Blocked: 3rd Precinct Building in Seward

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Jill Boogren

Robin Wonsley

Hundreds of people gathered in a parking lot on the 2600 block of Minnehaha Ave. on Sept. 16, 2020 to protest city council plans to lease an adjacent space as temporary Third Precinct police offices. But what began as a Block the 3rd Precinct Block Party became the “Blocked” Party as news spread that negotiations between the city of Minneapolis and Lothenbach Properties had ceased.
The event was celebratory, with free food, art making, vendors and music by DJ Jacques of Douala Soul Collective. But the message – painted on signs and worn on face masks – was clear: a new police station was not welcome here.
Neighbors organized after first hearing only a couple of weeks prior about the council’s plans to spend more than $4 million on a multi-year lease and renovation of the space.
“That ain’t right,” said Emcee Robin Wonsley, an organizer with Seward Police Abolition and Twin Cities DSA, in her opening remarks. Cheers erupted into a huge applause when she told the crowd the deal with Lothenbach was off the table. “That property won’t be housing police because of you.”
At issue is the city making investments within the current model of policing, especially before taking the year to engage the public in reimagining public safety in the city, as the council committed in June to doing. Community leaders shared their visions for moving forward.

Seward Restorative Justice Program, urges white people to examine their part in harm caused by police.

According to Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice Program Director Michele Braley, there’s been no apology nor an effort to make amends, which is the baseline for beginning a process of restorative justice and reconciliation. Rather than wait for the police department to take those steps, though, Braley encouraged the community to work together to build a more restorative city. She appealed to white people to recognize their complicity in the harm caused by the police department – for example, by calling 911, or labeling as suspicious any Black and Brown person on the block you don’t recognize, or in making light of your own past or present law breaking behavior “because we know as white people we usually get away with it.”
“[White people have] been complicit in a system that labels youth of color criminals while viewing similar behavior by their white peers as mistakes in judgment,” said Braley. “There will be no restorative justice until all youth – all people – who break the law are treated equally.”

Representing Reclaim the Block, activist Truth Maze voices a need to create a “people’s budget” based on the resources they need to feel safe.

Representing Reclaim the Block, activist Truth Maze spoke of the need to push the city to change where public money goes and support new ways of keeping each other safe.
“We believe in defunding the police. And our long-term vision is building a city where we don’t have a police department because we will not need one,” he said. “They keep murdering Black people. We need to take away their resources and put those resources back into our communities instead of giving the Minneapolis Police Department a raise every year.”
Reclaim the Block is gathering with neighbors across the city to talk about and develop a “people’s budget” based on the resources they need to feel safe, including housing, mental health care, violence prevention, trained conflict mediators, addiction resources and programming for young people. “All of which the police cannot supply,” said Maze.

‘Community brings safety’

Marcia Howard (at right) with community members from George Floyd Square demonstrates community-based public safety already being practiced at the Square.

Standing with fellow community members from George Floyd Square, spokesperson Marcia Howard demonstrated how they, as citizens in protest against the city for the murder of George Floyd, are already practicing community-based public safety.
“For 100 days we have redefined what community safety looks like. And you know what we found? Community brings safety,” said Howard. In the Square, also known as the autonomous protest zone, they process car accidents, interpersonal conflict, missing items, and, if somebody does something harmful, “we talk to them.” She described an incident wherein someone defaced a mural at the Square:
“Notice we didn’t beat him down. We didn’t kneel on his neck. We talked to him. Because that’s what we do in our community. We talk,” Howard said, and suggested community safety, policing and apprehension are going to look markedly different after this.
“We are redefining what it looks like. And what it looks like is holding space with people. Talking to people. Processing with people. Looking them in the eye,” she said. “What it doesn’t look like is ostracizing. Beating them down. Degrading them. Throwing them in a cell and leaving them to rot in an industrialized prison complex.”
Community leaders at the Square are currently in negotiations with the city and maintain that they will not cede 38th St. or Chicago Ave., still closed to through traffic by barricades placed by the city, until demands for justice from Resolution 001 are met ( Howard closed her remarks as she opened them, with a chant: “No justice, no street.”

Julia Johnson, field manager at Black Visions, speaks against the racism and oppression that still exists throughout society.

Julia Johnson, field manager at Black Visions, introduced herself as a proud, Black, queer mother, a recent transplant from Pittsburgh, Penn. According to Johnson, her family was run out of town in 1981 by the Klan, the head of which was the local sheriff.
“My family had to flee in the middle of the night, or they were going to be assaulted and murdered by the Klan,” she said. “So when people ask me why I’m out in these streets… it is because racism still exists. It is because the system of oppression still exists.”
She urged people to look to the time of their own ancestors, long before powerful European nations began subjugating the rest of the world.
“[This] is a new system. It’s only been here for 500 years,” said Johnson. “And I’ll be damned if it’s gonna be here for another 500.”

Community input needed

Seward Resident Tiger Worku calls for community engagement, policy and true equity, not a new precinct building.

Building a new precinct in Seward or any other neighborhood can not reform a systemically racist police department,” said Seward Neighborhood Group Board Member Tiger Worku, who spoke on his own behalf. “Only community engagement, policy and true equity can do that.”
He cited the lack of transparency and accountability as key reasons he chose to speak out.
“Community members were not brought into the negotiating process. We weren’t given a seat at the table,” he said. “And the city of Minneapolis failed to respect our existence.”
Councilmember Cam Gordon, in whose ward the building is located, shared similar concerns when the matter was discussed by the city council’s Policy & Government Oversight Committee on Aug. 28. Gordon moved, successfully, to delay action. After meeting with community members, he drafted conditions upon which his approval of the lease would depend and presented them at the Public Health & Safety Committee, on Sept. 10.
“I’m at that realm that we go to at times when our biggest concerns rise to the level of the will of the people and the consent of the governed,” he told committee members. One of the conditions he put forth addressed repairing and healing the relationship the community has with the police. When the idea was deemed unachievable within the process of searching for space, Gordon withdrew his support. “Many people feel profoundly harmed. There are systemic deep-rooted problems and injuries, and we need to take the time to heal.”

Art created by local young artists as a challenge to Bob Lothenbach, founder of Imagine! Express, the site of the proposed precinct building. Arts include @ccg.jpg, @egriz and more who have chosen to remain anonymous.

In the same meeting, other council members noted that no one had spoken to them in favor of the building proposal and echoed concerns about lack of community process. Third Precinct police have been operating out of the Convention Center after the station was burned in May.
Check out Abolition Open Mic, hosted by Reclaim the Block, on Oct. 6, taking place as part of Night Out for Safety and Liberation.

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Modern-day abolitionist

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

How life experiences brought Jason Sole to where he is today


Hamline University adjunct criminal justice professor Jason Sole calls himself a survivor of the War on Drugs. He went from being a soldier on the streets to being a scholar. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Jason Sole is feeling peaceful these days. The former drug dealer, street gang member, and three-time convicted felon has succeeded in turning his life around. With criminal justice degrees under his belt, he is focused on creating a radical new definition of criminality – and policing – so there can be justice for all.
In his 42 years, Sole has done some bad things, and taken some hard knocks for them.
Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Sole was born into poverty in 1978. His father was (and still is) a heroin addict, and his mother struggled to raise their three young children on her own.
Tired of being poor, Sole joined a local gang at 14 and quickly moved up through the ranks selling drugs. He came of age in the early years of the War on Drugs, introduced by then President Richard Nixon.
Sole said, “We’d never heard of ‘mass incarceration’ back then, it was just our world. I could see that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t have the language for it yet. Police officers pulled me over where ever I went, constantly asking me for ID since I was a kid. I didn’t have any ID yet, and this happened to every Black guy I knew. I was upset at the world, upset at the police, upset that my gang friends were dying before they were old enough to go to high school.”

Black in a mostly-White school
When he turned 16, Sole’s mother shipped him off to relatives in Waterloo, Iowa – hoping to save his life. He was on the all too familiar trajectory of a Black man likely to die young.
Sole said, “You have to understand that a gang is not a play thing. It has structure; there were leaders and soldiers 500 deep in my South Side neighborhood. If I was going to survive, I had to make a plan because there were no outlets.”
Sole went from the nearly all-Black public school system on the South Side of Chicago to the nearly all-White Waterloo school district. He became captain of the basketball team in his new high school, and set a track and field record while maintaining good grades. He’s a tall guy, a really tall guy, and a naturally gifted athlete. Sole said, “I was smart and good at sports, but I was stigmatized for being a gang banger from Chicago. That label limited my opportunities.”
When he graduated from high school, Sole went home to his family in Chicago. He had enlisted in the Air Force, passed all of their admissions exams, but ultimately was rejected for having had childhood asthma. According to Sole, “Most of the kids in my neighborhood had childhood asthma; I hadn’t used an inhaler since eighth grade.”
Sometimes Sole wonders how things could have played out differently. He said, “I tried to join the Air Force, but I became a soldier on the streets instead.”

Vacation turns to probation
He worked a few low-paying jobs in Chicago, before deciding to get a fresh start in St. Paul. He had a friend he could stay with here, but conceded, “My friend wasn’t exactly living his best life.”
Soon Sole wasn’t either. At 19, he was caught with an unregistered firearm. The legal age for carrying a weapon in Minnesota is 21. He said, “I came to St. Paul on vacation, and got stuck here on probation.” Jason Sole’s long journey through the criminal justice system had begun.
At 21, he was convicted of second-degree possession of a controlled substance. By the time Sole was granted early release, he knew the only way he would ever succeed was to get an education.

Redemption through education
In December 2006, Sole received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice while serving time for his third felony offense. The prison allowed him two hours to attend his commencement ceremony. When he walked across the stage at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Sole said, “The place exploded in cheers. I got my redemption in that moment.”
He continued to study the criminal justice system in graduate school.
Sole said, “I endured years of imprisonment, and a lot of trauma (including being shot) before I figured out how I wanted to live my life. I’m grateful for the perspective I have, grateful for the grace, grateful for my wife and daughters, grateful to be alive.  Most people in my old neighborhood ended up dead or in jail for a very long time. I was one of the lucky ones.”

Better solution than police and prison
Dr. Jason Sole is now an adjunct professor in criminal justice at Hamline University, and a national keynote speaker and trainer. He has served as president of the Minneapolis NAACP, been a faculty member at Metropolitan State University, and is creating liberation programs for people of color across this community. He believes there is a much better solution to crime prevention than the present-day system of policing.
In 2013, he received a Bush Fellowship and focused on reducing recidivism rates among juveniles in Minnesota. In 2016, he published, “From Prison to Ph.D: A Memoir of Hope, Resilience, and Second Chances.”
In 2018, he was recruited by Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to be director of the newly created Community-First Public Safety Initiatives. After the mayor spent $900,000 hiring additional police officers in 2019, Sole resigned on Martin Luther King Day.
He does not regret his decision, saying, “Look what happened! There was more gun violence in Saint Paul last year than ever before. Adding to the police force didn’t make anybody safer; it actually made us less safe. We can hold people accountable without putting them in cages.”
Sole continued, “Abolishing the police doesn’t mean there won’t be accountability for people who harm others. Divesting from police means that money can be used to house the unhoused. Divesting from police means that we can provide culturally specific drug treatment for those struggling with addiction. Divesting from police means that we can provide more jobs and better training to youth. We need to invest in people on the bottom rungs of society. That’s where real change will come.”

Humanize My Hoodie
There are many ways that Sole stands up to the system, and challenges the status quo. Not long after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot while wearing a hoodie, Sole started teaching his college classes wearing one. The goal was to help his criminal justice students get more comfortable with a black man dressed that way.
Sole’s ongoing “Humanize My Hoodie” Project is designed to end the senseless police killings of Black and Indigenous People of Color; to reinforce the truth that Black men in hoodies are valuable human beings not meant for target practice. Along with his high school friend, fashion designer Andre Wright, Sole turned the “Humanize My Hoodie” project into a movement with their custom designed sweatshirts, art installations, and workshops.
For more information on Jason Sole’s work and the “Humanize My Hoodie” movement, visit:
Writer’s note: This piece neither reflects nor contradicts the editorial position of this newspaper. It is offered as a conversation starter on the subject of policing, and a reminder that each of us is the product of our experiences. What experiences have shaped your attitude toward the police in this city? What kind of changes do you hope to see and why? Direct your comments to the editor at

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Green housing, jobs and farm along Midtown Greenway

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Community members push city to use former Roof Depot site to solve current needs


There are some nights in Cedar Field Park that “there’s a fog in the air we don’t know where it came from,” said Little Earth resident Jolene Jones, who supports the urban farm, green housing and jobs proposal by EPNI. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Southside residents could have had access to fresh, locally grown food this summer after other grocery stores were damaged in the civil unrest.
Instead, the area is a food desert.
They could have had space to relocate their businesses after their existing locations were burned and vandalized.
Instead, some are moving permanently out of the area.
They could have had a place to live at super affordable rates – one with jobs available within the same building.
Instead, there are hundreds of tents on vacant lots and in parks occupied by people who can’t afford a place to rent.
These issues were pieces of the plan for the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm along the Midtown Greenway that was created in 2014 by community members who knew what their needs were long before things reached a breaking point this summer.
Instead, the city threatened eminent domain and purchased land the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute was negotiating to buy at 26th and Longfellow Ave. which blocked their ability to reinvent an area known as the “arsenic triangle.”

Sara Chars of Global Shapers

Organizers talked about issues and their proposed solutions during an environmental justice event at Cedar Field on Sept. 19, 2020. The event was organized with Global Shapers, a United Nations World Economic Development Forum with chapters around the world, in partnership with East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI), and Little Earth of United Tribes.
Two different plans
The East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm project would repurpose the existing 230,000 former Sears warehouse built in 1947 and prevent the pollution-producing demolition the city has planned.
The farm at the 7-6-acre site would produce organic produce, including aquaponic grown fish. It would provide very affordable family housing along with free housing for homeless with the promise of food, jobs and safety. The project would also include one of the largest solar arrays in the state on the roof; a world café, coffee shop and food market with a gallery to display and sell neighborhood artisans’ works all run by local youth; a bike shop on the Midtown Greenway; and space for many of the burned out Lake St. businesses resulting from the murder of George Floyd.
The project meets every goal of the South Side Green Zone and is in the South Minneapolis Opportunity Zone. It is also supported by the wide range of diverse organizations in the neighborhood that is 83% people of color (see editorial on page 4 for a list of some of the supporters). Over 500 people have signed a petition in support of the indoor urban farm.
The city’s plan is to demolish the iconic Sears warehouse, which will release arsenic in the air that is currently encapsulated. It would be replaced by a series of sheds for 400 commercial city vehicles (most of them diesel), a hot asphalt storage facility, and multi-story parking ramp for the 400 employee vehicles that would be coming and going twice a day. They would also store manhole covers, sewer pipes, and sand-salt mix. No water would be treated on the site; that is done at 4500 Reservoir Blvd. in Columbia Heights.
The city’s current water maintenance facility, known as the East Water Yard, is located on 2.4 acres in Ward 3 at Hennepin Ave. E. and 5th Ave. N. It dates back 120 years and is the hub for maintaining the city’s 1,000 miles of water mains, 16,000 valves, and street holes, and 8,000 hydrants.
Ward 1 Council Member Jeremy Ellison has asked to have the water yard located there, but the city has not adjusted its project.
“This plan is scary as hell. I’m afraid for everybody here,” said Cassandra Holmes, who resides at Little Earth of the United Tribes Community, the largest urban Native American population in the United States.
“For me, it’s another form of genocide.”

Cassandra Holmes

Kids with asthma, heart
problems and more
This low-income neighborhood has one of the highest levels of asthma and arsenic poisoning in children in the state. According to the Minnesota Department of Health data, over 200 of every 10,000 people in the area (south Minneapolis from downtown on the north to Minnehaha Ave. on the south) are hospitalized for an asthma attack every year.
Area residents also suffer from arsenic poisoning at a higher rate than anywhere else in Minneapolis except for North Minneapolis. Much of that can be traced to an open air arsenic storage by the CMC Heartland Partners Lite Yard on the north side of 28th St. (now occupied by Smiley’s Family Medicine Clinic).
These statistics are more than dots on a chart for Holmes. “I have a son I lost to heart disease. He just got it at 14,” she said. He died in 2013 at age 16.
“I’ve got another son who is experiencing heart problems.”
Two others in the community have recently died from heart problems they weren’t born with. There are many more that are living with heart problems.
“We have so many kids who don’t go to school because of their asthma problems,” added Holmes.
Longtime local resident and former city council member Robert Lilligren said he takes three different types of medication so he can breath.
Fifty-year neighborhood resident Brad Pass raised two kids along 18th Ave., and one needed open heart surgery in his early 40s. “We’ve got to stop this,” said Pass.
“We’re trying to teach our kids how to be green so they can survive,” observed Jolene Jones, who works for the Little Earth Residents Association (LERA). When they started a garden on the three acres that abut the Hiawatha wall, the arsenic levels in the soil were so high they had to do raised beds.
There are some nights in Cedar Field Park that “there’s a fog in the air we don’t know where it came from,” said Jones.
Stinky air often drifts over from Smith Foundry and Bituminous Roadways hot asphalt mix plants at Cedar and 24th. This same pollution falls on the football field of South High School, a few blocks south of the area, the larger Corcoran neighborhood, Seward Neighborhood, and others downwind.
Little Earth is home to over 500 kids, and that number swells to 1,000 in the summer. Over half are under age 10, according to Jones.
The residents of Little Earth have to fight for anything they get, she said. Twenty years ago, they asked for a stoplight on Cedar to help people safely crossing from one side of the neighborhood to the other. Nothing happened until a couple years ago. It took three days in a row where folks blocked the street before the city agreed to install a $15,900 stoplight.

Karen Clark talks about the indoor urban farm project.

EPNI sues city
The city’s Hiawatha Expansion project would put additional pollution into an area that already has high levels.
That amount of pollution is not allowable in the area, according to longtime resident and former State Representative Karen Clark, who co-wrote the Clark-Berglund Environmental Justice Law that was enacted by the state legislature in 2008 (MN Statute 116.07 subd 4a). It requires that any project in this neighborhood be reviewed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to analyze the cumulative pollution effects — not only what will be caused by the new or expanded project.
Over the years, the law has been applied to projects by the Metropolitan Council, city of Minneapolis, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital, among others.
Because the city has refused to submit to an outside review, EPNI is suing.
“The Hiawatha Expansion Project is likely to cause pollution in an already polluted neighborhood and will likely be detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare of those living in the East Phillips neighborhood,” according to the suit, and it would disproportionately harm the health of people of color.
The group is asking a judge to stop work on the project and order the city to complete an environmental assessment and environmental impact statement.
“We have never been able to take advantage of the city’s number one core value of community engagement,” stated Pass. Instead, the city has refused to let community members speak at council meetings. After the Community Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) and Southside Green Zone Advisory Committee came out in support of the EPNI plan, City Clerk Joe Carl sent letters to both on July 30 threatening to unappoint the members of the group or even to disband them.

Robert Lillegren

How to get involved and show support
Lilligren passed three homeless encampments on his way to the Sept. 19 meeting. As the city considers indoor villages to house homeless, Lilligren supports the indoor urban farm plan, which could house people indoors almost immediately. “Here is a ready-made solution,” he said. “It’s a ready-made site. It could happen tomorrow.”
He and other speakers urged attendees to talk to their city council members about this effort. “It’s time for us to rise up,” Lilligren stated.
“We probably need to get ourselves in good trouble,” said architect and EPNI member Dean Dovolis of DJR Architecture.
“Voting is our voice,” said Jones. “Make voting a tradition.”
More at

Global Shapers Community is a network of young people working together to address local, regional, and global challenges. Globally, there are over 8,500 members in 400 city-based hubs in over 150 countries. Global Shapers Minneapolis-St. Paul Hub has about 30 members right now. Shapers believe in a world where young people are central to solution building, policy-making and systems change. Shapers state that “we are a bridge between those whose voices are powerful and those whose voices are under-represented.” Joe Vital, an East Phillips community member committed to fighting back, said during the brainstorming, “This IS the Green New Deal.” ~ Click here to read the Messenger interview with the Global Shapers.

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Who are the Global Shapers?

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Global Shapers Community is a network of young people working together to address local, regional, and global challenges. Locally, they are collaborating to support the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm proposed for the city-owned Roof Depot site. (See related article by clicking here.) A community meeting and design challenge was held on Saturday, Sept. 19. 2020.

“While the East Phillips Urban Farm project touches almost every single one of the 17 United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, we focused our design challenge on some of the overarching themes that seek to repair the root cause of these injustices in East Phillips: Goal #13 Climate Action, Goal #10 Reduced Inequalities, and Goal #16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,” pointed out member Sara Chars.

Joe Vital, an East Phillips community member committed to fighting back, said during the brainstorming, “This IS the Green New Deal.”

Learn more by reading answers to questions asked by the Messenger. Unless otherwise noted, answers were emailed by Chars.

What is Global Shapers?

Global Shapers Community is a network of young people working together to address local, regional, and global challenges. Globally, there are over 8,500 members in 400 city-based hubs in over 150 countries. Global Shapers Minneapolis-St. Paul Hub has about 30 members right now.

In each city, teams of Shapers self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. Projects are wide-ranging including responding to disasters, combating poverty, and fighting climate change. Shapers are diverse in expertise, education, income, and race, but are united by their desire to catalyze change. Shapers believe in a world where young people are central to solution building, policy-making and systems change.

What city do you live in and why are you involved in Global Shapers?

Sara Chars, St. Paul – I am a design strategist with particular interest in the intersection of capacity-building, human-centered design, and reimagining sustainable futures through systems thinking and social innovation. As a Global Shaper, I enjoy collaborating with a diverse group of people, locally and globally, that are also passionate about community engagement, climate action, and social change.

David Ly, Minneapolis  – I joined Global Shapers to be involved in projects like the Global Goals Jam. While I surely don’t share the same views as every institution I work with, being a shaper allows me to play a small part in connecting my community to global institutions that share our goals. So many institutions around the world are working toward Climate Justice, which requires collaboration on every regional scale, from global institutions to local communities.

Nina Domingo, Minneapolis – I am a PhD student that conducts research at the intersection of food, the environment, and human health. I joined Shapers to build connections with peers from diverse backgrounds interested in engaging with and acting on social and environmental justice. As a PhD student, I know that the academic research I do relating to environmental injustice pales in comparison to the lived experiences of people who are affected by these issues. Therefore, I believe it is important to be intentional in how I engage with the community to ensure that I’m doing my work in a way that supports truly equitable and inclusive outcomes.

Bruce Ferguson, Minneapolis – I am an Industrial Organization Consultant, having studied economics at the University of Minnesota. I joined the global shapers to focus on empowering informal networks of residents as well as small and medium enterprise to drive economic transformation in the neighborhoods. Environmental and racial justice is critical to the sustainability of any such transformation.

Kelsey King, Minneapolis – My professional experience is focused on sustainable food and agriculture value chains. I feel fueled by continual learning, local and global community engagement, and meeting other people committed to making a positive impact in our world. I’m fairy new to the Twin Cities and Global Shapers has connected me and empowered me to dive into the issues that matter most, including environmental and racial justice.

Why was the organization drawn to the East Phillips Urban Indoor Farm project?

Social and environmental injustice does not happen by accident. Throughout history, at every level of government, we see a persistent pattern of 1) racist policies such as redlining and racial covenants locking BIPOC out of home ownership and wealth accumulation, and 2) the industrialization of BIPOC majority neighborhoods so that they are exposed to high levels of waste and pollution.

In Minneapolis, nearly 64% of neighborhoods designated as “hazardous” are neighborhoods where the majority of residents are people of color.

With the urgent struggle that the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute faces with the City of Minneapolis, Global Shapers selected this environmental justice issue in our community as a local case study for the 2020 Global Goals Jam. The jam was a hybrid event, held virtually September 18 & 20 with immersion in the East Phillips community at Cedar Field Park on Saturday, September 19.

The 3-day design sprint helped us learn more about the history and struggles of communities experiencing environmental injustice in the Twin Cities. Through our collective design thinking skills, we hope to create solutions that result in actionable systems change to address these challenges.

What’s next after the Saturday event?

Several workgroups came out of our Sunday workshop where teams presented prototype ideas to address the design challenge for environmental justice. These workgroups include education in schools, civil disobedience training, streamlined tech communications to EP residents, media outreach, and a collective ownership model with small business partners that intend to rent space in the Urban Farm plan (many of which were impacted or destroyed during the Minneapolis uprisings).

We had over 20 cross-sector participants for our Action Team, many of which have since joined a workgroup or intend to build alliances between their network and EPNI.

There will also be a rallied bike ride at this Saturday’s Greenway Glow and plans to speak out about the continued injustice in the East Phillips community (including the urban farm plan and battle with the City) at the George Floyd Square.

How can someone get involved with the Minneapolis chapter?

We’re recruiting! Application –

Any other comments?

As Shapers, we state that we are a bridge between those whose voices are powerful and those whose voices are under-represented.

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Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

As people use public land more and family budgets get skinnier, Tim Clemens of Ironwood Foraging is helping build more resilient communities.
He does that by sharing knowledge about plants that everyone used to know but has been lost.
“Learning the lifeways of trees, herbs, mushrooms, and animals used to be essential for humanity and by many accounts a return to that knowledge has never been more necessary and rewarding. Foraging can be done in the city, countryside, forest, or even your backyard,” said Clemens, who moved from South Minneapolis to the east side of St. Paul last year.
He teaches local workshops on wild mushroom identification, edible and medicinal plants, fruit, nuts, and berries, urban foraging, maple syruping and more.
Clemens founded Ironwood Foraging Co. in 2017. He is the president of the Minnesota Mycological Society, a Minnesota Master Naturalist, and a Certified Wild Mushroom Expert. Clemens holds a bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Minnesota and a certificate in environmental education from Cornell University.
He’s also been active with the transformation of the southeastern corner of Hiawatha park into a food forest. Read on for more from Clemens.

What drew you into foraging?
Foraging is the ancient human narrative of finding and gathering food from the land. We all still have those foraging skills ready to blossom within us and we actually use those skills every time we go to the farmer’s market or supermarket. I like showing people how much deeper they can connect with the land using that same skill set.
Growing up I spent a lot of time exploring Minnehaha Falls, Minnehaha Creek, and feral alleyways. Those adventures helped me discover raspberries, gooseberries, and wild plums, but I also got lucky and didn’t eat anything toxic, which is the serious risk you take if you don’t identify and research everything prior to consuming. My first intentional foraging was for Ojibwe Language and Culture classes at the University of Minnesota where I participated in iskigamiziganing (Sugarbush Camp) and learned to tap maple trees to make maple syrup and maple sugar. I founded Ironwood Foraging Co. in 2017 to bring hands-on foraging education to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and Minnesota at large.

How/where did you get your training/knowledge?
Finding and learning from experts is always the best way to learn, so in the beginning I took every class and read every book I could find and I took a lot of notes. I’ve spent countless hours and hiked countless miles observing plants and mushrooms wherever I can find them. Foraging oftentimes brings to mind pristine wilderness areas, but urban foraging in the green spaces of a city can be just as rewarding. Plant ID apps for your phone, such as iNaturalist, can be a fun start, but never use an app to decide whether to eat something. They are often wrong and could lead to a potentially deadly misidentification.

What do you appreciate most about foraging?
There are more than 20,000 edible plant species, but fewer than 20 plant species account for over 90% of our food.
A forager has access to foods, aromas, and flavors that simply are not available to someone who doesn’t forage.
When I first started foraging I thought “Wow, look at all of this free food,” but I quickly learned that with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. My connection with these plants and the land was calling me to also be a friend and steward – a voice for the voiceless green and natural spaces. Picking up trash, planting native seeds, and protecting the land through outreach and legislation makes me feel good.
When you see a new patch of milkweed spreading or a butternut tree you planted producing its first nuts, you can’t beat that.

How do you work to be culturally sensitive to the knowledge you give that comes from Indigenous sources?
I have Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) heritage from my paternal line, and I’m an Ojibwe language learner. I am a ‘lineal descendant’ which means that I can trace my ancestors through genealogy, but my blood quantum (a controversial law), is too low to enroll for federal status.
Since the rest of my heritage is European-American, I’ve made a point to approach indigenous knowledge as considerately as possible. Centering community knowledge and historical and cultural context is essential. When benefiting from indigenous knowledge, make sure you’ve given back to the community more than you’ve taken away.

Tim Clemens holds a Pheasant Back mushroom that he cut from the hackberry tree behind him during a foraging tour at Lake Nokomis park. Clemens offers tours in South Minneapolis and the Twin Cities area. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

What benefit does foraging offer in our COVID-19 world?
Foraging is inherently physically distant and occurs outdoors. Discovering new plants and mushrooms allows you to become a tourist again in your neighborhood or state. Planting native pollinator plants for a prairie restoration or harvesting wild cherries is a great way to spend time with friends and loved ones safely outdoors while tending to the health of the land and resiliency of your own health and the health of your community.
I’ve definitely seen an increase in foraging workshop attendees in the last six months. I think some people have more free time to pursue their interests, and I think others are currently cut off from their typical recreation and they’re looking for new outlets.

Why do people take your workshops and what is the value in them?
Some people want to take the edge off their grocery bill and access the most nutritious food on the planet. Others want to grow their understanding for herbal medicine, gardening, dyeing, or photography. Whatever their stated reason is, I think at the heart of it, people take my workshops to connect with the land, each other, and themselves.

How can people safely forage in urban environments?
Always identify every plant or mushroom with 100% confidence before using it to make sure it’s not toxic. The best motto to live by is “when in doubt, throw it out.” Find an expert and learn from them and when foraging on your own, always compare at least three sources, whether those sources are field guides or trustworthy websites.
Foraging is not legal everywhere and is not uniformly legal where it is. Contact the park you plan to forage at and see if foraging is allowed for what you want to harvest, and also ask them where they spray herbicides and what species they are managing in that way. Never harvest near train tracks, from contaminated waters, and make sure you know the history of the land you’re foraging on – i.e.. avoid Superfund sites and other hazardous sites.
Go to to sign up for public workshops or to inquire about private bookings. Find Clemens @MNforager on Instagram, and Ironwood Foraging Co. on Facebook.

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LWVMpls distributes voters guide, holds school board forum Oct. 8

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Watch for the eye-catching, colorful 2020 Voters Guide coming to your local library, grocery store or elsewhere in your neighborhood. The easy-to-read, 12-page booklet summarizes new voting rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, including information on absentee voting, and identifies candidates who will be on the ballot in Minneapolis.
Included are websites and background information for Congressional District 5 and U.S. Senate candidates as well as candidates for the Minnesota Senate, House, MN Supreme Court, and the Minneapolis School Board.
“We wanted to provide a printed guide so that local voters – especially those who lack internet access – can learn about the candidates,” said League of Women Voters Minneapolis (LWVMpls) President Anita Newhouse. “This is not intended to be comprehensive information, but rather a brief introduction to the voting process and the candidates. Links are also available to more in-depth material. Thanks to a grant from Thomson Reuters, 7000 copies are being printed for distribution by LWVMpls volunteers.”
Find the PDF on the new and improved, easy-to-navigate LWVMpls website, The site includes everything you need to make your voice heard in the 2020 election such as who is qualified to vote, how to register to vote, how to vote from home and, for those would like to volunteer, opportunities galore.
School Board Candidate Forum
LVWMpls invites the public to attend a virtual (no live audience) School Board Candidate Forum on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 7-8:30 p.m. Candidates in the District 2, 4, 6 and At Large races are being invited to participate. Please note that because Ira Jourdain is unopposed for District 6, the forum will treat each candidate as running individually for a seat on the school board and not as running in separate, one-against-one races.
The forum will be live-streamed, recorded for later viewing via a link on the LWVMpls and other community websites, and televised on MTN Channel 6. Email question(s) now to LWVMpls will start sorting questions by subject matter as soon as they are received and make a selection to present to candidates during the forum. More information and details will be posted at

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LCC partners with consulting firms to Rebuild Longfellow

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

The LCC Board of Directors has agreed to an official partnership with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH®), Community Design Group (CDG), Biko Associates, and Patrick Connoy to assist the residents and businesses of Greater Longfellow to create a rebuild plan for the area affected by the unrest after the tragic death of George Floyd.
The consulting team has a long and successful history of working on community projects across Minneapolis. Many of the consultants have a connection to the Longfellow neighborhood, having been a part of planning and development along Lake Street in the past and the lead for the SEH team is also a Longfellow resident.
The goal is to create a new vision for equitable, sustainable and resilient redevelopment while enhancing public spaces; preserving key community assets; and rebuilding civic, commercial and residential places for the coming years.
“The rebuild plan will be inclusive and respectful of the urgent need for our community to become more equitable and welcoming to communities of color,” according to the LCC. “Community engagement will be at the forefront of the work to ensure that residents, businesses, and community organizations use their collective wisdom to rebuild Longfellow in a way that serves the whole community.”
LCC and the consulting team are currently in the process of creating a Steering Committee and a community survey. Stay tuned through the LCC website and Weekly Roundup for updates and community participation activities through the website at
Longfellow Community Council is the citizen participation organization for the Greater Longfellow Neighborhood.

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Get involved: join a city board or commission this fall

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

The city of Minneapolis has more than 50 volunteer-based boards, commissions and advisory committees that advise the city on issues and help develop policy and administer services. Boards and commissions fall into a handful of categories: appeal boards, development boards, general advisory boards and special service districts (defined areas within the city with special services).
Appointments to boards and commissions are made twice a year: in the spring and fall.
Potential applicants can find more information at 612-673-2216, or
Twenty-four city boards and commissions have openings for 97 appointments this fall. The city seeks applicants with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences representing the demographics of Minneapolis to strengthen the work of the city. Translation and interpreting services are available so all residents can participate.
The positions are open until filled.
City boards and commissions have brought forward recommendations that resulted in renter protections, wage protections and a ban on a hazardous chemical in dry cleaning. Board and commission members in the city of Minneapolis help shape key policy decisions, give community-based input into the city’s administration of services and supply valuable insights.

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Soderberg’s Floral says ‘thank you’ in a big way

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Soderberg’s Floral general manager Kym Erickson put together a two-day fall festival on the heels of a summer of unrest and a pandemic to thank the community for supporting the shop for 97 years. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When Soderberg’s Floral general manager Kym Erickson started planning for the first ever Longfellow Fall Festival, she thought, “I’ll be happy if 100 people come out for this.”
As the list of activities kept growing longer for the Sept. 19 and 20 community celebration, she started to wonder if she should hire security for crowd control. It’s not easy planning for a two-day, outdoor open house on the heels of a summer of unrest, in the middle of a pandemic. Especially when you’re advertising free hot dogs for all; how many do you buy?
Soderberg’s has been a family-owned, Longfellow business since 1925. Erickson said, “Usually at this time, we’d just have just finished a run at the Minnesota State Fair. That didn’t happen this year, of course. I decided to throw a celebration of our own, as a way of thanking our customers for supporting us during the events of this summer and for the past 97 years.”
What a year it has been. Erickson explained, “Walk-in purchases are down, and we’ve lost every bit of our corporate sales, weddings, and events. Luckily, our online business has more than doubled, and that’s gone a long way toward equalizing our losses.”

This new mural was painted by local resident Martha Floerchinger at Soderberg’s Floral. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

She continued, “Flowers are an appropriate way of expressing what words cannot. Maybe you would have taken your 84 year-old mother out to lunch for her birthday before COVID struck. Now you’re likely to send her a nice bouquet of flowers instead.”

For the Longfellow Fall Festival, weekend activities were scheduled from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Soderberg’s parking lot. The backdrop was a newly commissioned mural painted by local artist Martha Floerchinger, which covers an exterior wall on the west side of the flower shop. Four hands representing four different skin colors hold a bouquet of flowers, under the words, “Longfellow Welcomes All.”
Many of the weekend activities were classic street festival: live music, spin painting, balloon twisting, and a sidewalk sale.

Kids enjoy activities such as spin painting at the fall festival on Sept. 20 at Soderberg’s Floral. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Others were offered to meet the unique needs of this moment in time. There was a best mask contest, because everyone had to wear a mask. Free haircuts were offered by Southwest Metro School of Cosmetology, for festival goers tired of the haircuts they’d been giving themselves since March. There was a community project where families could decorate pieces cut from a huge Styrofoam wreath, and the pieces were put together again at the end of the day to make a circle.

Erickson and her staff were motivated to give back to the community in a big way, after what has been an extraordinarily difficult summer. She said, “It was an idea born out of all the generosity we’ve received. This was our ‘thank you.’”
T-shirts with the “Longfellow Welcomes All” mural design will be available for $20 through while supplies last. Soderberg’s is located at 3305 East Lake Street.

Free carriage rides were offered on the street and alley by the HItching Company.

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Pregnant and parenting during COVID-19: There are no manuals for this

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Ingrid Rasmussen and her six-week-old son Lars, carried through and delivered in the time of COVID. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Ingrid Rasmussen had everything well-organized for her second pregnancy, and the first two trimesters went according to plan. When the Stay-at-Home Order was issued, Rasmussen was six months along. With her husband and their three-year-old daughter, she settled in to being at home.
As the senior pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, one of Rasmussen’s new responsibilities was to help the church transition into lockdown mode. Sunday services and all other face-to-face gatherings were quickly put on-line. Some two months later George Floyd was murdered. She said, “The church went from being completely closed to completely open in about 10 minutes.”
Located one block from the 3rd Precinct, the most immediate need of the church was to provide space for a medic station. Holy Trinity staff welcomed teams of medics and helped them set up in the church community room. Suddenly Rasmussen was back at work, and in a COVID-19 exposure situation that could only be described as very high risk.
The medics brought resources to help with emergency needs around the clock. People coming in were treated for tear gas exposure to eyes and skin; injuries resulting from being shot with rubber bullets, scrapes and bruises; and emotional trauma sustained from being around the Third Precinct both before and after it burned.
None of this was part of Rasmussen’s pregnancy plan.
She explained, “During the unrest, it was all-hands-on deck for pastors from our church, and clergy from other faith communities, too. We assisted the medics and offered pastoral care to anyone who needed it. Frequently people came into the church just for a moment of silence.
“Not insignificantly, after fires overtook so many of the nearby buildings, we had one of the few working toilets in the neighborhood.”

A movement worth leaving quarantine for
Rasmussen and her husband agreed that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement was worth leaving quarantine for, even though they both knew that exposure to tear gas, and many other things Rasmussen would encounter, weren’t good for a pregnant woman. She remembered the restrictions of her first pregnancy: the doctor had cautioned her not to eat sushi and to limit her caffeine intake.
This was clearly a very different pregnancy.
Rasmussen said, “I did what I could in those early days of the unrest. The church community and the volunteers were so supportive of me in my obviously pregnant state. People were very kind and protected my physical health as I tended to the needs of others. It was an extraordinary experience of living through mutual aid.
“One of the refrains ringing through our church in this season is that there is enough for everyone: enough food, enough medical care, enough kindness, enough compassion, enough love.”

More tough choices
Seven days before her expected delivery date, Rasmussen was given a COVID-19 test, which is standard procedure at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center where she would deliver. The test results were negative, and she returned home to wait for the arrival of her baby.
Rasmussen’s husband suffered a cardiac arrest five years ago, and the couple decided that COVID-19 exposure risk in the hospital was too great for him. They made the difficult decision that he would not attend the labor and delivery. He needed to care for their three-year-old anyhow. Because of COVID-19, neither set of grandparents could help.
When it was time for Rasmussen to deliver, her husband and daughter dropped her at the cul de sac of the hospital and waved goodbye.
Of that decision, Rasmussen said, “There was disappointment for both of us, but we knew we needed to take a long view. The most important thing was that my husband be part of our kids’ lives for many years to come.”
Lars Rasmussen was born at 12:36 p.m. on July 26. All during Rasmussen’s labor, the anesthesiologist held a cell phone up so her husband could be in the delivery room via Facetime. Rasmussen said, “The delivery went well, and Lars came out screaming just the way you hope a baby will.”

A moment of peace
Rasmussen’s planned three-month parental leave from work turned into a two-week leave instead. She is working part-time from home due to the extraordinary demands currently placed on the church. Her husband works from home as well, and they pass the child care baton back and forth.
The community of Holy Trinity Church participated in a drive-by baby shower at Rasmussen’s home a few weeks ago. Cars streamed by on a Saturday afternoon: one mask-wearing person at a time got out of their car, dropped a gift for Lars or the family on the lawn, and shouted “Congratulations!” as the next person pulled in.
Both sets of grandparents have come up to Minneapolis for backyard visits. Other family members have met Lars during Zoom calls. It isn’t what Rasmussen had in her original plan, but it’s the time the community is living in.
With so much on her plate, does Rasmussen have any quiet moments with her new baby? She said, “I feel most present with Lars right after he’s done eating, when he is satiated. His body is heavy and full, like he doesn’t have a care in the world. With him resting against my chest and shoulder, I’m given a moment of peace – and it’s enough.”

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