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

The origin and purpose of Black History Month

So often we find ourselves involved in activities without fully understanding why, as occasionally is the case during our annual observance of Black History Month. This celebration is our most meaningful opportunity to promote cultural awareness, provide direction for our young, and take pride in our collective historical accomplishments.

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Mary Pat Washington has seen positive change for Blacks, but young people worry her

A visibly surprised Mary Pat Washington welcomes me to the coffee area of the Senior Independent Living Center at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. She is expecting to be interviewed by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder for a Black History Month profile — but by Editor-in-Chief Vickie-Evans Nash. Instead it’s just me, a mere writer.

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James Cook still has big dreams for Sabathani

James Cook’s humble beginnings started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was born in November 1941. Back then, Pittsburgh was more of rural town where there were no paved streets, and most families lived in homes with large fields where they would plant fruits and vegetables.Cook and his seven siblings were raised in the community by both parents, who did their best to instill strong values in them, such as self-sufficiency, connection to community, and hard work. The importance of such values was mainly exhibited through the work done on the family’s farm.In a system passed on by Native Americans who lived in the community, the Cooks, along with many of their neighbors, grew their own crops and raised animals. “I wouldn’t trade that living experience with anything that I’ve known since,” says Cook.“We were poor, but we weren’t poor; we were very rich in terms of family. We were very rich in terms of environment. Continue Reading