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Saturday April 20th 2019

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Steps towards peace: Peace via community

Marti Maltby

By MARTI MALTBI

Before I get to the point of this article, allow me to lay a little groundwork. Peace House Community has been open in the Phillips neighborhood since 1985. Our founder, Sister Rose Tillemans, established PHC at 510 E. Franklin Ave, and in 2013 we moved to our current building at 1816 Portland Ave. S. PHC is a community center (not a “drop-in center,” please) focusing on homeless and low income adults. As our full name indicates, Peace House Community is a community, a series of relationships and connections. The building is simply a tool for bringing people together.

The focus of the day at PHC is what we call “Meditation,” although it is more of a group discussion. For 45 minutes a day, our community (community members, volunteers, guests and staff) discuss a question designed to help us understand and relate to each other. The questions can revolve around anything from community events to childhood experiences to the best meal you’ve ever had.

We sometimes get complaints from newcomers that we are misleading people by talking about “meditation” when our actual practice is very different from the usual practice of meditation. (We’ve considered changing the label to something more accurate, but the community members have unanimously said they will ignore any change we try to make because the word is so integral to PHC’s being!). 

While I understand the complaint, I have come to realize that what we do is simply meditation on a grander scale. Meditation, practiced by an individual, focuses on expanding one’s consciousness, becoming more self-aware, allowing one to “function” more effectively and so on. The meditation at PHC accomplishes these same things, but instead of relying on one’s own insights from meditation, it allows community members to gain wisdom from others and self-awareness from examining their own responses to new ideas. 

We learn not only from others’ experiences and thoughts, but also from a deeper understanding of our own orientation to ourselves and the world around us.

As we as a society embrace technology in ever-increasing ways, we tend to sacrifices elements of ourselves. Relationships become digitized and we can choose the news we hear about the world, creating a self-supporting narrative. We find ways to insulate ourselves, even as technology offers the opportunity for greater exposure. Certainly this is not true of everyone, but it is a constant possibility. The meditation practiced by the PHC community is a natural antidote to these dangers.

Fortunately, PHC is only one place to experience this type of meditation. Places of worship, 12-step meetings, coffee shops, family reunions, book clubs and a host of other settings provide this interaction. Well, it would be better to say they provide the opportunity for such interactions. It lies with each one of us to decide the extent to which we will interface with the world and the people around us, and by extension, how much we will learn about ourselves.

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Winter social

photos by Walter Griffin

The 22nd Annual Phillips West Winter Social on Feb. 21, 2019 brought together about 300 neighbors for a huge smorgasbord of supper choices by several Phillips West institutions on a serving table the length of the large assembly room. The evening was prefaced by institutional exhibitors in the Changing Lives Lobby at 2400 Park Ave. each decorated with institutional banners, paraphernalia, gifts like candy bars and ballpoint pens and a whole lot of information by institutional representatives.

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Letter to the community: Why is YWCA unwilling to have open and fair conversation?

By Doris Overby

Midtown COmmittee for due process

We have been deeply concerned that the Minneapolis YWCA management and Board chose not to involve the general membership in decision making regarding the new costly pay to park system. We believe that it is now necessary to send this letter to each member of the YWCA Minneapolis Board of Directors.

Even more disconcerting is the lack of due process in the YWCA’s decision to suspend the memberships of Doris Overby and Dick Taylor. Management’s unwillingness to fairly and openly negotiate a reconciliation has impeded the reinstatement of the memberships. We believe the management’s decision to suspend without due process constitutes a glaring injustice.

We are further concerned that management may have used surveillance cameras to identify a member who was peacefully exercising her First Amendment rights to inform members of the controversy that had developed over the abruptly imposed parking system and the unwarranted punitive action taken against two members who were acting within their rights.

In each case, these members have felt intimidated and treated arbitrarily as management has relied on vague terms in the Code of Conduct, weak arguments, and accusations not supported with factual evidence.

We prefer to resolve the issues with the Minneapolis YWCA management with an open dialogue in the presence of a representative body of members, management and a conflict resolution mediator.

  In a recent meeting, our group discussed many ideas which we believe would vastly improve the relationship between the Minneapolis YWCA and its members and foster “good neighbor” relations within the community.  Furthermore, in order to have a context for these ideas, we urge YWCA management to implement quarterly forums with members. By holding such forums, the Minneapolis YWCA can make credible its goal of “empowerment” and enhance its prospects for growth and success.

1. Reinstate the memberships of Doris Overby and Richard Taylor pending the outcome of a due process mediated reconciliation.

2. Create an Advisory Committee similar to what other Y organizations now support.

3. Review and modify the Code of Conduct to more accurately define terminology referring to “offending the comfort level” and clarify conditions for suspension and possible termination of membership.

4. No less than 10% of the Board of Directors should be regular YWCA members, racially, gender and age representative. 

5. Establish a Membership Bill of Rights that would include such tenets as due process.

6. Given that YWCA members are avoiding parking fees by parking on neighborhood streets, it is necessary to address problems that have arisen from such a recourse.

7. It is clear that the new parking arrangement has resulted in potential new dangers for children in that parents are avoiding parking in the lot so as not to exceed the grace period and have to pay for parking. This has created such hazards as children walking in the dark and crossing the street unattended. 

Consider the possibility of a child or teen suffering an injury being picked up. The Y will suffer from the backlash of members and the community.

After the board has the opportunity to discuss these suggestions, would YWCA management be willing to prepare and implement such a dialogue?The meeting would ensue after both sides have agreed on the mediator and the choice of participants.  

We respectfully submit this letter of concern with its list of ideas and suggestions for the benefit of the YWCA members, management and neighbors.

Our goal is to promote openness, membership participation in decision-making, fairness and due process.  In good faith, we ask that the board engage with members in a process of mutual cooperation to resolve the issues addressed above.

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Cartoon: Dave Dumpster

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The Rand Report: Sex workers on Lake St. #2

By Rand Retterath

Rand Retterrath

Part 2 of a series.

After the one man research project attempting to fully comprehend all the mitigating factors affecting the sex tourism market on Lake St. and on Bloomington Ave. among others, I was left with the following considerations: Gender-based approach doesn’t work! Community approach doesn’t work! Political approach doesn’t work! Feminist approach doesn’t work! Social Service approach meets with only very limited success! Law Enforcement doesn’t have the resources to effectively arrest their way to a solution (nor should they)! Judicial approach doesn’t work, it means nothing! Penalties are meaningless. Combined Judicial/Social Service approach meets with limited success! Community Engagement approach doesn’t work!

We have a spectacular list of tried and failed approaches to the sex industry. For decades, Lake St., as well as Bloomington Ave., have been the sex tourist destination of the south metro area. And for over 50 years nothing has ever resolved the phenomenon. Let’s try a new and completely different approach. 

My first endeavor was a market assessment. Why is the industry almost exclusively on Midtown side of Lake between 18th and 11th while on Columbus to Clinton, it is on both sides? The demand side participants like to SHOP the supply side before purchasing services.Suddenly, EVERYTHING made sense. It is easier to go around the block on 29th than it is on 31st. This same situation holds true for the Columbus to Clinton stretch, but on both sides!

The demand side solution is then to interrupt the shopping opportunity. Make the market harder to shop! It seems a silly thing but when considered, but it makes perfect sense. A test is simple enough by installing Jersey barriers at some key intersections. I would suggest barriers on the intersections along 29th between 18th and 11th Avenues.  Do the same on Clinton and 31st. Then monitor the activity.

On the supply side, we need to demand involvement from the school board. Just like any vocational school, children are educated for a trade. Not all of the trades are socially appropriate. SCHOOLS MUST GET INVOLVED!

Public health officials should be using existing laws to mandate STD testing. In the course of my travels, I have identified a handful of sex workers that are known to have HIV.  It is a public health risk to both supply and demand sides.

Minnesota Statues: Subd. 8. Health threat to others. “Health threat to others” means that a carrier demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to act in such a manner as to not place others at risk of exposure to infection that causes serious illness, serious disability, or death. 

Our courts need to take a more progressive approach ensuring the community welfare. This industry creates a toxic zone in our community with the abundance of feces, urine, needles, condoms as well as making it unsafe to travel, exposes children to parts of life prematurely and condemns EVERYONE to diminished lives.

I would also argue that prostitution, as a crime, should be equalized with solicitation and as part of sentencing should consider impact on the community. Again, this is a market-based approach that, to the extent possible, should be based on market-driven tactics. The market place makes no distinction on gender, merely on the purchaser and the supplier. By the way, I cannot say that a john has ever dropped needles or weapons.

On the demand side, the city needs to appoint an ombudsman to defend the rights of anyone, who through mental defect, addiction or other incapacity, works in the sex industry to hold oversight bodies accountable. This one is hard to believe, but I know of one case where I had to call the Civil Liberties Union and file a formal complaint with Department of Human Services to address a known sex worker deemed legally incompetent. I know of another with fetal alcohol syndrome. By definition, they are not able to make decisions for themselves and as a society, we should NEVER tolerate their being abused in this way.  In addition, I have documented about a dozen sex workers who have been on the streets from 6 to 20 years. Someone needs to dig into these cases and determine competency and or mitigating circumstances beyond the voluntary social services provided in lieu of sentencing.

On the supply side, I wonder, given the statistical prevalence in certain areas, can the Special Service Districts be held accountable in some way? Certainly some work very hard in and with the community to make it safe for all. Others however do nothing, even to the extent, of not finishing buildings, playing the permit chase game and generally creating the environment in which the sex-industry can flourish. Is it any surprise that the highest densities of the sex trade occur immediately adjacent to ONE DEVELOPER/PROPERTY OWNER!

Likewise, if we have established a diversion program for sex workers, a similar one should be established for the demand side (jons).  After all, most psychologists agree that sex addiction is a thing, and there are even 12-step programs for it.  Additionally, in the course of my travels, I see the same johns, day after day, just like we have seen the same sex workers for YEARS!  The American system of law says justice is blind. It does not decide who is or is not a victim.  At best it can only consider mitigating circumstances.

It is time for a whole new approach! It is up to us to hold our city council people accountable. It starts with them! And it is up to us, living with it day in and day out to change the discussion and demand action.

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Raise Your Voice: A worker’s proud moment

By PETER MOLENAAR

Peter Molenaar

Circulating within the ranks of organized labor is a sign-on statement with the caption: “Union Members Stand United with Rep. Ilhan Omar.”

It reads:

“Rep. Ilhan Omar is a fighter for working people who upholds her time as a union member with pride and continues to stand with unions, with working people, and with all who are oppressed.

“Just a couple months into her first term as one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, Rep. Omar faces unprecedented attacks. Her statements and intentions are being purposely twisted in cynical and disingenuous ways to try to discredit and isolate her.

“As union members we understand the importance of solidarity when our union siblings are under attack. The biggest enemies of working people and unions, like Donald Trump and his followers – who themselves are guilty of enabling violent antisemitism and white supremacy – are stoking the attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar.

“We unequivocally stand with Ilhan Omar against the Islamophobic smears being leveled at her for her outspoken views.

“We denounce the despicable efforts of Republicans to label her a terrorist or connect her to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“We call on our fellow union members, on our unions, and on elected officials to stand with Ilhan against Republican efforts to pit Jews and Muslims against each other.”

Several hundred names down the list is found the identification: shop committee/steward (now retired) Teamsters Local 970. 35 years within the bowels of Smith Foundry, near Cedar Ave. on 28th St., are now more meaningful than a million iron castings. My name appears among the “siblings,” the union brothers and sisters who have Ilhan Omar’s back.

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Frank Reflections – Rental housing supply and demand: gratitude or greed?

by Frank Erickson

More than 42,000 renter households in Minneapolis, even though employed full-time, pay more for housing than they can afford.

Without these 42,000 rental households, there wouldn’t be the high demand for rental housing; there would be supply glut. Are there 42,000 potential renters on waiting lists who can afford the units with high rents? 

How can tens of thousands of renters who cannot afford their rents, be the foundation for raising all rents? These 42,000 households, who cannot afford their rent, are the core of “supply and demand.”  The landlords have nothing without renters.

Capitalism is wicked. Renters have no choice. Renters have to pay their rents. Ironically, they drive up their rent by paying rents they cannot afford.

All “supply and demand” sees is rent paid. It doesn’t see nor does it care if the renter went without food to pay the rent. All capitalism needs to justify raising rent is that rents are paid. That is inhumane!

Without these 42,000 renter households in Minneapolis the “market” would crash! Landlords need to focus more on gratitude and less on greed!

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Listen to March 2019 articles in The Alley

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The Alley newspaper March 2019

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MURDERED & MISSING but not forgotten

THEY WALKED FOR WOMEN ON VALENTINE’S DAY

by Tesha M. Christensen

Over 1,200 people braved the winter weather to march for missing and murdered Indigenous women on Feb. 14, 2019. Twenty-nine-year-old Amber Brunelle, who works in South Minneapolis, was walking to raise awareness of this issue. She pointed out, “Most cities don’t have a number on how many Indigenous women are missing in this country.” She is pushing for policy changes that will pinpoint why so many Indignous woman are targeted and what can be done to fix the problem. Brunelle was walking in memory of her friend Brandi, who was murdered 1.5 years ago. “We’re all part of the same life. We all live here,” Brunelle said. “I just want the violence against Indigenous women and men to stop.”

Organized by Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center with help from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and others, this year’s walk was filmed by TPT-Twin Cities PBS for an upcoming documentary. All My Relations Arts brought equipment so that participants could create screen prints stating “Justice! For Missing and  Murdered Indigenous Women” and “Bring Her Home,” and then wear the red fabric during the walk. Stations set up inside the Minneapolis American Indian Center, where the walk began and ended, educated attendees on the sexual violence and sex trafficking issues facing Native peoples in North America.

TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Twenty-nine-year-old Amber Brunelle, who works in South Minneapolis, was walking in memory of her friend Brandi Lynn, who was murdered 1.5 years ago. “I just want the violence against Indigenous women and men to stop,” Brunelle said.

Murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian/Alaska Native women and rates of violence on reservations can be up to 10 times higher than the national average, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, although the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.

And no research has been done on rates of such violence among American Indian and Alaska Native women living in urban areas despite the fact that approximately 71% of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas, pointed out a study done by the Urban Indian Health Institute in 2018.

For Kristin Jones, these statistics are more than numbers. Her mother, Delma Elizabeth Hardy, went missing when she was six. It took 12 years for the family to find out the pregnant woman had been murdered and buried in Chicago, and to bring her body home. Authorities wouldn’t take a missing report when the 23-year-old mother of three from Ponemah, Minn. went missing, pointed out Jones.

“Our people are murdered and missing every day,” remarked Jones’ aunt, Melody Johnson. “Law enforcement is no help.”

Jones, her five children, Johnson and other family members participated in the Feb. 14, 2019 walk to make sure women like Hardy are not forgotten.

TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Kristin Jones (third from left) and her family walk in memory of her mother, Delma Elizabeth Hardy, who was murdered Aug. 7, 1996, outside Chicago, Ill., a day before her 24th birthday.

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