Archive | UPRISING

Thanks, Nokomis East neighbors

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Jerome Evans

NENA Board President

By JEROME EVANS

Dear Nokomis East Community: this is a letter of gratitude. In case we haven’t met, my name is Jerome Evans and I chair the board of directors for our Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA). I served on the board for a few years before becoming chair so I can tell you that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenge, resilience, and growth for our organization. Neighborhoods 2020, the outbreak of the coronavirus, and the killing of George Floyd have tested NENA’s organizational skills, caused us to question the way that we undertake our mission, and demonstrated that NENA is an invaluable resource for this community.
In a typical year NENA’s board and staff plan and put on community building events like the State of our Neighborhood, Monarch Festival, Bossen Renter’s Party, or Night Before New Year’s Eve celebration. This year, in light of the risks that the coronavirus poses for some residents, we are planning for food distribution for people who are isolated or otherwise unable to secure food. In a typical year we might organize around allocating the Curb Appeal Matching Grant, continuing the Green Fair, and educating residents through our Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. But this year we were called upon to organize for the safety of our entire community and to do so with little to no notice.
And we did it. On May 30 when local leaders suggested that we band together for communication and defense in light of public safety concerns sparked by the death of George Floyd while he was in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department – NENA called and the community responded. I can only be profoundly grateful to the people of Nokomis East for putting aside their plans for that Saturday, defying the medium-term risk posed by the coronavirus, and coming together to confront a short-term and unknown risk to our collective safety. And I am grateful to NENA board members, staff, and community members who stayed up all night that first night watching for danger and then turned around and did it again the next night!
This could not have happened in a different community. And I’ll tell you another thing that I’m grateful for. The death of George Floyd has sparked conversations on racial equity and white privilege in our community that I never expected us to have. As a gay, Black man living in our once redlined community it gives me great hope to see communities that once encouraged segregation now contemplating how their actions may have unintentionally perpetuated systems of oppression for other people. That gives me great hope for our future. Perhaps the dream of equality for every American really can mean equality for every American.
On a personal level, I’m comfortable sharing that I have been challenged to rethink the way that my actions contribute to our system. For example, as chair of NENA I never questioned the community safety meetings that we’d host or how we might define the type of ‘suspicious activity’ that would prompt a call to the police. Did NENA inadvertently encourage our community to engage in racial profiling? I hope not. But moving forward we will be more direct and forthright in leading with our commitment to racial equity. We will support the community’s interest in education on racial equity, support efforts to stand in solidarity with more diverse communities, and provide space for more BIPOC residents to congregate, heal, and help lead.
Perhaps instead of or in addition to meetings with law enforcement, we can host meetings with community members who we don’t often hear from. Last week, I personally held a Community Conversation regarding Achieving Racial Equity. I hosted a law professor, an educator, and a Nokomis East community member. What struck me most from my conversation with Luis Rosario is how much he loves our community. Even when he feels that he is being racially profiled, he loves being a part of Nokomis East and all that that means. By providing him with a platform to share his experience I gained insight into the importance of NENA engaging in racial equity work that benefits everyone in our community and, perhaps, community members got the opportunity to see how damaging racial profiling our neighbors can be.
I love our community and I believe that we have risen to the challenges that 2020 has thrown at us. Thank you for committing yourselves to creating a more equitable Nokomis East. I assure you that I and NENA will be learning, growing, and supporting you grow through this challenging time. Thank you.
Editor’s note: Jerome Evans is running for State Representative 63B in this year’s election.

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FOOD DONATIONS

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

On Thursday, May 28, Touchstone Mental Health announced there would be a Food Drive for Minnehaha Commons Residents (3001 E. Lake St.) the following day. Within a half an hour of the drop off time on the 29th, there were so many donations they offered them up to the community at large, curbside. Hundreds of families picked up food. “It was so unexpected to have such a massive response,” said Touchstone Mental Health Executive Director Ellie Skelton. Also unexpected, she said, the tenants at Minnehaha Commons were really involved in greeting people and moving donations. “It turned a stressful day for all of us into a very positive experience. The residents received and gave support, and we all felt more connected to the Longfellow community.” For a list of food pantries, visit this website: https://www.foodpantries.org/ci/mn-minneapolis (Photos submitted)

 

Over 25,000+ bags of food were dropped off and donated at Sanford Middle School on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Laura Mylan, Cathy Carmody, and Mara Thill Bernick had the idea to provide food for the Sanford staff families. It went viral and there was plenty for others. From organizers via the Longfellow Strong Facebook page: “They filled the Sanford parking lot and wrapped around the building, filled the cafeteria, and 6 really big trucks. And, we were able to send additional truckloads to the Midway, North Minneapolis, Cedar Riverside, East Lake and more. We had mountain of cereal, and mountain of diapers. We had each other. What more could we want. Please know that this food will help families in the weeks to come as we rebuild.” More photos in the Messenger Facebook photo galleries. (Photos by Terry Faust)

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ADX Labs supports LBA

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Kim Jakus (left) of the Longfellow Business Association and Steve Renner of ADX Inc.

ADX Labs, Inc. has provided an urgently needed grant of $40,000 to the Longfellow Business Association, to aid local small businesses to recover from looting damage. The donation was made by ADX Labs’ charitable arm, the ADX Foundation.
Steven M. Renner, founder and CEO of ADX Labs and chairman of the ADX Foundation said, “The tragic death of George Floyd in police custody resulted in peaceful protests but also extensive looting and truly terrible property damage. Here in Minneapolis, the Longfellow neighborhood has been particularly hard hit. This vibrant and diverse neighborhood has largely been reduced to rubble, and residents are experiencing great difficulties sourcing food and services from the many small business owners who have seen their premises destroyed. The ADX Foundation immediately stepped up to provide a grant to the Longfellow Business Association, which has pledged that every dollar will be utilized helping local small businesses get back on their feet, so their community can thrive again.”
The Longfellow Business Association’s Executive Director Kim Jakus said, “Our association has been serving neighborhood businesses and non-profits for the last 25 years. Over the last week, around 50 of our Longfellow businesses and non-profits were looted and damaged in the wake of the violent death of George Floyd. ADX’s grant will allow us to give direct grants to businesses in Longfellow to help cover insurance deductibles, repairs, relocations and eventually help with equitable rebuilding.”
Korboi “KB” Balla, owner of fire-damaged Scores Sports Bar said, “There are a lot of unknowns right now, but the community is what gives me hope to reopen.” Balla said that when businesses were burned down, “people came from far and wide to help clean up, and it’s unreal how much the community has come together.”
John Flomer, co-owner of local restaurant Midori Floating World Café, which was also looted and destroyed, said that many residents’ main concern is losing the community they love so much. “It’s all small businesses here, and we feel like we’re bleeding in the streets and waiting for the medics,” said Flomer.
Renner concluded, “ADX Labs is committed to supporting an inclusive, diverse and thriving Twin Cities. Coming during the coronavirus pandemic, the devastation of Longfellow’s businesses has resulted in yet more unemployment, and we hope local businesses can rehire all employees. We call on other Minneapolis businesses to donate.”

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Art as empowerment

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Artists at work: Ricardo Perez, Sebastian Rivera and volunteer Hab Wako put finishing touches on a mural honoring George Floyd at Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St.) on June 4, their last of five days creating the painting. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

By JILL BOOGREN

Ricardo Perez talks about his art and his process in making a mural. “Sometimes there’s destruction. And there’s life that comes after that. Rather than focus on destruction, it was more about life.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

After boarding up the windows at her firm on East Lake St., Abigail Wahl, owner of Puerta Grande Law Firm, decided to ask an artist from the community to use the space to express whatever they wanted regarding George Floyd. Artists Ricardo Perez and Sebastian Rivera, community organizers with The Alliance and West Side Community Organization, respectively, answered the call. Together with volunteers, they spent five days creating a mural on the boards.
On June 4, as they were applying the finishing touches, Perez described the mural and the process, which he said changed organically as it unfolded.
“We wanted to be very intentional about it being about Black and Brown relationships. A lot of people are curious about the cactus [featured prominently in the middle of the painting]. It kind of throws them off, like ‘Why are cactus on it? That’s not from here.’ But you know, George Floyd wasn’t from here. He was from Texas, and… Texas is the cactus. There’s also a Mexican flag… Lake St. There’s so many intersections of our identities.”
Mentioning the cityscape, Perez pointed to a detail in the upper left window of where people were being evicted. Above it, a banner reads: FREE the Oppressed. At the top of another high rise a banner reads: #BlackLivesMatter.
“Sometimes there’s destruction. And there’s life that comes after that. Rather than focus on destruction, it was more about life. That’s why we have so many plants and the city and the mountains,” Perez continued. “This is the craziest thing… these boards were put up to protect from destruction, but they became art. It became a healing element for the community.”
By email, Wahl offered her take of the mural: “To me, Ricardo Perez’s creation speaks to the solidarity between the different communities in Minneapolis and Minnesota, and the love we are feeling for George Floyd.”

Artists at work: Ricardo Perez, Sebastian Rivera and volunteer Hab Wako put finishing touches on a mural honoring George Floyd at Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St.) on June 4, their last of five days creating the painting. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

After the art comes down, Wahl said the artist will decide on its final home. Perez hopes for a permanent space to share the piece. “Not only the painting but the energy that was captured in this moment.”
Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St), which offers legal representation in immigration matters, remained open throughout the uprising.

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LBA pulls together businesses to share needs, discuss damage

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Businesses want to stay in neighborhood, many unknowns about insurance coverage and repair

Folks empty out the Glass Endeavors building on Friday morning, May 29, 2020. Although it survived the burning of the post office, staff were not sure it would survive another night. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Most businesses damaged around Minnehaha, E. Lake St. and 27th Ave. want to stay in the neighborhood, but they’re waiting to hear back from inspectors and insurance companies, they told the Longfellow Business Association during a ZOOM meeting on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
The initial estimate is that 31 buildings were completely destroyed in the unrest following George Floyd’s murder by a police officer on Monday, May 25, including three major grocery stores, and two pharmacies. Beyond that at least 49 other businesses sustained significant damage. Many are locally- and minority-owned.
“We are a small organization, but we focus on bringing together businesses for networking and information,” pointed out Kim Jakus. “I know there’s a lot of immediate action plans but we are really in it for the long haul.
“We are really going to have to work together. We are here to listen and invest.”
Jakus pointed out that other entities are also involved in local efforts, including the Lake Street Council, which set up a fund that has raised over $6 million, and the Longfellow Community Council. The LBA is asking itself how it differentiates itself and also how it can partner with other organizations. It has set up a fund and is raising money to help local businesses.

View towards the burnt out MIGIZI and Ghadhi Mahal on Friday, May 29. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

LV’s Barber Shop at 3006 27th Ave. S. wasn’t impacted as much as those around it, but owner Lamberto Vergara was still waiting to see if the building was stable after the fires at Minnehaha Lake Spirits and Wine and GM Tobacco and Super Vapor. He knew that, at minimum, the fire damage to the back wall would need to be repaired, but wasn’t sure if the entire building would end up being condemned.
His shop had been closed since May 18 due to COVID-19. Along with his six barbers, “We’re just kinda hanging in there, trying to see what’s going to happen,” said Vergara. “I’d like to stay in the neighborhood. The faster we rebuild, the faster I can go to work.”
John Gwinn of the non-profit MIGIZI, said they had planned to offer summer programming for Native American youth in their new facility which had opened last summer after an extensive renovation project, and had already restructured things due to COVID-19. Now that fire has destroyed their building, they are looking for a temporary space to run the programs. “Hopefully we can find some space and have some jobs for our youth,” said Gwinn.
He was grateful for people’s generosity and the donations they have received.
A small shell of Town Talk Dinner at 2707 E. Lake St. remained standing as of June 3, but was knocked down later in the week when the entire El Nuevo Rodeo/Oddfellows building was leveled. Town Talk Diner owners Kacey White and Charles Stotts said they were in the process of creating a list of everything that had been in their building for the insurance company, going room by room. “It’s so much work to get done before we contemplate the next step,” observed Charles.
He aded, “We really love being part of the Longfellow neighborhood. Hopefully we can figure out how to be a part of the rebuilding.”

View towards the burnt out MIGIZI and Ghadhi Mahal on Friday, May 29. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

KB Balla was close to opening his sports bar, Scores, on the far east side of the El Nuevo Rodeo building (2713 E. Lake St.), and celebrating his grand opening.
“It’s been kind of surreal,” said Balla. He is one of the Black business owners affected by the protests and works as a firefighter in Brooklyn Center. “I can’t tell you what the plan will be. I’d love to say that we’ll stay in the community. Right now we don’t know how long it will take to rebuild,” said Balla.
Until then, he’s hoping to figure out how to help others.
Minnehaha Lake Wine and Spirits, directly across from the Third Precinct at 2613 E, Lake St., was looted, vandalized and burned down. Like Town Talk, owners Jason Krause and Steve Krause said they were still focused on the immediate needs.
They are also evaluating a potential temporary location site.
“This is pretty devastating,” said Krause. He pointed out that many of their staff have worked there for 10-15 years. To help those out of work, they started a GoFundMe. It raised $9,000 in less than 24 hours.
Steve pointed out that he learned it was the responsibility of the property owners themselves to demolish their sites and make them safe, and the line item from their insurance company for this item was pretty small. They don’t know yet what requirements might be for environmental clean-up.
“Every hour there’s a new issue that comes up,” said Steve.

View towards the burnt out MIGIZI and Ghadhi Mahal on Friday, May 29. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Coliseum building damage
Across the street at the Coliseum Building at 2700 E. Lake St., numerous small organizations including the FATHER Project and Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice were affected.
Created 20 years ago, The FATHER Project has been located at the Coliseum building for the last 10. There was considerable smoke and water damage to their space, according to program manager Guy Bowling.
The FATHER (Fostering Actions To Help Earnings and Responsibility) Project became a program of Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota in 2004. Since then, the FATHER Project has served thousands of fathers through an extensive network of community partners. The program offers: case management, parenting support, child support services, employment services, and GED tutoring.
“The resources we provide are part of a systems change,” observed Bowling.
Also located in the Coliseum, Literacy Minnesota is looking for a new space, according to Kristin Collins, just like so many others.

Members of the National Guard rest in the entryway of the looted U.S. Bank building at 2800 E. Lake St. a few hours after they were called into the area. The Guard blocked off sections of the most heavily damaged for most of the day, and then opened it back up Friday evening, when more structures were damaged. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice program in the Coliseum Building was able to salvage all of the things most important to their program, according to Michele Braley. Staff have been working from home due to COVID-19 and will start looking for a space, as well.
Businesses not as heavily damaged have offered up space that could be used for programming, future relief efforts, and more, including: Hook & Ladder, The Lift Garage, Tapestry Folkdance (large meeting room), Kennedy & Cain (conference room space), pointed out Jakus.

Wellington properties
Casey Dzieweczynski of Wellington Group reported that the ALDI in the former Rainbow space will be cleaned up and reopen in about two months.
There was a little damage to the charter school on the back side of the building, but the classrooms were all fine.
The Wendy’s was burned down, as was the affordable living apartment building under construction in the parking lot. “That was heartbreaking,” said Dzieweczynski, who is the project manager. It will be rebuilt, although they’re not sure if the foundation will be salvageable.
On the west side of Hiawatha, portions of the Hi-Lake Shopping were burned to the ground, but there was minimal damage to the ALDI there, and it reopened in early June. The condo building above was fine. The Lake Street Station apartments and the low-income seniors that reside there, lost power on Thursday and were evacuated on Friday night. They returned on Sunday.
“We’re glad to be part of this neighborhood,” said Dzieweczynski.

‘A long road ahead’
A fire was set at one of the area’s oldest buildings, the Schooner Tavern (2901 27th Ave. S.), according to Wendy Kremer, but it was put out. There was also looting and vandalism. Thankfully, none of the 20 tenants were hurt. The building was still without power as of the meeting on June 3. They don’t yet know what will be involved to get the building fixed.
“We’ve got a long road ahead,” said Kremer.

Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Schubert and Hoey (2747 26th Ave. S.) outdoor advertising was first broken into and later damaged by fire, according to Mike Hylandsson. They were dealing with a broken water pipe that was still running, unable to shut it off inside because it was too dangerous. They were also trying to figure out how to get their mail. The suggestion was made that businesses get a PO box at a neighboring post office as a temporary solution.
Despite its location to the south of the Third Precinct, the Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge (3010 Minnehaha Ave.) had minor damage, according to Jesse Brodd and Chris Mozena. As they haven’t been able to hold any shows, the performance venue is in a state of transition, and looking for ways to support the community.

Minnehaha Lake Wine and Spirits with the Hook and Ladder and the Third Precinct on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The Hub Bicycle Shop wasn’t damaged by fire, but some bicycles there for repair were stolen, according to Lisa Olson. They anticipate that insurance will help them replace the items.
Tony Kersey of Boker’s (3104 Snelling Ave.) reported their buildings were fine, but they have a larger concern around the issue of neighborhood safety and the need for law enforcement.
Cathy Heying of the Lift Garage (2401 E. Lake St.) reported that although the Arby’s 10 feet away burned down, their building was still standing. The non-profit repair center hopes to offer space as needed in the community as they can.
“My heart goes out to everyone on this call,” observed Chris Romano of Seward ReDesign. He pointed out that the non-profit has services that will benefit businesses. “Hang in there. They’re a lot of support around you.”

The view of the Coliseum building on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Healthy Seniors lose space at U.S. Bank
The Longfellow Seward Healthy Seniors office has been located at the U.S. Bank (2800 E. Lake St.) for over 20 years. The office was significantly damaged.
From Mary Albrecht: “We are awaiting our insurance adjuster to come in. We don’t have direct access into the bank and our office since the rioting and looting occurred. One laptop was stolen and several monitors were destroyed by looters. We will have to hire a mitigation service to clean up our office because there’s broken glass all over, soot and smoke damage. It’s not safe for our staff or volunteers to try to deal with on their own. The day after the first night of looting two of our staff who live close by were permitted access into our office and were able to bring out our desk top computers (CPUs) and set them up in their homes. We did not have any data breach since the desktop computers were not stolen. Those staff are now working out of their homes. I am temporarily working out of the Southeast Seniors office (a program similar to ours) located on University Ave. in Minneapolis. It may be quite some time before the bank will reopen.

Where the Walgreens on East Lake used to stand as of June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors provides many services to help area seniors live healthy, independent and socially connected lives. We serve 600+ seniors and caregivers annually. Right now the biggest needs of our clients are getting groceries and prescriptions. Due to damage incurred from the rioting and looting, Target, Cub, ALDI and Walgreens are closed. Our neighborhood has suddenly become a food and pharmacy desert. Local seniors, many of whom don’t have their own transportation, are having a harder time getting groceries and prescriptions. Our staff and volunteers are doing grocery shopping and delivery for our clients, and are delivering food from local food shelves as well. We recently got a Hunger Solutions grant for food distribution and delivery to lower-income seniors. We plan on distributing perishable foods such as meat, dairy and fresh produce to eligible seniors soon. We’re always looking for more volunteers to help us in our work. Our temporary phone number is 763-458-0484.

What remained of GM Tobacco on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Now, more than ever, we need the community’s support. We’re asking for financial support from individuals, organizations, businesses, churches and community groups. Donations can be sent to our temporary mailing address at P.O. Box 17133, Minneapolis, MN 55417 or by donating online through our website: LShealthyseniors.org (click the ‘Donate’ tab.)”

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Q&A with Midori’s Floating World Cafe

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

by Elena Vaughn

Photo courtesy of the Midori’s GoFundMe page

Midori’s Floating World Cafe (2629 East Lake Street) is well-known and well-loved. On June 2, a statement was posted to the restaurant’s  Facebook page, thanking seven individuals or guarding the building during the uprisings. Co-owner John Flomer answered the following questions during an email interview.

How did you learn of the seven people physically protecting your business? 

“We heard from one person who knew two people who were arrested by the National Guard while protecting our restaurant. They both left their backpacks there and asked if we could find them and hold them. We found one, but it had be[en] emptied.”

How can Asian-Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement?

Our business is open to all. We do not discriminate. Over the years we’ve hired people from every race. We are in solidarity with the cause surrounding the death of George Floyd and others. It was uncalled for and senseless brutality.

What do you want to tell protestors, either in encouragement or warning?

We are very disturbed over the senseless deaths of minority citizens and support a vocal outcry over them, including peaceful protesting.

Find the restaurant GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/restore-midori039s-floating-world-cafe

 

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Q&A with Otis Zanders of Ujamaa Place

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Elena Vaughn

Otis Zanders of Ujaama Place

Otis Zanders has had enough. “As the CEO of an organization that serves the most marginalized population in society, African American men, aged 18-30, Ujamaa Place (1821 University Ave. W. n187, St. Paul) serves on the front lines of the war on injustice by helping men navigate systemic poverty and racism, connection to the criminal justice system, homelessness and unemployment.”

What is the current situation as you see it?

Our nation has been in crisis for decades.  George Floyd’s murder was where the world said enough is enough and [it] happened at a time when the world was stood still from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Why are we here? What factors brought us to this point in time?

Our hearts are broken from the generational trauma and human rights atrocities that our people have suffered for 400 years since the recording of the first slave ship’s arrival in the U.S. We must allow the voices and strength of our ancestors to guide us through these unprecedented times and the challenging waters ahead.

 

How can white people support the Black Lives Matter movement? Can you define what “ally” means to you?

Allies can support us by denouncing racism and inequality in all forms.  An “ally” is a human being.  There is one race, the human race.

 

What needs to change in Minnesota to address the systematic racism?

NOW is the time to strategize ways to confront systemic racism in every form of injustice that exists in Minnesota. We have to change. History is being written that will teach future generations that freedom and equality is not a given. We must fight for it.  Starting NOW, Minnesota must stand on the right side of history.

 

What is your reaction to the peaceful protests and the looting?

As the son of sharecroppers from the Mississippi Delta, I witnessed firsthand at a very young age, the clear connection between the legacy of slavery and American Capitalism. Today as a husband, father, and CEO of Ujamaa Place, I still see the ways in which the legacy of slavery lives on through systemic racism and plays out in the everyday lives of African Americans. We pray that the solidarity we are witnessing from around the world is a sign that we are collectively ready to pluck the ugly root of systemic racism for good. We regret that it took the murders of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others for people to finally be fed up. We stand on mighty shoulders that taught us freedom and justice is not a given, and that we must continue to teach each generation to fight for equality.

 

Watch the YouTube video of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. explain why people protest.  “A Riot Is The Language of the Unheard.” There is no enjoyment derived from watching a city burned or looted.

 

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?  Where do we go from here as a community?

 

The world witnessed George Floyd take his last breath as the knee of a white police officer lay on his neck restricting his airways, with members of the community pleading for his life. This was a reminder that we are not yet FREE from the bonds of slavery. The institution of slavery and its byproducts – racism, inequality, poverty and injustice are alive and well in our society today. This is why at Ujamaa Place, we focus on teaching our men to navigate systems of racism and ways to eliminate roadblocks that perpetuate inequality.

 

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Q&A with Bruce Axelrod

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Bruce Axerod (photo by Elena Vaughn)

Interview conducted by Elena Vaughn

On the back of Bruce “Uncle Bubba” Axelrod’s shirt reads a Cesar Chavez quote: “The people who give you their food give you their heart.” A self-described “Buddhist Jew-boy who loves Jesus” from the Bronx, Bruce has been a resident of Trinity Apartments (2800 East 31st St.) for five years, but has loved Holy Trinity Lutheran Church for thirty. On June 3, Bruce gave the Messenger an inside look at life in the immediate aftermath.

What has your experience been during this time?
“I love our community, the diversity and people and struggle, We’ve been at ground Zero with the fires, and we support the Black Lives Matter (BLM), a lot of us, and we believe that there’s been perpetrators from the outside setting the fires. We don’t believe BLM would destroy the community. We love all the energy and people coming in and helping us. It’s been very healing.”

What have been some of the harder parts of this experience?
“It’s been traumatic being here, we’re still afraid at night. We’ve been afraid every night for our building burning, but we’re here to stay. We’re about struggle and peace and justice and making the world a better place for everybody, no matter who you are.”

Where are most of the volunteers from, to your knowledge?

“A lot of people getting the food and things are in the general vicinity of the Southside. Some might be a few blocks away, but they[‘re] coming from all over, maybe a half-mile, mile. I think everyone is in the general vicinity, and if they’re not, it don’t matter. All the food that got looted and ruined from the stores. In my heart, I believe this is God returning the food to us. The source of our blessings is God, whatever you wanna call God. There’s an abundance for everyone and love always rules over evil. Whatever your spirituality is, it don’t matter, as long as you act right, respect your elders and the children and the mas..and the people and our property. We love you, that’s what we’re about here.”

How does your personal experience affect your view of the recent uprisings?

“I’ve been in the streets against the United States Government…since I’ve been 17 years old. I wanna see systemic change. I wanna see the racism treated in this country. I ain’t against the police, I ain’t against no one, but when you’re hurting people and killing people, that’s no good. I wanna see our tax dollars used for something besides making war. I wanna see it being used for education, for roads, for better lives, for affordable housing. We work so hard and we ain’t got time for our children or ourselves cuz we’re so busy, and it shouldn’t be that hard to make do…. It’s gonna stop, it’s done.”

 

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‘Southside Strong:’ T-shirts donated to Lake Street business owners and clean-up volunteers by St. Mane

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Aric Hay (pictured left) and Bob St. Mane (pictured right in baseball cap) are partners in an entrepreneurial effort. They recently donated 500 “Southside Strong” T-shirts to business owners whose properties were damaged or destroyed by unrest along Lake Street. The T-shirts are now for sale online through St. Mane Sporting Goods. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By Margie O’Loughlin
Bob St. Mane is the second generation owner of St. Mane Sporting Goods in South Minneapolis, a store that generally does a brisk business outfitting youth sports teams throughout the year. When COVID-19 wiped out organized youth sports at least until this fall, St. Mane knew he was in trouble. It was time to start thinking outside the box.
St. Mane came up with the idea of making and selling unity T-shirts during the pandemic. The T-shirts said simply, “Minnesota Strong, Pandemic 2020.” He donated $5 from every sale to other struggling businesses; ones that, like him, hadn’t been able to get federally funded assistance because the government ran out of money.
Not only did St. Mane generate income for his own small business during the shutdown, he was able to make a significant donation to four others.
And now, he is doing it all over again.
In partnership with his next door business neighbor, Aric Hay of Print and Stitch, St. Mane is making and selling T-shirts in support of businesses lost or damaged during the recent unrest on Lake Street.
On June 9, 2020, St. Mane and Hay brought eight boxes of T-shirts to the parking lot at Roosevelt High School. They met up with dozens of community volunteers at 10 a.m., who divided into six walking teams. Each team was instructed to take a stretch of Lake Street. They went off in search of owners of damaged or looted businesses, and were tasked with giving each one a T-shirt that said “Southside Strong.”
There was to be no money collected on Lake Street that day – the 500 printed T-shirts were donated by Bob St. Mane and Aric Hay. It was just a day to show support for business owners and volunteers. Moving forward, community members can purchase T-shirts directly from St. Manes’ website at www.stmanes.com. The cost is $20, and $5 of that will be donated to the Lake Street Council’s general fund to help small businesses rebuild.
When St. Mane spoke to the crowd of volunteers at Roosevelt High School, he said, “First and foremost, we’re here to support the devastated businesses on Lake Street. We don’t want any of the stores to close permanently. We’re a small business struggling with our own problems this year, and we want to stay in business too. We get it.”
At 58 years old, St. Manes is the longest running sporting goods store in Minnesota. For more information about ordering T-shirts, call Bob St. Mane at 612-722-1447 or order online. The family-owned and operated business is located at 4159 28th Avenue South.

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