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Take action with League of Women Voters

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Nonpartisan group informs and engages citizens for a healthy democracy

Members of the St. Paul League of Women Voters celebrate 100 years. (Photo submitted)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The League of Women Voters St. Paul works to make voting less intimidating for people.
It is part of the larger national organization, the League of Women Voters, a civic organization in the United States that was formed in 1920 to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote.
For Como resident Amy Perna being involved in the League is a natural extension of the civic and community engagement that began in high school, when she organized students and faculty to support Diversity Day.
In 2016, she was hired as the LWVSP candidate forum coordinator. She worked seasonally for the next three years, and then joined the board in July 2017 as Voter Service Chair. Last year, she was elected as Co-President.
Perna believes that a healthy democracy requires informed and engaged citizens, open and responsive government and the opportunity to take action.
For more on the League, read the Q & A below.

Amy Perna

What is the value of LWVSP?
The value of our work lies in that we engage and educate people in a strictly nonpartisan manner. Folks know that when they show up to a candidate forum – a program like January’s Presidential Nominating Primary event with Secretary Simon or to volunteer with us in area high schools – that they will be walking into a nonpartisan, safe environment in which they can learn and ask questions. Additionally, we bring value to our community by engaging folks in the democratic process by registering them to vote, hosting candidate forums, engaging youth and holding relevant educational programs. Registering voters looks a little different this year, but we are out registering in person in select locations!
Who is LWVSP for?
The LWVSP is a welcoming organization and is for every one looking to engage in democracy at the local level in a nonpartisan way. We welcome folks who want to learn more about the people running for office, engage in relevant topics, those who might be interested in working with area high schools to encourage youth participation in elections or joining one of our book clubs. Many people join LWVSP because they want to help register voters, which is great! You can also join the League and become a member or make a donation to help support our work!

How does LWV further democracy?
A democracy requires that people vote. A lot of what we do at the local level is help make that process less intimidating for people by showing them what it will look and feel like at the polls.
Lifetime member Sig Johnson holds mock elections all over the city, our Youth Vote team teaches youth about how to vote and why it is important by employing Student Leaders in Saint Paul high schools, and we register voters wherever we are asked.
We believe it is essential for the public to understand the views, opinions and commitments of people running for elected office and to understand issues facing our nation, state and city and that is where our Voter Service Committee and Program Committee come in.
We organize candidate forums, produce a voter guide and hold free programs on issues people care about like election security and the Presidential Nominating Primary and voting during a pandemic. It is this understanding that better equips voters with information they need to make informed decisions.

How can people be involved in politics during this pandemic?
I would highly encourage people to check out Vote411.org to learn about candidates in their districts. Use this time to read or listen to trusted news sources and to really dig into a candidate’s history, work and volunteer experience; don’t just rely their campaign website and literature or social media feeds to make a decision about who to vote for.
If you notice a candidate hasn’t filled out their Vote411.org questionnaire, reach out to them and encourage them to do so!
I would also encourage everyone to talk to people in their circles about voting. Ask people what their voting plan is. Studies have shown that this is a highly effective way to encourage voter turnout.
I would like to encourage people to vote from home by absentee ballot. You can apply online right now for absentee ballots, so you get an easy, vote-from-home experience. Ballots need to be postmarked by Nov. 3, but we are asking folks to turn those ballots in by Oct. 20, a full two weeks before election day. The last day to pre-register in MN was Oct. 13. If a person isn’t registered by then, they can do so at their polling place on election day.

Meet other members

Joann Ellis & Helen Losleben with Dave Triplett and Bill Ekblad

What is the value of LWVSP?
Dr. Cheryl Bailey of Merriam Park, LWVSP Youth Vote Team: Nothing could be more clear to me that voting, educated voters and promoting access via legislation (instead of obstructing voting) are the most important issues of our times. If climate change, COVID 19, or partisanship concern people, then more citizens simply have to vote!
Claudia Dieter of Highland Park, LWVSP program chair: For me, the value of the League is its non-partisanship which gives it credibility. The League does take positions on some issues, but the position is on the issue, not the politics or the party.
Helen Losleben of Mendota Heights, LWVSP secretary: LWV helps me and many others know that getting involved with the election process is vitally important to the growth of our country. LWV works diligently to help make it easier for people to register to vote answering questions and providing information in a clear message on the importance of voting.

How does LWV further
democracy?
Bailey: In order to get smart and able politicians, they have to know that the populace is going to be watching them and will hold them accountable. That needs to be much more pronounced now, especially in the face of a pandemic, to keep bad policies and naughty elected officials from taking advantage of a tragedy. Attention is turned elsewhere…
Dieter: The LWV furthers democracy by providing information to the voters, information that is presented without spin. And, as a member of the Program Committee, I/we take this very seriously when we plan and execute a program. For example, we were working on a program for April that was going to be a debate on the National Popular Vote Compact. The League of Women Voters at the national level has a position on the NPV. Regardless, arguments both for and against Minnesota joining this compact, were to be presented.
The goal, or mission, of the League is to provide information so that the community members can make an informed decision, be that a candidate, a school referendum, etc.

What tips do you offer to those who want get involved in politics?
Losleben: Join a local group, know your community and what they stand for, volunteer, be informed. LWV has sponsored great informational events, giving folks information in a unbiased manner to help promote healthy elections and transform voter turnout to an even higher point than every before.
Bailey: Be patient. I continue to be hugely bothered by the snail’s pace of political activism, but I think it’s the only way. Be direct – say what you think, while being respectful of the opinion of others. I hope Monitor readers will join the League of Women Voters! We need young people, people of color, people in the disability community, etc to join us and fight for an educated citizenry! The more we can diversify our membership, the more our message will remain relevant for the next hundred years.
Dieter: If there is something that has impacted your life, either positively or negatively, and you want to understand it better – dig in! Reach out to people you know who are involved or impacted by it as well. Find out who the decision makers are. Ask questions!
The LWVSP is one of many organizations, including our neighborhood newspapers, in our community that are interested in making our city and neighborhoods better. The more that we can collaborate and support one another, the better our chances to succeed and make a difference.

 

100 YEARS
1920 – The League was officially founded in Chicago in 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the vote. Formed by the suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League began as a “mighty political experiment” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.

1944-45 – After World War II, the League carried out a nationwide public support campaign, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. participation. One of the first organizations officially recognized by the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO), the League still maintains official observer status today.

1972 – Shortly after congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), LWV voted officially to support “equal rights for all regardless of sex.” The League followed this vote with a nationwide pressure campaign that continued through the 1970s. That national campaign ended in 1982, but LWV continues to push for ERA ratification today.

1980s – The League sponsored televised general election Presidential debates in 1980 and 1984, as well as presidential primary forums in 1980, 1984, and 1988. The debates focused on nonpartisan issues with a main goal of informing voters. As candidates demanded increasingly partisan conditions, however, the League withdrew its sponsorship of general election debates in 1988.

2002 – When the 2000 election exposed the many problems facing the election system, the League began to work on election reform. Working closely with a civil rights coalition, LWV helped draft and pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which established provisional balloting, requirements for updating voting systems, and the Election Assistance Commission.

2006 – The League provided a dedicated website for voter information as early as the 1990s. In 2006, the League launched the next generation of online voter education with VOTE411.org, a “one-stop-shop” for election-related information. Today, VOTE411 provides both general and state-specific nonpartisan resources to the voting public, including a nationwide polling place locator, a ballot look-up tool, candidate positions on issues, and more.

2019 – In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering cannot be solved by the federal courts. In response, the League initiated People Powered Fair Maps, a coordinated effort across all 50 states and D.C. to create fair and transparent, people-powered redistricting processes to eliminate partisan and racial gerrymandering nationwide.

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IMG_6785fieldS

TRANSFORMATION

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Frogtown Community Center rebuilt into one of city’s best

Ayanna Jones, age seven, and Mayor Melvin Carter III cut the ribbon at Frogtown Community Center during the official opening of the $2.1 million field project on Tuesday, Sept. 22. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The recreation center at Como Ave. and Marion has been transformed, and people came together to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.
“Look what we got,” stated Caty Royce of the Frogtown Neighborhood Association as she looked around at the new building that is four times as big as the old one and has triple the fields. “It’s beautiful.”
“Invite your friends and your families to use this facility,” encouraged Ward 1 Council Member Dai Thao. “This is a place where your family can gather. We wanted to create a place where people can belong.”
“It’s yours to take care of. It’s yours to play on and enjoy and have a good time,” stated Mayor Melvin Carter, who formerly represented the city’s Ward 1.
Speakers recalled the rodents at the old 6,000-square-foot Scheffer Recreation Center built in 1973, and how they had to stand with one foot on the wall to be out of bounds while playing basketball.
“I was excited when I saw the old one coming down,” remarked Sarah Gustafson, who played basketball at Scheffer when she was a girl. She now lives across the street and appreciates the diversity of Frogtown’s residents. “I hope it brings a lot of people here to have a safe place to congregate and play sports,” added Gustafson.
Her granddaughter Ayanna Jones, age seven, cut the ribbon that day. “I’m glad they built the park,” said Jones. Her favorite part is the hammock.
“This place will stand the test of time,” stated North End resident Greg Taylor. “I was really impressed when they built it. It’s really beautiful.”

 

$2.1 million buys…
• Artificial turf field striped for soccer, football, baseball and lacrosse, 64,300 SF
• Kato/Sepak Takraw court, 5,000 SF
• Basketball court, 79’x45’
• Volleyball court
• Playground, 6,000 SF
• Paths

$11 million project
The event on Sept. 22 marked the completion of phase two, which included $2.1 million in outdoor amenities.
The $11.2 million project began in 2016 with community meetings at the site of the St. Paul’s first playground built back in 1909.
Phase one, the new community center, opened in September 2019. Designed by JLG Architects and built by Shaw Lundquist Associates, construction began in May 2018 on the $7.7 million project. The new building faces Como Ave. while the old one was at the south end of the site along Thomas Ave.
The new 23,500-square-foot facility includes community rooms, arts space, seniors space, teen room, dance studios, kitchen, Rec Check after school space, full-size gym, fitness room, and an upper level walking track. There is a pair of private washrooms where residents can clean up for prayers, as requested by Muslim residents. And there’s a parking lot so people have some place besides the street to park. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not open for regular business hours but limited programming for registered participants is being offered. The old building was demolished in June 2019.
The terrazzo floor and wallmurals, designed in collaboration by local artists, Myc Dazzle, Megan Tate and Tou Yia Xiong, celebrates the diversity of Frogtown.
After getting input from the community, the site was renamed from Scheffer to the Frogtown Community Center. The athletic fields have been named for General Vang Poa, a key U.S. ally during the Vietnam War and the leader of the Hmong resettlement efforts in St. Paul and elsewhere.

Tou Yia Xiong stands by the mural he created at the Frogtown Community Center. The St. Paul artist and toy designer also worked on the terrazzo floor with fellow artists Myc Dazzle and Megan Tate.

‘I love this space’
“I am blown away by this space,” said St. Paul Park and Recreation Director Mike Hahm.
He recalled when new mayor Melvin Carter asked parks and recreation what the number one priority was for funding. They told him it was this center as the community had been working on the project for a very long time.
“Mayor Carter said, ‘Mike, it is my priority, too, that we fund that project.”
“I love this space,” Mayor Carter told those gathered at for the ribbon-cutting. “I love this neighborhood. We’ve gotten a chance to watch this space come alive. It takes me back to when I was a kid.”
Mayor Carter said he grew up playing in the city’s rec centers, and every once in a while they’d be bussed out for a field trip at another city’s recreation centers, which were always much better.
“If Frogtown folks don’t deserve the best, I don’t know who does,” stated Mayor Carter, who pointed out that the fields were always full and it sometimes took 45 minutes to get onto the basketball court to play.
“How could we as a city not respond to that kind of use with this kind of investment?” he asked.
“We must provide equitable programs and amenities the communities want,” said Thao. “Park spaces are a reflection of the community, and I’m honored to have had a role in securing these new facilities in Frogtown for everyone to access and enjoy.”

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WEB_SOS_Melvin Carter Jr. 06

Melvin Carter Jr. driven to help youth

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Why he does it, and why he won’t ever stop

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Melvin Carter founded SOS (Save our Sons) in 1991. He knew that the detention system wasn’t working for young Black men and that, in fact, it was hurting them. He wanted to find an alternative way to reach out and help young Black men reach their potential. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Melvin Carter Jr. is a natural-born mentor. The Summit-University resident said, “I mentor young people everywhere I go. I focus on my natural realm of travel these days: between my house, the YWCA, the boxing gym. I see young people that I recognize in the neighborhood, and I take my time checking in with them. I’m always mentoring.”
Carter is a 29-year veteran of the Saint Paul Police Department, from which he retired in 2003. He served in several different capacities there: patrol officer, foot beat, SWAT, and detective. He was one of a handful of African Americans hired when the department was forced to integrate in 1974. In addition, he was part of another distinct minority: an officer who patrolled the streets of the city he grew up in, and chose to raise his children in.
Born into St. Paul’s historically-black Rondo neighborhood, Carter said, “Nobody ever got killed there when I was growing up. The lethal violence we see now in communities of color is something fairly recent. With the advent of the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and the willful destruction of neighborhoods like Rondo, it was clear that Blacks were being targeted.”

Save Our Sons
In 1991, Carter and some of his colleagues decided to do something about it. They created Save Our Sons (SOS) as a community grassroots movement to reclaim young African American men whose lives were being lost to gun violence or prison. Leaders in the movement included local elders, neighbors, faith communities, school and elected officials, law enforcement and corrections officers, and other like-hearted organizations who shared their vision.
African American males make up a disproportionate segment of incarcerated and institutionalized youth in Ramsey County.
In the last 29 years, SOS staff and volunteers have met with more than 2,500 young men who passed through the doors of the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) and the former Boys Totem Town facility. Carter said, “Prior to COVID, our presence in JDC every Tuesday ensured that these young men who were separated from family during a critical time in their lives, had access to the compassion and wisdom of the community.”
Partnerships with St. Paul organizations including Arts-US (founded by spouse Toni Carter), Circle of Peace, Element Boxing and Fitness, and the Gathering at Dunning Recreation Center have also proved valuable. With these partner organizations, SOS provides the framework for transforming and reclaiming the health, safety, and freedom of young Black men while they are in corrections facilities – and when they rejoin the outside world.

 

Carter has lived his life according to the chorus of a gospel hymn made popular by Mahalia Jackson:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
then my living shall not be in vain.”

Envisioning negotiators,
ambassadors and diplomats
Carter appears reflective these days. He said, “We’ve been able to impact the lives of so many young people, but the wheel we invented for SOS back in the 90s is wobbling. It’s becoming obsolete. Back then, gangs were just starting. Mass incarceration, as we know it today, was just kicking in. Drugs and guns were only a trickle flowing into the community. Everything is different now.”
Carter continued, “I want to do more than get kids out of trouble. I’m dreaming of an institute to cultivate statesmanship. The vision I have now for young African American men is that they would be mentored and coached to become negotiators, ambassadors, and diplomats.”

‘Sick n’ tired of all this dyin’
After suffering a stroke in 2017, Carter had to start slowing down. Recognizing that there are young community leaders ready and able to move forward with the work he started, he is formulating an exit strategy from the helm of SOS.
Giving himself a two-to-five-year time frame, Carter is consulting with his board and other trusted community leaders. In the meantime, he continues pressing on with several initiatives at the core of SOS. First and foremost among those is ending what he calls, “the recklessness of gun violence.”
He said, “Lives are shattered on both ends of the gun when it’s fired wantonly. If the front end of the bullet don’t kill you, the back end will.”
Carter advocates strongly for gun violence prevention in the schools. In one the booklets he authored and has distributed widely in the community called, “Dismantling Gun Violence,” Carter wrote, “So there I was, time after time, identifying friends and even relatives at the morgue, or sitting in the pew at a funeral. In every case, it was a waste of a precious young life that didn’t have to be.”
In both his personal and professional life, Carter has witnessed way too much tragedy related to gun violence. One of his mantras is, “Sick n’ tired of all this dyin’!”
SOS does not have a brick and mortar location. Its office is on the streets of St. Paul, especially the Summit University and Frogtown neighborhoods. According to Carter, these neighborhoods are saturated with guns. He said, “No matter how many we take away, there will always be way too many left.”
He believes gun ownership has to be de-glamorized, and that collective community action is how that will happen.
Even though the model for SOS is changing, Carter continues to see mentoring as a critical part of changing the way young people think. As Carter knows better than anyone, he was fortunate to be born into a family with two extraordinary parents. His father, Melvin Carter Sr., was an especially strong presence in his life.
Looking back on a formative childhood memory, he said, “My Dad took me fishing regularly when I was a kid. We’d rent a row boat, and sit there facing each other – because that’s how it is in a rowboat. He always had me take the oars, and he’d put the bottoms of his bare feet up against mine the whole time.
“He taught me how to row the boat. He taught me how to fish. I often got my fishing line tangled up, but no matter how bad it was – he managed to make it right again.”
To learn more about the ongoing mentorship work of Save our Sons, or to make a financial donation, visit www.saveoursonsmn.com.
Melvin Carter Jr.’s autobiography, “Diesel Heart”, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, is available for purchase locally. The Minnesota History Theater has adapted it for the stage. Watch for the upcoming live performance schedule at a future time.

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WEB_2 Scoops 02

IT’S POSSIBLE

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Family business 2 Scoops Ice Cream opens during pandemic and unrest, focuses on community

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Brian White Jr, one of four co-owners of 2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery at 921 Selby Avenue. His family was able to open their business by pooling resources and being creative. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Standing on the corner of Selby Ave. and Milton St. with Brian White, Jr., it seems like he knows everybody. Whether passersby are driving or walking, they smile and wave – and he waves back.
White grew up in Frogtown, and spent formative years playing football at the West Minnehaha Recreation Center. He is no stranger to this neighborhood. Now co-owner of 2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery along with his mother, father, and aunt, he said, “When we got the idea to start our business, we knew we wanted to be part of this community – not just do business in this community.”
The family-owned and operated business is doing just that. They had hoped to open in April but because of COVID, Grand Opening Day was delayed until May 30. On the Saturday of the uprising that rocked the Twin Cities and the world, lines had formed down both Selby and Milton while customers waited patiently for their cones. White said, “We thought it might be rough, but we also know ice cream is a universal goodness. People needed to lift their spirits, and they really came out to support us.”

6 Black-owned businesses nearby
2 Scoops occupies the space that housed Golden Thyme Coffee and Café for many years. The café has moved just a few doors away, and the block on Selby Ave. between Milton and Chatsworth streets now boasts six African-American owned businesses. If it looks like a resurgence of the old Rondo neighborhood that stood until Interstate 94 barreled through, that’s because it is.
White has a lot to say about being an African American entrepreneur in this time and place. He said, “At 2 Scoops, we have a real affinity for youth. We love that African American families bring their kids in to see what’s possible. Last month, a non-profit called Male Mentors came with a van full of young men. I told them, ‘Look, you’re probably not going to grow up to be professional basketball players. Why don’t you think about running your own businesses instead?”’
He calls this, “speaking an idea into existence.”

Others donate so kids can have free cones
On Opening Day, John Becker, who owns a State Farm business across the street from 2 Scoops dropped off a $100 check. He said he wanted to earmark it for kids who might not be able to afford an ice cream cone this summer. White is responsible for social media postings and put word of Becker’s gift up on the company Facebook page. They were flooded with donations from as far away as Michigan. More than 1,000 children under 12 have been given free ice cream cones so far, and the donations keep coming in.
In addition to all this, 2 Scoops has developed a reputation for excellent customer service. White said, “Our summer staff consisted of mostly neighborhood high school students. For many of them, it was their first real job. A lot of kids these days don’t have the best interpersonal skills, because they spend so much time on computer screens. It was great seeing them mature over the summer: they quickly learned how to step out from behind the computer screen, look customers in the eye, and be gracious.”
There are other youth-focused initiatives in the works, as well. White coordinates partnerships with several nearby elementary schools including Galtier, JJ Hill, and Adams Spanish Immersion. When students meet their reading goals, they are eligible for an ice cream cone to celebrate.
A future dream is to develop, “Two Scoops Hoops:” a sponsorship program for boys and girls youth basketball in the neighborhood.
Passion fruit Italian ice, raspberry rhapsody, matcha green tea, salted caramel, and banana cream pie are just a few of the 18 flavors featured right now at 2 Scoops, along with timeless standards like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. New flavors rotate through twice a week, and holiday-themed ice creams are just around the corner. The hot menu (pizza, sandwiches, soups and more) will expand starting Oct. 1.
Visit www.2scoopseatery.com for business hours and menu options. They are also available for catering.

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The 24th Community Peace Celebration Planning Team 9.19.2020S

Celebrating peace

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Peace bubbles

By Melvin Giles
peacebubbles@q.com

The 24th Community Peace Celebration Planning Team

Hello Hamline/Midway, Como, Frogtown, and Rondo Midway Monitor Readers,
It’s a refreshing and uplifting pleasure to share with you this month a few reflections from the innovative Drive-In Peace Celebration that was held on Sept. 19th at the intersections of the Rondo, Frogtown, and North End Communities near the State Capitol. The event was originally plan for June 19 (Juneteenth), however, was postponed like most summer annual events due to COVID-19. Fortunately, a dedicated and compassionate team of Peaceful Love Warriors stepped-up to create a successful safe and meaningful Peace Celebration beyond belief. On behalf of the Peace Celebration planning team, I send us all bright thoughts of better and healthy days and the Global (global & local) Messages of Peace: May Peace Prevail On Earth and May Peace Be In Our Homes & Communities.

Drive-in Peace Celebration reflections
• Nancy D. (Member of the MN Alliance of Peacemakers): This was my first time participating in the Peace Celebration, even though I have been a resident of St. Paul for most of my life. My activism has been more focused on Global Problems and Solutions, rather than the needs of my own local community. The murder of George Floyd in the midst of our isolation due to COVID-19, and the many stark challenges thereby highlighted right here at home, created a seismic shift in my heart. I am now planting my feet firmly on the ground of my own home community of St. Paul. This Peace Festival was a most meaningful way for me to start this journey.

State Rep. Rena Moran & Musician Thabiso at the Drive-In Peace Celebration

While there is an urgent need to protest specific unjust events and actions committed by those in power, there is also a need to hold tight to a vision of what we wish for our future. Through music, dance, spoken word, and messages from community leaders, the spirit of this year’s Peace Celebration was so joyful and hopeful and inspiring! And it wasn’t just a show on stage; my participation in the planning team and the behind-the-scenes movement of the day manifested this same spirit of community and joy. I look forward to the 25th Annual Celebration next June!
• Deon H. (U of MN Extension Health & Nutrition Educator & Peace Celebration Activator): The Drive-In Peace Celebration was full of life, fun, joy, and community pride.  Being a remote event didn’t stop anyone from bringing their all. The live crowd may have been small, but everyone – the volunteers, emcee, speakers, and performers, brought enough talent, passion, and sincerity for a crowd of thousands. This carried into the audience: even though we were keeping a safe distance from one another, the energy was palpable. This event was the perfect place to bring your whole self. On everyone’s face, you could witness a vision and commitment to a bright, beautiful, and Peaceful future.

Maricella X., Jeff S. , Jane P. & Michael S. celebrating the closing of a successful Drive-In Celebration

• Megan P. (Peace Sanctuary Garden’s Children’s Garden Coordinator): The resilience, creativity, determinedness, and joy of the Rondo Frogtown COMMUNITY PEACE CELEBRATION planning team was on brilliant display the afternoon of Sept 19th when the 24th annual event was celebrated as a “Drive-in”  and live streamed on Facebook for all to see!  The Peace Celebration, regularly scheduled in June, had to be postponed due to Covid-19.  The planning team, led by Melvin Giles, was at first daunted by the prospect of celebrating during a pandemic, however in short order rallied around Melvin’s idea of a drive-in event!  I can’t speak for all the planners officially but I think we all felt the joy and PEACE on the 19th when we watched dancers, heard the music, singers and spoken word artists and celebrated with the Community as masked, 6 feet apart, virtual, Peacemakers.  Cheers to the Planning Team!
• Sarah P. (Executive Director of Northern Lights): I am a newcomer to the Community Peace Celebration; my first year as an attendee was 2018, I think. I was moved by the warmth of the community gathered. I got involved with the planning for the 24th Annual Celebration as an act of reciprocity for all the time and energy given by this community to help organize the Northern Spark festival in Rondo in 2019. I’ve organized some very large events in my time, but I am always a learner.  The Peace Celebration team taught me so much about keeping joy close to the process of event organizing. We did a really big thing in a very short time frame. The sun was so bright and the sky so blue the day the performers and speakers met up in the parking lot to glow up our hearts with messages of peace, working it out together and yes, joy!  It lifted my soul in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.

• Tezikiah (Tez) G. (Executive Director of Pathways To Peace (PTP) – United Nations Peace Messenger Organization Consultative Status with ECOSOC): What an uplifting, positive and energetic event! The Drive-In Peace Celebration inspired a small but enthusiastic audience with a variety of high-quality and local/global performers, including ethic dancers, musicians,  spoken word, and speakers from all walks of life -all bound together in a unified commitment to Peace! Melvin was in his glory and at his best in elevating the crowd energy by bringing laughter, running around the cars and spectators shouting words of encouragement, and blowing bubbles to connect us beyond the bounds of social distancing. T. Michael Rambo was an inspired, funny, and captivating MC, using song, poetry, wisdom, and positivity! All in all, I would not have missed this world class, yet intimate community event!

Diesel Heart Melvin Carter Jr & Emcee T. Mychael Rambo at the Drive-In Peace Celebration

• Jeff S. (Shoreview): I had never attended St. Paul’s Community Peace Celebration before, but I knew about it through colleagues at Bethel University who had helped me to connect students with Melvin Giles and Megan Phinney at the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance. Just a month ago, I called Melvin, simply hoping to catch up a bit. As usual, I found him to be knee-deep in coordinating a team of volunteers for a community initiative – this year’s 24th Annual Peace Celebration. Since the original date for the event had been delayed due to the COVID pandemic, when a new date became available, it offered little time to prepare and coordinate all of the essential elements. The list of tasks ahead of Melvin and his team seemed daunting: gaining permission from relevant local authorities, sourcing a stage and a sound engineer, recruiting an emcee, guest speakers, musicians and performers, coordinating safety personnel, social media folks to share the word and stream the event, and gaining the support of Frogtown Community Radio (WFNU 94.1 FM) to broadcast the celebration live. I was delighted for Melvin’s invitation to help where I could, because during my brief involvement, it opened my eyes to what casual observers, like me, often take for granted. And through the coordinated efforts of Melvin’s team of caring volunteers, participants and sponsors, it came together with positivity, a genuine love for the community, and a quest for meaningful peace. I’m looking forward to next year’s 25th Annual. In Peace.

Frogtown Community Radio at the Drive- Peace Celebration 9.19.2020

• Katharine D. (WFNU Frogtown Community Radio 94.1 FM: The Drive-In Peace Celebration was amazing! It was great to see so many happy people enjoying the live music, spectacular performances, and moving speakers giving us all hope for the future. After being isolated and away from community, the Peace Celebration was a way for all of us to come together safely in celebration!

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{ Monitor in a Minute }

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

Neighborhood STAR fund
allocated for area projects
Twenty-one small businesses, housing providers and community organizations are recipients of 2020 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grants and loans, awarded September 2 by the St. Paul City Council. The top-ranked project citywide is Elsa’s House of Sleep at 1441 University Ave.
The Neighborhood STAR Board this summer recommended a total of $1,352,777 divided among 16 projects, with $983,700 in grants and $369,077 in loans. Mayor Melvin Carter added five projects, bringing the total to 21.
Carter reallocated $249,866 in unspent project fund balances, to bring the total awarded to $1,602,643. That results in $1,194,633 in grants and $408,101 in loans.
The neighborhood STAR Program is set up to allocate half-cent sales tax proceeds to brick-and-mortar projects. The COVID-19 pandemic forced meetings online. Sixty projects were submitted by the April deadline, with two later withdrawn.
The Elsa’s House of Sleep furniture store was awarded a $49,800 grant to repair stucco, install a new storefront, make ceiling and floor repairs, install a new handicapped-accessible door and install new security cameras.
Second was Neighborhood Development Center, which received a $123,450 grant and $41,150 loan to build a new business incubator at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street. The Frogtown Crossroads project will include a small business incubator for up to six businesses. The match is $13.3 million. The project is part of a mixed-used development with Wellington Management, which will include affordable housing.
Third is NeighborWorks Home Partners, with a citywide project to help 20 low to moderate-income St. Paul homeowners with lead-based painted windows. To be eligible, owners of single to four-unit dwellings must already be involved in a county window replacement program. The $12,000 grant, which has a $110,000 match, should help each property owner replace about a dozen windows per dwelling.
Ranked 12th is Sun Foods in Uni-Dale Mall, 554 University Ave. Sun Foods received a $75,000 grant and $75,000 loan to install up to 10 new signs, replace windows, do tuckpointing and make parking lot repairs. The match is $150,000.
The Creative Enterprise Zone’s loans and grants for several small businesses in the West Midway ranked 16th. The nonprofit’s request for a $100,000 grant and $100,000 loan was trimmed by almost $40,000 by the Neighborhood STAR Board and then restored by Carter.
Carter used unspent fund balances to partially fund five projects that had been shut out. One is Springboard for the Arts’ work to redevelopment a former auto dealership at 262 University Ave. into an arts center with public park space. Springboard sought a $100,000 grant with $190,000 match for the park project. A $50,000 grant was approved.
The Asian Economic Development Center sought a $205,000 grant with $205,000 match for improvements including murals, one small business façade improvement, two parklets, benches and other amenities. The project was awarded a $75,000 grant.
African Economic Development Solutions sought a $200,000 grant with $200,000 match for loans for business improvements citywide.
Carter also added a Frogtown project at 625 Charles Ave., with a $22,000 grant and $22,000 loan for a parking lot for a business and apartment building. A $44,000 match is proposed.
An area project that wasn’t approved was the Central Baptist office renovation at 420 Roy St. The Central Baptist project, for which Union Park District Council is a partner, called for renovating the 1913 church building into office and retail space.

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Explore a Frogtown Pollinator Garden

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Take a self-guided tour of Monarch City

Flowers, butterflies, and bees: oh my! For a fun ending to a warm August, visit Monarch City and take a self-guided tour. Butterflies and bees love this brightly-colored garden full of native flowers, located at West Minnehaha Park and Rec Center, 685 West Minnehaha Ave.
Beginning at the corner of Grotto St. and Minnehaha Ave., enjoy more than 3,000 square feet of gardens. Posted signs will help you identify and learn about the variety of plants in the garden.
Think every yellow flower is a sunflower? Think again! Sunflowers are annuals, and the yellow flowers you’ll find at Monarch City, like the Cup Plant or the Compass Plant, are perennials, so they grow back every year by themselves. Pollinators like butterflies and bees are vital to our food supply, and at Monarch City you can learn about them at your own speed.
Frogtown Green is a 10-year old, resident-led and volunteer powered initiative to make Frogtown the greenest and healthiest neighborhood in St Paul. The organization began with the successful campaign for Frogtown Park & Farm (now a St Paul city park) and has broadened to include several community gardens, a tree planting goal of 1,000 new trees for Frogtown homes, and more.
“We’ve been working on pollinator gardens in Frogtown for the last four years, so come see the fruit (or, more accurately, flowers) of our labors!” urge organizers. For information about Frogtown Green, visit www.frogtowngreen.com.

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Progress in the struggle

Progress in the struggle

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Peace bubbles

Melvin Giles

By Melvin Giles
peacebubbles@q.com

Progress in the struggle

Hello Midway Como Frogtown Monitor readers,
This month I’m sharing two proverbs and words of encouragement and wisdom that I find helpful in navigating through our 2020 season of pandemics.
The first proverb comes from the Red Cross African America HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention course from the mid-1980s. “When Spider Webs United, They Can Tie Up A Lion”; it’s an Ethiopian Proverb. The Red Cross wanted to emphasis that when government agencies, non-profits, businesses, health organizations, and community work in cooperation that together they could tie up the devastating and deadly impact of HIV/AIDS.
Today is no different, in regards to COVID-19.
We have to rise to work together in a cooperative, respectful, and on-going manner. It’s not about agreeing 100% with a COVID prevention method or about giving up our values or having our rights violated; however, it is about taking a breath and doing the Right Thing. It took awhile to tie up HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 will take longer than we want; however, it was authentic and selfless versus fearful and selfish leadership that made the big difference. Out of authentic and selfless leadership weaved compassion, empathy, and science, which tied up HIV/AIDS. We can tie up COVID-19 working together with shared-leadership on equitable levels.

Hopefully, you have heard these words of encouragement and wisdom before:

Lessons from geese
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson 1 – People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
Fact 2 – When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of it.
Lesson 2 – If we have as much common sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.
Fact 3 – When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
Lesson 3 – It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each others’ skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, or resources.
Fact 4 – Geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson 4 – We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.
Fact 5 – When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson 5 – If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong
The lessons from the wise geese are great methods for us to practice together and to live them as best we can. Mayor M. Carter III and others often quote the late-dear Paul Wellstone, “We Do Better, When We All Do Better”! Brother George Floyd’s killing has been lifting us up all across the country and around the world. Uprisings and televised revolutions are struggling and moving forward demanding and proclaiming that Black Lives Matter; and more and more people are hearing it and beginning to understand the toxic history as told by a white supremacy myth and a false imposed narrative of Blackness and of the intentional lies about the artful, skillful, and beautiful people from Africa. The time is now to correct the wrongs of the past and present.
We have to be easy on ourselves, however, we have to be honest and truthful with ourselves too. Busting out of denial is very, very hard, particularly when we try to do it alone and deny and ignore the lessons from geese.
My second proverb is from Fredrick Douglass: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Have an uplifting and a meaningful learning-struggling September!!!!!! Peace.

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IMG_20200801_090809936_HDRs

New mural exhibition sustains fight for justice

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Tesha Christensen

A neighbor looks at the mural exhibit at 825 University Ave. (Photo by Tyler Olsen-Highness)

Four murals created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been re-introduced to the public at 825 University Ave. With messages like “Keep on Pushing We Can’t Stop Now,” this exhibition is an effort to help continue the momentum and movement towards justice.
The project is a collaboration between the Victoria Theater Arts Center (VTAC), Model Cities, and the Ramsey County Historical Society – three very different groups who came together to support community healing.
Both VTAC and Model Cities had had murals created on the plywood of their boarded up windows in the days of unrest this past June. Created by professional muralists Alex Smith and Witt Siasoco, as well as community youth, the murals are vibrant expressions of community energy. Colorful and powerful, they blaze with the fires of hope and justice. So, when it was time for the murals to come down, discussions began on how to preserve and display them in the community.

Muralist Alex Smith works on the Radical Love mural.

“The uprising was reactionary and immediate,” said Aki Shibata, co-chair of the VATC’s community engagement committee, “We wanted the voices of Black and POC artists to be supported by the community and help sustain the movement.”
The VTAC’s interior is uninhabitable, as it is currently a construction zone. The western exterior wall, however, which faces Model Cities’ “pocket park,” was an ideal home for these murals. Highly visible from University Ave. and the Victoria Light Rail Station, the murals are accessible to motorists, transit riders, and pedestrians alike. Planning kicked into high gear to get the murals up as soon as possible.
One big question arose: How to protect these one-of-a-kind pieces of art from the elements? They’re painted on OSB – a material that’s designed primarily for indoor use, and especially vulnerable to water. The paint itself is also delicate, and there was worry that these pieces would degrade quickly if left in the elements. Luckily, the Ramsey County Historical Society had the solution: bowling alley wax. A long-time favorite of preservationists, the wax protects without altering the materials it’s applied to.

Community members carefully apply wax to the murals to preserve them at 825 University Ave., near the Victoria Light Rail station. (Photos submitted)

The organizations pooled their resources for installation and materials, and VTAC had volunteers ready to help with the efforts. On Aug. 8, a team of community members delicately applied the wax to the murals. On Monday they were installed by two professional theater carpenters who are currently out of work due to COVID-19 closures.
All three organizations see this as exactly the kind of collaboration and project that can help their community’s fight for equity. The art is beautiful, big, and from the heart. The location is on the border of Frogtown and Rondo, both of which have experienced systemic oppression throughout their history. The artists who created them are from the neighborhood. The hope and passion behind the art is palpable and contagious.
“We’re so happy we can allow community members the opportunity to experience this magnificent showcase of art and reflect on its true meaning!” said Kizzy Downie, CEO of Model Cities.

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Symptoms of Peace 7.28.2020s

I am still hopeful

Posted on 18 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Peace bubbles

By Melvin Giles
peacebubbles@q.com

Hello Greater Hamline/Midway Community,
Like many I started this year with a New Year’s Resolution. My resolution has been very challenging due to not seeing the results. In fact, it seems I have been seeing the exact opposite results. My resolution was to take a minute every day to thoughtfully say the Universal Peace Message of May Peace Be In Our Homes & Communities and May Peace Prevail On Earth with a focus on May Peace Be In Our Local Communities and to encourage others to do the same. It is documented that if 1% of neighbors collectively repeat a peace message daily then that neighborhood will begin to see increase peace and if a critical mass of 10% are participating in the daily peace message then less crime and senseless acts of violence will occur.
Although, COVID-19, the senseless murder of George Floyd, the record number of homicides, the continual questionable police accountability in our country, and the dysfunctional national leadership has been very discouraging and simply unbelievable; I am still hopeful and inspired to encourage myself and others to believe and take action towards working and making Good & Necessary Trouble for increasing the peace in our communities.
My former student and now summer garden intern, Ashley Davis, recently reminded me that peace must first start within ouselves. I am including a photo of an assignment she completed this summer. Her creative work of art will be traveling to the Urban Farm & Garden Alliance (UFGA) community garden sites for the remainder of the growing season (http://urbanfarmandgardenalliance.org/). I will start using her expressions for food for thought, in particularly, I will meditate greatly on “the tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences” and “a loss of interest in judging other people.”
My hopefulness is also from the wonderful and pro-active energy of our young people. I and others of my generation are so proud of the young rising-up to take positive and peaceful action of bending the arc of justice forward and assisting everyone, particularly the powers in civic positions to get out of denial of systematic and institutional racism. I love that the young and others are embracing and coming to terms that truly Black Lives Matter!!!!
I close with an opportunity for our youth to participate in promoting May Peace Be In Our Communities; however, this is a simply action that we all can participate in our own way. Have a great August and be the change you want to see. Peaceful, wellness, and grateful thoughts….

A Call for the Voices of our Youth
Peace Pals International has been invited by our friend Philip Hellmich of The Shift Network to submit videos for this year’s International Day of Peace
This year the Shift Network will be partnering with UnityEarth and the SINE Network. Peace Pals International Youth have been invited to share a 2-3 minute video message saying:
“Hello from __ _ _ _ _ _ I’m _ _ _ _ _ _ _ And I am celebrating the International Day of Peace 2020.
My message of peace is _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “ Please close your video with “May Peace Prevail on Earth” OR “May Peace be in (the name of your country) – May Peace Prevail On Earth.”
It would be great if you can have anything in the background that is representative of where you live.

How to submit your videos
If you would like to participate in this project, it’s easy. The next steps are:
1. You can use your phone, zoom or any other video method that is easy for you.
2. Please submit your peace message by Aug. 17, 2020 to peacepals@worldpeace.org
3. In the subject line, please state the country where you live and Video for Peace.
4. Also, please share your video on social media #internationaldayofpeace – #unitetheworld and #maypeaceprevailonearth.
This is a beautiful way to celebrate The International Day of Peace for 2020 (Sept. 21) and to help uplift our global community.
If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email at: peacepals@worldpeace.org.
May Peace Prevail Be In Rondo, Frogtown, & Hamline/Midway Communities
May Peace Be In Our Homes & Communities
May Peace Prevail On Earth (MPPOE!)

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