toxic stress

“I’m ready to die” Jamar Clark, school violence and toxic stress

What does it say when, within a minute of the police arriving, a young black man speaks those words? And when, within 61 seconds, that young black man lies dead? What does it say when teachers who are worried about their (and their students’) safety are labeled racist? What does it say when the vast majority of our children who grow up in worlds of “toxic stress” are low-income students and students of color? It says a lot about us, about our disregard for our children, particularly the most vulnerable. Continue Reading

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McCollum, Ellison cosponsor resolution calling for end to conversion therapy

Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are cosponsors of a resolution in the U.S. House that calls on states to ban conversion therapy for minors. The Stop Harming Our Kids Resolution was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California. McCollum and Ellison are among 34 co-sponsors of the resolution.The SHOK resolution states, in part:It is the sense of Congress that sexual orientation and gender identity or expression change efforts directed at minors are discredited and ineffective, have no legitimate therapeutic purpose, and are dangerous and harmful.Congress encourages each State to take steps to protect minors from efforts that promote or promise to change sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness or developmental disorder that can or should be cured.“It’s time to end this abusive quackery masquerading as medicine,” Speier said in statement. “Being transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Documentary film hires north Minneapolis youth to challenge dominant narratives

In September of 2013, I joined the Community Technology Empowerment Project AmeriCorps, or CTEP (“C-tep”) for short. I’ve spent the last year promoting digital access and literacy with my cohort of 30-some fellow AmeriCorps members throughout the Twin Cities. That’s where I met Adja Gildersleve. Adja has a vision. She is, among other things, a documentarist, and wants to engage our local communities in dialogue about issues she’s passionate about, like racial and social equity, empowerment of community voices, and digital literacy. She had been dreaming up this particular project for a while, and has been so excited to make it into a reality. Continue Reading

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Youth Performance Company’s Artistic Director Jacie Knight: “Freedom Riders” a reminder there’s more work to do for equality

Freedom Riders is an original musical production created for the Youth Performance Company by Jacie Knight, Matt Koskenmaki and Kahlil Queen (music and lyrics).  In the summer of 1961, a group of students boarded buses to challenge segregation. Next to Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Emmett Till (don’t miss Penumbra’s production The Ballad of Emmett Till), the March on Washington and all the events in Birmingham, Alabama, the Freedom Riders created a force that spanned the divisions of race. These young people fought for one common goal: equality.    Continue Reading

Crystal Ruiz, host of Capri Theater's Freedom of Xpression Open Mic

Capri Theater’s Open Mic offers a lab for performance talent in North Minneapolis

The young woman sauntered onto the stage, cracked a half smile then pulled the mike almost to her lips.  The lights dimmed, music piped in and the spotlight turned onto her.   The smoky voice that emerged from this girl was surprising as was the melody.  Here on the Capri Theater stage in North Minneapolis, an African American girl was singing a jazz song popularized by Billie Holiday, an American cultural icon of the 1940s.  The audience of about 50 young students, teens and middle aged folks hooted and howled encouragement when this aspiring singer ended her rendition.  She glowed with a big smile, waved, and bounded off into the wings. This performance is typical of the monthly Open Mic sessions at the Capri Theater.  Held on the first Monday evening, Freedom of Xpression (FOX) provides a free platform for emerging and amateur artists to test and hone their art form.  Anyone who wishes an audience for her creative expressions has five minutes to unleash that talent at Capri’s FOX Open Mic.  Poets, rappers, dancers, singers, musicians have come on stage to get a no-risk and free opportunity to share their craft with a diverse audience.  Any art form is allowed and the range of expressions is wide.   Immediately following a hip-hop poet, a Hmong student played the queej (traditional pan flute) and danced to rousing audience approval at a recent FOX Open Mic.FULL DISCLOSURE: Lee-Hoon Benson works for PCYC.  Poet Crystal “Azteca” Ruiz has hosted the Capri’s FOX Open Mic since late 2009. This emcee role is a natural outgrowth from Ruiz’s regular job as a student advisor at the alternative high school run by Plymouth Christian Youth Center (PCYC). Hosting the monthly FOX Open Mic also allows Ruiz to publicly share her creative impulses.  Soft-spoken yet firm, Ruiz is passionate about giving young people a chance to develop their talents and test their alter egos on stage.  Ruiz encourages the high school students at PCYC to perform at FOX Open Mic.  She especially reaches out to female students.  Many high schoolers have taken up Ruiz’s offer; some for the first time, but many reprising or honing their earlier FOX Open Mic performances.   Since its inception more than five years ago, FOX Open Mic has drawn performers mainly from neighborhoods that surround the Capri Theater.  Many North Minneapolis performance groups have tested and refined their material here.  One such group is the “Why So Serious” hip-hop collective of North Minneapolis.  Collective member, Marquis “Eddiecane” Harris, said performing more than a dozen times at Capri’s FOX Open Mic gave them the exposure they needed.  “Why So Serious” has produced several albums since 2010. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | East Side of St. Paul is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ until a serious incident happens

In recent weeks, a devastating incident occurred on the Eastside of St. Paul where several teens allegedly beat a passerby until he was unconscious. This is a circumstance that no person should have to endure. One of the notable pieces of information that has surfaced is the fact that the passerby was white and the teens were African American. Although some within the broader community argue that the attack was based on race, the reality is that in light of the circumstances under which the attack occurred, the victim could arguably have been any individual who was within the vicinity of the young people in question. Actually, a similar severe beating of an innocent Black man, Edwin Daniel, by five young Somali men occurred on the Eastside just a few years prior to this most recent incident.The factors that contribute to these types of horrific episodes, including shootings by young people against other young people, may revolve around underlying issues at the intersection of race and poverty that are pervasive on the East Side of St. Continue Reading