COMMUNITY VOICES | In the aftermath of Zimmerman’s acquittal, racial justice remains elusive

Let’s face it, America has not done a very good job of reconciling its ugly and painful history of racism and oppression against African Americans and other people of color. The predominant attitude seems to be that what happened in the past stays in the past and that history has little to no bearing upon current happenings within our society. Sadly, as illustrated in the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin and in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, this could not be further from the truth. In this case, race played a significant role in the fact that Trayvon Martin, a young African American male, was profiled and stereotyped by Zimmerman as a criminal who was “up to no good,” as he walked in the rain through a gated community in Sanford, Florida.The lingering perception of the Black man as criminal and suspicious has plagued young African American men since the days of slavery and beyond. In fact, throughout the South following the abolition of slavery, laws were created that made standard behavior by Black men a crime and led to high rates of incarceration for that segment of the population. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum: Not sexist, not Minnesota Nice either

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum that was held at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. The Forum was designed to carve out a unique space in which candidates for the Minneapolis Mayoral race would be called upon to bring forth specific solutions to address the growing racial disparities in the City. Unlike traditional political forums, the One Minneapolis Forum was organized by youth workers who are routinely forced to confront the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment through the eyes of the young people they serve. In addition to a specific focus on socio-economic disparities, the Forum organizers sought to ensure that racial disparities would for once be front and center in a major mayoral debate, as opposed to a peripheral issue, as is often the case in such forums. For a video replay, see http://www.theuptake.org/2013/06/06/minneapolis-mayoral-candidates-address-race-issues/.The Forum was Not “Business as Usual”The Forum attracted hundreds of young voters, concerned citizens, seasoned freedom fighters, and a large number of residents from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The energy in the overflowing auditorium was electrifying and signaled the desire for an end to a “business as usual” paradigm in political forums and ushered in the possibility of a new form of citizen engagement in political arenas.The organizers of the event decided that the forum would be highly structured in some respects and free-flowing in other respects to allow for audience participation and feedback. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Another Henry High Student assaulted using city bus from school to home

Earlier this week, another Henry High student was attacked while using the city bus Go To card to travel from school to home.The assault took place on Tuesday.The mom reported that her son was coming home from school on the 19 bus line.   He got   off at a stop that he usually does not get off at because he missed his usual stop. About 2 blocks later he noticed 2 teenagers following him. When he got to the middle of 23rd Ave N and Russell they attacked him in the middle of the street. One went in front of him and asked him for his ipod, one was in back of him with what he said was a gun to the back of his head. They threatened to kill him. Continue Reading

St. Paul Challenge: “Love the House. Hate the Neighborhood”

Wearing an oversized winter coat with his hood up and gloveless hands in his pockets Tim Goss stood on the front porch of the newly renovated house he calls home – for now.“I love the house. Hate the neighborhood.”The 37 year old Goss is referring to his rental duplex in Frogtown located at the intersection of University Avenue and Grotto Street. This specific home was one of seven known boarded and vacant homes recently developed by the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation to be rented out as affordable housing.Goss moved into his house May 14, 2012 and says he is very happy with the formerly vacant home. “The house itself is nice,” said Goss. “It’s roomy, the location is great, and there is a fenced yard for the kids.”Goss and his wife have two kids, ages 9 and 11, and despite his enthusiasm for his house, he is concerned Frogtown is the wrong environment to be raising kids. He worries for their safety and is concerned they will be exposed to crime and violence at a young age.Shaking his head and looking off in the distance Goss said, “This is not a safe area.” He pointed to the southeast corner of University Avenue and Grotto Street and said there had been two men shot in the parking lot the other day. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Henry High Hmong Student Assaulted, Knocked Out Using City Bus From School To Home

 On January 28, a Henry high student was assaulted and knocked unconscious at a bus stop while using the Go-To Card city bus pass between school and home.He was hospitalized, and was diagnosed with a concussion.  He is now suffering bouts of memory loss along with problems with balance:  he has fallen twice.He does not know the attackers, and no arrests have yet been made.He and his brothers say that they also know other Henry students who have had problems with the city bus:  One was held up at gun point and had his phone robbed while waiting for a city bus to go to school, and two girls were touched/groped while using city buses between Henry and  home.  One of the girls has since transferred to another school.Another family says that  Two Henry Hmong brothers were waiting at the bus stop for the city bus to take them to school.  A young man walked up to the bus stop.  The brothers thought he was going to wait for the bus with them.  Instead he punched one brother in the nose, and the other in the eye, and ran away before either brother could reactThe family of the assault victim who was knocked out  has said that if the attackers are not caught, they want the Minneapolis Public Schools to pay for his hospital and medical costs, because they say this attack would not have happened if he had been riding a school bus home.Last April, Minneapolis Public Schools announced they were ending school bus rides to 5 high schools including Henry, and replacing the school buses with the Go-To card city bus rides.  Henry Hmong families,  concerned about safety and wanting to give Hmong families a chance to learn about and feel  comfortable with  the Go-To card, asked that the city bus rides be instituted this year as an option with school bus rides available.  School board members agreed to run limited school buses for the first semester.  School buses ended in mid-January.Both the assault victim and his mother testified in front of the Minneapolis school board last summer and urged them to keep school bus rides at Henry high for the 2012-2013 school year.Henry Hmong students collected hundreds of post cards urging school board members to keep school buses for 2012-2013 school year1100 postcards were sent to school board members Ellison and MonserrateThe student who was assaulted and knocked out asked the  Minneapolis school board last summer to keep school buses at Henry for 2012-2013 school yearHenry Hmong Families crowded Minneapolis School Board Chambers last summer and asked that school buses be available for 2012-2013 school year Continue Reading

[Another] Miscarriage of Justice

Oak Ridge, TN is the site for the Y-12 Nuclear Bomb Plant, renamed “Y-12 National Security Complex” after the attacks in NYC and Washington, DC on 9/11/2001 – a day that led to hysterical power grabs and a multitude of retrenchments on civil and human rights around our nation. Continue Reading

Trying to wean police off forfeitures

UPDATE: Both amendments failed miserably, with only 20 votes in favor of each. Arguments that police don’t abuse the forfeiture system, that the state would rob local governments of the money, won the day.Efforts to keep a better eye on law enforcement agencies and their practices at the Legislature this year so far haven’t included any serious efforts at reducing their dependence on forfeitures and seizures.Even though the Legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to prevent multi-jurisdictional agencies from going rogue like the Metro Gang Strike Force did last year, a bill on property forfeitures headed for a vote Thursday in the Minnesota House of Representatives does little to restrict law enforcement agencies’ ability to take, keep and profit off of property seized from law-abiding citizens.That could change, if two controversial amendments from Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, get added to the bill on the floor. One would require law enforcement agencies to give back forfeited property if there’s no criminal conviction. Another would require local agencies to contribute the money from the sale of seized property to a statewide law enforcement fund instead of keeping it local.Both amendments are opposed by Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill’s author and chair of the House Civil Justice Committee. Also opposing them are most of the state’s law enforcement lobby groups, such as the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.Interestingly, three board members on the MCPA were also serving on the Metro Gang Strike Force Advisory Board when that now-defunct agency went off the rails, yet they’re arguing that there are already enough audits and controls in place to prevent abuse.In 2007, law enforcement agencies statewide made more than 5,000 seizures and gained almost $5 million in revenue from them, double the proceeds from just a decade ago.Liebling argues that it’s a conflict of interest for police departments to make money off taking people’s property, and that they shouldn’t be able to “eat what they kill” when it comes to keeping the profits.A similar forfeiture bill from Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, already passed the Minnesota Senate without the language to discourage forfeitures.Ironically, if the amendments do pass, it will likely be due to help from Republicans in the House minority, according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Continue Reading