Friday June 5th 2020

Keep citizen journalism alive!



Tales from Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery: Plenty Work to be done-Revive WPA


177th in a Series

If you look closely at the east or west side of the Caretaker’s Cottage, most of which was built in 1871, you will see a subtle difference between the back room and the two front rooms. That difference is how you can tell that the backroom is a fairly recent (only 80 years old rather than 149 years old) addition. The roofline is a little lower but that’s not an age difference. The masonry is identical except for one thing: the top and bottom edges of the newer stones are perfectly straight while the stones on the older rooms are rough-cut. The new stones were cut using power tools while the old stones were cut by hand.

Caretaker Cottage 1940 masonry straight-cut edges differ with 1871 hand-chiseled. One of five Phillips buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo: TIM McCALL

It’s been a challenge to put a date on the “new” addition but the answer was hidden in the monthly reports that Albert Nelson, the Cemetery’s caretaker from 1827 until 1953, wrote to his supervisor on the last day of the month. Mike Barth, the current caretaker, found those reports last fall.
The addition to the Caretaker’s Cottage, like many other improvements in the Cemetery, can be traced to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. On May 6, 1935, FDR’s Works Progress Administration went into effect creating jobs on public works projects for millions of American around the country. The Cemetery was one of those public works sites.

Mr. Nelson first mentioned the “tool room,” as he called it, in his June 1939 report. Just a few weeks later, in July 1939, work on the project came to a halt during a nationwide strike by WPA workers over a cut in their pay. Although the strike was short lived, work on the Cottage did not resume until November when Mr. Nelson reported that the work crew was cutting the opening for the door that would connect the front rooms to the back room and that work on the building was nearly complete. His announcement turned out to be somewhat premature since it actually took until July 1940 for the rest of the work, which included painting the new addition and putting a roof on, to be completed.

NYA built Annie Holl monument; FDR’s WPA began May 6, !935 & ended June 30, 1943. Photo: TIM McCALL

Two other enduring structures that date from the WPA era are the monuments for Annie Holl, one of the Cemetery’s most ardent preservationists, and Charles Christmas, the first surveyor of Hennepin County. The two stone structures were erected by workers of the National Youth Administration, a WPA program for young men and women, aged 16-25. There were several facets to the program but the young people who worked in the Cemetery, in addition to building monuments, did physical labor like grading uneven sections of the Cemetery and landscaping. Mr. Nelson had nothing but good to say about them and the quality of their work although he was somewhat less happy with their supervisors who he thought were disorganized and inefficient.

A contribution of WPA workers that is less visible to the public involved records work. Mr. Nelson had as many as five staff working on reconciling the Cemetery’s records and typing up tens of thousands of index cards that are kept in the Cemetery’s office. It was a complicated task that involved making sure that names were spelled correctly, locating graves, and verifying the ownership of the graves. Those cards are invaluable in helping locate graves and are still in use today.

Other crewmembers conducted a survey of headstones and markers that existed at the time. Some of the markers remain, others have gone missing since the survey was completed but there is a record of what existed in 1938.

WPA built Charles Christmas monument. WPA employed 8.5 Billion 1935-1943. Photo: TIM McCALL

Eighty-five years after the WPA was created, the work that was done still matters. It helped save information what might well have been lost and created permanent structures that are an important part of the Cemetery’s landscape. The novel Covid-19 pandemic has left more than 36 millions Americans out of work, more than double the 15 million who were unemployed during the height of the Depression. This seems like a good time to revive government-sponsored public works programs. There’s still plenty of work to be done.

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Marie Sandvik Center

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Go to Alley Communications on GiveMN (, or send a check to P.O. Box 7006, Mpls., MN 55407

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May Day Cafe

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Community Libraries

By Lindsey Fenner

As of May 21, all HN Cty libraries are still closed to the public, although there are 8 locations currently doing curbside pick-up for requested materials. Please do not return library materials at this time. Library workers have been advocating for returns to be delayed until a safe process can been developed. With the end of the MN Stay At Home order, HN Cty is currently working on tentative plan to bring back more library services to 4-6 libraries by mid-June, but it is not clear what those services will be or which libraries will be selected to provide those services. In addition, about 100 frontline library workers are still not being allowed to work or have any input in reopening planning. But whatever library services resume will look nothing like the community library you remember.

The Coronavirus pandemic is having a serious financial impact on local gov’t, and HN Cty Commissioners are having discussions about what the future will look like. This might include significant budget cuts, permanent staff layoffs, and the closure of buildings. Call or email District 4 Commissioner Angela Conley to let her know that you value libraries and library workers. 612-348-7884

All HN Cty Libraries are closed to public. For Updated information on HN Cty Library services during the Coronavirus Pandemic, All information is accurate as of May 21, 2020

Ask Us: Have a reference or library account question? Call, text, chat with, or email a library worker
Call 612-543-KNOW (5669) to reach library staff by phone.
Monday-Thursday 9 am – 9 pm
Friday-Saturday 9 am. – 5 pm
Sunday noon – 5 pm
Español/Spanish:Llame o envíe un texto al 651-503-8013 para recibir ayuda en español.
Hmoob/Hmong:Hu losis text rau lub tsev nyeem ntawv ntawm 612-385-0886 txais kev pab hais lus Hmoob.
Soomaali/Somali:Caawimaad Soomaali ah, soo wac ama qoraal (text) usoo dir maktabada 612-235-1339.
Physical Materials: All Due Dates Have Been Extended. All Holds Have Been Extended.

Book Returns: All library book returns were closed on March 19. Check the library website when they will reopen. PLEASE do not put library workers at risk by returning library materials at this time.
Curbside Service: Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm Please note this service is running with very limited staff in order to maintain social distancing. The workers at these locations are exhausted, so please be kind!

Curbside pickup libraries: Brooklyn Park, East Lake, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Ridgedale, Washburn, Webber Park

Important service notes: This service is limited to items currently on the shelf at a curbside pickup library.Wait times for holds placed online are longer than usual. Please do not return items at this time. Due dates will be automatically extended.

Curbside pickup step-by-step

  1. Place items on hold.
    o to search for items currently available at a curbside location.
    o Place items on hold, and choose a curbside location for pickup.
  2. Wait for notification, then call the library when you plan to pick up.
    o You will receive email or phone notification when your hold is available for pickup. Wait times for holds placed online are currently longer than usual.
    o After you receive notification, call your curbside pickup library and have your library card barcode available. For faster service onsite, call ahead with an estimated time of arrival so staff can have your items ready.
    o Staff will check out your items, put them in a plastic bag, and place the bag on a cart outside of the building.
  3. After calling, pick up your items at the curbside location.
    o Bags will be on a cart outside the building.
    o Find your bag labeled with your hold pickup number (this is written on your library card).
    o Grab your bag

Library Card and Account Information: Contact the Library through Ask Us (above) to get your library account information.
Temporary Library E-Card: If you do not have a HN Cty Library card and would like to apply for a card to access online resources while we are temporarily closed, HN Cty residents and property owners can apply online to get a temporary e-card:

Online Library Events:
Storytimes on Facebook: HN Cty children’s librarians are hosting storytimes on Facebook. New family storytimes premiere at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, baby storytimes at 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and are available on YouTube anytime.

Juneteenth Celebration: Sunday June 14, 2-4 PM; Tuesday June 16, 6-8 PM Celebrate this significant moment in African American history at an all-ages online community event! Enjoy powerful stories, performances, rhythms and songs. Juneteenth honors families reuniting, just as our ancestors took their freedom and reconnected with lost relatives. During this time of physical distancing, Juneteenth celebrations still bring us closer together.
The link to watch the events online will be posted at least 24 hours in advance of each event.

Performers include Voice of Culture Drum and Dance, Million Artist Movement, Black Storytellers Alliance, Neverending Storycircle, Journey Productions, Passed Presents, and Black Table Arts. Funded by MN’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Online Resources: HN Cty Library has a smorgasboard of online resources including: Newspapers, Practice Tests, Interactives for Kids, Journals, Encyclopedias, Directories, Local History Digital Archives, Free Downloadable Music, Streamable Movies, Government Documents, Biographies, Computer Tutorials, and last but not least, E-Books. Visit the website to browse all online resources:

E-Books and Audiobooks:
Libby: The Libby app is available for iOS and Android devices and is a streamlined way to access downloadable ebooks and audiobooks from OverDrive. You can check out and audiobooks right in the app. You can also read eBooks in the app or send them to your Kindle.
Cloud Library: Find downloadable eBooks for readers of all ages. A reader app is also available for Apple, Android and other devices.

Homework Help: Online tutoring and online resources (need a library card to access)
Other HN Cty Resources

HN Cty Resource Helpline: 612-348-3000, 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week; Help available in different languages
If you’re impacted by COVID-19, call for help with clothing, financial assistance, grocery and household supplies, medical care and equipment, or medication.

Cash, Food, and Rental Assistance: 612-596-1300

For people experiencing homelessness: Adults: 612-248-2350 Families: 612-348-9410.
On holidays, weekends, and evenings until 11 pm, call 211 (mobile: 651-291-0211) and ask for the after-hours shelter team.

Domestic Abuse Service Center
Advocacy, orders for protection and safety planning services can be accessed by calling 612-348-5073.
We discourage anyone from coming to the domestic abuse service center at the Gov’t Center. But if someone finds themselves there, a conference room has been set up on the same level equipped with phones to call the services number 612-348-5073. The room is A0710.

Mental health emergencies
Adults 18 and over: 612-596-1223; Children 17 and under: 612-348-2233.
Text **CRISIS to connect to a crisis counselor

Internet and Computer Resources:
USI: USI opened their WiFi network in Mpls. for those that may need temporary internet access
• Look for the “City of Mpls. Public WiFi” or “USI Wireless” networks on your mobile device and you will be connected. The process is similar to using Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or the airport.
• No password or credit card is required to sign in.
• You need to be within 50 feet of the hotspots. Signal strength varies indoors.
Contact: Call (24/7) 1-800-US-INTERNET – Email: Text: 952-253-3277

PCs for People: PCs for People provides affordable computers and low-cost internet eligible individuals
www.pcsforpeople.orgPhone: 651-354-2552

Lindsey is an East Phillips resident, and usually works at Hosmer Library in South Mpls. After not working for the Cty for almost two months, she has recently been reassigned to HN Cty Public Health as a Covid-19 Contact Tracer.

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Compassionate Duo Artfully Planting and Giving for Tomorrow: Pastors Luisa and Patrick Retire


Pastors Luisa and Patrick Cabello Hansel. Photo: Lowell Hanson, 2014

Poetic Art & Artful Poetry
“Pastors Patrick and Luisa Cabello Hansel have served St Paul’s Lutheran Faith Community for 15 years. Their art and poetry talents were gifts, to us and the community.”

Pastors Patrick and Luisa Cabello Hansel have been serving the Faith Community at St Paul’s Lutheran Church (2742 15th Ave.) in Phillips for 15 years. Their talents in art and poetry have been tremendous gifts, not only to us but to the community as well.

Pastor Patrick’s skilled verse has meant that our members have benefited from a personal, relevant and meaningful sermon every Sunday for 15 years. Pastora Luisa’s mosaic artistry adorns the Sanctuary and the 28th Ave Peace Garden.

In addition, they have helped St Paul’s transform into a diverse community that serves its neighbors though invitations to programs and events and access to free health care through two clinics housed within our building.
We have been truly blessed from their time with us. We pray that their next chapter in life is filled with continued opportunities to share their gifts with others!

Christine Leehey is St. Paul’s Church Council President.

Plantings Forever
“Everywhere I go, I see Luisa and Patrick–as artists and directors of Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts. They planted many semillas we will see long after their retirement.”

Luisa and Patrick Cabello Hansel Puppets by Bart Buch. Photo: BRUCE SILCOX

Everywhere I go in my neighborhood, I see my neighbors, Luisa and Patrick Cabello Hansel. They get around. Through their work as artists and directors of the Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts and Co-Pastors of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, I see many creations initiated and led by them. I see the mosaics on walls, trash cans, and planters they and partners have created. I see the plants, flowers and gardens they have planted with neighbors. I see the words of poetry from youth with whom they worked— on utility poles. I see the young leaders they have trained. I see photos and words of neighbors in their neighborhood literary magazine, “The Phoenix of Phillips.” I see reminders of the posadas, marches, and meditative blessing walks for peace, justice, beauty, and compassion. I know they have led and co-created much more beauty, healing and connection in this place than any of us can see. They are believers, in you, in me, in us, in each other, in this place, in the world. They have helped me believe more in all these things, too. They have planted many, many semillas and we will continue to see these seeds and fruits and flowers and trees and connections multiply long after their upcoming retirement. They knew that. They’re smart. Thank you!! Thank you a thousand times, Patrick and Luisa, for your belief, your beauty, and the bounty that you have left us. I promise to tend, reap, share and replant what you have sowed.

Compassionate Duo
By Sandy Spieler
“They retire June 15th, yet their influence will live on in Phillips Comunity, regional Faith Communities, and in my own life.”

Luisa and Patrick’s influence will live on in the East Phillips Neighborhood, in the regional organizations of Ecumenical Faith Communities, and in my own life.

“My preaching outfit, Easter Sunday Covid-19. Ha!” says Patrick. Photo: YOUTH PHOTOGRAPHERS, SEMILLA CENTER

Our first meeting was quirky. Within months of their arrival to East Phillips, Patrick found me in the E. Lake Street Target parking lot. He called out to me, “Sandy Spieler! I know YOU, but you don’t know ME. This is my wife Luisa. Let’s work together!” Indeed, we were now neighbors working 2 blocks apart on 15th Ave. They at St Paul’s, and I at In the Heart of the Beast Theatre. Patrick reminded me that our paths had crossed in 1976 in Washington DC for the culmination of the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice when Patrick helped to carry puppets. Wow!

Ours was an easy, instant connection because of their welcoming warmth and humor. I recognized they shared my intrinsic understanding of how Art prods Spiritual discovery and how Spiritual quandaries fuel Artistic expression and Social Action. Together, in 2006, we built a team from the Church and from the Theatre to create and enact La Natividad( enacting this on the streets of the neighborhood six times through 2016. Even though I understand very little Spanish, I love the Spanish speaking and bi-lingual congregation that gathers young and old, and became a member of the church.

Semilla Center grew naturally from the church with faith that LOVE planted like a SEED will flourish in unexpected ways. Their contributions to Semilla are hefty, with Luisa’s outreach on Mosaics and Visual Arts, and Patrick’s on Literary Arts.The Semillas (seeds) have blossomed, evidenced by the many mosaics enlivening the region, neighbor’s words and photographs for The Phoenix of Phillips magazine, surprise poems on lampposts, lantern processions lighting the night, and mentoring and encouragement of Youth.
Underneath all of this, they are ministers—each a counselor of deep insight—who have ministered and advocated for those of us seeking guidance and inspiration. They are a dynamic duo of Compassion, and I thank them with every ounce of my energy for what they have shared with our neighborhood, and with my own life. So much gratitude and love for you, Luisa and Patrick!

Giving Joy
“At the heart is their pursuit of social justice and advocacy for voices are not always heard. They gave joy to my 99 yr old mother. There is no greater gift than that.”

I first remember seeing Patrick at one of the early Green Tomato Festivals which were held to celebrate Phillips’ many community gardens. It turned into an annual event and friendly competition—who was going to win the blue ribbon in one of three categories or, better yet, Best in Show. I’ve lost track of who won the most ribbons, but have not forgotten the fun it was.
Patrick and Luisa have supported so many community activities—“the alley” Newspaper, Friends of the Cemetery, In the Heart of the Beast Theatre, community gardening, a community clinic, and, of course, the Semilla Project and Young Leaders Program—that touch on almost every aspect of life in Phillips.They have made beautiful art with young and old. At the heart of it all is their pursuit of social justice and their advocacy for those whose voices are not always heard.

I have a more personal reason to be grateful, as well. During the last months of my 99-year-old mother’s life, Patrick visited her and prayed with her. One week before she died he showed up at her door with three angels (kids from St. Paul’s complete with halos). They brought her small gifts, sang for her, and prayed with her. They gave her joy. There is no greater gift than that.

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“CLASS of 2020: You Carry the Legacy of Resilience. We Know You Will Deliver!”

South High School 2020 Graduate Lawn signs designed by the Graduate Recognition Committee, purchased by South High Foundation, and delivered to graduate’s homes by teacher and staff volunteers following strict distancing protocol. March 16 was the final day of classes, after schools were ordered closed; and May 13 was the first day signs were distributed. Commencement was virtually streamed online, and broadcast on MPS Ch. 15, June 1, 8 p.m. Photo: SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL FACEBOOK

To the South High Class of 2020:

Even before the circumstances of the present day, you carry the legacy of resilience. You were all born shortly before or shortly after the events of 9-11-2001. You have experienced two recessions, three presidential elections of astounding historical significance, the emergence of social media, and as South High scholars, you have always been at the fore of social awareness. Your class has further raised the social consciousness of climate change and social justice issues, as well as the de-stigmatization of mental health issues. It has been said that because you are Minneapolis South High graduates, much will be expected from you. We know you will deliver!

With pride and highest regards,
Your South High Educators


Congratulations 2020 Students and Educators!

2020 South High School Graduates from Phillips Community:

Heidi Abad-Yadaicela
Nesri Abdi
Rahmo Abdi
Khatab Abdulkadir
Gedion Abera
Kafia Aboubaker
Adna Abukar
Anas Abukar
Anab Adam
Nimo Aden
Cristhian Aguilar Dominguez
Amran Ahmed
Hamze Ahmed
Nejma Ahmed
Niman Ahmed
Shoueib Ahmed
Brandon Alarcon Villa
Alena Almanza
De’Von Anderson
Anayeli Andrade-Vera
Yulisa Andrade-Vera
Jennifer Aniceto Dominguez
Jose Aragon Rodriguez
Carla Aranda Quiroz
Cristian Ayavaca Sanchez
Tarek Azzazi
Teresa Baker
Enrique Balero Galicia
Ana Barrios Tajonar
Mohamed Barud
Abdulahi Bashir
Britney Birch
Sahara Bourasa
Julian Branden
Annika Brown
Adriana Carreno
Ella Cates
Arlet Centeno Navarro
Hans Christopherson
Keegan Conlee
Arie Copley-Radder
Jessica Culhane
Ruby Davenport
Nyla Day Mccoy
Jadin Decora
Karla Delgado
Selina Dominguez Hernandez
Amelie Doying
Joel Espinoza Saldivar
Ugbad Farah
Betselot Frauenheim Danke
Tigist Frauenheim Danke
Victor Galicia Tapia
Maria Genis Lopez
Alizey Gervais
Christian Gil Pliego
Vanessa Gonzalez Valdez
Elijah Grathwol
Daniel Gubrud
Owen Guindon
Nafie Hassan
Seamus Hegarty
Alexander Hernandez Olivera
Clifton Hollow
Tannen Holt
Felix Steve Iaa
Thomas Isebrand
Mohamed Isse
Julian Jacobson
Absher Jama
Brian Jaramillo Ojeda
Brian Jaramillo Ojeda
Noa Johnson
Fadumo Khuriye
Sophia Leonhardt
Jalonda Lewis
Claire Lind
Ethan Madden
Mahamed Mahamed
Ferdowsa Mahamud
Maribel Martinez Sercas
Arielle Mary
Maxwell Mcdonough
Sylence Mckinnie
Brenda Meza Torres
Fatuma Mohamed
Mohamed Mohamed
Zakaria Mohamed
Aisha Mohamud
Naima Muhumed
Iqra Mursal
Jude Nair
Todd Nathan
Joshua Neuhauser
Juan Niola Jara
Sundus Noor
Cecilia O’Connor
Johnatan Ortega Jaimes
Raul Ortiz
John Osborn
Ella Parish
Jessica Perez Reinoso
Jackky Phiravanh
Esperanza Ponce Delgado
Emely Quintero Silverio
William Quito
Luca Raffo-Simoes
Tianna Ramirez
Kayla Redden
Luciana Rian-Senna
Casandra Rojas Hernandez
Josaiah Rushing
Brian Saldivar Villafan
Saul Santamaria-Castillo
Stacia Schirber
Soren Sidorfsky
Gabriella Simmons
Silas Sosa
Mia Swanson
Daycie Thunderhawk
Jilda Toribio-Montecinos
Phillip Truong
Giant Vang
Kayla Vang
Lillybeth Vasquez Vail
Ruben Vences Baron
James Warren
Anthony Malachi Weaver
Joseph White
Matthew Whitlock
Leon Wong
Anjilee Yale
Hailey Yellow
Ayan Yusuf
Ayanle Yusuf
Mario Zamora Pineda
Blanca Zuniga Olivera
Norma Zuniga Olivera

Congratulations and Commentaries continue in “the alley” July issue. Graduates and Schools, please send Names and Comments to

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Raise Your Voice: Commentary Honor The Community’s Vision Of A Better World. Please!

Our Righteous Community


Note: In the realm of politics and leadership, the designation of “opportunist” intends a pejorative, i.e., it describes a person whose self-interest supersedes the longterm benefit of the whole.

By now, every reader of “the alley” newspaper, is aware that governance of Minneapolis intends to demolish the Roof Depot building which rests directly across the from Smith Foundry, and kitty-corner from the Bituminous Roadways Company asphalt plant on East 28th Street. Actually, the demolition has secretly commenced, out of sight, within the walls. The intent is to create a staging ground for the city’s fleet of industrial trucks, many diesel, and their water and sewer pipes. In reality, this plan is a mean spirited slap to our face.

Hey, community activists have invested no small sum of time and money to draw up an alternative plan. Their plan, our plan, envisions green jobs, organic food, low rent housing, and more. But, no more pollution in this already over burdened neighborhood! Park the diesel truck fleet where foundry and asphalt fumes are not in the mix! UPHOLD THE FUTURE OF THE CHILDREN OF LITTLE EARTH!

It gets deeper…
Presently, despite the pandemic and the heat of summer, Smith Foundry workers continue to make molds from sand, pour molten iron, process and ship castings. Why? Because there are military contracts involved, and these workers are deemed “essential” by the federal government. Pray for them, please. Recent science has revealed that COVID-19 attaches to fine dust… iron foundries are dusty places.

and deeper…
The Roof Depot building and parking lot encapsulates ARSENIC and slows the movement toward the Mississippi River of the arsenic-laced groundwater, samples from which register 700 times above the level deemed to be “safe”. Should this site be reduced to rubble and ARSENIC DUST? What fate awaits?

I have personally appealed for intervention from the Teamsters Union. Karen Clark, Jeff Hayden, and others are working the state legislature to STOP THIS MADNESS. TakeActionMn and Mn350 are on notice. Astutely, in an article in “the alley”, Clyde Bellecourt has appealed to Keith Ellison, our Attorney General.

Hear us, please. The arrogance of a city government cannot be allowed to threaten the lives of workers, children, and neighbors who ARE deemed—and who SHOULD BE deemed—“essential to the nation.” Issue an injunction: CEASE AND DESIST!

Grant us a moment of respite during which certain city council persons might revisit their “conflicts of interest” and “retributions.”

Raise Your Voice

“My father, age 99 years,
passed away
May 19th, Covid-19.
Through a window, I witnessed the
nurse offer oral morphine.
His lips moved slightly as
she whispered in his ear…”

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“Being alive and Native is an act of resistance, resilience and activism,” says Marcie Rendon


Marcie Rendon, writer and grassroots firebrand, has made her way into the mainstream with the hit novels, “Murder on the Red River” and “Girl Gone Missing” (Cinco Puntos Press), racking up love-letter reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Kirkus Review and more like it’s lunch.

Marcie Rendon, writer, grassroots firebrand. Photo: Sigwan Rendon

“What’s an Indian Woman to Do When White Girls Act More Indian Than Indian Women Do?” circa mid-90s to the best of her recollection, was the highlight of an afternoon with the likes of Janice Command and Ardie Mendoza reading prose-poetry from a Native perspective. It’s a scathing send-up of sexually slumming, paleface predators hunting Native men while Native women stew in seething consternation. This gathering eventually evolved into the theatre company/performance troupe and Raving Natives Productions with Rendon at the hub. Debuting at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, noted for the satirical social statement “Free Frybread Telethon”, a tour de force of sardonic wit that roasted white liberal hypocrisy on a spit, lampooning the American prison system in its treatment of Native Americans.

Rendon continued as a community arts activist, WLA Children’s Book Award winning author and, notably, playwright (“SongCatcher”–Great American History Theater, Sacajawea–Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater).

Dwight: “Marcie Rendon social critic cum mystery writer. Who could’ve seen that coming? You weren’t small potatoes before. Has your increased profile as a novelist benefited your contributions as someone committed to community?”

Marcie: “The increased profile has opened doors to opportunities to speak to broader audiences. I find that “Cash Blackbear,” mystery series resonates not just with Native women but women in general who have always wanted to be as empowered as Cash is. The stories also have a following with men who admire the toughness of the characters. I have talked to a lot of audiences that I would have never gotten in front of before—farmers, small town residents, women’s book clubs, country western radio stations. All are opportunities to build understanding and create deeper conversations with folks who may have never heard of ICWA, #MMIW or adoption as a means of stealing Indian identity and land.”

Dwight: “Doesn’t seem you’ve left your activism behind. In fact, that your protagonist is Native, member of a population noted in Wikipedia as plagued by a MMIW (missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic).”
Marcie: “Being alive and Native is an act of resistance, resilience and activism. As long as we are breathing we are going against the oppression. For me, writing is a way to put voice to many of the stories in a way that is comprehensible to others, while creating a mirror for ourselves as Native people. At least that’s my hope.”

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The Fateful Day in Duluth: June 15, 1920


On June 15th, 1920, three young African American boys—Elias Clayton, 19 years old; Elmer Jackson, 19 years old; Isaac McGhie, 20 years old—working for the John Robinson Circus were lynched by a white mob.

Postcard of the 1920 Duluth lynching: Two of the victims are still hanging while the third is laid on the ground. Photo: Wikipedia

False accusations of rape of a white woman of nineteen years old by six African American men spread throughout Duluth. Although a physician found no physical evidence of rape, it didn’t matter because the white mob (estimated between 10 and 15 thousand) was determined to lynch the three boys already in jail. The mob was able to break into and nab Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie and the mob tried to break into a more fortified part of the jail where more Black men were jailed, but were not successful.

While the mob was in a frenzy, other African Americans who unfortunately may have been in the way were thrown into Lake Superior. Contrary to popular belief, about 21,000 African Americans lived in Duluth before the lynchings. After the 1920 lynchings, the number of African Americans living in Duluth drastically declined. Why would the average Black person still reside in Duluth when the majority of the white community turned against them? Once the murderous mob did their deadly deeds and three Black bodies violated, the only punishment issued three white men were imprisoned for rioting.

Although the lynchings of Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie made headlines nationwide, soon after the “dust settled,” the horrific incidents in Duluth that June 15, 1920, silence about what happened that hot summer day prevailed for decades. In other words, “Minnesota Nice” went into cruising mode. (I found out about the Duluth lynchings, circa 1966.)
The Duluth lynchings came on the heels of “Red Summer” of 1919, when racial tensions exploded in cities like Chicago and Omaha—spreading into 25 cities—also to mention countless lynchings North and South with smells of burning crosses by the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.

Memorial dedicated in Duluth Minnesota in 2003, 83 years after lynching of three young African American men by a mob of thousands of white people. Photo: Wikipedia

An anti-lynching bill was passed on April 21, 1921 in Minnesota, a good thing, but on the other many restaurants still continued to refuse service to Blacks and Blacks had to sit in the balcony in local theaters. For months, Blacks in the city feared of their lives choosing to lock themselves in their homes.

A memorial for Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie was established in 2003. La Tonya Autry, researcher and doctoral student at the University of Deleware; Sharon Sayles Belton, Mpls. Mayor 1994-2001; and the late African American activist, Ron Edwards (1939-2020) helped to make the memorial possible. What would have been much better than a memorial: reparations for all Duluth’s Black descendants.

Howard McQuitter II is the fourth generation born in Minnesota on his mother’s side.

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