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Monday August 19th 2019

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Steps towards peace: So what should we talk about?

By MARTI MALTBI

Photo by Mike Hazard

Each day that Peace House Community is open, we host a “meditation” for our guests, volunteers and community members. It isn’t meditation in the traditional sense; we focus on one topic and discuss it as a group to help us understand each other and develop a great respect for the people and world around us. The discussions last 20 to 35 minutes, and it is one of the hallmarks of our community.

Sister Rose Tillemans founded PHC with the intention of giving a forum to marginalized women and men who were generally ignored by the larger society. She also wanted to promote relationships in a safe context, making individuals feel comfortable with exploring their own thoughts and feelings in a supportive setting.

Having been at PHC for a little over a year now, I’ve come to respect Sister Rose’s wisdom in weaving a deliberate time of reflection and sharing into her vision. The discussions have opened my eyes (and I know from speaking with others that they have had the same experience) to people and situations that I would otherwise have completely overlooked.

Among the topics we’ve covered in the last 15 months have been:

• Tell us your name, why it was given to you and how you feel about it

• What is the happiest song you have ever heard

• What do people who have never been homeless need to know about being homeless

• How prepared are you to survive a natural disaster

Unfortunately, just reading these topics on the page doesn’t do them justice. As I typed them I realized how much they sound like the conversation starters you might find on tables at a corporate networking event. And yet, when you discuss topics like this day after day and become comfortable sharing yourself and accepting what others have to offer, the questions become something more than trite questions. When 20 or 30 people come to one of these questions together, the questions open doors to multiple ways of viewing and responding to each other’s life experiences. The results are wonderful.

Of course, not every meditation works out as planned. On some days the group just doesn’t have a lot of energy. Occasionally the discussion goes well off course, like when I asked what people should have buildings or lakes named after them, and we ended up discussing gun control legislation. But even these discussions build bonds, as we learn what issues are important to each other and recognize that sometimes silence is more important than speaking.

Being an introvert with some autistic tendencies, I sometimes have difficulty starting conversations with people and getting to know them. I am thankful for people like Sister Rose and events like the meditation time that deliberately make human connections a priority.

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Movie corner: ‘Godzilla’ muddles along

By HOWARD McQUITTER II

oldschoolmovies.wordpress.com

howardmcquitter68@gmail.com

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019) 

** of 5

Warner Bros.

San Francisco, a city that’s become one of exorbitancy in recent years, where homelessness is all too common and billionaire corporations line the skyline like ducks in a row, five years ago had to rebuild the city costing billions of dollars and several thousand lives because of one humongous lizard called Godzilla.  He roamed through the city doing as much damage as an earhquake or a tsunami. With all the military might against the beast he left the city on his own terms. Godzilla years earlier would attack Japan leaving so much havoc the scientists there spent every ounce of their brain power to come up with a way to kill Godzilla. 

Thanks to director Ishiro Hondo, who created the Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) in 1954, in black and white – though, not to be outdone, other Japanese directors made Godzilla movies adding some monsters like Morthra, Rodan and Ghidorah. (I’ve been a fan of Godzilla, a creature growing out-of-proportion because of nuclear tests by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. [now known as Russia].) 

I cannot endorse Michael Doougherty’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” if for no other reason than some of its main character, such as the Russell family Mark (Kyle Chandler), Dr. Emma (Vera Farmiga) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) feel unduly superficial getting in the way of the experienced military at times. As dysfunctional as these three are I have to cut Emma  and Madison some slack because they are kidnapped for the untried formula ORCA, the thing that’s suppose to communicate with themonsters, not just Godzilla but Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah ( the three- headed dragon). Over cable TV we see other humongous monsters going on their own in other countries on other continents causing destruction. But where do these other monsters other than Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah end up?

Where Gareth Edwards’  “Godzilla” (2014) made much more sense and more inviting with a more solid plot, Dougherty’s version muddled along even though a few scenes are quite good – the movie doesn’t hold up.

Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Carson Bolde (his character died in the 2014 movie) and Juliette Binoche are missing  in Dougherty’s version and that maybe telling. 

Japan is spared from Dougherty’s “Godzilla” and that’s a good thing. I saw a trailer for” Shin Godzilla”, from Japan which looks amazing featuring the oversized lizard with lots more weapons to fight the top military answers.

In fact, “Shin Godzilla” is so real it’s the scarcest “Godzilla” on record.

Cast: Vera Farmiga (Dr. Emma), Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro), Sally Hawkins  (Dr. Vivienne Graham), Kyle Chandler (Mark Russell), Millie Bobby Brown (Madison Russell), Bradley Whitford (Dr. Stanton), Thomas Middleditch (Sam Coleman), Charles Dance (Alan Jonah), O’ Shea Jackson, Jr. (Chief Warrant Officer Barnes), Aisha Hinds (Elizabeth Ludlow), Ziyi Zhang (Dr. Chen),Anthony Ramos (Staff Sergeant Martinez).Director: Michael Dougherty.

Running time: 131 minutes.

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Mind-numbing Janjaweed

By PETER MOLENAAR

Peter Molenaar

On the western fringe of Alley News territory, there exists yet another progressive church. Was it more than 10 years ago that Plymouth Congregational (1900 Nicollet Ave.) hosted a sizeable public meeting in response to the Darfur Genocide? Indeed, events in this western province of Sudan, Africa had provoked the presence of such notables as Tim Walz and Keith Ellison.

The genocide was carried out by the Sudanese government’s “Arab” militias, known as the Janjaweed (translation: “devils on horseback”). The Janjaweed systematically destroyed Darfurians by looting and burning their villages, murdering, raping, and torturing… and then, polluting their water supply with decomposing bodies. Over 480,000 were killed, 2.8 million displaced.

Why, at the present time, would one choose to write about these things? Well, the stench of burning Janjaweed has returned now to waft among the reeds of Khartoum’s Nile, and because the overlords have seen fit to notch a fresh death toll with their refusal to reveal their “deposed” leader and their refusal to allow elections in the near term. Oh, but the crocodiles smile.

Hey, we have Sudanese neighbors living close by and we are blessed with the knowledgeable concern expressed by African immigrants from numerous nations. But, here is the thing: the Janjaweed are stoked by the Saudis, and the Saudis are armed by the U.S.A. Therefore, the rest of us citizens had better begin to register a modicum of moral integrity.

For God’s sake: BAN ALL WEAPONS SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA.

Meanwhile (all the while waving their little false flags) Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton are making awkward attempts to “circle-bond.” Peering through the haze, they would have us believe their Janjaweed is really good stuff. People, the moral degradation is not worth it… just say: NO.

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Cano: Here are four things to do to show we all matter

By Rand Retterath

Rand Retterrath

This issue I’d like to focus on a comment made regarding my 2020 article. Nicole H. posted this response to that article: “This is such a crock. Neighborhoods are not representative of their residents (say what?). The city is requiring work to be done to get money. You act like the money is expected or entitled. (This isn’t for me personally, it’s for the communities and part of the participative government experience that has existed in this city for decades.) …. You should write about how the white power base are losing power and have created false narratives. Every single one of your points can be argued yet you will never see it because you are full of the kool-aide. (I assume she means that I am white and it mitigates my ability to understand much of anything.)
I agree with Nicole. I should talk about the white power base losing power; we all should.
But to do that means that we must discuss her comment in light of achieving racial and socio-economic parity for all.
The assault on my ideas and opinions is unrelenting not because they are flawed, but because I am (fill in the black). No single person has ever spoken to me about the facts or merits of my opinion. Rather, like Nicole, the response is always about my race or some other unrelated attribute, real or imagined, and as a result of that attribute, I have nothing to offer.
Since Alondra Cano has come to office, I have been called an endless list of insults. It is the same tactic used by the Nationalists in Washington. Think about it. Facts are overlooked in favor of emotionally charged slanders and false narratives designed to cut people out of the conversation.
2020 is all about engagement; my responsibility, your responsibility, theirs and ours. It should be a message of inclusion. However, since 2013 the rant from Ward 9 leadership seems to be about minimizing someone as entitled, gentrified, or victimizers exclusively.
We talk about a specific diversity agenda to the exclusion of age (why yes, I have been accused of that), ability (or lack thereof), religion (ask my Hindu, Lubavitch, Ethiopian Christian or Coptic friends how they feel included in our so-called community), national origin (ask my Ethiopian and Eritrean neighbors) and others. What about how we treat people because of their job? The worst employment in this city right now is a police officer (now there is an example of profiling). On May 18, American Public Radio went so far as to air a story on the increasing suicide rate within rank and file officers because of the environment in which they are forced to work.
You are an untouchable hero if you work with victims of the sex trade or bike lanes. If you are an educated professional, you are a member of the proletariat and could not possibly understand. In fact, Cano doesn’t even think she needs to attend events, candidate debates, parades (May Day), because she apparently knows better than everyone else. Opportunities for community input are a thing of the past for ANYONE!
As a white man, I need to change and adapt. I like that! Those who aren’t me do have the right to their anger! But do they have the right to focus that anger on me and others with a goal of retribution, invalidating my opinions or insights? Isn’t that exqactly what I am being accused of?
I am descended from a line of Irish Catholic Railroad workers. My great uncle Stan was allegedly killed by the KKK in Lake Side Park, Fond du Lac, Wis. because he was Irish Catholic. The Irish, as indentured servants, were worked to death with greater frequency than slaves. England practiced a policy of total genocide in Ireland. “East of the Mississippi, under every railroad tie is a dead Irishman, west is a dead Chinamen.” John F. Kennedy was to the Irish American – what Barrack Obama was to the African American. The Irish formed street gangs to survive in America (Dead Rabbits, Hudson Dusters, the Westies and others. Whitie Bolger emerged out of the Irish gangs).
People have a right to their anger! But do they have the right to target individual representatives of the historically oppressing group? To what end is it “creating false narratives”?
I had a black neighbor who lived across the street. She would sit in her 2nd floor apartment window and call every African immigrant who passed words that made me shudder.
So, my question for you all today – how long are we going to tolerate people in power, to model behavior that divides, disparages, invalidates, ridicules and depends on historical guilt to survive, that makes it ok to call people names and treat them as worthless, uneducated dolts rather than engage in meaningful, community building conversation?
We must find ways to meet in common space. Not one single person since 2013 has ever engaged me in a respectful dialogue over the issues that have evolved in our community.
The recent resolution on prostitution is a perfect example. I get it, I really do. But, as I said, this is the current golden topic. To argue the point will only result in name calling and disparaging assaults on my intelligence, integrity and the reality of what I see. What I see day after day are needles, feces, children in harm’s way, elders afraid to walk the street, black eyes and the full spectrum of maladaptive behavior within the culture of a sex work, addiction, homelessness and all the rest. Unfortunately, rather than talk openly about these other victims, people will just take me to task for being white, entitled or some other completely unrelated and irrelevant aspect, real or imagined.
I come to people with a wealth of information on topics, having done my homework in an effort to understand as completely as possible the issue. I am told to go lay down by my dish, that I do not matter. I am very sure that resonates with many of you, just as I am sure there are many of you thinking “good for him, now he knows how I feel,” and I agree; that is good for me and yet, we still need to come together, live next door to each other and solve a common set of problems that are destroying our community!
Perhaps Cano could make a start by unblocking all the community members she has blocked on social media. (Which, by the way, is a court determined violation of First Amendment Rights). Secondly, she might initiate protocols to return every constituent inquiry. Thirdly, she might commit to attend and host community events where she actually listens to community experience and ideas. Fouth, she might institute community events to talk about the exercise of power and community building strategies, which is the intent the 2020 program.
Four simple actions that could turn the tide of division and derision in favor of building community with all Ward 9 residents by showing that WE ALL MATTER.

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June 2019 edition of The Alley

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New public art at Bde Maka Ska

Photo by BRUCE SILCOX

The city of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) announce the dedication of a new gathering space and public artwork at Bde Maka Ska on June 8, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. Festivities will include music, comments from descendants and artists, refreshments and activities for the whole family.

The artwork includes a website, decorative railing and pavement stamps by artists Mona Smith, Sandy Spieler and Angela Two Stars honoring Maḣpiya Wicaṡṭa (Cloud Man) and Ḣeyata Ọtunwe (Village to the side), the Dakota leader and community that inhabited this area in the 1830s. 

The three artists collaborated on the entire design with Angela Two Stars conceiving the pavement stamps depicting plants and animals significant to the Dakota, as well as selecting the Dakota words and phrases incorporated into the site. Sandy Spieler invented the overall railing design highlighting crops grown and harvested at the village; and Mona Smith oversaw production of the website featuring information about Maḣpiya Wicaṡṭa, Ḣeyata Ọtunwe, and interviews with descendants and artists. 

The idea to recognize the 1830s Dakota village had been discussed for many years, but wasn’t formally adopted until the MPRB began the Bde Maka Ska/Harriet Master Planning process and responded to the strong desire by community members to reveal and interpret the natural and human history of the lakes, specifically around the Native American history of the area. Funding came from the regional park improvements and support from the city’s Art in Public Places Program.

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MayDay, HOTB: What will we build together?

By CORRIE ZOLL, HOTB EX. DIRECTOR

 

Photo by Tesha M. Christensen
A record number of people attended the 45th annual MayDay parade and celebration on Sunday, May 5, enjoying beautiful weather while celebrating organizer Sandy Spieler’s last year.

A lot has happened over the past six months. HOBT experienced many of the same challenges faced by other legacy arts organizations that have been lost in recent years. Though this period has been difficult, at every step we felt and appreciated the support from your calls, messages, donations and social media posts. You are the reason we continue to strive toward finding a future for this work.

As you may know, in January HOBT announced budget and personnel cuts after $130,000 in projected income did not come through. The layoffs are significant, more than half the staff have been laid off. Added together, the stories of those people and their time with HOBT take up a century. The loss is painful for these individuals, for the organization, and for the communities where we do our work. These cuts reduce HOBT’s staff capacity by more than half in order to allow HOBT to finish its current fiscal year in August without running out of cash.

Though significantly diminished in capacity, HOBT remains committed to its vision of building creativity, empathy, and interconnection in its core neighborhoods. HOBT’s tens of thousands of supporters want us to continue our work. We believe transformational change is possible that will lead to a more resilient future organization.

After layoffs are complete, the remaining staff will be at 4 FTE. This is not enough staff capacity to operate MayDay, the Avalon Theater and other HOBT programs in the coming year. Any future for HOBT will include increasing staff capacity, and we are committed to a future in which staff and artists more closely reflect the communities where we do our work. HOBT’s board of directors is active and committed to the next steps for the organization. The board recently added two members in preparation for the hard work ahead.

Photo by TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Hundreds of local residents participated in the 45th annual MayDay parade and celebration on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Among the announcements we made in January was that MayDay 2019 would be the last under Sandy’s artistic direction, and the last solely produced by HOBT. Both decisions were in deliberation a full year earlier and, though not triggered by HOBT’s financial situation, were certainly impacted by it. HOBT received an outpouring of response to the January 9 announcements. Scores of people told us that HOBT and MayDay were the reason they lived in South Minneapolis, or the reason they returned to South Minneapolis after they had children, or the reason they became working artists.  People told us over and over again that HOBT’s work is intricately tied up in the very identity of these neighborhoods, and they don’t want to lose what has been built here. Excerpts of those stories are included here. 

Now in May, four months since those announcements were made, HOBT is still in the process of figuring out what future is possible for the work and for the organization.  In that time, we have identified three core goals that are essential to any future for HOBT:

1. Developing a decentralized model for producing MayDay. The event had grown too large to be held by a single organization. HOBT will seek producing partners and shared ownership.

2. Developing an equity framework. HOBT must better understand the priorities of stakeholder communities and draw on these communities for artists, staff members and board members who will make the organization more genuinely diverse, inclusive and equitable.

3. Developing a business model that balances the needs of communities, the needs of artists and employees, and the needs of the organization. HOBT’s work must be relevant and accessible to core communities. Artists and employees must be adequately compensated and supported. The organizational infrastructure and finances must be strengthened by the work.

Photo by TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
As the crowd cheers, workers break apart the wall they have just built in the middle of Bloomington Ave.

This moment in time provides unique opportunities. In Sandy’s transition away from artistic leadership of MayDay, in the loss of staff capacity through layoffs, and in the wake-up call that the entire arts nonprofit field needs new business models, this is the time to marshall community support to work for change.

HOBT will not do this work alone.  Stakeholder communities will be essential along with peers, champions, elders, board, and staff. Consulting group Imagine Deliver, along with Juxtaposition Arts and Amplify DMC, are working with HOBT to design and facilitate a community engagement process. Over the summer, when HOBT programming is typically at its lightest, board and staff will set the highest priority on this transformational work.  While HOBT will hold up all existing commitments, this will also mean saying no to some new projects in order to make time to keep our transformation front and center.  We know that the work ahead looms large. And we know that if we have any chance of moving forward as a more resilient organization, then this is the work we have to do, and this is where we will invest our resources and energy.  

If we succeed, the possibilities are boundless. Imagine a MayDay that is built not only at HOBT with HOBT artists but at sites across our neighborhoods by artists of many communities. Imagine an Avalon Theater with its doors open every day and its marquee lit up every night as a cultural center serving the incredible diversity of South Minneapolis. Imagine developing a successful model that shows other nonprofits how to change patterns of diversity equity and inclusion. Imagine a HOBT better able to support the wealth of artists in these neighborhoods to share the stories of the people of these neighborhoods with the world.

We have every reason to think MayDay will continue. It is in the muscle memory of South Minneapolis on the first Sunday in May to find the picnic blankets and the lawn chairs and the sunscreen and the sun hats (or maybe the raincoats) and head over to the parade route. How often have you seen the clouds part and the sun emerge as the Sun Puppet makes its way across the lake to wake up the Tree of Life and welcome spring? Ask any long-time observer from the hundreds of blankets on the ceremony hill.  It happens more often than could possibly be a coincidence.

This year’s BELOVED COMMUNITY MayDay theme asks attendees how we will carry forward the legacy that MayDay has nurtured for 45 years. That question is held in the potential of a seedling tree. With one tree for the first year of HOBT’s MayDay, two trees for the second, three trees for the third, etc., 1035 tree seedlings will be distributed with the intention that they take root in our neighborhoods as an investment in our future.  MayDay 2019 will thank Sandy Spieler for all she has given us over 45 years leading this event and will say yes to carrying her work forward.

The impacts of the work are clear. HOBT’s work has become part of the visual and cultural identities of a whole set of South Minneapolis neighborhoods. Hundreds of artists have taken what they learned at HOBT and carried it with them across the neighborhood, across town, across the state, and even across the world. That is just a small fraction of the thousands of artists have been trained in puppetry and mask performance, pageantry, arts education and more. Tens of thousands of youth have learned how to tell their own stories through educational residencies. Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in MayDay. It seems no exaggeration to say that a million or more people have been touched by HOBT’s work over 45 years. HOBT has the support to continue impacting communities and the proposed work plan sets the organization on a more resilient path. 

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MayDay 1974-2019: Tree of Life reflections

Photo by Susan Gust
The 2019 Tree of Life team stands under the ToL on the stage of HOBT. What keeps crew members there for decades are the same feelings and experiences that make MayDay a cherished event.

By CAROL AND DAN NEUMAN, CARETAKERS OF THE TREE OF LIFE

Performing the Tree of Life (ToL) at the Mayday Ceremony is an honor and a responsibility.  

It’s thrilling and scary.  

While all around thousands of people are cheering and exulting, and the adrenaline is coursing through your veins, you must have intense focus on the job at hand.  

The Tree has a lot of weight way up in the air and the gusty winds (and it seems there is always a gusty wind) billowing the arms like giant sails. As the Tree circles, the force of the wind shifts from one side to the other in an instant, requiring quick, decisive action by the people on the guy ropes, and no interference by any of the celebrants on the ceremony ground. No one on the crew relaxes until the circle and blessing are completed, the streamers come out and we join in singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”

  The ToL crew duties include ongoing repairs, maintenance, and storage of most of the parts.We gather each spring before the workshops to reverently make the Tree ready for the ceremony, painting new leaves, repainting the birds, and assembling its many parts. There is constant adjustment as age takes its toll on the Tree.

“Participating in the Tree of Life crew is a lot of fun. Learning about the ingenuity that Dan, Larry, and crew have applied to the building of it over the years is really interesting and reminds me of what the power of setting your mind on something can accomplish. It all started as a simple idea that grew into an amazing tradition. Through much trial and error, the crew has created a pretty solid system of managing the giant puppet that is the Tree of Life. Coordinated team work is imperative to making the Tree of Life successful, which is ultimately very fitting with the overall communal message of the MayDay Festival,” said Ilya, second year crew member.

What brings the crew members to this work, and keeps many of them there for decades, are the same feelings and experiences that make MayDay a cherished event for everyone else, too.

“In my work life I was surrounded by strangers –  fulfilling a role and purpose that were not authentic or very energizing. During Mayday and especially with the TOL crew, I feel a welcome part of a large, expanding community. Each year I identify and keep a new contact, a new resource, a new friend to add to my life. Even when it is raining, MayDay is like the sun shining on your face with thousands of happy friends,” stated Vicki, many decades crew member.

“I had been a jubilant spectator of the MayDay Parade and Ceremony since its inception when I was 25. MayDay was transformed for me in 2001 when Vicki recruited me for the ToL crew, along with my daughter, Hannah. When she left for college, my husband Dennis took her place and he continues in his stalwart role, older but just as devoted as we all are. To this day, it is my annual spring ritual to which my yearly calendar indelibly adheres. Passing it on, my six-year-old granddaughter Aria, bemoaned to me last week… “Bubbe.. MAYDAY can’t end!!  I’ve gone every year of my life!” said Lisa, longtime crew member.

Many people have been members of the ToL crew over these 40 years.  Some for a year, some since the beginning. All are greatly appreciated.  

There are three families with two and three generations on the Tree.  The children of the children who have grown up working on the ToL are stepping in to keep the family tradition.

“To have our family’s values reinforced by the many other souls we share this tradition which is remarkable.Our children, now grown, through the years have brought with them dear friends, fiancés, and significant others. Our son is coming from Alaska, for the weekend, just because it’s MayDay and it’s a family holiday. Our daughter, unable to come due to school demands, has traveled far in past years because it is an impor tant part of her and she is feeling a bit left out this year,” said Nancy, many decades crew member.

We’d like to remember Bob Caldwell and Sue Hale, stalwarts of the Tree of Life Crew who have passed on. Rest in Peace.

Note of Information for those who have not seen this event: The Tree of Life is shrouded as it rides on a carriage along the MayDay Parade route from 25th to 35th and Bloomington Av. So., into Powderhorn Park, across Powderhorn Lake, and rising on the western shore, TRIUMPHANTLY!

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Hennepin County’s first African American commissioner Angela Conley is a lifelong Southside resident with innovative ideas on how to bring more diverse voices into government.

By Tesha M. Christensen

Photo courtesy of Chris Juhn
Angela Conley (center) is Hennepin County’s first African American commissioner, and she’s staffed her office with other women of color who are working on racial equity issues. On the left is Policy Director Cacje Henderson and on the right is District Outreach and Scheduler Cheniqua Johnson.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series that originally appeared in the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger.

Angela Conley has yearned to be a Hennepin County Commissioner for 20 years so that she had the power to make changes to the system she worked within.

On Jan. 7, 2019, that dream came true.

The lifelong Southside resident was sworn in as a county commissioner for District 4, and became the county’s first Black commissioner in 166 years.

“Being in this level of leadership now has really opened my eyes to seeing how the system is set up in a way that perpetuates disparities, that limits people’s abilities to really live their best lives,” said Conley.

She’s working to shift the narrative and move into a holistic approach for county business. Conley now chairs the health and human services committee, drawing from her years of experience working in that field.

“I feel this obligation to change systems to work better for people,” remarked Conley.

That could be anything from real estate services to tax forfeiture to housing and homelessness.

In addition to being the first African American commissioner, Conley is the first Black female commissioner and is one of two new diverse voices on the previously all-white Hennepin County board. Joining her this year is another woman of color, Irene Fernando, a Filipino-American in District 2. With their election, five of the seven-member board are women.

RACE EQUITY WORK

Bringing more diverse voices into the county is a priority for Conley, who campaigned with a goal of creating a Race Equity Advisory Council.

“Before I was elected, the county would come up with ideas on their own on how to reduce disparities. Well, unless you have people of color and those directly affected by those disparities guiding the discussion you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re not going to make any progress,” said Conley.

She envisions that a council would have a place at the table to inform the board on how disparities can be reduced on issues such as lowering the number of people of color being arrested to the overwhelming number of people of color who are part of the child protection system.  

Inspired by how she saw the Hennepin County Community Advisory Council on Adult Mental Health operate while she served on it, Conley believes that the needle can be moved on an issue when you have many people with a range of lived experiences giving input on a topic about missing pieces and gaps.

Thus far, Conley has met with the county’s new Disparity Reduction Director to learn what’s being done there, and what form the Race Equity Advisory Council could take.

“Disparity reduction has to start internally first,” she observed. She’s glad to see that the new composition of the county board finally reflects the composition of the communities being served and direct-line county staff. Part of what drove her to run for office is that those at the top didn’t look like her.

“I think we sent a very strong message to the status quo Nov. 6 that folks want to see diversity in leadership,” said Conley. “County leadership can function differently now. We’ve got new voices with various backgrounds and experiences.”

She believes that having that those voices on the board can inform how policy changes going forward. 

“It’s changed the conversation,” Conley said. “It’s changed the narrative. It’s changed ‘business as usual.’”

GOING DIRECTLY TO SOURCE

For Conley, the first quarter of her first term in office has been spent meeting people, being out in community, touring homeless shelters and the jail, and talking to people directly impacted by issues she’s concerned about. “That’s how you’ll see my leadership continue,” she promised, “going directly to the source.

“We’re pushing back against outdated ideas and really trying to get innovative in how we approach issues.”

Bail reform is one place where Conley thinks changes could be made for lower-level, low-risk offenses. “What would it look like to have a system that didn’t hold you if you couldn’t afford to get out?” asked Conley.

She intends to be mindful of what the ripple effects are of decisions the county makes, and recognizes that a 1% increase in property taxes might push a resident out of a home.   

EQUITY THROUGH TRANSIT

As someone who didn’t have a car until she was 23, Conley is a fan of transit, and heard from constituents on both sides of light rail during her campaign. She’s advocating for the Rapid Bus Transit D Line along the Route 5 corridor in the fourth district on Chicago and Emerson/Fremont avenues.

She pointed out that the D Line is a modern mode of bus transport that uses technology to keep lights green so the buses can move people from place to place quicker. 

“That will bring transit equity to an area that typically doesn’t have it,” stated Conley. “The 5 is the highest ridership route in the state. It’s always crowded. There are safety concerns. And it runs through four of the seven commissioner districts. It runs through two of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, too. Bringing Bus Rapid Transit or the D Line would bring access to 200,000 jobs.”

Read part two in the July edition of The Alley.

 

Southside resident Angela Conley campaigned as a Black woman, and even her logo identified her as someone who would bring a diverse voice to the Hennepin County Board. 

She continues to focus on diversity and racial equity in a variety of ways — not the least which is staffing her office with other African American women.

Cacje Henderson – Policy Director

Cacje Henderson was born and raised in South Minneapolis, and is a the oldest of seven children. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and is an alumni of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. She began her political career in the grassroots movement as an economic justice organizer and has gone on to work for a variety of elected officials including U.S Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) , Gubernatorial Candidate Erin Murphy (DFL-MN) and most recently as the Senior Policy Aide to Minneapolis City Council-member Jeremiah Ellison (DFL-MN). She has a commitment to building power in low-income communities and communities of color through local policy, and is looking forward continuing this work as Policy Director.

Cheniqua Johnson – District Outreach and Scheduler

Cheniqua Johnson was born and raised in Worthington, Minn. She is a first-generation, TRIO college graduate. She received a bachelor’s degree in family social science from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities College of Education and Human Development. She comes to the 4th District of Hennepin County from the Office of Congressman Keith Ellison, where she served as his Legislative Correspondent. In addition, she has spent the last five years in public service having previously served for the Office of Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN), Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL),University of Minnesota’s Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, and the City of Saint Paul. Now, she is ready to amplify voices and serve the most diverse district in the county as the District Outreach Coordinator & Scheduler.

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To end all violence

Photo by Monica Nillson
Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue dancers at the first Indigenous Women’s March held on May 11. Over 200 people participated in support of ending violence.

Native community gathers for first Indigenous Women’s March on May 11

By CAMILLE GAGE

2018 was a challenging year for the Native community, but also a time when Indigenous people and their allies came together to form new alliances, friendships and future plans. 

The Franklin Hiawatha encampment and Minneapolis Navigation Center were major catalysts for these new relationships. They brought people together to care for our unsheltered relatives and imagine a future where everyone had access to a safe place to sleep, health care, mental health care, and chemical dependency treatment. 

Many of the people who spent time at the camp, either as volunteers or as employees of groups like Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, American Indian Community Development Corporation, WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each Other, Simpson Housing, or Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, were women. And sometimes these women, and their Two Spirit colleagues, faced harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence. 

Working together under such difficult conditions it was natural that these women and Two Spirits began to forge friendships. They came together to support each other – and after months of harassment and threats – to say in a united voice, “No more!”

Soon meetings were being held to discuss ways to proactively take on the issue of harassment of women and Two Spirit people. The conversations widened and began to include intimidation and violence aimed at ALL people; it didn’t make sense to advocate for just one or two groups of people when so many suffer from violence, both directly, as victims and survivors, and indirectly, in the myriad ways violence hurts our loved ones and traumatizes our community. 

Photo by Monica Nillson
March organizer Stephanie Stewart.

Thus the Indigenous Women’s March was born.  Organized by an ad hoc group of women and Two Spirits who had experienced intimidation and harassment, the march was held on Saturday, May 11, 2019 with participants marching from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center to Little Earth of United Tribes. There it joined the annual Little Earth Mother’s Day Pow Wow. 

Photo by Monica Nillson
March organizer Jase Rose (left), with the Eagle Staff created for the march, with Mo Mike of Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Over 200 people participated to support the march’s stated mission of ending violence in all its forms. 

As a Native-led march, the organizers acknowledge the disparate impact of violence on the Indigenous community – both in the thousands of missing and murdered Native women in the United and Canada, and in the high rates of domestic violence, rape and assault.  

The Indigenous Women’s March differentiated itself from the annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March by casting a wider net: both Native and non-Native women were welcome and acknowledged. And the Indigenous Women’s Marchers made the strong statement that it does not have to be a serious crime like murder for the community to pay attention; intimidation, harassment, and threats of violence are real and cause real harm to individuals and our community. 

In the words of Angelique Morgan-Voss: “When I saw Jase (a Two Spirit march organizer) holding the eagle staff I cried tears of happiness. I will remember this march for the rest of my life. The love and positivity was overwhelmingly beautiful. To see so many women who knew what I was going through come together in solidarity lifted my spirit high. I want my daughters to know that violence against women – and all people – is not okay.”

Photo by camille gage
Signs supporting women and calling for an end to violence in all its forms were held by over 200 marchers during the first Indigenous Women’s March held on May 11.

The Indigenous Women’s March organizers have pledged to make the march an annual event, a safe place where survivors can come together in solidarity. They believe there is great strength in numbers – and hope that real change will happen when we speak with one voice against the violence that plagues our community. 

Stephanie Stewart said, “I’m so proud of everyone that came together for the first Indigenous Women’s March. Despite the ongoing harrassment, threats and abuse, we were able to rise above it all and organize a positive event that aims to end violence in all forms. Led by women, children and Two Spirits, the march was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever participated in!”

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