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Thursday August 6th 2020

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RETURNING

CHAPTER 2

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL

Luz fell asleep on the 21 bus—again—and went several stops past 17th.  She didn’t realize it until she was just passing the Zapata statue.  She yanked on the cord so hard it almost broke, and yelled, “Stop! Stop! Damn it, I said Stop!”, which is not a good thing to yell on the 21 during rush hour.  Actually, it’s not a good thing to yell anything on the 21 during rush hour, or most any other hour, period.  People do it of course, but it almost always increases the tightness in the passenger’s bodies, bodies that are tight enough to begin with.

The bus stopped just shy of the Dollar Store on 10th.  Luz stomped down the three steps in her winter boots and stepped right into a slushy pile, made up of equal parts ice, snow and dirt. She yelled up to heaven, “You Stop too!”, but heaven was busy with wars and rumors of war and earthquakes and the like.   Luz was tired, she was frustrated, she was mad.  Mad at God, mad at herself, mad at this world that was so hard to live in.

Luz had been planning to surprise Angel and the kids with some of the fabulous chicken from the little kitchen in the gas station on 17th.  Especially Angelito, who she swore could live off of chicken, rice, Hot Cheetos and Takis and nothing else.  They hadn’t been able to eat out lately, with money so tight.  But Luz had gotten a letter the day before from an uncle she never knew, who had showed up at their wedding almost seven years ago.  Tio Miguel, who had retired from teaching at Luna Community College in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and who now taught poetry workshops in English, Spanish and Nahuatlin barrios and pueblos all around the Southwest.  The letter had included a poem he had written for Luz, and two twenties.

She could still remember the last line of the poem: until the day la Luna unveils her dark.  She knew that literally Tio Miguel was referring to the dark side of the moon, which humans can never see from earth.  But she wanted to read the poem again with Angel, and explore with him what else it might mean.

But now she had to walk seven extra blocks with wet feet and a pissed off mood.  Fortunately, her literature class at Augsburg had been reading works by wonderful women poets.  She was writing her paper on Gwendolyn Brooks, and kept coming back to that line of hers:“It must be lonely to be God.”

Luz knew lonely.  How lonely she had felt holding in secret all that she had suffered as a girl and a teenager.  She had Angel now, She had Angelito and Lupe to love and hold.  But she still felt a deep loneliness.  She had started going to church—to a church with a lady pastor, no less!  She felt some comfort there, some release from the past.  But she knew there was something that still needed to be uncovered.  But she wasn’t sure how to do it, of even if she really wanted to.

As she approached Spirit on Lake, she remembered how she had traveled these streets with Angel years ago.  How they found helpers in the most unlikely places.  She was wondering if there were helpers who were out there now, and how she might find them, when the door of the Quatrefoil bookstore opened and a soft but strange light flowed out.  There was a man who smiled at her and said, “C’mon in—we have something special in store today!”

And though she was tired, and still hoped to get the chicken and spend some time with Angel and the kids before Angel went out to work a long shift, something pulled her into the bookstore.  Something strange, but not at all scary.

To be continued…
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The World Opens Up.

Phillips Neighborhood Clinic

By HARRY LEEDS

By now you have probably heard about the global pandemic.  If you haven’t stepped outside your house in three months, then I’ll tell you—oh, you know already. 

In recent weeks, many states, including Minnesota, have been opening up businesses.  Does this mean that it is safe to go back and interact with the public?

            Well, it depends on what you mean by “safe.”  On the one hand, our doctors are more experienced with coronavirus and we have more medical equipment to fight it.  On the other, even though numbers of hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Minnesota have been declining, there are still many cases out in the community. With businesses reopening and people gathering for protests, getting infected is still possible and we still don’t have a vaccine or very effective medicine. Many experts think we will soon see another increase in hospitalized cases.

People with cardiovascular disease and diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing severe corona complications, so those people should weigh the risks of going into large groups heavily when thinking about how to spend their days.

            If you are indeed ready to stretch your legs, I would recommend going for a walk over going to a bar.  Sun and fresh air are good for the mind and body, especially when they haven’t seen each other in a while. Minneapolis has a gorgeous park system, and the summer in Minnesota is fabulous, if not short lived. 

            Exposure to carriers of the virus in public parks is a risk, but it is easier than, say, the grocery store to keep a distance from others.  While outside you are unlikely to come into contact with many infected surfaces. As scary as this all is, your spiritual side needs feeding to, and you have to live your life.

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Tales from Pioneer and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery

178th  in a Series

By SUE HUNTER WEIR

Lafayette Mason—One Mpls.’ First Black Firefighters 

Musician, Artist, and Southside High Football Captain

Other than some graffiti on about a dozen fence pillars, the Cemetery was untouched during the protests on Lake Street.  The graffiti was gone within a few days but the stories about the lives of those who are buried inside the gates continue.  It’s obvious to passersby that the Cemetery is old.  What is less obvious is that the Cemetery is listed in the National Register of Historic Sites because of the people who are buried there.  For the most part they were not famous but collectively their stories tell how the city and state were built. Some of them had ties to the early abolitionist and anti-slavery movements in Minnesota and others because it was a favored burial site for members of the early African-American community, many of whom led extraordinary lives.

Photo and caption from “The Appeal,” September 24, 1910, read “The Late Lafayette Mason, Musical Genius, Minneapolis.”

[Photo Credit] COURTESY MN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Lafayette Mason was an incredibly gifted man.  He was an athlete, an artist, and one of the city’s early African-American firefighters.  Members of three earlier generations of his family are buried near him in a block of graves purchased in the 1860s. Chloe Aidens, his great-grandmother, died from cancer on November 11, 1863.  Hers is the first recorded burial of an African-American in the cemetery. Her daughter, Harriett, died on December 19, 1891; the cause was listed only as “heart.” Harriett was married to Morgan Jones who died from “old age” on December 6, 1907, at the age of 101 after having lived a remarkable life (see http://alleynews.org/2017/12/the-cemeterys-eldest-morgan-jones-60-years-a-slave-41-years-freedman/).  He is the oldest known person to be buried in the Cemetery.  Their daughter, Katherine Luella (“Katie”), was Lafayette’s mother.

Lafayette was born on May 17, 1880.  As a child he was popular, and he was ambitious.  By the time that he was 11 years old, while he was still attending school full time, he was making “good wages” working as a messenger at the West Hotel, a fact that was mentioned in the“Appeal,” the leading local African-American newspaper at the time.  In 1898, his teammates voted him captain of the Southside (South) High School football team.

After he graduated from high school his career as a musician took off.  There are two hundred or more mentions of him in various local newspapers.  He worked in at least two department stores, both playing and selling music.  He traveled to Chicago to buy sheet music for a local five-and-dime store.  He played weekly at the Colonnade Dance Club in St. Paul and at one point ran his own dancing academy.  He played at benefit concerts for causes ranging from famine relief to fundraisers for local African-American churches.  He often played at weddings where his mother, a coloratura soprano, was the featured soloist.  He was one of the local African-American community’s leading lights—a gifted artist generous with his talents.  In 1899, the “Appeal”described him as “A Noted Pianist,” who “undoubtedly is taking a place among recognized musicians of the day, [and who] has a bright future before him.”  He got rave reviews when he, a solo pianist, stood in for a full orchestra during performances at St. Paul’s Metropolitan Opera House; he wasreportedly the first African-American to do so in any city west of New York.

Sometime around 1907 or 1908, he joined the fire department and worked alongside John Cheatham, Minneapolis’ first African-American firefighter. (http://friendsofthecemetery.org/history/alley_articles/John_Cheatham_feb2005.shtml.) It seems like something of an odd choice for a man who clearly thought of himself as a musician first and foremost.  It may be that he joined because he was engaged to be married and wanted a more stable source of income.  Whatever the reason, his career with the fire department was far too short. Lafayette Mason died from typhoid pneumonia on April 8, 1910, when he was about five weeks shy of his 30th birthday.  He was survived by his mother, stepfather, sister, and fiancé. 

He was buried next to his great-grandmother and his grandparents in the family plot.  His mother, Katherine, outlived him by 30 years and his stepfather, William Smith, by a few years longer than that.  Their story is also well worth telling but that’s for another day.  All six family members are buried in Lot 69, Block C.  None of their graves are marked.

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Systemic Racism isn’t the Problem

By MARTI MALTBY

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, I’ve heard a lot about systemic racism. As far as I can tell, though, no one is saying anything new. I first heard of systemic racism in university over 25 years ago, and I’ve heard it discussed consistently since then, and now I’m hearing it discussed more loudly. Unfortunately, and tragically, discussing “systemic racism” misses the point.

The system isn’t an impersonal force. It is made and controlled by people, by us. But of course, some of us have more power and control over the system than others. Those (including me) who have power and privilege need to recognize their (our/my) power and privilege and then do something with it. Systemic racism (or whatever other impersonal term you want to use) shields them/us/me from personal responsibility for not doing what we can to change the system. So instead of discussing systemic racism, we/I need to start using “I” statements like:

  • I will stop being scared of losing my privilege. I will accept that I don’t need a new flat-screen TV, a cabin up north or any of the other things I say I need. I will accept that working for equality may cost me a couple of creature comforts, but that I will not miss these unless I am incredibly selfish and materialistic. I will recognize that the victims of “systemic racism” live every day with far less than me, and I have not thought this was a problem. If it isn’t a problem for people to live at that level, it isn’t a problem for me to do with less.
  • I will recognize that injustice happens every day, and that those who suffer injustice bring attention to it every day. They speak more loudly the more they are ignored. If they have to speak with protests, riots and destruction, it is because I didn’t listen.
  • I will not blame a few bad police officers for the problem when the problem has existed for centuries in all sectors of society. I will face the fact that the problem is far bigger than a few people.
  • I am going to support equal funding for all students in Minnesota, and if I live in one of the better funded, higher funded school districts, I will support allowing students from outside my district to attend. If this means that my child winds up having to attend a school in a district with lower achievement scores, I will help that district improve its outcomes. I recognize that my child has no inherent right to a better education than another child based on zip code.
  • I will vote for individuals and causes that will tear down systemic racism. Voting for a healthy economy that creates poverty or security that terrorizes people doesn’t make sense.
  • If I claim that I got where I am by hard work and not because anything was given to me, I will also admit that many people have worked harder than me in low-paying jobs with no benefits and unsafe working conditions but haven’t benefited in the same way that I have.
  • If I hear myself saying that any of these changes are unfair to me or my family, I will admit that the world has never been fair, and that I have received more blessings and have a more luxurious life than almost anyone in history. I will realize that if life was fair I would watch my child starve to death during famine, or die during a plague, or be sold into slavery, or be blown to bits in a civil war, or waste away in a refugee camp, because that is what happens to millions of people every day.
  • I will decide whether I will live out these “I” statements. I can be a hypocrite who talks about the need for change and decries the violence and destruction that results from an unjust system but doesn’t do anything to change it, or I can become involved in the day to day struggle to establish justice. I can wait until those who suffer get my attention through riots and destruction because that is the only thing that gets my attention, or I can join them in the struggle.
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Unique Diploma Framed by Resilience

To the Augsburg Fairview Academy Class of 2020:

Your teachers, support staff, and I want to take a moment to say, “CONGRATULATIONS!”  You each hold a very special place in our heart and in the fabric of our school community.  You are the first AFA graduating class unable to finish classes face-to-face, attend Senior Prom, and participate in the 2020 Commencement ceremony as we had planned.  COVID-19 took these milestone moments away from you.  However, you are also the first AFA graduating class to accept the challenge of distance learning, you continued to push forward with determination, and you have proven you are resilient.  You exemplify the Circle of Courage and the principles of belonging, independence, mastery, and generosity.

You will never forget about the way your high school career ended.  It did not end with the pomp and circumstance you dreamed of, but you are finishing high school with a diploma you earned in a completely unique way.  Remember this moment in time.  Remember how determined and resilient you are on challenging days ahead.  Remember you have the skills and grit needed to accomplish your goals.  

At AFA, we will always remember you, the Class of 2020.  You have forever made an imprint on our hearts and minds.

With love and pride,

Heidi E. Anderson

Executive Director

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What is Black is Real Black Manhood

By Minkara Tezet, Griot of Psychology and Psychiatry, Cultural Wellness Center

I thought of you last night. I heard your voice.  I heard your voice cry out through the veil.  You are a real Black Man.  You are the being that was called into being so long ago, Kem. You are he who was the first greeter of the Creator.  It was you who saw this face first.  What are you? Where did you come from and what made you? I am listening to this voice.  I am listening to you.  I am hearing Tefnut.  I hear her through these tears. She is the moisture that moistens the ground that is you. 

You are Kem and Geb. She is the waters that flow from the first time and she is in you, too. 

She is pushing through for you.  I am thinking of you. I am thinking of myself. I am thinking of the Black Man and all that it means to be him. All the pressure it feels to be Kem.  Kem is the Black. 

He is you. And he is me, too. 

I am crying to soothe this heat and this fire I feel for the conditions we find ourselves in. Personally, I want to burn all of this shit down and start over.  But my emotional connection to the rains and to the healing power of Tefnut won’t let me cause this pain.  She is pushing through and she is calling to you. She is asking each of us to allow the tears to flow so that her healing powers can show. 

She is healing me.  I hope you can see the tears I am crying for you, the Black Man. I hope you can see the tears I am shedding for myself. I feel the pressure it is to be you. I feel the pressure that makes us want to let Shu lose. I feel the pressure that drives the impulse over our use of fire and pain. Shu is the fire of the first time that also burns inside of you. Shu is the ancestor that you have allowed to come through and at times if left unchecked Shu will burn you, too. 

We are witnessing murders in the street and unchecked fire burning as we are no longer able to feel the waters of Tefnut pushing through.  We have emotional dams holding her back. We want to release. But it is not in us to share the tears we have with the world publicly. So, I am releasing my tears onto these sheets. To be a Black Man is to balance who we are and what we be.  To be a Black Man means to be someone who is complementary. We complement the divine feminine we are presencing.  If she is fly, we fly, too.  If she rises, we rise, too.

November 14, 2019 – Minkara Tezet (Excepted from What is Black is Real Black Manhood)

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Spirit of Phillips

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Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association

Board Meeting: July 14, 6:30 – 8pm

A Community Forum with Senator Jeff Hayden: July 28, 6:30 – 7:30pm

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“the alley” newspaper July 2020 issue

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Welna Ace Hardware

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