Principles of less eligibility: The human cost of prison labor PART II

If you were to turn over a chair in a Minnesota public library, like at the Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault, you might find a tag noting the chair was manufactured by MINNCOR, a quasi public-private business operation within the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC). MINNCOR products are made by Minnesota inmates who make furniture for everything from public libraries to student dormitories. They also weld docks for Minnesota lakes and pack balloons destined for festive events. Additionally, minimum security work crews organized through the DOC – separate from MINNCOR’s operations – build low-income homes in greater Minnesota and have even assembled a sports facility dome on the University of Minnesota campus. The work of these inmates is all around us, yet hidden in plain sight. Continue Reading

Principles of less eligibility: The human cost of prison labor PART I

Jesse, an inmate whose name has been changed for his safety, began his incarceration in 2006 initially working as a baker for 25 cents an hour in St. Cloud. He later got a job pressing license plates for 50 cents an hour. During yet another job in prison folding and packaging balloons, Jesse noticed the balloons were being transported and sold by Anagram. While getting paid pennies on the dollar, his labor was being exploited for corporate profit. Continue Reading

The Twin Cities Daily Planet’s Best of 2017

It seems like every think-piece or nonprofit email included the words “Now, more than ever” in 2017. While unprecedented challenges and tragedies rocked our national conscious in 2017, this year was the one when – more than ever – we as a community turned toward the hyper-local to affect change. For 11 years, the Twin Cities Daily Planet has always had a focus on local. But now, nearly three years into our mission of amplifying and connecting marginalized voices, that focus has become a platform for our local communities – especially those who have historically faced oppression – to own and assert their stories in an ever-changing world. From the highest municipal elections turnout in years, landmark workers’ rights ordinances, and growing resistance in the face of police brutality, racism and anti-immigrant bigotry, communities told their own authentic stories on our platform. Continue Reading

Community Voices: A call for ‘regeneration’ over reparations where Black potential has been stifled

If you seek to learn about reparations specifically for Black people living in what we call the United States of America, you will see a contentious debate. One argument tracks the history, showing the ways that those enslaved in this country, their descendants and folks that looked like them were disadvantaged throughout the occupation of this land. Continue Reading

Three years after ‘Ban the Box,’ Minnesota ex-offenders find mixed prospects upon re-entry

With a first degree possession of a firearm and a second degree possession of a controlled substance on his record, Jason Sole had a tough time finding meaningful work when he got out of prison. “[Employers] didn’t see my value, they only saw me as a deficit,” said Sole. His first job out of prison was working at a Holiday Inn for $10 an hour.  Sole pointed out that employers know there are a limited amount of jobs, so when they see you’re an ex-offender, they take advantage of it. “The things they make you do because you’re an ex-offender is appalling,” adding, “They just wanted me to be a worker, they weren’t trying to make me a boss.”

Sole didn’t want anybody to be able to oppress him so he figured out how to be his own boss. Continue Reading

Facing white supremacy: Arts + Culture Editor Caroline Taiwo talks the culture of workplace discrimination on ‘Urban Agenda’

Whether you work at an office job or on the field of the NFL, white supremacy dominates work culture in the United States. In May, Twin Cities Daily Planet Arts + Culture Editor Caroline Taiwo brought us this in-depth analysis on confronting white supremacy in the workplace. In partnership with Pollen Midwest, we followed that article up with an event series and syllabus for further reading. On June 15, Taiwo appeared on KMOJ 89.9’s radio show Urban Agenda with Lissa Jones to talk more about her workplace experiences as a Black woman. With excerpts from James Baldwin and live Q&A phone calls from Minnesota listeners, this episode works to help folks – and people of color especially – recognize and activate around the white supremacy they interact with on a daily basis. Continue Reading

‘This felt like a space for me’ Midwest Mixed Conference jumpstarts conversation on complex racial identities

Do interracial couples experience more push-back than same-race couples, and if so, how do they deal with it? How does colorism affect the lives and academic experiences of students? And what are some strategies for processing historical trauma that non-Black and non-white mixed folks can use to acknowledge and move through complex family histories? These are just some of the questions that the first ever Midwest Mixed Conference attempted to tackle, through panels, arts activities, workshops and discussions. Held Aug. Continue Reading

No cops, no racists, no phobias: QTPOCI claim their own Twin Cities nightlife scene

After fights broke out in Chicago during the 2012 Pride Festival, Phillipe Cunningham approached a police officer to ask about a safe route to walk home. At the time, Cunningham had recently transitioned and noticed during this interaction a different type of aggression and animosity directed at him. “The more Black and masculine I began to look at first glance, that’s when the aggression had an uptick,” Cunningham said. “That was my first experience interacting with cops as a Black man. It shook me.”

Cunningham, a queer, transgender Black man running for Minneapolis City Council in Ward Four, said many queer and trans people of color and Indigenous folks (QTPOCI) have stories like this – times when they were trying to have fun, ask for directions or simply occupy public space – and a police officer responded with hostility. Continue Reading