In April, an intense fire devastated historic buildings on West Broadway. After a press conference raised the possibility of arson, investigators are no closer to knowing what happened, while the neighborhood is rebuilding. “You already had a press conference with the fire chief,” Marie Egbujor told me. “They probably don’t know who did it. It’s pretty dead right now, business is pretty down.”
All photos by Kayla Steinberg
Although it was mainly a plot to cool out radical activism, Labor Day is widely remembered as a celebration of the successful fight for the eight-hour day. Yet, while we’re approaching the United States’ 121st official Labor Day, it is now impossible for low-wage Minnesota workers to support their families while working only eight hours a day. Anthony Shields, a young community organizer with the workers rights campaign at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), remembers the struggles his single mother faced working two full time jobs. “I would only see my mother for five hours a day, and between those five hours, she was exhausted and trying to get some rest, just because her one full time job wasn’t enough for food, not enough for the rent, and not enough for clothes on our backs,” he said. “In retrospect I’m like wow, you hold resentment towards your parents or your family because of certain situations, but now when you peel back the layers, it’s the system of the economics, and my entire family is affected by it.”
This system of economic inequality and the struggles that Shields’ mother and over 220,000 minimum wage workers in the Twin Cities metro area face today, along with how activists across the country and in the Twin Cities are fighting for fair wages and schedules, remind local labor historian, Peter Rachleff, of the 1886 fight for the eight-hour day. Continue Reading
From Cedar to Chicago Avenue..sweltering humidity or not, folks showed up for another summer edition of Open Streets. This time the spotlight was on Franklin Avenue-home to the largest population of urban Native Americans in the country. Franklin Avenue is also home to one of the oldest libraries in the city and many Somali and East African folks. Open Streets brought them all together for a day of bicycling and walking down one of the most diverse places in the city. See for yourself… Continue Reading
Since 1937, Columbus Day has been recognized as a national holiday. On August 12th, St. Paul becomes the sixth city in the United States to swap that holiday for Indigenous People’s Day. This marks the beginning of a hard fought effort to heal a deep wound at the heart of this nation. The resolution was sponsored by Ward One Council member Dai Thao and sailed through council chambers on a seven-zero vote. Members of the Native American community and the Saint Paul Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission drafted the original document. Continue Reading
Tweet Review – Trans Families – compelling readers theater about shifting identities fraying couples at the edges – 4.5 stars
Seems I’ve just been seeing the wrong Christy Marie Kent Fringe shows until now. Though Kent is an award winning storyteller, her performance style back in 2012 when I was intrigued enough by her preview for Moonshine, Madness and Murder to drop in and see the full show, left me a little underwhelmed. To be fair, each of her first Fringe shows (both dealing with moonshine and cloistered monks and nuns) were test-driving material for her upcoming novel, so they weren’t meant to be either strictly theatrical in nature, or even ideal presentations as storytelling or spoken word. Kent decided to use the Fringe as a laboratory to fine-tune her material, and if that’s how she wanted to spend her money, good for her. For whatever reason, be it subject matter or presentation, it wasn’t really grabbing me, so I sat the next couple of Kent shows out. “Few people carry around as much baggage as trans folks with wives and kids.”
As luck would have it, I got out just as things probably got interesting. Kent’s next two Fringe shows began to deal with her own story of transitioning as a transgender woman. While this year’s low-key Fringe preview of her latest offering, Trans Families, still didn’t grab me, the subject matter of the show did – families in which the father reveals to the family that from birth they’d always felt as if they’d been placed in the wrong body, and so began their transition to living new lives as women. These weren’t Kent’s own stories, but were nonetheless true stories of other transgender people and their families transforming as identities shifted. Kent is collecting these tales for a non-fiction book about transitioning parents with children. “I’ve been a trucker for 20 years, but a woman for less than 10.”
The thing that got me in the door to see Trans Families was the addition to the cast of Erica Fields reading the role of Danielle, a trucker and father who risks losing everything, including his marriage and family, in order to be true to she really was. (In the interests of full disclosure, Fields performed the role of the transgender minister in the Minnesota premiere of my play But Not For Love a few years back. That’s how I know what a good actress she is, and she brought that same vitality and talent to liven up Trans Families.)
“Relationships are like diesel engines.”
Kent read the role of Jamie, formerly Jimmy, who adopted a child prior to transitioning, and also found herself on the verge of losing her wife and family on the journey to finding herself. Kent’s soft-spoken delivery works in the context of the larger show in a way it didn’t quite land in the preview. Her acting chops, though still a work in progress, have improved since I saw her last. “You might have been Daniel at one time, but all I see is Danielle.”
The church, the law and extended family all apply pressure in the stories of Danielle and Jamie, fueling intolerance that drives both women to the brink of suicide. But since they’re alive to tell the tale, you know that some twist of fortune reels them back in again. Life is persistent, and full of surprises. Continue Reading
You don’t get a great deal of music or theater from South Asia in the Twin Cities. There have, however, been noteworthy productions, among them Zaraawar Mistry performing his original solo piece “Indian Cowboy.” Rajib Bahar makes a promising bid to join said select company, staging “Hey Bangladesh,” a wryly intriguing premise, at the MN Fringe Festival for his fledgling Serendipity Productions. Hey Bangladesh centers on the fairly addlebrained yet happily fortuitous exploits of a fellow named Boltu, who, after accidentally head-butting a cow, comes up with the bright idea of launching his very own music show to go against the hit program “Bangladesh Idol.” It kind of sounds like a dyed-in-the-wool send-up on the order of, oh, Jack and the Beanstalk come “American Idol”. The quality of free-wheeling wild ideas area stages saw with Lonnie Carter’s “The Lost Boyz” and Marcie Rendon’s “Free Fry Bread.” Theater of the absurd isn’t for everyone. Continue Reading
Every year I clear out the past year’s top 10 to make room for ten more promising acts I’m excited to see. For the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival, they are:
1 – FurTrader Productions – Confessions of a Delinquent Cheerleader
Who were you in High School? Hear true stories of a reformed cheerleader/bad girl at a private school back in the late 1980s. At times hilarious, at times tragic, she shares her “glory days” for all to judge. I was already fairly sure this was going to be one great comedic solo show, just by virtue of the fact that Mame Pelletier is involved. That fact that it’s her script and her story only reinforced that instinct. Her Fringe preview made it clear I would not be allowed to even entertain doubts about this one. It’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun. Can’t wait. 2 – Little Lifeboats – Confessions of a Butter Princess or Why The Cow Jumped Over The Moon
On the planet Ceres, Alex, a Cow, and a Queen are trying to escape the wrath of the Princess Kay Chorus. Continue Reading
FLOW Northside 2015 is officially underway. Now in its tenth year, the annual arts crawl continues to celebrate arts and community in North Minneapolis. The festivities kicked off on Thursday with a block party that incorporated dance, discussion and visual art. It continues on Friday with various gallery showings, arts activities, performances and food leading up to the main event on Saturday.
For their 10th anniversary, FLOW has expanded to include Plymouth Avenue. And they’ve increased the number of artists with links to Minneapolis’s North side.
Below are some top picks for this weekend.
Friday and Saturday
Juxtaposition (JXTA) Textile Lab
1104 W Broadway Ave
Fri. 3-7pm, Sat. 1-7pm
While most of Juxtaposition’s events are slotted to take place on Saturday, on Friday, early birds can check out the North Minneapolis art hub’s newly opened storefront. The storefront was designed and remodeled by a handful of JXTA’s own instructors and apprentices. For a small fee, those looking for a more hands-on experience can also bring a shirt to make their own textile or screen-print. Other pre-printed gear and apparel will also be on sale. Continue Reading
On July 4, 2015, dozens of people rode bicycles to Lake Calhoun to confront the legacy of white supremacy that symbolizes South Minneapolis. The confrontation turned out to be more than historical. Continue Reading
The second annual “Your Crew vs. My Crew” dance competition finished out this year’s Rondo Days, which celebrates the black community that once thrived where I-94 now cuts through St. Paul.
“Every year we celebrate Rondo Days and the people and community who once stood there,” Leviticus Martin, the host of the event, proclaimed to a cheering audience during intermission of the competition. “So keep that in your minds and in your hearts when you come to Rondo Days, to the festival, to the parade, to the competition, that’s what it’s about. It’s about the community, it’s about love.”
The competition took place at Gangelhoff Arena on the Concordia University campus on Saturday, July 18th and lasted almost three hours. The competition and dance exhibition included nine crews from Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska. Continue Reading
Is a long awaited grocery going to help or hurt a historical black neighborhood?
An organic co-op moving into an historically African-American neighborhood in Minneapolis sparks fight over community benefits. Neighbors are asking for hiring and wage agreements, but negotiations have broken down. Continue Reading