pruning our Archives to a manageable and meaningful size.

In the meantime, we will heat the necessary spaces with space heaters.

This all will be done in God’s time. I pray that it doesn’t take long.

Blessings, Sincerely, Ann E. Keating

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How about a partnership to restore and/or repurpose?

BY JANA METGE

So, I have to vent. I was baptized and confirmed Lutheran. The leadership at Messiah Lutheran Church here in Phillips plans to demolish this gorgeous church located at 25th and Columbus. It is a Harry Wild Jones design. Few left in this city. Look at the fabulous pipe organ. This is such waste and  disrespect. Demolish something with this kind of craftsmanship? It makes me sick. Shame on those who made this decision; who didn’t reach out to develop a better plan, one that did not include demolition of such a work of art. Such disrespect for the Elders who struggled to build this sanctuary– their painstaking efforts, deliberate design, and skill.

I am really frustrated with the leadership of this congregation. I am very frustrated with the Hospital’s lack of vision. I am posting this and I hope everyone will post far and wide. This is a disgrace. A terrible, terrible disgrace. Are there no solutions? None? Really?

And worse, the Hospital. The corporation which had a Good Neighbor Agreement. Then, offering the church leadership big money to demolish this antiquity. Neither party respecting the history. The $800,000 offered would go a long way towards the reuse of this incredible structure designed by Harry Wild Jones; craftsmanship to never be seen again. People should keep their history, the work of the elders, the responsibility to protect and maintain that asset. This is simply inexcusable. There is always money. There can always be a plan. It’s about leadership, partnership, doing what is right.

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Messiah: Raised or Razed?

Messiah Church’s compelling interior Architectural Art by Architect
Harry Wild Jones

UPDATE ON THE STATUS OF THE MESSIAH PROPERTY, Nov. 30, 2017: When a property owner applies for a demolition permit, it is checked for inclusion on a list of buildings “of historic interest” and if on that list the Mpls. Heritage Preservation Commission is requested to decide pursuit any further. By unanimous vote, Messiah Church building was considered to merit preservation requirements by the Minneapolis Preservation Commission. Their opinion was forwarded to the Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee. It was denied on a unanimous vote after 6th Ward Council Member Abdi Warsame’s motion. This was most likely due to the idea of “Councilmember privilege” which means the other Councilmembers honor the position of the Councilmember in whose ward the property is located.

The decision is now up to the Messiah Congregation. Phillips Community worked tirelessly to negotiate with Children’s MN over the years to establish covenants of understanding about land use issues and working to have Children’s MN stay within a certain boundary of blocks so that residential and commercial could continue to respectfully coexist? Will Messiah do its part to respect and uphold those covenants of their neighbors and the history of the community that has helped to sustain them or will they succumb to only examining this issue from the perspective or what is good for them and their own gain? Years of time and energy and relationships were invested in establishing these covenants of understanding. Will the congregation of Messiah and Children’s MN waste those investments of time, ignore the covenants that were put in place and do harm to the many trusting relationships that were established over the years? Will the Monopoly Game in Phillips continue? Or, will Messiah “take the high road” and convene conversations and strategies with community members at large whereby they might be able to sell the building to other congregations or to others for reuse? Will Messiah rise to the occasion or will Messiah be razed?

NOTE: Some of the articles below are Reprinted from The Alley Newspaper and are so labeled. Date references within the articles are the same as they previously appeared and have not been updated.

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Nov. 30th Meal, Meeting, & Vote: The Roof Depot Site: East Phillips Institute 3 Acre Plan Decision

Aerial concept rendering by DJR Architects of the 7 Acre former Roof Depot site with the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute’s 3 Acre Plan shown in color.

BY BRAD PASS

An estimated two hundred community members came together on the last day of November to hear two plans, the City Plan and the Community Plan, for the Roof Depot Site at the intersection of the Midtown Greenway and E 28th St in South Minneapolis. They came together to exercise their right as defined by the first principal of community engagement, passed by the Minneapolis City Council in 2007; “Public participation is based on belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.”

City representatives Lisa Cerney and Mark Ruff gave a presentation explaining the critical importance of providing safe and reliable water and sewer for the city and the need for a new facility from which to operate.

Community members including State Rep. Karen Clark, EPIC Board President Carol Pass, C.M. Alondra Cano, all members of the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) with help from Hennepin County Commissioner Debby Goetell and Dean Dovolis – founder of DJR Architecture, Inc, presented the Community Plan.

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