Back in action at the Black Dog

Get in off the 294 express bus from Minneapolis and am way early for the gig at Black Dog Wine and Coffee Bar in Lowertown.  So, I take a little stroll around and am almost homesick: this part of St. Paul reminds me so much of Greenwich Village back in NYC.  Laid back, bohemian – a damn nice place to take a quiet walk.  Looking for a burger joint, happen upon the St. Paul Saints’ ballpark.  It’s beautiful.  Mainly because it’s a professional baseball field with all that electrifying atmosphere and you can actually get close up on the diamond.  I drop in at Mike Kelly’s Depot Bar & Grill.  The food and service are damned good blue-collar fare. A well-done bacon-cheeseburger, onion rings and a Coke later, I head over to the Black Dog.  It has been a hell of a long time since I had a real gig.  Not since Hell’s Kitchen about 5 years ago.  I’d done a year and a half or so at Corner Coffee in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District, but this was for pay, not tips.  Get over and Brian Charles Tischleder is roaming around, trying to do something about parking.  Haven’t seen the cat in ages.  That was another time opening for him.  Well, opening for James Curry, his duo with guitarist Casey Fearing.  Reviewed Brian’s Dreams & Fear CD for the Planet – damned good music.  We, of course, immediately start chewing the rag,  Before he has to get with his wife Ka Vang – poet/spoken word artist with whom he pulled strings to get me on the bill – he promises to see can he dig an old recording of James Curry as a four-piece band.  Would love to hear that.  Spot a poster for the show on the wall with pictures of names: am in pretty sweet company Rush Merchant headlining, Ka Vang, Lauren Koshere and Brian Charles Tischleder.  Nope, not too shabby at all.  And Saint Paul Almanac is filming.  Make a mental note to swipe that poster before the end of the night. Am doing my set, happen to catch sight in the back of the room of my man Bill Borea (a/k/a pro rassler Billy Blaze a/k/a William Borea,playwright, screen writer, director, actor).  The guy came clear over South Minneapolis. Continue Reading

Garbage action alert….

After years of controversy in Minneapolis, ending with rejection of a burning increase at the HERC garbage burner, controversy seems to be shifting to St. Paul/Ramsey County, where officials have their own incineration schemes. More below:

Washington and Ramsey counties are planning to spend over $26 million to buy a now-privately-owned garbage grinding facility in Newport, Minnesota. By making it a publicly owned facility they would be able to use “flow control” to force all the haulers in the two counties to bring their garbage there. An unregulated monopoly would come into being. Continue Reading

Community Comes Together in Fire Relief Efforts

On the morning of Wednesday, April 15th, a fire completely destroyed a row of apartments and storefronts on West Broadway. Approximately 30 persons residing in 11 households were displaced by the fire, with several stores and offices destroyed. This event was indeed a tragedy, but the swift response from neighbors affirms some of the values central to the Northside: collaboration, resilience, and community. Continue Reading

Invest in housing supports to maximize investments in education

As the school year comes to a close, lawmakers are considering an investment of $39 million to address homelessness and housing shortages in Minnesota, as proposed by the Homes for All alliance. Working every day in schools, my colleagues and I know how essential safe and stable housing is to our students and fully support this proposed investment. Each year, 13,000 students in Minnesota experience homelessness and lack a stable place to call home. Last school year, nearly 4,000 were enrolled in Minneapolis Public Schools. Research has shown the negative impact homeless can have on academic performance. Continue Reading

The Coptic Grave

The Coptic Grave…
Standing along with a few hundreds Muslims at the Garden of Eden Islamic Cemetery located in a remote corner of a Christian cemetery in Burnsville, Minnesota; mourning the death of one of our friends. The reverences and the respect were not just giving by Muslims who came to offer their respect, but by the staff and workers at the Christian cemetery. Everyone was taken by the gravity of the situation; cemetery workers dog the grave, carry the coffin, dangling inside the grave and waited quietly away until the end of burial, cleaned up and walked away. I thought wow, what a contrast; Muslims in the United States, in post 9/11 era are constantly exposed to all sorts of bigotry and discrimination,  media demonization, are chased, attacked, racially profiled at Airport, spied on in schools, mosques, and young Muslims are entrapped by FBI for show and tell press conferences. But when they die they are welcomed and giving most respect at Christian cemetery in unmarked graves not too far distant from dead Christians. Continue Reading

Parent engagement and early learning scholarships or universal public preschool?

Minnesota has made some progress since the U.S. Department of Education published data in 2012, which ranked our state as the worst and near-worst in the achievement gap and HS graduation rates of disadvantaged children. The 2014 performance of these Minnesota students has improved and the achievement gap has been reduced. But we still have a long way to go to ensure equal opportunity for all children. One initiative that is likely to make a difference is the Early Learning Scholarship program, for which the Legislature appropriated $46 million dollars for 2013 and 2014, $4.6m for 2015 and $9.7m for 2016-17. The scholarships help thousands of children reap the benefits of high-quality preschool. Continue Reading

Our (their?) legislature in action. Should we laugh, cry, or organize?

Well, the Minnesota Legislature is entering its last week, with a great deal of mischief in the pipeline and not much to feel good about.  Most Minnesotans seem to have little real idea what’s going on and how their interests are threatened.  How would they know?  Who would tell them?  I’m subscribed to the email newsletters of maybe six Senators and Representatives.  Not one tells constituents what’s really going on. Even a casual visit to the Capital makes painfully clear that most legislators’ primary relationships are with each other, regardless of party, and with lobbyists, not with citizens. Let’s envision a discussion in a House Committee.  Rep. Jean Wagenius points out that climate change is a serious threat to Minnesota and further  steps need to be taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  She and her colleagues say the Republican plan to roll back energy efficiency and “green” energy quotas is irresponsible. Committee Chair Pat Garofolo, also Minnesota co-chair of ALEC, the Koch Machine, in Minnesota, responds: “Reputable scientists have established that the earth is really flat and the moon is largely made of green cheese.”  One of his fellow Republicans responds “Definitely cheese, but possibly not *green* cheese; the flatness question needs further investigation.” A DFL member says: “This is silly, American astronauts collected rocks on the moon and brought them home.  The moon is made of rock.”  Garofolo interjects: “I wish my liberal friends would use a little common sense.  You would not deny that both cheese and rocks are found on the surface of the earth, and the moon is an offshoot of the earth, so it follows that both cheese and rocks are also on the moon.”

A long discussion ensues, a hearing is scheduled, and the next day the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports “Legislators differ on how to protect Minnesota cheese makers from unfair competition.”

At the hearing, a lobbyist from the Farmers Union expresses concern about unfair competition from Mooncheese.  He admits that none has yet been seen in Minnesota, but claims local producers need protection against such a serious threat. A lobbyist for the Farm Bureau says the highest authority on Earth, Monsanto, says Mooncheese is safe and healthy because any harmful organisms would be zapped by intergalactic radiation.  And, each container of cheese can be dipped in Roundup [glyphosate] to ensure that no lunar superweeds sneak in.  Committee members nod approvingly. Continue Reading

Women Leading Change: Profile of Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine has played a key role in advancing justice in the arena of civil rights. Arnwine has served as the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for over 26 years. Within this leadership role, her stance has been strong and her commitment has been unwavering to secure through rule of law, equal justice under the law. One such example is her determination to protect one of our most fundamental rights— voting. She has waged war against the direct assault of democracy as evidenced by laws and policies which restrict access to the ballot box. Continue Reading

No Easy Answers

You go to a community gathering; you believe that the speaker, a white male, will listen and take you, a white woman, and your friends in: black and white men, black and white women. And he does, for a moment, but he seems to be crouching there, waiting to spring with his response. To give him credit, he lets us talk and even nods his head and affirms us. Yet he dominates the room. I wanted a circle, I wanted him to end the cyclic way his words came back and back and back to integration as the only solution to educational reform. Continue Reading

Cinco de Mayo

It started as invasion by France to collect a debt, but the larger and better equipped French invasion force was defeated by a ragged group of Mexicans, some armed with little more than machetes and pitchforks. The Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862 was 150 years ago this Saturday. Continue Reading