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Now Begins the Process of Staying Together

backyardUpdate on the Backyard Initiative

Many of the Allina Backyard Initiative participants are describing the process of community engagement as “trustworthy”,” “deeply instructive,” “nurturing,” “Informative” and completely surprising.

The Process
Since December of 2008 there have been 11 dinner dialogue gatherings. Each gathering has held the attention of 28 – 70 people of various ages. The youngest is 6 years old and the oldest is a 74 year old resident. The 74 year old resident told the story of organizing the residents in his apartment building after being so inspired by the knowledge gained while attending 8 of the 11 dinner meetings and participating on the very active Assessment Team.

He left one of the Assessment meetings fired up. He had seen several drug dealers on the block where he lived. He was feeling frustrated and angry because as he stated, “no one was doing anything” suddenly he realized that the no one included him. He stood up and started knocking on doors inside his building asking people to come together for meetings about the drug dealer. He then called the SAFE office, then the councilperson’s office, the mayor’s office. Each office staff provided support and encouragement and within two weeks the house where the drug activity was happening was closed. This is a man who is now committed to moving his own fears about challenging unwanted forces in his community. He attributes his sense of ownership as well as his sense of empowerment to this process of building an engaged community of people for Allina to partner with in the “Backyard.”

This story illustrates how the engagement process works. In 9 months the people involved have redesigned the community health assessment, including the methodology and the instrument to perform the assessment. Over 20 Listening Circles were organized facilitated and documented by residents; a survey of 750 households is being implemented in October and November. All the questions were created by residents and will be carried out by residents. This on top of adopting a new definition of Health and engagement vision and writing up 5 prevention strategies, which they want to see implemented over time.

The groups have come together, walked around together, worked together are now beginning the process of staying together. The next several meetings October through December will focus on sustaining participation, active engagement and the partnership between Allina and the Community groups of the Backyard.

This partnership will now actively build health improvement strategies which will sustain healthy people and their families in the community.

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President Obama in Town for Health-Care Reform Rally

Rowena Aubrey, daughter; Elder Naima Richmond, mother, talk about President’s visit.)

Rowena Aubrey, daughter; Elder Naima Richmond, mother, talk about President’s visit.)

By Raymond Jackson
On Saturday, September 5, President Obama returned to Minneapolis and spoke to a crowd of 17,000 at the downtown Minneapolis Target Center. This Health-Care Reform Bill is taking on a life of it’s own as many in the Legislature labor hard to get this bill through. It is attached to a lot of confusion and unclear tactical planning that the President is trying to clear up as he tours the country, both in person and via electronically. At this time it is still not a sure thing to pass. There is a lot of opposition based on clarity and half truths on both sides. I have only electronically followed President Obama’s path, since attending his Inauguration last February, so this is my first subsequent write up surrounding his presidency.

I noticed several months ago that many major news outlets began to refer to him quite often as Mr. Obama, instead of President Obama, which helped to swell opposition to his official titling as President of The United States of America. It makes one think; Is this really about The Health-Care Reform Bill, or simply opposition to America having a black President. Many seem to be suffering from selective amnesia when remembering all of the problems we now face, were inherited from the Bush administration, and some, even before those terrible eight years of Bush’s leadership. Is it realistic to think that President Obama can change so much, in so little time in office. I continue to give President Obama high marks for his efforts and most importantly, his example setting of the past 9 months; as he continues to deal with an economic disaster, a war or two, the problems of mass immigration, as well as heavy racial bias, He and many others realize the importance of health-care for all. A sound body leads to a sound mind, which should help America with the other problems we are currently facing.

Everybody seams to agree that the Health-Care system, here in America, is in CRITICAL CONDITION. What has commonly become known as the triple AAA’s, Accessibility; Affordability;& Availability, are the well known culprits of this overall decline of the American way. They, along with Accountability, appear to be the underlying culprits to the other big problems America now faces.

What is truly amazing is that even the opposition, to Health-Care Reform, agree that something must be done. There is too much nitpicking going on, (in many peoples opinion), that is keeping anything from being agreed upon in detail, therefore keeping anything from ultimately being done to correct THE PROBLEMS OF HEALTH-CARE.

For instance, a group out of Seattle Washington, that were following President Obama’s Health –Care Reform campaign across the country, refer to the President as a sell-out.

The Backbone Campaign, advocates Single Payer Health-Care & Medicare for all. Their point is that Uncle Sam needs help in order to help the people. They presented their message through song and skit, while here in Minnesota, and it sounded much like the Health-Care Reform Bill, President Obama is trying to push through Legislation now. The Bill this group claims the President has abandoned. They said, in their presentation, that over 100,000 die every year because of no healthcare insurance. The Bank bailout situation appears to be at the heart of this dilemma. Paid for with tax-payers monies, many of these banks have returned to a business as usual mental state, several months after receiving taxpayer infused monies, many executives have started to award themselves the huge bonuses partly responsible for the economic crunch. The Backbone Campaign, run by a group called The Lumbar Club, states, “You can’t bleed us dry”, which indicates that healthcare is needed by those in bad health scenarios; a valid point.

As I was unable to attend the President Obama Health-Care Reform rally, I interviewed some in attendance. “This was like a dream come true; being there, seeing and hearing the President speak”, stated Community Elder, Naima Richmond. She continued, “I was awakened with a phone call, that Saturday morning, and asked if I wanted to go. Of course I said yes! I have only seen him in the news, since attending his Inauguration last February. Actually seeing him here in Minneapolis was like putting frosting on the cake. His message just resonated with my support of him. His message about the importance of having affordable health care, it was incredible! I just don’t see how anybody would oppose that. Those who are in opposition should come to reality and support him.”

Even though some groups who do support him, do so on the premise that certain things are deleted or added to the Bill. One group, Acorn, via e-mailings, says that the preexisting condition clause must be strengthened, in that it is very difficult for people with pre-existing conditions, to find affordable health-care coverage. They continue that Insurance companies must be prohibited from denying or dropping coverage for patients with preexisting conditions. Impose reasonable limits on out of pocket costs to protect the chronically ill from bankruptcy, and eliminate financial barriers to preventive services.

One can only hope that all of this is ironed out quite rapidly, as we go into, what is described as, the worst and most deadly flu season in decades.

For comment and feedback, please contact Raymond

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H1N1 Flu: Prevention, and Vaccine

by Kristen Godfrey and Sarah Ekerholm
The seasonal influenza vaccine is now available; if you would like to lessen your chance of getting the seasonal flu, you should get the vaccine. Getting a vaccination in the fall gives your body a chance to build up immunity and protect itself from the flu virus.

It is important to note that the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H1N1 influenza. There is no vaccine available yet for H1N1, but it is expected that the vaccine will be available sometime in October. If you are among the following groups, it is recommended that you receive the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available: pregnant women, health-care and emergency services personnel, people who are 6 months through 24 years old, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months and people age 25 through 64 who have chronic health conditions.

Currently, the H1N1 influenza symptoms have been similar to seasonal influenza and have not been severe. However, there has been an increase in people receiving medical care for influenza like illness and groups of influenza like illness taking place in schools and colleges. We all play a role in limiting the number of Minnesotans who are infected with the virus by practicing good prevention techniques. It is important to stay home when sick, wash hands often, and cough and sneeze into a tissue or arm (not hand).

To prepare yourself or your family, create a “flu kit” with the following items: tissues, alcohol based hand sanitizer, disinfectant cleaner (to clean surfaces), thermometer, fever reducing medication such as ibuprofen, bottled water and other nourishing fluids.
If you are mildly sick, stay home and treat your symptoms. If you are have a temperature of 100 °F or higher AND a cough or sore throat, or if you have another chronic illness contact your doctor for guidance.
For more information: Minnesota Department of Health: 1-877-676-5414, Centers for Disease Control: 1-800-232-4636, U.S. Government’s Web site

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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 6: The Mission

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel dreamt before he awoke. He could hear voices: his mother, Luz Maria, a childhood friend from back in Axochiapan, whose name he couldn’t remember. The boy was kicking a semi-deflated soccer ball through a lot bereft of grass or flowers and calling out to Angel: “Dále, dále, Cameroon”, the name of his neighborhood team. Angel ran to the ball, as fast as his leaden legs would take him, but he couldn’t get there. He woke up kicking, his eyes looking east and west for a ball he could not see.

It was early evening. There was a young woman from the reservation sitting by his bed, wrapped in a Mexican blanket. She seemed to be moving something in her hands. At first, Angel thought it was a rosary, the way her fingers moved. But as his eyes adjusted to the candlelight and back to consciousness after three days out, he saw she was moving a few small, smooth stones. He did not know the girl, he could not have known that she had bathed him, changed him, rubbed salve in his temples. And yet he knew enough to call her correctly:

“Sister”, he said, “where am I?”

Read the rest of this entry »

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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 5: Darkness

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Dear reader,

It is hard to describe evil. Sometimes it carries a bat, sometimes it wears a badge. Sometimes it is a boss, sometimes a prayer gone horribly, horribly wrong. The evil that befell Angel was all of them, none of them. It was all of us, the worst of us, and we were its victims and its helpers.

For three days, unconsciousness became Angel. If he dreamed, if he was visited by memories or spirits, he will not be able to tell us. He dwelled in the land of Morpheus, in the land before darkness was separated from light. Hovering over the waters, hanging between life and death.

Some say that angels and demons converse secretly, right under God’s nose, in the chasm between heaven and hell, in the moments before dusk becomes night and dawn becomes day.

They are after all, family. Separated not by essence, but by actions. They were all created as the light of God, and if some confirm that light by seeking the darkness, should we be surprised?

Jaime knew better than to take Angel to the hospital, and Ahmed sensed it quickly. Whatever or whoever could beat him that badly, with that kind of impunity, would seek him out to finish the job. Angel had no papers, no insurance, no advocate for a health care system gone bad. He could, he would receive loving treatment at the hospital, but his tormentors would seek him there. Besides, Angel needed a healing that was stronger, stranger, deeper.

They carried him to Jaime’s truck, and then drove him to the heart of healing, to the far northeast corner of our community, where the drum still beats, and plants speak to those who would listen. They brought him in a basement door, and laid him at the feet of a woman known only as “Mother” or sometimes “Mother Light”.

Meanwhile the word went out about Angel, not by phone or television or official channels, but by the heart and its harsher sister, the tongue. His friends hung out on the corner, talking of revenge. His former teachers sighed and wondered how many more. Angel’s mother went to the cemetery, not because she feared her son dead, but to implore the dead, to stir the ancestors to intercede on his behalf. And Luz Maria lit candles in the shop, and kissed each long pan of bread with her breath.

Perhaps, reader, you are wondering about the one we call “Mother Light”. Oh, she has a “real” name. In fact, she has several. One for the taxes, the voting, the troubles and the bills. Another for the land she came from. Perhaps another that not even she knows, but only the Spirit that hovers. But now she is hope to this wounded child, mother and milk and we may dare to say, healing magic.

Rest in her, Angel, rest.

 

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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 4: Down

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel could have turned west toward the shelter; could have, probably should have. But he was too intoxicated by the smell of bread, by the sure knowledge that he now knew her name. Luz Maria: the light, and the mother of Christ. It was enough for him to just stand there in the wind and breathe in the world. If you asked him later—if he could remember anything—he would have told you that at that moment his life was complete. He had heard the owl and heard the voice. He had smelled the bread. But now, he had seen her, talked to her, he could almost feel her breath on his skin.

He stood there for a few minutes, his eyes toward the gray sky, his skin almost singing. He tasted the first piece of bread right in front of the store on Lake Street. Bread, even day-old, tastes better when given by the hand that is love. Coffee sweetened by a word, the hint of a smile, christens the heart. Angel would remember the taste of that food for a long time—not in his mind, but in his body.

But maybe it was his body that pointed him in the wrong direction. Maybe it was something in his feet that turned him toward the alley, the shortcut to his friend’s apartment. Bobby would let him crash that night. Bobby knew what it was like to be without a home, wondering where shelter would be found. So Angel’s feet moved him, his bread and coffee and his joy, up the alley, into the darkness.

The first blow was from a fist, the second from a hammer or club; then boots, sticks, a bat. Angel felt pain after pain after horrible pain, and then a kind of peacefulness came over him as he began to lose blood and consciousness. It was like the feeling people who drown get when they stop fighting. It was death wrapped in quietness.

The men were hooded, of course. They hid their faces and names but not their deeds. Their deed was left in the alley, unconscious and half-dead, under words that long ago had been painted on the wall: “Honor the World”. Angel lay there, and the world passed by. A police car rolled by and did not stop. Customers stopped in the beginning of the alley to light a smoke, looked up the dark passageway, and saw what they thought was another drunk. They did nothing.

Around 10:00 pm, the sky began to shed that kind of winter skin that has no set name. It was not snow, it was not rain, it wasn’t even sleet. It was a mix of all these, a mix that Minnesotans know as the beginning of sadness. Sadness and wisdom that says, “Turn inward”. It had no effect on Angel—it did not stir nor sting him—but it brought Ahmed out for his first evening walk in Minnesota weather. And it compelled Uncle Jaime as he left the back of the bakery to turn into the alley. It was as if a small but steady hand was pushing him forward.

Together they met, Jaime and Ahmed, in Spanish and Somali, in darkness and the wet skin of the winter sky. Together they bent over Angel, lifted him, and began to carry him to safety.

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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 3: Bread

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel walked west. He had fifty cents and hunger in his pocket, and the latter was outgrowing the former. Where could he go with two quarters, with the strange word that rang in his ear: “lotten”? With the sound of the owl?

He smelled it before he saw the light, softly illuminating traces of snow on the sidewalk. The bakery, named for an angel. The conchos and cuernos and his Mom’s favorite cookies pulled him in by the nose. Mr. Bussey had told him that the bakery had made the Guinness Book of World Records once, for making the World’s Largest Dog Biscuit. He remembered that a young girl, shy and pretty, sometimes worked the counter.

When he walked in, she was there, taking an order for a birthday cake from a mother with two kids: tres leches, with Dora the Explorer painted on the frosting. She had on a lilac sweater, with one sleeve pulled up higher than the other. A tiny gold cross hung below her neck. Her dark blue apron was softly floured. After the family left he stood in front of the counter for a long time.

“Buenas tardes”, he finally managed to get out.

“Buenas noches”, the girl replied. She showed no signs of impatience. Or interest.

“Solo tengo, um, fifty cents. Tengo hambre—I’m really hungry”

“Supongo que si”, the girl replied, and motioned to the wall behind her. Angel scanned the wall, as if a message was there. He saw the prices for full sheet cakes, halves and quarters. Pictures of Pooh Bear, Tinkerbell and Spider Man. A list of flavors: ronpope, fresa, coco. A clock. If there was a message there, he couldn’t see it. He looked back at the girl and shrugged his shoulders.

“Momentito”, she said, and went into the back. Angel thought he could hear a male voice talking with her, but couldn’t make out the words. After a moment, she reappeared, with a large man in a white apron.

“Este es mi Tío—my Uncle Jaime”

“I understand that you are hungry and have no money”, the man said.

“Yes sir. I mean, no sir. I mean, yes I am very hungry, and no, I don’t have any money.”

Her uncle handed him a sack filled with bread and cake, a styrofoam cup of coffee. Angel thanked him, the man wished him good luck, and went back to the ovens. The girl took a newspaper from the counter, tore off a corner, wrote something on it, folded it and gave it to him.

He was hoping that it was her phone number, but instead he saw a notice for a homeless shelter run by a church. It said you needed to be there by 8 pm to get a bed. He looked up at the clock. It was 7:15. He still had a little time. He smiled at the girl, and she smiled back. He wanted to comment on something: her eyes, her hair, some feature. He felt like Aladdin, trying to talk to Princess Jasmine. Finally, he said, “I like your cross”.

She blushed a little. Her eyes looked down, and her thumb and first two fingers instinctively rubbed the thin gold.

“Gracias” she said, her eyes. “It’s from my Mom. She’s in Guanajuato”

“My name is Angel.”

“Yo soy Luz. Luz María García Rivera, a sus ordenes.”

A sus ordenes. At your service. He hoped that she would be, for a little while at least, but then several customers came in. He said goodbye, and that’s when his eye caught the sign on the wall behind her: it was the seeing eye in the triangle, the one on the back of the dollar bill. Was that what Luz had wanted him to see? What could she possibly mean?

He went off, searching for shelter.

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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 2

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel stood on the corner of 17th and Lake, smoking. Alone. He wasn’t used to being alone. He lived with his mother and father, three brothers and three sisters in the upstairs and attic of a house built in 1907. On weekends, he hung out with his friends. He went to the Mall, he went to Block E, he kept moving. The few part-time jobs he’d had were around men with trucks, unloading wood, shingles, produce, moving from the sweltering heat of the summer to the walk-in cooler: men shouting, boxes of lettuce and avocadoes, hand trucks and ladders, men up on roofs, cash paid at the end of the day, the week, the job. Bowls of pozole and a cold Jarritos on payday, the men telling jokes, wiring money home. Angel didn’t like being alone.

But this evening was not like all the others. He had heard the owl, and swore he could hear it now, standing under the dark purple awning that advertised “Baraka Rugs”. Baraka—sounded like that guy running for President, he thought. He looked around at the building—how long since it had burned and sat empty here, its windows boarded up with plywood covered with posters: Get Tested for HIV. Una Solo Noche: Los Lobos del Norte. Student Walkout for the Minnesota Dream Act. Too many signs, Angel thought. Too much to worry about.

Then he looked up at the top of the building: Gustavus Adolphus Hall. What was that doing here? He knew Gustavus Adolphus was a college—Mr. Kasson, his counselor, had tried to interest him in applying there, but Angel wasn’t going to some school out in the cornfields. Plus, where was the money coming from? College was a dream act, for sure, he thought. That’s when he heard the owl, only this time it sounded like a voice, a voice saying something like: lotten.

Angels’ first response was to run. Someone was after him, someone meant to get him. But who? La Migra, who had stepped up its raids, even after the trouble they got in for taking over the church parking lot? The patrol cops, who stopped every kid they saw, especially if he was dark? The gang his cousin had been in? Someone sent by his family? But no, the voice was calm, quiet almost, and clearly said over and over: “Lotten”

Lotten? What the heck does that mean? It sounded like something he’d heard Miss Dolores sing when he went to visit the old ladies at the nursing home during last year’s service project. It wasn’t lotto—it clearly had an “n” on the end. But what it meant, and who it was meant for was not clear to Angel.

What was clear was that he was hungry. Hungry and alone. He couldn’t go home, and didn’t want to go anywhere else. He searched his pockets and found two quarters. Where could he go to get something to eat with that? Where would he find the sustenance he needed? He started walking west. There was no light left in the sky; the only guide was Angel’s stomach.


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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 1

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel swore it was an owl. It was calling from a tree hidden deep behind the locked cemetery gates. He remembered that an owl calling meant death, but for whom? Himself? One in his family? A friend who had a death wish? He tried to see the owl through the fog that was beginning to creep in from Cedar Avenue, but he could not. It continued to call, lonely, vigilant, demanding.

Angel tried to laugh about it: of course there’d be an owl in the cemetery. Nothing but dead people there! But he didn’t know anyone in that cemetery. They didn’t bury Latinos there. They didn’t bury anyone there anymore. Mr. Bussey, in his 4th hour history class at Roosevelt, had talked about the Civil War veterans buried there, the heroes of the Underground Railroad, the first murderers and their victims. It was the old dead who laid there, the ones who had grown tired of being restless and wandering, the dead who had settled in for the long millennium’s wait for the final trumpet.

No, this owl was calling for someone outside. Someone still living, who didn’t know their number was up. That was a fact: death was on the prowl in the neighborhood. Death had an appointment, and death was never tardy. Angel shuddered for a second at that fact. Then he began to shake as he realized something else: he had been chosen to hear the owl calling. He had been called to be the messenger. The one who might be killed for bringing bad news. He, Angel Augusto Cruz Rojas, the first born of seven, was the one who must tell the story.

Angel pulled his hoodie over his ears and started walking. He was intending to go see Sammy and some of his friends downtown, but he turned around, walked quickly passed the bus stop, made a sharp right across the street, and headed west on Lake. The sky over the Global Market ten blocks away bore the faintest trace of pink from the sun that had set nearly an hour before, and the wind was straight in his face. When he stopped two blocks away to light a cigarette, it took him several tries to keep the flame lit. Even from that distance, he could swear he heard it. The owl was calling him. But to do what? To tell whom? Angel needed to find out.

Patrick Cabello Hansel and his wife, Luisa are pastors of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 28th Street and 15th Avenue in Midtown Phillips. He is also a writer of poetry and short fiction.

 

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