Archive | UPRISING

Anna Zillinger shares update on East Lake Library

Posted on 21 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Elena Vaughn

The East Lake Library was damaged and remains closed, but a majority of books can be recovered, according to East Lake librarian Anna Zillinger. A county insurance assessment is in progress, but she believes a majority of the books can be recovered.

While some books will have to be replaced due to fire damage, the building is sound. The building will undergo reconstruction which should take six months to a year. Zillinger is grateful for the “community members, our library regulars, that kept it safe. We thank the community and the organizations who helped protect and recover our space.”
Curbside services are unavailable until the building is opened, and all holds have been transferred to other libraries or put back on the hold list. If a book isn’t available at East Lake, it will be available by curbside at another library, such as the nearby Hosmer library.
Although the building may be out of commission, the library is still serving the community. Staff from the East Lake Library will be at the Midtown Farmers Market getting library cards throughout October. More information can be found at the Seward-Longfellow Library Community Facebook page, including information about virtual programs. There are lists of educational books at https://www.hclib.org/ and unlimited e-resources. Zillinger particularly recommends “How to Be an Anti-Racist” and “White Fragility.” E-books are available on Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or the Overdrive app.
Zillinger believes in the East Lake Library. Working in libraries since 2001, she has always focused on “community outreach in urban libraries,” she observed. Growing up on the west side of Indianapolis in what she called a tough neighborhood, she said she loved the local library and wanted to bring that feeling to other cities.

Zillinger said, “Libraries were always my home, so we’ll rebuild our library home together.”
She continued, “We have so many ways of building community in the meanwhile.” More services will be added over time as safety allows.

Clean-up crews outside of East Lake library following damage in late May/early June 2020.

Anna Zillenger brings the Minneapolis Central Library bike along on an outreach trip to southern neighborhood residents.

 

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Voices of an uprising

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Holding space at George Floyd Memorial site

“Come. Bear witness,” says Roosevelt High School teacher Marcia Howard. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

By JILL BOOGREN
In the weeks following the brutal killing of George Floyd outside of Cup Foods, the four corners of 38th St. and Chicago Ave. have become sacrosanct. Buildings are adorned with portraits of George Floyd, large and small. A sculpture of a Black Power fist stands in the middle of the intersection, another is secured against a bus shelter. Elaborate drawings and messages are painted on the street. Flowers and written tributes are arranged in broad circles, expressions of grief.
Each day people from all walks of life gather here from near and far to pay tribute, demand justice and march in community. Food is served from hot grills, music is played, families walk with their young children, talking to them about what they are seeing here. The space is ever evolving, changing daily, with placards and flowers placed under tarps when rain falls, then lovingly rearranged the following day.
Marcia Howard, who lives just a few houses away from the four corners, has had her eyes and ears on the site day in and day out, providing deeply moving updates to friends and community. Here, posted on her Facebook page on June 9 at 8:20 am, are her words describing this space:
“It’s a memorial, it’s a protest, it’s a repast, it’s a movement. The site of 38th and Chicago Ave. is many things at once. That space is being held as an autonomous protest site by the tireless efforts of the people who patrol for safety, provide medical care, distribute food, feed the mourners, provide music, and stand in solidarity every hour of the day. It is being held by all those who are here as a pilgrimage, and those here to take photos, or here to speak, while some are here to cry, while others are here to scream the names of our dead.

Marcia Howard has been posting updates from the George Floyd Memorial Site, often with a selfie of her own.

“This space is being held by all of these people. Depending on the hour of the day, the site of George Floyd’s murder looks and feels like Grand Old Days, or a Baptist revival, an art festival, a New Orleans jazz funeral, a block party, and the headquarters of the revolution. Yet, every hour that I am there, it feels like community. It takes all our presence to hold the space. Come. Bear witness. Listen to the voices demanding justice. Add your own so that we can be heard. Come one, come all. Say her name. Say his name. Say their names.”
Ms. Howard, as this beloved Roosevelt High School teacher is known, is on site multiple times each day, always wearing a mask because of the pandemic. On June 3, the day the three other officers present when George Floyd was killed were charged, she ran to the intersection, video rolling.
“They charged ‘em all. All of ‘em. Aiding and Abetting, and they upgraded the murder charge,” she called. Tears flowed as the crowd erupted in cheers. “All of ‘em! All of ‘em!” To which someone else called out, “Conviction!”
On one rare occasion, after going a whole morning without hearing his name, Ms. Howard set aside her teacher voice, raised a bullhorn and addressed the people gathered in front of Cup Foods.
“Everybody who saw that film knows [what happened],” she said. “Notice how secure this man was [referring to Derek Chauvin, as he pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck] that he would not get caught. That he would not get in trouble. That he smirked. And put his hands in his pockets… Do you understand the security of white supremacy that you have to feel to do something so egregiously wrong, so antithetical to your job as a police officer, that you don’t even feel… fear at all? At all?… I’m telling you now, Minnesota though, we gonna hold ‘em accountable, Yeah?”
With the crowd shouting “YES”! in agreement, Ms. Howard led the call and response that has become so familiar here and in marches throughout the city, the one she especially needed to hear that day. “Say his name.” “George Floyd!” “Say his name.” “George Floyd!” “Say his name.” “George Floyd!”

(Photo by Jill Boogren)

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‘We’re not going to go on with our lives the way things were before’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Protesters at Minnehaha Parkway and Nokomis Ave. serve as visual reminders

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Nokomis resident Laurie Meyers protests at Minnehaha and Nokomis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Stefanie Beniek is driven to be a visual reminder every Monday night from 5-7 p.m. at Minnehaha Parkway and Nokomis Ave.
The group of local residents started gathering at that corner shortly after George Floyd was murdered a mile away at 38th and Chicago, pulled together by Tanya Ketcham via a Facebook event.
“We’re still seeking justice for George Floyd,” said Beniek. “There’s lots of other people who have been murdered by police and we are seeking justice for them – like Breonna Taylor. We want to be out here. We’re not going to forget. We’re not going to go on with our lives the way things were before.”
Beniek and her husband, Tim Hereid, have lived near the Keeywadin school campus for 10 years.
In addition to helping organize the twice-weekly protests in Nokomis East, Beniek has been volunteering at the Calvary Food Shelf at Chicago and 39th. She’s also working with Acupuncturists Without Borders to start a clinic to help people protesting nearby process trauma.

Nokomis Community School – Wenonah campus second grade teacher Rebecca Priglmeier. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

‘Thank you’
The attendance at the corner of Minnehaha and Nokomis has waxed and waned since it started the week after George Floyd died. On nights when it is larger, such as the evening after George Floyd’s memorial, they have a moment of silence at 6 p.m. There might be a few speakers. Someone might roam around with a petition.
The response from passersby varies, too. On Friday, June 12, 2020, they received a lot of “thank yous” and fists held high from drivers and bikers. One woman yelled, “Thanks for keeping it in front of our faces.”
Being an ally
Nokomis Community School – Wenonah campus second grade teacher Rebecca Priglmeier is driven to protest because of her students, “who had to be witness to all of this, as if this year wasn’t hard enough.”
Priglmeier explained, “I think white people need to be allies. This isn’t going to change without everybody’s help.”
She pointed to the 88 people of color killed by police this year in the United States, and school shootings. “I want kids to not have to live in fear – especially not kids of color. It’s enough. It has to stop.”

Nick and Rebecca Kimpton, and their four-year-old daughter, Bea. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

‘We can no longer be silent’
Nick and Rebecca Kimpton, and their four-year-old daughter, Bea, stood with a large Black Lives Matter sign on Friday night, June 12. They bring their young daughter along because “it’s never too early to teach about race and teach them to be part of the solution,” observed R. Kimpton. They hope their daughter grows up to be part of the change.

“We feel like there is a lot of momentum right now and we want to keep it going,” said Rebecca. “Finally some real change can happen.”
They’re working to be more aware, and to talk to the people in their circle of influence – within their family, neighborhood, and workplace.
“Ever since the murder of George Floyd, we knew we needed to take a more active role in change in our city,” added Nick. “We’re here because now is the turning point in our society to dismantle the systematic racism. We know we can no longer be silent.”

Photo by Tesha M. Christensen

 

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Art heals the soul

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Community healing mural is first to go up at George Floyd Memorial site on Chicago and 38th Ave.

Photo by Margie O’Loughlin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
When artist and community activist Christopheraaron Deanes heard about George Floyd’s death, he went right to 38th St. and Chicago Ave. – but he didn’t show up empty handed. He came fully armed with art supplies, including a huge roll of canvas donated on-the-spot by Wet Paint in St. Paul.
He and his wife, arts administrator Cara Deanes, had reached out to the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC): a non-profit devoted to art forms produced by heat, spark, or flame and located steps away from the memorial site. They offered their space for whatever might come, trusting that something creative and engaging would emerge to support the community.
As it turned out, there would be heat, spark, and flame aplenty. Lake Street began to burn on Tuesday night, but the memorial site near where George Floyd was killed would remain almost completely undisturbed.
Christopheraaron and Cara Deanes knew how important it was to make a way for people to express their pain, frustration, and anger through art. They unrolled the nine-foot-wide piece of canvas and attached it to a fence at CAFAC.Christopheraaron made a loose sketch of an African American man with his arms outstretched – surrendering. Community members were invited to join in, painting, writing, touching the canvas.

UNITY AND CHANGE
Christopheraaron and Cara Deanes are Director and Coordinator for the ROHO Collective. Roho is a Swahili word meaning soul or spirit. The mission of the collective is to embrace, support and nurture artists of color. The artists involved strive to have a positive impact on the Twin Cities by making art that is a powerful force for unity, empowerment, and change.

Christopheraaron said, “The messages people painted helped them deal with the trauma they experienced and the internal turmoil we all felt from the murder of George Floyd. Everybody saw those last moments of his life over and over again. It took a lot of humanity away from us.”
The Deanes would return to the memorial site many times. When Christopheraaron was there on June 8, he said, “It seemed like the art community had really expanded. The names of people murdered by police were painted on the street, and those names went on and on. I was reading them slowly to my eight-year-

Roho Collective artists, along with members of the community, came together in peace and unity at the Chicago Avenue Fire and Arts Center to paint this dedication to George Floyd. Left to right: Cara Deanes, Christopheraaron Deanes, Sean Phillips, and Stephanie Morris-Gandy. (Photo submitted)

old daughter, one by one, and I started to cry. It broke my heart.”

Christopheraaron continued, “I felt like the healing process was starting for me, too. This is how we experience the power of healing through art; we believe it is with full engagement of our senses.”
“What does healing from trauma look like? For me it looks like people of color rallying: making statements and poignant gestures in the community. What does it sound like? It sounds like the ring of my white colleagues calling and texting to ask, ‘What can I do now?’ What does it feel like? All of the smiling, and crying, and laughing, and shouting – it feels like empathy and action are growing.”
When Christopheraaron first arrived at the memorial site on May 26, lugging paints and a blank roll of canvas, he said, “I had no idea what I was going to paint or what was going to happen. My wife Cara, who knows me so well said, ‘Just do what comes out.’ Hundreds of people participated in the mural making, and put the mark of their hands on the canvas. Tens of thousands of people have seen the community mural by now.”
He said, “Creativity isn’t a matter of the haves and have-nots. It isn’t the privilege of the young or a luxury of the old. It is an essential piece of humanity. Through art, we aim to empower everyone to changes their lives – and change the world.”
For more information on the Roho Collective and the work of Christopheraaron Deanes, visit www.rohocollective.org. The community mural at Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center will remain up indefinitely, until the Floyd Family collects it for their personal archives.

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ABOLISH THE POLICE: Local residents talk about why they support movement

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Smoke billows from E. Lake St. and Minnehaha the morning after a night of fire. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Editor’s note: In an effort to support a conversation about a current initiative in Minneapolis, I talked to three local activists and Longfellow business owners about defunding the police for this article. There are also suggested resources within the article for learning more. We welcome signed letters to the editor talking about the pros and cons as you see them, as we know there are lot of opinions about this initiative and one article can only include pieces of the larger conversation. We will continue to cover this issue as it unfolds. Email news@LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com.

You can’t miss the sign at Moon Palace Books, three buildings down from the Third Precinct at 3032 Minnehaha Ave.

Moon Palace Books owners Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl support a change to the police and prison system in favor of one that is “actually designed to keep the people in our communities safe.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

ABOLISH THE POLICE
Before nine Minneapolis City Council members announced their intent to defund the police; before the National Guard was called to quell an uprising the size of which had never before been seen in Minneapolis; before 31 buildings in the neighborhood were burned and many more damaged; before countless peaceful protesters and journalists were injured – Moon Palace books had taken a stand.
Owners Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl have been active with and supportive of different organizations and campaigns for prison and police abolition for over 25 years.
“Many communities in our society have been prevented from functioning and thriving because of the police, and the institutions of white supremacy and predatory capitalism that the police protect and enforce,” the couple pointed out. “We absolutely need to figure out ways to keep all of our neighbors and communities safe. The Minneapolis Police Department was not created or designed to keep everyone safe, and it hasn’t functioned to do that.”
They support defunding and disbanding the police.
“Police forces in America have always served as slave-catchers for the Prison-Industrial system, which is a direct continuation of the brutal institution of antebellum slavery,” explained the Schwesnedls. “American police have grown increasingly more militarized, and use larger and larger amounts of city, county and state budgets, and have always functioned to terrorize communities of color, and enforce social control to protect the interests of the owning class, at the expense of workers’ rights.
“Instead of the lie that police exist to keep us all safe, we want systems that are actually designed to keep the people in our communities safe. We want systems and institutions that value ALL human life, including the lives of Black people, Indigenous people, trans people, women, people of color, etc.”
They added, “We feel terrible for everyone who lost businesses that represent countless hours and years of their labor and passion. And none of our businesses are as important as human lives that have been lost to police violence. Lives of Black people, Indigenous people, people of color.  None of our businesses are as important as putting an end to the trauma and suffering that police violence and intimidation has wrought on so many of our neighbors for so many years.”
As white, Euro-Americans, the Schwesnedls are currently working to amplify the voices of the groups and people leading the struggle on the ground, as well as providing some financial support, and making phone calls, sending emails, attending rallies, protests and meetings when they are able.
To learn more, they encourage people to check out groups like MPD150, Reclaim the Block, and Black Visions Collective.

Ricardo Levins Morales has been involved with MPD150 for years, and encourages people to go there for thoughtful answers and information on disbanding the police. (Art submitted)

Artist and activist
As an artist and an activist, Ricardo Levins Morales (3260 Minnehaha) has been involved with MPD150 for years.
In 1967 at 11 years old, Morales and his family left Puerto Rico and landed in Chicago during a time of great turmoil and police brutality. It was safer for him to walk the alleyways and take his chances with the gangs than to be on the streets and deal with the police, he recalled. “It was clear the police were dangerous people to be around,” said Morales.
One day the police shot a Black teen who was running home to catch a television show. “They said if he was running, he must have been running from a crime,” said Morales.
By age 14 or 15, Morales had started his life of activism and art when he discovered print making and screen printing. He’s been involved in labor organizing, farmers’ movements, peace activism, ecological work, international solidarity and more. “To me, they are really all the same thing: supporting human resilience in the face of hardship,” he explained.
He opened a studio at Minnehaha and 38th in 2009, and moved to his current location next to Peace Coffee two and a half years ago. Right now, Morales is giving away buttons to protesters that state: “Abolish the police, reform is not enough.”
As a Latinex man, Morales believes in the importance of solidarity with others who have had bad experiences with the police. This stands in contrast to the white racist narrative that believes if the cops are doing something bad to you then you must have deserved it, he pointed out.
What struck him about George Floyd’s murder was the “absolute indifference of this killer cop.” He said, “The police are essentially fulfilling the role lynch mobs did.”

Too broken to fix, only solution is replacement
Three years ago, on the 150th anniversary of the Minneapolis Police Department, MPD150 released a report detailing brutal practices baked into the formation of the department and tracking them through the years.
“We broke down how they interact everyday with people in crisis. They don’t do anything well,” said Morales. “You need grown-ups, not people who show up with tear gas and tasers and shoot at people. It’s all based on the mythology of how they supposedly keep us safe.”
Morales stated, “Having more cops in a city doesn’t make crime go down.” He pointed to white suburbs that have less police and policy brutality and less crime.
“People want decent homes, green spaces, parks for children. These are the basics of life that white suburbanites take for granted,” said Morales. When people have what they need, crime goes down. He supports using the millions spent on police in other ways to help people get their needs met, and implementing common sense solutions. Top on that list is stable housing.
Reforms instituted over decades haven’t work to fix police departments, said Morales.
On July 22, 2006, 19-year-old Fong Lee was shot eight times and killed by St. Paul Police Officer Jason Andersen. The gun authorities said they found nearby his body came from the police evidence room, Morales pointed out. “The officer was let off the hook.”
More training, review commissions, residency requirements – these simply do not work, said Morales. “It’s one of those entities so riddled with corruption, the only solution is replacement.”
He added, “There are a lot of people with solutions to problems that don’t involve killing them.”
If the mission is to help people, then the solution is to figure out what people need on a case-by-case basis and send those specific resources, such as mental health service providers, social workers, people trained in trauma and deescalation, victim/survivor advocates, religious leaders, and block clubs.
He encourages people to listen to what people of color are saying they need, and to read the thoughtfulness that has already gone into answering these questions by groups such as MPD150, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective.
“Police have played a major role in making sure people without any money don’t have a chance,” said Morales, but he sees hope in what’s happening today and in people doing the work now that should have been done long ago.
“We’re living in different times but no more different than the other times,” he said. “The only difference is people are demanding better.”

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‘This is it. We’ve had enough.’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Kayleen Kabba, a student at South High School. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Kayleen Kabba will be going into 10th grade at South High School in the fall; if there is school, that is. She said, “The ‘not knowing’ about that feels big. There is a lot of ‘not knowing’ in my life right now.”
Like people of all ages, Kayleen is struggling to understand what’s going on around her. She said, “Some of my friends think the riots were fueled by the pandemic – that people were going crazy from being cooped up so long. The questions can start to spin around in your head. Why was tear gas used by police on peaceful protestors? Who are these people from out of state causing violence in our community? What is the media talking about? What is real?”
One thing is certain, as far as she’s concerned. Kayleen is glad that South High will no longer have police officers on-site. Minneapolis Public Schools has officially suspended their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
Kayleen had an exchange with a police officer last winter, the likes of which she thinks is pretty common. She explained, “My mom dropped me off late at school one morning. I was coming from a doctor’s appointment. When I checked in at the office, the attendance lady said, ‘There are only a couple minutes left of your first class; you can go stand at the door of your second class.’ So I started walking that direction.
“There was a group of 4-5 white kids in front of me in the hall. The school police officer smiled at them as they walked by, but he made me stop. He listened to my explanation, he checked my pass, and he said, ‘Don’t let me catch you out in the hallway again.’ He was not smiling. At the time it didn’t really register, but I felt the difference in the way he treated me was odd.
“We have to have some form of public safety in the schools and on the streets, but the priority should be de-escalation. So much of the time, authority figures don’t take the time to hear more than one side of the story. I really hope change is coming soon. I hope my generation will be the one to say, “This is IT. We’ve had enough.”

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‘It looked like just another killing of a black man in America’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Dre Vann

Dre Vann started coming to Brackett Park in the Longfellow neighborhood when his gym closed in March. He and his friends use the Depression-Era concrete picnic tables as workout benches. They lift free weights, heavy ones, with enviable strength and discipline.
When he saw the video of George Floyd’s murder, Dre hardly even felt it register. He said, “It looked like just another killing of a black man in America. It was a head shaker, but as a black person you’ve got to have that pick up and keep going mentality.”
By Tuesday night, Dre’s anger had grown. He said, “I’ve never done any crimes. I’ve served in the military. Still, I can’t get lost in the wrong neighborhood or walk into most restaurants in the Twin Cities without heads turning and people talking. I am scared every day of my life.”
Dre describes himself as having grown a very thick skin in his 26 years, to keep from getting bruised too bad. He didn’t participate in the protests because he doesn’t feel systemic racism is going to change in this country. He believes the color of his skin is an act of protest he has to live out every single day.
About the protests, Dre said, “I hate to admit it, but I’m glad people burned some things down. If someone’s been bullying you your whole life, it’s not like you’re going to take their lunch money. You’ve got to do something to really get their attention.”
If the world is paying attention right now, Dre questions how long it will last. While he is not convinced that allies will continue to stand up for this cause, Dre said, “I’m glad that people are starting to come out of their comfortable boxes, and entering into the discomfort of talking about really hard things.”

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‘We continue to pray that people get along’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Senem Yumshuk prays every morning on the lawn in front of Holy Trinity Church. At the base of an oak, she prays for her children. At the base of an elm, she prays for children everywhere. She moves to another oak and prays for her mother. There are many trees. There are many prayers. Sitting on her heels with her back against each tree trunk, Senem feels the presence of Allah – the God of her Muslim faith.
Early in the morning, it is peaceful out on the lawn. Lines haven’t formed yet on 31st St., where hundreds will soon gather to receive food donations. There are just a few cars out.
Senem will return to Turkey next week, leaving her teenage sons and her mother who have lived in this neighborhood for 10 years. She will miss them. She will miss the trees, but there is always someplace to pray. Senem has been unable to get a green card, so she works in Turkey as a nurse eight months of the year and has extended visits here when she can. “This visit,” she said, “has been too crazy.”
When the neighborhood outside her mother’s window began to burn on May 26, the two Turkish women prayed together through the night. They held each other as they watched the news reports roll in. They wept for George Floyd. Senem said, “We believe that every son is our son, and every daughter is our daughter too. Why does it have to be so hard?”
The Turkish news media sent a crew to South Minneapolis to cover the riots. Senem said, “Even in my country, almost 6,000 miles away, they are saying the name of George Floyd. I believe he is very happy right now, because of all the good that will come from what has happened. We continue to cry for him, and to pray that people everywhere can learn to get along.”

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Q&A with Kelly Drummer of MIGIZI

Posted on 26 June 2020 by Elena Vaughn

By Elena Vaughn

MIGZI is grieving. The organization had just completed renovations in the summer of 2019, opening their space for Native American youth. The building (3017 27th Ave. S.) was burned down on Friday, May 29, 2020. On June 24, Kelly Drummer provided an update on how the group is healing and moving forward.

  • In 1968, Martin Luther King asked “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” How do you see the impact of these protests carrying on King’s legacy?
    • The systemic injustice that has continued for over 400 years across Indigenous and Black communities continue to impact our human rights of our people.  The small changes that happened from 1968 to 2020 did not really change the underlying systems of power that keep our people oppressed and powerless.  MIGZI youth are the next generation to create understanding and change in our system of injustice and oppression that builds toward bold action.
  •  What role do you see indigenous people inhabiting in the current African-American struggle? 
    • We have the same struggle. We are brothers and sisters in this together.  We believe that any harm to another is a harm to our community.
  • What do you want to tell protesters, specifically African-American protesters, either in encouragement or warning?  
    • We are in this struggle together.  There is no separation of our people.  The American Indian Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement are in partnership in the struggle for our rights and justice.
  • Do you have a fundraising page we can share?
    • Our donation pages are listed on our website and you can go to www.migizi.org

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Remembering 27th and Lake

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Iric Nathanson

Neighbors who live around 27th and Lake St. are now finding themselves at the edge of a war zone of burned out and boarded buildings. Their commercial district encompasses the Third Precinct police station, the Minneapolis site that made national news when it was torched by rioters in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
This once thriving district, now the scene of so much devastation, has a rich history extending back to the final decades of the 19th century. During those early years, when Lake St. was a narrow dirt road beyond the Minneapolis city limits, a scattering of homes and businesses sprung up around a small industrial firm. Minneapolis Harvester Works, was established at the intersection of Lake and Hiawatha in 1882. A block away, the first known hotel in the area, Hotel Woodland, was built on 27th Ave. in 1901. The building later become the Schooner Bar, a 120-year-old landmark still standing in 2020, but badly damaged during the recent riots.

Moline job action 1945

The Harvester Works firm was short lived. When the business failed, its site was taken over by another small industrial concern, Minneapolis Steel and Machinery, in 1902. Minneapolis Steel prospered, enlarging its production facilities to cover an expansive site extending from Hiawatha to Minnehaha Ave. between 28th St. and Lake. By 1930, now known as Minneapolis Moline, this South Minneapolis industrial firm, which manufactured farm machinery, had become one of the city’s largest employers. During World War II, retooled to produce U.S. army vehicles, Moline saw its workforce balloon to over 4,000. After VJ day, which marked the end of World War II, many of those workers found that they were suddenly jobless as Moline sharply cut back its wartime production.
Then, protesting the company’s layoff policies , disgruntled workers launched a strike and temporarily blocked traffic on Lake Street as a sign of protest. Their strike lasted for more than two months.
To the east of the Minneapolis Moline plant, two multi-story commercial buildings flanked the intersection of 27th and Lake. The oldest of the two was built for the International Order of the Oddfellow (IOOF) in 1909. The Oddfellows used the building’s second floor for their meeting rooms, while the J.O. Peterson Drug Store, the building’s longtime tenant, occupied the prime corner spot on the ground floor.
In a prelude to a more destructive conflagration 70 years later, a 1948 fire caused substantial damage to the Oddfellows’ building. Minneapolis firefighters fought the blaze for six hours before bringing it under control. The 1948 fire spared the building’s Town Talk Diner, a popular lunch spot for workers from the nearby Moline plant. But the diner fell on hard times starting in the 1970s. After it shuttered in 2002, Town Talk’s space remained empty until it reopened as an upscale eatery in 2006. Later owners retained the diner’s name and its distinctive lighted sign which had become a popular East Lake landmark. This year, the Town Talk’s life was cut short when the recent riots destroyed the Oddfellows Building, the Lake Street’s café’s home for more than 70 years.

Town Talk Diner 1954

Across Lake from the Oddfellows, the 1917 Coliseum Building housed Freeman’s, at one point the city’s largest department store outside of downtown. The Lake St. store was a joint effort of its owner, E.B. Freeman and his wife, Harriet, who oversaw the store’s women’s department. Freeman’s Department Store flourished during the 1920s and held its own throughout the Great Depression. During those difficult years, many of the families who shopped at Freeman’s had breadwinners who held on to their jobs at Minneapolis Moline and at the Ford plant across the river in St. Paul. “They were Swedes and Norwegian who were thrifty by nature. They didn’t waste their money. And they kept coming to our store,” recalled E. B. Freeman’s son, Wallace.
Freeman’s survived the Great Depression and World War II but succumbed to the forces of suburbanization that battered inner city retailing in the post-war era. The Lake St. department store hung on until 1975 when it finally closed.
After Freeman’s closed, Roger Podany, a local businessman who owned a used office furniture business, purchased the Coliseum and put his own name on the front of the building. During the 1970s, Podany rented the building’s basement to up and coming musical groups including the well-known Suburbs. The Podany Building’s third floor ballroom served as the temporary home of the folk dance group, Tapestry.
The 1970s took its toll on nearby Minneapolis Moline after the farm implements manufacturer was sold to the Ohio-based White Motor Company. In 1972, White Motor closed the Lake Street Moline plant along with a second factory in Hopkins, putting 1200 Moline employees out of work.
The closure of the Moline plant marked the end of 27th and Lake’s industrial era and the start of a new effort to reinvent the district a retail destination. Moline’s factory buildings were demolished and replaced with a suburban style shopping center anchored by a massive Target Store. The big-box Target, a major Lake St. anchor well into the 21st century, opened in 1976. A year later, the multi-tenanted Minnehaha Mall opened on an adjacent site. The new mall billed itself as the first indoor shopping center built in Minneapolis during the previous 15 years. The retail center’s suburban configuration, fronting on a large parking lot, would soon fall out of favor with urban planners who wanted to discourage auto uses and promote high density development. After retail faded away at the Minnehaha Mall, the building was reconditioned to serve as the home of the Minnesota Transitions Charter School.
In the mid 1980s, 27th and Lake underwent another wave of redevelopment when the block to the east of Target became the site of a Rainbow grocery store. The Rainbow replaced the Third Precinct police station which had occupied the site since the 1950s. When Rainbow closed in 2014, its space remained vacant until 2019 when the property was redeveloped for an ALDI Market.
In 1985, the Third Precinct moved into a new building at the southwest corner of Lake and Minnehaha. The new station featured a public entrance facing the corner, designed to be open and accessible to the public, according to the building’s architect.
The 2000s saw the redevelopment of the Podany Building with its original name restored, a major expansion of the nearby East Lake Library and the construction of the Midtown Greenway along the district’s northern edge at 27th St.
During the past decade, several community groups including the Lake Street Council, the Longfellow Community Council, and the Longfellow Business Association have worked to promote 27th and Lake’s revival. They were encouraged by the ethnic restaurants and the new Moon Palace book store that helped make their commercial district a neighborhood friendly” mini-downtown” for the adjacent Longfellow Community.
Now, those efforts have suffered a huge setback as a result of the recent riots that destroyed or damaged more than 30 area businesses and community facilities. The list includes Target, ALDI, the Coliseum, the Minnesota Transitions Charter School and the East Lake Library.
But one community leader is not deterred. “Many of our residents and businesses feel abandoned and afraid,” acknowledges Melanie Majors, the Longfellow Community Council’s Executive Director. “There has been an extreme and tangible threat to our community. I have been working for this community for 13 years and I know that the people here care and love their neighbors, their businesses and their community. We are being tested right now and while we are suffering an unprecedented amount of damage and destruction we will overcome this. While we have lost much, this does not change who we are. Longfellow will be rebuilt and it will be stronger than ever.”

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