Ferguson, USA, a serious issue teamed with excellent talent

Maxwell Collyard, author of “Ferguson, USA” at the MN Fringe Festival, quotes James Baldwin, “Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person — ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

Richard Pryor said the same thing more succinctly, “You come down to the jail looking for justice and that’s what you’ll find. Just us.” Whether you adhere to eloquent articulation or go in for a shoot from the hip quip, there’s no arguing against the significance of Collyard’s voice, a contemporary theater artist dramatizing the tragedy that resonated across the nation. It’s billed as what he calls, “a collage of voices and spoken word inspired by witness interviews, media coverage, and the Department of Justice report [on] Ferguson, Missouri. In this story, a tragedy in the neighborhood incites residents to expose and fight a broken justice system funded by poverty.” Hardly a new story in American society. Continue Reading

The PGBC Marching Saints dance and drill team raise their fists during the Black National Anthem at intermission of the Rondo Days dance competition.

“Your Crew vs. My Crew” creates community amidst competition at Rondo Days [Photos]

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

Ward nine residents packed Friday's city council meeting

City moves forward with water yard site in Phillips

In a 10- 3 vote, Minneapolis city council members decided to move forward with acquiring the former Roof Depot site for a city owned water treatment facility, despite neighborhood opposition. Council members Johnson, Gordon and Cano voted against it. Members of the Phillips community, where the site would be located, say the proposed facility is yet another industrial site in a neighborhood plagued with pollution and environmental justice concerns. See the story in Monday’s Daily Planet for more background. There was a brief discussion about adopting an amendment put forth by ward nine council member Alondra Cano, which would have required city staff and departments to work with community members when developing the site. Continue Reading

Phillips neighbors oppose new Water Yard site

People in the Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis are incensed about a new proposed water-maintenance site (or, a water yard) they say will add to the pollution of the area. Seeing little promise of new jobs from the new site, neighbors will be packing the Ways and Means committee meeting of the City Council on Monday to urge council members to vote no on allowing city staff to enter into negotiations over purchasing the property. “Phillips has been dumping grounds and forget-me-nots of polluters for several years now,” says Jose Luis Villasenor, the Executive Director of the local nonprofit Tamales y Bicicletas. He’s been a resident of East Phillips for 19-20 years. “We have been working with the community and local stakeholders about how to get rid of the polluters.”

The community group East Phillips Improvement Coalition (EPIC) had two realizations when it came to the site, Villasenor said. Continue Reading

See Pha Vang, a parent and teacher at Phalen Lake Hmong Magnet School

Speaking truth to power: Parents, teachers and students rally against cuts to Saint Paul schools

On Monday, June 1st, an hour after word began to spread of movement in the K-12 education budget stalemate between Governor Dayton and Republican legislators, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers sponsored a rally protesting potential layoffs of teachers, educational assistants, counselors and other staff, some of whom have already received pink slips. Parents, students, teachers and an elementary school principal spoke truth to power: members of the St. Paul legislative delegation, who sat in the front row of the auditorium at St. Paul Central High School. In attendance were State Representatives Erin Murphy, Dave Pinto, Rena Moran, Carlos Mariani, John Lesch, Sheldon Johnson and State Senators Dick Cohen and Sandy Pappas. Members of the St. Paul delegation not in attendance were State Representatives Alice Hausman and Tim Mahoney and State Senators John Marty and Foung Hawj. Continue Reading

Local comic book artist claims violation by TSA agents

Z.M. Thomas, a Minnesota-based comic book writer and publisher, claims to be a victim of First Amendment violations by the Transportation Safety Agency at Philadelphia International Airport. Upon returning from his round trip Delta Airlines flight to Wizard World ComicCon in Philadelphia, he discovered severe damage to most of his copies of his title “Bible 2”. Additional non-religious titles in his baggage were left undamaged. Among the titles that were left undamaged was his latest book “Sioux Falls”. This book is a retelling of his families’ experiences during the Sioux Uprising of 1862. Continue Reading

Drivers license bill stalls as session ends

Much-awaited legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (HF97) was shot down in the House Transportation Committee as the 2015 legislative session hurtled to a close.  All House Republicans voted against incorporating the language into legislation at a 5-5 vote. “The bill is included in a transportation bill, and the only thing that the house has to do is to agree with the bill that is being proposed by the Senate. The House simply has no excuse not to do this this year. They made a commitment last year. Continue Reading

Picture of 10-year-old boy allegedly maced by Minneapolis police during demonstration.

10-year-old pepper-sprayed by Minneapolis Police during downtown protest

Social media videos capture scenes of a police officer spraying protestors. Outraged, some protestors and community members are demanding action be taken against the officer.

Shortly after 10 p.m., videos began to surface showing protesters in the streets marching peacefully. Off camera, a police siren can be heard. Moments later amid screams, you could hear someone yelling, “You just maced a 10-year-old kid.” Continue Reading

Director Aditi Kapil

THEATER REVIEW: Stepping out of the River at Dawn

Mixed Blood Theatre arguably brandishes the strongest track record in Twin Cities’theatre scene for living up to its espoused mission to honor cultural diversity.  Be it issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, politics, the shop’s founding artistic director Jack Reuler has, since 1976, sustained a hallmark of social comment cum theatrical expression. Last week, this season closed, conventionally anyway, with Pussy Valley, humanizing sex-industry working women.  Convention being never having been Reuler’s long suit, he’s tagged on, for this coming weekend, the conclusion of Mixed Blood’s 55454 Series, limited-run productions to do with Africans and Muslims in America.  It began in January with Yussef El Guindi’s Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World. Continue Reading