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Thursday September 29th 2022

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Headstone Markers

By PETER MOLENAAR

Note: the stone for my own “resting place” has been chosen, hopefully ahead of time.

December 30, 2021…

Readers of the alley know Sue Hunter Weir is this neighborhood’s “master of cemetery.” It was at the American Swedish Institute’s open house that we chatted while tabling for the paper. She was stunned to learn from me that Lynne Mayo had passed away in September of 2020. I had only just recently come to know this myself… no thanks to COVID.

It was via the 17th Avenue Community Garden that Lynne had become a “significant friend” some 20+ years ago. As life went on, geography and our common activism created occasional encounters, the last one taking place at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a venue that day for a global warming protest. Why had she turned her head away? I realize now that a cancer was developing.

Hey, I am grateful for the imperfections within persons whose lives have been so much larger than my own. Consider the life of Clyde Bellecourt.

It was 30+ years ago that a misunderstanding occurred between the two of us. Then, a little more than a decade ago, I would balk before entering a discussion circle at the American Indian Center. Clyde was presiding, but he beckoned me to enter. It was always a cordial recognition between us after that. 

Final encounters…

The COVID cloud had thickened. Clyde had written an article for the alley which upheld our Urban Farm proposal. Ten copies were to be delivered to his house. His prolonged reticence at the door made an impression, after which he received the paper every month without my knocking. In the end, it was the cancer, not COVID, which “brought him home.”

Missing from the nomenclature of phobias is a word designating fear of getting dressed up to enter a place of worship. Yet, that barrier was to be overcome in honor of Mel Reeves, the activist agitator who did succumb to COVID… a man whose spirit penetrated our community largely through the circulation of his writing in the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder. Indeed, before entering the Shiloh Temple on Broadway Avenue North, a nice pair of dress pants were purchased from the St. Vincent De Paul Store. The ensuing memorial was a marvelous blend of scripture and revolutionary thought.

I will add here that Mel was an anti-imperialist who understood that socialism might truly flower in Cuba were our own U.S.A. willing to lift its brutal blockade. (Note: in my youth, I made this argument with regard to the Soviet Union). Actually, Mel and I were just a stone’s throw away from being comrades. In our last encounter, I did get a tad “up in his face”. He responded gently… all the while calling me “brother Peter.”

Just a few words now from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“We must see that the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the other.”

Yes, I am grateful for the imperfections within people whose lives have been larger than my own.

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