Nearly 1,000 profile stories of women have been shared in the Minnesota Women's Press. The first was of comedienne Merrilyn Belgum, in Volume 1, Issue 1, April 16, 1985. Belgum died in May 2014 at age 89.

Happy 30th anniversary, Minnesota Women’s Press!

“What if women were in charge of public words and the news? What if our voices were being heard?” These questions became the impetus for a women’s newspaper when it was just a dream in the head of Mollie Hoben in 1983. At the time, she was on leave from her job as a teacher of vision-impaired students. She was working as editor of the Park Bugle, a community newspaper in St. Paul, and was taking classes in feminist studies in literature at the University of Minnesota. Continue Reading

Historic "redlining" maps of Minneapolis anad Saint Paul; blacks were unable to get access to federally subsidized mortgages.

Increased Black home ownership would slice wealth gap

Researchers studying the affects of public policy on the racial wealth gap estimated that the median wealth of Black households would rise 451 percent if Blacks owned homes at the same rates as Whites.“With policies that advance the rate of Black and Latino homeownership to the same rate as White households, Black median wealth would more than quadruple and Latino media wealth would more than triple,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a public policy group that advocates for political and economic equality.A joint effort by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP), a research group that advocates for economic opportunity, security and equity for individuals and families, detailed the key factors in housing, education, and the labor market that have contributed to the racial wealth gap for generations.The report by said that the median Black household had $7,113 in wealth holdings compared to the median White household, which had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011.“Black households hold only 6 percent of the wealth owned by White households, which amounts to a total wealth gap of $104,033, and Latino households hold only 8 percent of the wealth owned by White households, a wealth gap of $102,798,” stated the report. “In other words, a typical White family owns $15.63 for every $1 owned by a typical Black family and $13.33 for every $1 owned by a typical Latino family.”According to the report if public policy eliminated racial disparities in income, the median Black wealth would grow $11,488 and if disparities in college graduation rates were eradicated, median Black wealth would grow $1,313.Thomas Shapiro, the director at IASP, said that the racial wealth gap is one of the most critical issues as the United States moves into the 21st century. Shapiro said that researchers designed a new tool called the “Racial Wealth Audit,” to get a real, objective handle on the impact of policy on wealth accumulation in the United States and what the racial wealth gap really looks like.Tamara Draut, the vice president of policy and research at Demos, said that while researchers and policy analysts have been heartened by the burgeoning debate surrounding rising inequality in the United States and the implications that it has for all of our standards of living, the underlying racial divide that underpins so much of the inequality in this country is less understood and less talked about.“In addition, Black and Latino college graduates saw a lower return on their degrees than White graduates: for every $1 in wealth that accrues to median Black households associated with a college degree, median White households accrue $11.49,” stated the report.Black families also experienced lower returns on the income that they earned, when compared to White families.“If households of color had the same wealth returns estimated for White families with similar incomes, the racial wealth gap would decrease by 43 percent,” said Tatjana Meschede, the research director at IASP. “To make progress in closing the racial wealth gap, policies need to address both income inequality and differential wealth returns to income.”Meschede said policy recommendations to address income inequality included raising the minimum wage, the creation of a federal jobs program and increasing unionization.“Homeownership is the largest reservoir of wealth and financial stability that American families have,” said Thomas Shapiro, the director at IASP. “It’s just that it is so inequitably distributed at this point in time in the value of wealth that it creates.”With the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, the United States government sanctioned lenders to use “redlining” to systematically deny Blacks access to that reservoir of wealth for decades.“While redlining was officially outlawed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, its impact in the form of residential segregation patterns persists with households of color more likely to live in neighborhoods characterized by higher poverty rates, lower home values, and a declining infrastructure compared to neighborhoods inhabited predominantly by White residents,” stated the report. Continue Reading

Deb Meyer (at podium) with participants of The Historical Society and the Human Rights Commission of Bloomington Special Presentation on Black History Month. Photo by James L. Stroud

Bloomington’s ‘Special Presentation’ on Black History involved no Blacks

An all-White crowd heard about slavery and the Underground Railroad from an admittedly uninformed White presenterOn Sunday, February 22, in honor of Black History Month, the Bloomington Historical Society and the Human Rights Commission of Bloomington, Minnesota invited the public to a free “Special Presentation” on the use of quilts by slaves seeking their freedom via the Underground Railroad. Deb Meyer, from Henderson, MN was hired by the Bloomington Historical Society to present and unravel the mystery behind quilts and the coded patterns sewn on them to guide slaves along the Underground RailroadThe room in Bloomington’s Old Town Hall, 10200 Penn. Ave. S., was filled to capacity with just over 100 people, 90 percent of them women. Besides the MSR writer covering the event, there was only one other African American present. Continue Reading

The original visionaries of Lao Minnesota: Phouninh and Khoutong Vixayvong

For the Lao in Minnesota, heritage preservation was robust and vital in building community roots in the late 80s through early 90s. Lao PTA and Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota had programs focused on Lao language, culture and arts; and even a Lao Summer School for youth. One of the many well-known leaders during the resettlement period was Phouninh Vixayvong, a retired educator with a fierce teaching style. She’s also a long-time social services veteran at Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, where she still assists elders navigating the public system one minute and debating with Lao men in the lobby about the latest community issue the next minute. She is one of many maes to the Lao community, teaching the first wave of Lao refugee immigrants for 15 years and founding the first ever Lao Women’s Association in the state, addressing teen pregnancy and breast cancer awareness. Continue Reading

A weekend to think about this nation at war and at risk

The coming weekend marks not one but significant dates in American history. Sunday, December 7, is familiar to many Americans as the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the efficient cause of the Second World War. Since 1994 that global tragedy has been officially designated as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, a date that FDR correctly predicted would live in infamy. (See earlier post) Continue Reading


Gratitude, Nordic style

Tuesday morning I attended the 30th Annual Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast. The event is sponsored by the Sons of Norway and is a charitable venture (donations were collected for Second Harvest Heartland and the Minnesota Military Family Foundation) loaded with local celebrities, politicians, and 963 guests. I sat at a table in the back dubbed The Johnson Table. Of ten at our table, seven of us were Johnsons. The event was, as 2014 Event Chair Bruce Karstadt observed, “Fika on steroids.” (Fika is a Swedish tradition meaning to take a break, most often with coffee, with colleagues, friends, or family. It is both a verb and a noun.) Continue Reading

(Photo by Juliet Farmer) More than 100 people turned out to a “Dinkytown Reunion” on Nov. 23,2014, with many calling for the area to be deemed historic.

Dinkytown fans rally for historic preservation

Don Olson saw Dinkytown through some of its most memorable social and political movements during the 1960s.As Vietnam War protests flared up at colleges across the country, the former student activist, who dropped out in 1967 to focus on activism full time, was at the front lines of the University of Minnesota’s movement. Around the same time, a fast food restaurant called Red Barn was proposed in place of five businesses in the area. Olson supported a protest of the establishment that would become one of the most famous in Dinkytown’s history.Read more TC Daily Planet coverage of Dinkytown.Olson was among more than 100 people with ties to the area who gathered Sunday in the Varsity Theater to share personal stories and to watch presentations about the district’s history. The gathering was put on partially in hopes of assisting the city of Minneapolis with its historical designation study of the area.If city leaders decide the district qualifies as historic, it could preserve about 30 buildings.Preserve Historic Dinkytown, an organization that resulted from the historical study’s announcement early last spring, held the “Dinkytown Reunion.” Though it wasn’t sponsored by the city, the event was held in part to help city planner Haila Maze gather physical and oral histories related to the area that she may not have had access to otherwise.“It doesn’t simplify things to bring an oral history,” Maze said, “but it does sort of [add] a richer, deeper definition to the discussion.”As short films and presentations played out on the theater’s stage, supporters of the area’s preservation reminisced at tables and couches.Yearbooks from 1950 and 1960 were laid out among a timeline, historical photos and maps from the University dating back to the 1930s.Nancy Smith was a student at the University from 1961 to 1966. Formerly a regular in Dinkytown’s various shops and its art scene, Smith attended Sunday’s event to support the area’s preservation.“I guess I have a soft spot for Dinkytown, and I want to see that its integrity is maintained,” she said.Later in life, Smith became friends with Laurie Savran, who also graduated from the University in 1966 and married Bill Savran — owner of Savran Bookstore, which had a location across the river in Cedar-Riverside.Laurie Savran remembers frequenting various coffee shops in Dinkytown, like the Ten O’Clock Scholar. Continue Reading