COMMUNITY VOICES | Celebrities make a child’s dream come true in St. Paul

Minneapolis, Minnesota native and NHL athlete Dustin Byfuglien was one of the many celebrities who participated in Celebrity Sweat’s annual celebrity softball event to support over a dozen local children organizations.On Saturday, July 12, the Saint Paul Saints hosted Celebrity Sweat’s Ninth Annual Celebrity Softball Challenge at Midway Stadium. This event included a softball match between team captains Daunte Culpepper, former NFL All-Pro quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, against Five-time Heavyweight Boxing World Champion Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield. There were also pregame festivities for fans and challenges sponsored by DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse).“I’m here for the kids, the charity and [Celebrity] Sweat. It’s an all-around good thing for a Saturday afternoon,” Byfuglien said.One of the children’s organizations benefiting from this event was Hope Kids, an organization supporting children who are facing life threatening illnesses. Gabby Madenwaldt has been volunteering for Hope Kids for nearly half a decade and said it’s a “good [program] for children with illnesses and I’m glad to be a part of it.” At the event, she helped check-in families who attended including mother Tawana Terrell, whom arrived with her family.Terrell has been with the program since 2007 as she’s the mother of a child who went on to become a cancer survivor. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Band of Heathens at the Turf Club: Rock and country, blues and gospel Texas style

Saturday night I went to the Turf Club expecting to see Communist Daughter. Much as I like Communist Daughter I was delighted to get there and see that the Band of Heathens was playing. (Johnny and Molly from Communist Daughter played before them.) Luckily I happened to sit next to a huge Band of Heathens fan who filled me in on their backstory. They’re from Austin Texas, they have played for about 10 years and they have a huge following; they concentrate on live shows. As my new friend suggested – if you like rock and country, blues and gospel Texas style, you’ll love them. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | You really don’t want to meet the Dicks at Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America

I’m not one to cry. Truth is, I rarely cry, but during a visit to Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America I was literally reduced to tears! The bartender was abusive, abrasive, and mean as HELL. I wasn’t sure why he was in a bad mood, but later found out that it is their “niche” to be mean as spitfire. Were they really trained to treat people like this, to the point of harassment? Continue Reading

Frogtown landmark served German, Hmong and LGBT communities – fate is now before court

In the 1890s, German immigrants gathered at Dietsch’s Hall in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, and today a Somali immigrant couple wants to make it a gathering place for newer immigrants. Their plans have run into a problem: the City of St. Paul is trying to have the building at 601 N. Western demolished. Now the dispute is in the courts, with both a contest over the demolition order and a new lawsuit by the owners, Alex Jerome and Ameena Samatar, alleging discrimination. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The element of discipline that leads to success

A microcosm of the transformative work that Dalton Outlaw and Element Boxing and Fitness does, comes in the form of a young man named Deonte.Deonte, according to Outlaw, walked into Element about five years ago as an unmotivated teenager on the doorstep of making some pretty bad choices. He stuck with an intense training routine, working and sweating nearly everyday at the Element gym. He’s turned his life around, Outlaw says. “He committed to something positive and that correlated to life in the outside world.” Deonte now has a good job and is entrusted with teaching boxing skills to the young children in the gym.Outlaw and his partner and childhood friend Ceresso Fort built the business of Element Boxing and Fitness and the nonprofit Element Boxing Academy not just to provide their hometown of St. Paul with a much-needed boxing gym, but also to capture kids like Deonte at an early age and give them a community where they can learn respect, self-esteem and discipline.Except for the boxing ring in the middle, there is little or nothing of the Element gym that reminds you of a Rocky movie: huge east facing windows, clean and airy, children playing amid a forest of punching bags while their mothers lunge across mats carrying heavy weights; boxers of various ages pummel bags or spar in the ring. Continue Reading

Russian Tea House: “Will light rail bring me thousands of new people? I don’t think so”

Russian cuisine was entirely absent from the Twin Cities food scene back in 1979. University Avenue, long a bustling commercial corridor, was best known for its new car showrooms, a huge Montgomery Ward department store and distribution center, the Blue Horse, one of the area’s most upscale restaurants, and the Prom Ballroom. It was void of the rich array of cuisines available today. Nicolai Alenov, owner of the Russian Tea House, with wife, Linda, says that Russian fare was scarcely available anywhere in the United States when they opened up shop at Fairview and University Avenues in St. Paul.We were a Russian carryout service and there was no Russian carryout in America. We checked out Chicago. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Fifty Shades of Gender begins to go into production

Fifty Shades of Gender is a project that I have been personally coordinating since around April of 2013. It’s been started as a documentary project focused on telling the stories and experiences of the transgender struggle from the perspectives of transgender individuals directed by a transgender identified person. The goals of this project include “looking at the fine points of the gender binary and questioning if these gender definitions are too rigid for us to all be living in. We aim to identify other gender identities, the struggles that we go through trying to fit into these binaries or beyond them, and what we can do to break down the boxes of simply male and female” “I really just want people to be educated about gender and trans* issues and learn how to treat us with respect and human dignity.  Raising awareness is the first step to changing things.” Says gender-queer identified participant, Ollie Schminkey.There will be discussions throughout the project on how our society currently defines gender from the day that we are born, the role of patriarchy, and the intersection of various other identities that are affected in relation to our assigned gender and personal gender identities. Continue Reading

Hamline emphasizes social media during International Education Week

Hamline’s International Education Week discussions focused on social media and international affairs. The conference emphasized four different angles: social movements, society, a student panel and public policy.The discussions covered a wide range of aspects of social media: from their influence on conventional media to their role in enormous international events, such as the Arab Spring. From academics, including Dr. Michael Jäckel (President of the University of Trier) through journalists, including Ann Alquist or Ahmed Tharwat (Arab-American TV), and activists such as Maya Dusenbery (Feministing), and public employees, such as Graham Lampa (Department of State), viewpoints varied and showed the difficulty of living in a world with easily accessible and democratized tools of social media.The common theme of the conference sessions was the importance of direct participation of the citizenry and, at the same time, audience in ways that were not easily achievable before social media became so widespread, including the production of information and media content.The exhaustive analysis of Social Media left no place for excessively optimistic or pessimistic claims. While Tharwat and Dr. Leila DeVriese – professor at Hamline University and expert in the role of Social Media in Middle Eastern politics – explained their huge influence in the Arab Spring, hints of realism were also highlighted. The International Education Week initiative, created by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Education Department, was cosponsored by the State Department, State of Minnesota, Certificate in International Journalism program at Hamline and the Hamline departments of Communications and Global Studies. Four panels included 13 speakers of diverse academic and professional backgrounds.Speakers:Dr. Leila DeVriese, “Reinventing Contentious Politics in the Digital Age: New Publics, Counter-Narratives and Oppositional Frames”Ahmed Tharwat, “Between Toppling Mubarak and Toppling Revolution”Maya Dusenbery, “Reflections on Social Media in the US Feminist and Reproductive Rights Movement”Dr. Firas Atrakci, “Has Social Media Let Down?”Dr. Michael Jäckel, “The Judging Audience”Ann Alquist, “The Role of Social Media and Public Broadcasting”Dr. Christa Ward, “The Use of Social Media and Skype as Education Tools”Kendra Boyle Hoban, “The News Framing of Chinese Twitter Weibo”Jenna Potter, “The U.S. News Framing of Palestinian Twitter”Eleanna Mathioudis, “Democratization from Below: A Study of the Role of Contentious Politics in Morocco”Dr. Philip Niemann, “Social Media and Elections in Germany”Graham Lampa, “Realizing the Promise of Digital Diplomacy”Maura Youngman, “Balkanization of the Internet in Russia”Relating to current situation in Egypt and the power of Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, Tharwat said: “What we witnessing today is the defeat of Facebook (…) When you look at the most successful movement in Egypt they used traditional media.”On the other hand, Dr. DeVriese used the example of Bahrain to show that the potential ties to promote social movements through social media are not necessarily strong enough to make the change happen.The Arab Spring was not the only social media-related phenomenon considered. Dr. Christa Ward, from Walden University, discussed the possibility of using of Skype for educational purposes; Dusenbery and Lampa linked social media to topics more closely related to American citizens, such as feminism and reproductive rights movements and outreach to “regular people” from the administration, respectively; Alquist and Dr. Jäckel considered the coexistence of conventional and new media in a “judging audience” environment, such as the project of introducing social media tools into PBS on-line broadcasting to guarantee the sustainability of the channel. 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

Garden-in-a-Box: Kids are happy to eat vegetables when they’ve grown their own

June 14 was a perfect day for gardening at the St. Paul Midway YMCA on University Ave. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and 40 polypropylene planting boxes, filled only with fertile black soil, stood ready for 130 kids, ages 3 to 12, to arrive.The planting boxes are part of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society (MSHS) Garden-in-a-Box Program, designed to help low income families grow their own healthy vegetables. The younger kids came from the Y’s day-care program. Older kids arrived in school buses from St Paul’s summer school programs. The MSHS is a non-profit organization that has been helping support northern gardeners for 119 years, but the Garden-in-a-Box program is new, launched in 2008. Continue Reading