Archive | FROGTOWN


Frog Food: Fight for Justice

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

by Z Akhmetova

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Not ahead of her time, but changing things now

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Local educator and author Artika Tyner started her own publishing company when told people of color don’t read

Artika Tyner and the Planting People, Growing Justice Board is offering ebooks free of charge on Amazon in order to support youth in their leadership development journey. The Justice Makes a Difference activity ebook is also free of charge. (Photo submitted)

Social justice has been a part of Artika Tyner’s life since she was a child. “A big piece of it was growing up in the Rondo community,” said Dr. Tyner, an educator, author and advocate for justice.
She serves as the founding director of the Center on Race, Leadership and Social Justice at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Dr. Tyner teaches leadership coursework on ethics, critical reflection and organizational development. Her research focuses on diversity/inclusion, community development, and civil rights.
Promoting literacy and books led Dr. Tyner to gather a team of volunteers to meet in her living room and produce books and learning materials.
“Promoting literacy is personal to me as an educator,” Dr. Tyner said. She helped found “Planting People, Growing Justice Leadership Institute” from the group that first met in her living room.
The organization has launched a “Leaders are Readers” campaign and donated over 1,000 copies of its book, “Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire,” a children’s book on leadership and social justice. It has partnered with local retailers and donated over 1,500 children’s books and cases of school supplies.
According to Dr. Tyner, the organization has inspired over 5,000 children around the world through its school visits and has established a social enterprise model to sell books and raise funds to donate books to children in need.
“Planting People, Growing Justice Leadership Institute” has a mission to plant seeds of social change through education, training and community outreach.
“Only 32 percent of Minnesota’s African American children are reading at grade levels by the time they reach fourth grade,” Dr. Tyner said. “Not reading at grade level at this point increases the likelihood of dropping out of school by four times. This also drastically increases the likelihood of future incarceration.”
Dr. Tyner said she served on the board of African American Babies Coalition. “I was confused about being on the board since I was not a parent,” she claimed. “I was not sure I was the best advocate.”
But she became alarmed by the early learning gap from ages 0 to 3. “There is not enough advocacy and support for children of this age,” she noted. “We focus on K-12, so one of the goals of our publishing company is to cover the whole spectrum of learning for the whole family.”

‘Kofi Loves Music’
The publishing company, Planting People Growing Justice Press, has published seven books that Dr. Tyner has written or co-written. The latest book, published in January of this year, is “Kofi Loves Music.” It is the first board book that focuses on early learners.
Dr. Tyner said the story emerged when she was visiting Ghana and watching a documentary about going to different places to enjoy music. The book features African instruments, such as the Udo, and instruments that can sound like jazz or rock and roll. Dr. Tyner said the book honors cultures of the world.
During her visit to Ghana, Dr. Tyner had an opportunity to introduce some of her books to young people. “I had an impromptu opportunity to visit Akwamu Kingdom and was asked if I could speak with a few students,” she said. “I agreed, and there were over 1,500 students in the room.”

Dr. Artika R. Tyner (left) and Monica Habia hold the book they worked on together, “Amazing Africa: A to Z. The Minnesota Coalition of Black Publishers will be hosting a virtual town hall forum on June 27 from 2-4 p.m. It will showcasing local authors and their work in advancing anti-racism. More details to be announced via the Facebook page @plantingpeoplegrowingjustice. ”The tragic death of Mr. Floyd and the aftermath has only deepened my resolve to continue the work of Planting People, Growing Justice,” said Tyner. (Photo submitted)

Only 10% of authors are black
Dr. Tyner said she tries to focus on writing on weekends and evenings. “I have had a book inside me for my whole life, the book I wanted to see as a child,” she said.
Although she said her mother is a lifelong educator and she was very fortunate in having many education lessons happen at home, she did not see books with characters who looked like her.
But she did have mentors and people who inspired her, such as Ida B. Wells, journalist; and Thurgood B. Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston, who fought for civil rights and the desegregation of schools.
Dr. Tyner said she started her own publishing company after some publishers she went to tried to indicate that people of color didn’t read. “Or they told me I was ahead of my time, and this happened just within the last decade. It’s the same way some don’t think African Americans have assets or capital for small businesses.”
Only 10% of authors are people of color, according to Dr. Tyner. She said lack of access is the biggest reason for this statistic.
“I had business acumen and community support to make my project come alive,” she said, noting that not all authors or activists have that. “I crowd-funded my first book and got $10 donations, which built up to over $20,000 for us to donate books around the world.”

Race matters
Dr. Tyner explained that although the United States has only about 5% of the world’s population, it incarcerates over 20% of the world’s prison population.
She said that race matters when “African-American adults are 5.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely.”
Dr. Tyner said she was a child witness to the “War on Drugs” and saw firsthand the criminal justice challenges at the intersections of race and poverty. “I decided to take action,” she said.
“It took me on a mission. If inmates learn how to read in prison, they can read their indictments. It shows how essential the literacy piece is.”
Reflecting on her work as both educator and writer, Dr. Tyner said she was inspired by Chinua Achebe, who said, “The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done.”
Dr. Tyner, who is currently researching diversity in dolls for her organization, said she believes education is the key to justice.
“You can learn how to think critically and problem-solve,” she said. “Education also unleashes real magic, an ability to imagine, innovate and create.”

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Do not look away

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

by Dr. Ronald Bell,
Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church pastor
My city is burning, but not in the way the media is showing. Did you see the fire, not the one burning down the precinct but the one burning in the hearts of the wounded in my community? The grieving mothers and grandmothers recalling the voice of our dear brother George Floyd, as he called for his mother, while taking his last breath. The burning of the hearts of we who wept, when our governmental leaders refused to arrest the murderer of this wicked and inhumane deed. Did you see that fire?
… You must have witnessed the looting? Not the ones the cameras and social media love to exploit, but instead the looting of our human rights. The looting of our constitutional rights as citizens. The looting of our communities for decades by corporations for greed. Did you see that looting?
I think you were so busy looking for a riot that you missed the gathering of the grieving. I think you were so busy looking for looters that you missed the lament and heartbreak of a community. I think you were so busy looking for trouble that you missed the tragedy of systemic racialized trauma on the bodies of black and brown people. Tonight, tomorrow, and even the next day I beg of you, look again. Look again.
This is an excerpt. Read the entire essay at www.drronbell.com/.

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Peace bubbles June 2020


Peace bubbles June 2020

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Melvin Giles

Melvin Giles


Dear friend,

Though we won’t gather
In person, we wanted you to know
That you are on our minds.

Thank you for the seeds of peace you plant.
Thank you for the love you cultivate.
Thank you for nourishing
Yourself and those around you.
Thank you for working for justice.

We are here for you.
We love and appreciate you.
We are with you.

Your friends at the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance.

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Listening and ready to work


Listening and ready to work

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Ward 1 St. Paul City Council

Dai Thao, St. Paul Council Member

By Dai Thao

I am angered by and strongly condemn the tragic and unjust murder of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Imagine yourself on the ground. Put yourself on the floor in the position that Mr. Floyd was in. Now have someone put 200 pound of weight on your neck with their knee. I bet it won’t end well. It’s murder, and I urge and support Attorney General Keith Ellison to increase the charge against Derek Chauvin to first-degree murder and to swiftly bring justice to all officers involved. In my capacity as the city council member for Ward 1, I am committed to further and increased transparency and accountability with the city of St. Paul’s operations.
I hope to see open and renewed dialogue around how our city prioritizes its funds. In regard to the St. Paul Police Department, I want to see a continued and invigorated focus on de-escalation practices and shift to building and funding mental health resources for those in crisis. I also want to continue working with my city council colleagues to focus on community-first public safety strategies; for example, creating a People’s Cabinet and funding community organizations working with youth and restorative justice organizations.
As we move forward as a city in our rebuilding and healing process, I hope that the hunger for justice and change remains. I want to hear from more people and bring more voices to the decision-making table. I am listening and ready to work with you all.

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‘6 Ft. Apart’ song lyrics

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Do your part and stay six feet apart… encourage (left to right) Camphor United Methodist Church pastor Rob Bell, Bethel University Assistant Director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement Tanden Brekke, Melvin Giles and United Family Medicine resident Jenny Zheng. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Click on links to view videos of the song.



Peace bubbles

By Melvin Giles

‘6 Ft. Apart’ song lyrics
OOO we need each other,
Yes, we know it’s true!
This coronavirus won’t make us feel blue
Phone me! Zoom me!
Phone me! Zoom me!
And show your love by stayin’ 6 feet apart!
We can love each other and be really smart
Do your part by lovin’ us from 6 feet apart
Phone me! Zoom me!
Phone me! Zoom me!
And show your love by stayin’ 6 feet apart!
6 feet apart. You’re showing all your love!
6 feet apart, is all we need to show we care!
OOO we need each other,
Yes we know it’s true!
This coronavirus won’t make us feel blue
Phone me! Zoom me!
Phone me! Zoom me!
And show your love by stayin’ 6 feet apart!
6 feet apart. You’re showing all your love!
6 feet apart, is all we need to show we care!
Let’s love everybody,
Show them that we care!
May peace prevail for everyone, lots of love to share!
Phone me! Zoom me!
Phone me! Zoom me!
And show your love by stayin’ 6 feet apart!
6 feet apart

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Patisserie Paris makes unforgettable French pastries

Patisserie Paris makes unforgettable French pastries

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Patisserie Paris (383 University Ave.) owner Mark Heu said, “We hope each delicious bite of our pastries will be a magical experience – and will transport our customers, at least for a few moments, to Paris.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Last August, Chef Marc Heu began selling made-from-scratch, mouthwatering French pastries and desserts in his newly opened Frogtown pastry shop. Customers were delighted by the passion fruit-raspberry and lime yuzu tarts, the creamy flan, and the buttery croissants. Business was brisk from the start, with customer response approaching the ecstatic.
From one, “The Opera Crepe Cake is so good, I cried.” And from another, “These pastries are…unforgettable.”
At the time of this printing, the brick and mortar Patisserie Paris is temporarily closed in accordance with Governor Walz’s Stay-at-Home order. While Heu made the decision to close the retail space with “a heavy heart,” the online pastry shop remains open. His baking team is taking and filling orders online; they are measuring, rolling, and proofing dough well into the night – just like before.
The 30-year-old Heu has been baking pastries since he was a little boy growing up in French Guiana, a French territory in South America, and he’s not about to stop now.
Born in France, Heu moved to French Guiana with his parents and five older siblings when he was three. He said, “We actually arrived on my third birthday. My parents had gone to France from a refugee camp in Laos in 1982, but they never really settled there. They were farmers from Southeast Asia, who found themselves living in a busy French city for 10 years.”
He added, “They learned of a good-sized community of Hmong refugees farming in French Guiana, and decided to relocate. It was a lifestyle similar to what they had known in Laos, with a warm, humid jungle climate. One of my earliest memories is of my mom cleaning out cow stalls in the abandoned cow barn where we were assigned to live. She spread blankets on the ground for us to sleep on, and this became our home.”
Heu’s life would soon take on a push-pull of contradictions and coincidences. Or were they?
His older sisters had learned to bake exquisite pastries during their years in France, and they gave their little brother a job to do. Standing on a stool, in a cow barn in French Guiana, he learned to beat egg whites to perfection. Heu said, “We were poor by anyone’s standards, but we had eggs, flour, butter, and sugar. My sisters didn’t know how to make a proper dinner, but they could bake.”
When he turned 13, Heu proudly announced that he was going to become a pastry chef. He remembered, “My parents responded with a single word, ‘NO.’ As refugees, they wanted their children to follow a certain path to a better life. In their minds, the work of a pastry chef was no better than manual labor. I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I tried my best to become a doctor.”
Heu was sent back to France for high school, and applied himself to the study of science. He eventually entered medical school and completed one year, intent on fulfilling his parent’s dream for him. But when it was time to return for the second year, he couldn’t make himself do it.
With the support of his wife, a St. Paul resident he had met while visiting extended family here in 2012, Heu enrolled in a prestigious French baking school instead. He studied under the world’s top chefs in the fields of chocolate, ice cream, confectionary, and cakes. In June 2018, he graduated (second in his class) with a Grand Bachelor’s Degree of pastry. He was going to follow his own dream.

“In baking, the simplest things are the hardest to achieve. Croissants are made with the most basic ingredients: flour, milk, yeast, honey, sugar, salt. It takes 48 hours to make croissants from start to finish. The dough needs time to rest. You can’t be in a hurry. If you don’t have patience, your croissants won’t be tasty. Every day I am learning how to make croissants better.”
~ Marc Heu

Heu said, “We worked very hard in school, but because I had such passion for it – everything felt easy. Baking pastry involves a lot of scientific reasoning, so the time I had spent studying science proved useful. For the first time in my life, I felt free.”
After graduation, Hue was offered a pastry chef position at Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris, which was founded in 1730 by King Louis XV’s pastry chef. As wonderful as the experience was, he and his wife longed to return to St. Paul.
Heu looked at a lot of different locations before choosing the store front at 383 University Ave. W. He said, “It’s about the same size as Stohrer’s, the 300-year-old pastry shop in Paris, and we have the same unwavering commitment to using the finest ingredients. I hope that my business will last a long time, too!”
There is a perception that French pastries are reserved for the rich. Heu said, “I come from a poor family, and I am trying to make this food available to everybody. I want to share what I love. Our pastries are priced as affordably as I can make them, and still run a profitable business.”
Future plans include building out an area for seating in the bakery, and adding coffees and savory baked goods to the menu. For the foreseeable future, go to www.marcheuparis.com and follow the prompts to place an order online. Pick-ups are scheduled by appointment Tuesday to Sunday. Patisserie Paris also offers free delivery for $50+ orders within a 15-mile radius of the shop. All orders must be placed 48 hours in advance.
Call 651-666-1464 or email info@marcheuparis.com with questions.
Heu and his staff are taking their days as they come, one at a time. He said, “We’ve gotten tremendous support from the community, both before and since the pandemic hit. I’m sending out a huge thank to everybody for supporting our pastry shop, and for making this adventure continue.”

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School spreads message of joy during distance learning

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

St. Paul City School District has a message for its 540 students: “We miss you and we are here for you!”
St. Paul City School staff is putting some heart into their distance learning plans by visiting individual students at home to post a message of joy and support in front lawns. “We want our families to know they are being supported from afar even in these uncertain times,” said District Executive Director Dr. Meg Cavalier. “This closure has been difficult for all of us, but our community has risen to the challenge by continuing to celebrate and care for our students above all.”
St. Paul City School (SPCS) is a public charter school district whose three school sites serve preschool through 12th grade students. Like all schools across the state, St. Paul City School temporarily closed all buildings and moved to distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
After the technical pieces were set in motion, such as getting classrooms online and delivering books and other materials to students’ homes, SPCS knew they needed to go one step further to bring joy to the community. “We want to help students and families find a smile in the midst of this really scary time,” explained Primary and Middle School Principal Justin Tiarks. That’s when SPCS staff began printing signs with the message “We miss you! We are here for you” in English, Spanish, and Hmong and planting them in the front yards of each of their students. Some staff were even lucky enough to get to wave to their students from afar.
Distance learning is a practice that all Minnesota schools are in the process of getting used to. There are plenty of challenges; “I don’t get to see my friends and help people or do group projects,” says Lyna N., a fifth grader at St. Paul City Primary School.
Some families struggle to access technology, meals, mental health supports, and other resources typically provided by schools.
But there are also highlights to note. “I have really enjoyed working so closely with students and their families each day. It is nice to have time to connect with families and get to know them better,” said second grade teacher Brittany Burrows.

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Frog Food by Z Akhmetova May 2020

Frog Food by Z Akhmetova May 2020

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

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Food program reopens

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Feeding Frogtown reopens Friday, May 15 at St. Paul City School after shutting down in March. It will no longer offer walk-up distribution. Folks must drive up or call 612-440-8570 for delivery in Frogtown, Rondo or the North End. Beginning Friday, May 22, two satellite sites will open: at Frogtown Farm (bottom of the hill along Minnehaha) and Como Place Apartments.

The Frogtown Farm board has announced it will scale back this year to smaller areas that can be maintained by a reduced farm crew and hold monthly pop-up produce distributions. A cover crop will be planted on the larger fields to enrich the soil for the 2021 season.

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