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Springboard for the Arts springs back

Posted on 18 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Executive director Laura Zabel stands outside the new headquarters for Springboard for the Arts in Frogtown. A second renovation is in progress, following extensive property damage sustained last month. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Springboard for the Arts is a one-of-a-kind resource for working artists, connecting artists to each other and to the broader community. The organization operated out of their offices in Lowertown, St. Paul for 25 years. In 2018, Springboard purchased and began renovating a used car dealership at 262 University Ave. W. Renovation had progressed far enough for the 16 employees to move into their new building in February.
One month later, when the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order was implemented, everybody went home.
Executive Director Laura Zabel said, “We had so much planned for this spring and summer. Everything changed in mid-March when the bottom fell out for the creative community. We switched into high gear and started fundraising fulltime for our Artist Emergency Relief Fund.”
That assistance fund has an average annual budget of $10,000. It is meant to provide a small amount of gap funding, should artists lose a revenue stream in an emergency.
This year, Springboard staff raised one million dollars in record time for artists – because there was record need.
Zabel said, “We were able to provide grants for more than 2,000 artists in the early stages of the pandemic. There’s no safety net for artists, and people get that. Donations came in from existing donors and foundations, but there was also an outpouring of support from donors we had never heard from before. To me, that shows that people were understanding the role and importance of artists in a new way.”
On Thursday, May 28, Zabel watched on security camera footage as the Springboard building was broken into and set on fire. She said, “Two things are true here. First, and most importantly, that George Floyd’s murder illuminated the deep racism in our cities and in our systems. At the same time, it was heartbreaking to witness damage to the communities and spaces we care about so much.
“As for our building,” Zabel continued, “the good news is that our newly installed sprinklers put out the flames. The bad news is that the building suffered a lot of water damage.” If all goes as hoped for, insurance should cover the full costs of repair.
Once the second renovation is complete, Springboard will be a tremendous asset for the community. With its third floor deck view of the Capitol dome, treetops, and neighborhood church spires, it’s not hard to imagine that this could have been prime luxury condominiums instead.
Zabel said, “We feel the urgency of holding space for the community in Frogtown right now. The concerns about who is going to acquire property in the burned and damaged parts of the neighborhood will become even more pressing in the months to come.”
The building will offer several spaces for artist use including a second floor resource center and lending library. Work is under way to transform the parking lot on University Ave. into a public green space. Zabel said, “We hope it will feel like a neighborhood front yard. That’s our priority right now, because of the need for people to be able to safely gather outdoors.”
The Artist Emergency Relief Fund has dominated the development work of Springboard since March. Prior to the pandemic, money had been set aside to fund a major public arts project in the neighborhood. Springboard just completed an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) process, and will select artists for these projects later in the fall. The projects will prioritize artists who live in, work in, or have a deep family connection to Frogtown or Rondo.
Zabel concluded, “The multiple crises we’ve all experienced in the last five months have been very intense. What keeps us going here is seeing the inventiveness, the many ways that art and artists are bringing people together. We were able to support 10 Black artists to make murals in response to the Uprising. All of the murals on our building are still up for viewing.
“We’re moving forward at Springboard. Our Community Green Space will be completed this fall, and we’re hoping for a grand opening of our building in spring of 2021. I’m an impatient optimist; I believe deep, positive change is possible in our community – but I’m ready for it right now. ”
For more information on the work of Springboard for the Arts, RFQs, services, online workshops and their job board, visit www.springboardforthearts.org.


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Help kids through trauma

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Telling his own children about George Floyd’s death was one of hardest things Rev. Ronald Bell ever did

Reverend Dr. Ronald Bell Jr. with his wife, Dr. Eboni Bell, and his two sons. Bell encouraged them to keep moving and get out to help the community by handing out Trauma Bags in order to educate others on guiding children through trauma they have experienced. (Photo submitted)

When Reverend Dr. Ronald Bell Jr. sat down with his two sons (ages five and eight) to explain the death of George Floyd and the events that followed, one burst into tears and the other questioned why this was happening.
He wanted to know why a police officer would do this to anybody.
“It was one of the hardest moments in my life,” Bell said. “I could see my five year old’s faith in authority, white people and the system crumble in front of me as I tried to explain.”
The death of George Floyd has impacted many – and especially, children and young adults who may not fully understand what has been going on throughout the United States or right at home the past couple of weeks. Bell is a pastor for Camphor Memorial United Methodist at 585 Fuller Ave in St. Paul. He studied ministry for young adults at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Penn. He believes that parents need to have a conversation with their children about what is going on.
“They are experiencing this fundamentally different than adults are,” Bell said. “As a child, they don’t differentiate that all police aren’t bad, all white folk aren’t bad, so we’ve got to help them get moving in a way that is healing.”

Be vulnerable with kids and focus on truth
After explaining what happened to his boys, Bell had them hand out trauma healing bags in order to engage them physically in helping the community. These bags included things like toys, coloring books, information for parents about children who have been through trauma and books with people of color as leads. All of these were aimed at helping children to heal from the trauma that they have witnessed and to begin to feel more like kids again. By the end of the day, they had helped give out more than 210 trauma healing bags to those in need. Donations for the bags and other resources can be made at the church’s website, CamphorConnects.com.
“It was important to them [Bell’s children] to hear me say ‘Here’s who we are as a family, we love people, we honor people, we serve, protect and help people. That’s who we are,’” Bell said.
Bell believes that parents should be vulnerable when having this conversation with their children. And, to focus on the truth. Parents don’t need to go into details but talk about what’s right and wrong. His advice for everyone going through these difficult times is to remember that you are here in this very specific time and place for a reason, and to trust the power of time.

Trauma affects physical health
Immediately after watching the video of George Floyd’s death, Bell reached out to find those who were recording. He hoped that he would be able to get counseling or help in general for the people who were there. Going through trauma not only impacts the emotional state, but also the physical being of a person, he pointed out. According to a study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emotional trauma can set off the body’s stress responses.
“These people [People of Color] are sitting with trauma that is undealt with, and because of this, their bodies become acidic and are more susceptible to diseases like COVID-19,” Bell said.
Although Bell believes that there are some things that can be done to start healing from the trauma, he believes that people should sit in the discomfort that these times bring. Bell encourages not only young adults, but everyone to get engaged physically in the healing of the community. And, to ask themselves how they can get out and serve.
“It can be as easy as going to a food kitchen and just serving or doing artwork, but how are you physically engaged in this moment?” asked Bell. “I think the danger of this moment is to stay stagnant.”

‘We weren’t able to move away’
Bell observed that there’s a cycle that must be broken. This time, there wasn’t just a hashtag and march before people moved on. Protests happened globally and are still happening in many states. Four hundred National Guard troops were sent out to protect national monuments in Washington. D.C. on June 24, 2020. Protestors camped outside of New York’s City Hall the night of June 23, 2020. Both the protests and trauma surrounding the death of George Floyd demand to be seen and heard.
“With George Floyd, we weren’t able to move away,” Bell said. “This is the first time that the globe has had to sit with and acknowledge that this problem is systemic.”

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Frog Food by Z Akhmetova July 2020

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

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A lovely justice day  at 6 feet apart

A lovely justice day at 6 feet apart

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Melvin Giles

Peace bubbles

By Melvin Giles

These lyrics were jointly written by Megan P, Deon H. and Melvin G. The song is a tribute to Bill Withers.

When I wake up in the morning light
I think about my day.
Two pandemics on my mind,
I start to lose my way!
Particularly, at 6 Ft. Apart Away

Then I try to think
Of all the things I’m grateful for:
Sun is shining bright,
My garden’s right out my door…
And, I start my day! It’s gonna be

A lovely day (repeat)

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way
Even at 6 Ft. Apart Away

Then I look at you
And, the world’s alright with me
Even when it’s tough-out..
We can hold each other up
On this lovely day

A lovely day (repeat)
A cry for change is blasting now!
George Floyd’s death is at the core.
Six feet apart seems trivial,
But covid’s too big to ignore.
We all have to do our part

Then I start to think…
How do we navigate this fray?
Open up our hearts & listen to understand!
Do not look away!
It’s still a lovely Day

A lovely day (repeat)

The time is NOW to make big Change,
It’s long overdue!
It’s like defying Gravity –
We need to push through!
Even at 6 Ft. Apart Away

The need is to Unite
Together in Minds and Hearts
We need to wear our masks,
At 6 feet apart
Yes, this is the WAY to…

A lovely day (repeat)

When this hate seems like a guarantee
It’s hard to catch a breath
We must now remove that knee
We need to take a stand together
Yes, even at 6 Ft. Apart together

More are waking up
Black Lives Matter, can’t you see
We’ll demand and claim
A world where all can see

A lovely day (repeat)

View a video of new lyrics on the Urban Farm & Garden Alliance (UFGA) site on July 21.
View a video of original song at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEZ0yhf9BVk {LOVELY DAY Bill Withers (instrumental with text)}.

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Ryan Vernosh

Maxfield students, teachers wrestle with COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

I Am Somebody

Maxfield Elementary School Principal Ryan Vernosh had just four days to lead Maxfield into a completely different learning environment. AT RIGHT The poem ‘I Am Somebody’ is said each day by Maxfield Elementary students to encourage them through their day. (Photo submitted)

School happening remotely has impacted students and families with more than just technical problems.
Maxfield Elementary School, 380 N Victoria St. in St. Paul, has a food pantry on site for students and families in need. They collaborate with Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, an organization that works with families and students in the Frogtown, Rondo, and Summit-University neighborhoods to support their needs and approach the gap between education and opportunity.
Maxfield provides dental care, extra clothing, counseling, social work and mental health care to students and families. All of these have been greatly impacted by COVID-19.
“Some families lost employment, so access to healthcare became more challenging, access to food became more challenging. We’ve seen the current unemployment crisis that we’ve had in the city and our community, which was just exasperated by the pandemic,” said Maxfield Principal Ryan Vernosh.
During school hours, Maxfield Elementary would normally be bustling with 300 students going in and out of the library, gym and classrooms. Teachers would be preparing for another day of classes. Their rooms filled with colorful banners and encouragement for the students. But, for the last four months of school, the halls were mostly empty. COVID-19 had drastically impacted what Maxfield, and all schools around the state, looked like in their last stretch before summer break.

Four days to restructure
Vernosh has been principal at Maxfield Elementary School for three years now. He’s overseen budgets and paperwork. He supports the students and staff – and makes sure they are doing well socially, emotionally, and academically. He’s never had to deal with something like this before. Maxfield was tasked with changing an entire learning environment in just four days.
“Our staff really rose to it and we did the best that we could to connect with our kids and keep them learning and supported,” Vernosh said.
The staff had meetings on a weekly basis in order to stop and assess how online learning was going, and to make any changes they felt was necessary for their students. St. Paul Public Schools has a one-to-one iPad policy, so everyone had access to online classes. The district provided hot spots for families without high speed internet, although, they still had many technology issues. Professionals came in for classes in order to instruct the teachers on how to use Schoology and Seesaw, two online learning platforms, to their full advantages.
They also had educators’ workshops and presentations. During these workshops, teachers presented what was working and what wasn’t to other educators around the school. Each teacher visited at least three other presentations in order to get ideas about how to better their online classroom. But, it was still difficult to keep students engaged with online learning.
“You just can’t mimic in person instruction,” Vernosh said, “Our teachers did the best they could to carry on instruction, but it’s just not the same.”


I Am Somebody
I am Somebody!
I am capable and loveable.
I am teachable,
therefore I can learn.
I can do anything if I try.
I’ll be the best that I can be.
Each day,
Each day,
Each day,
I will not waste time.
Because it is too valuable
And I am too precious and bright.
I am somebody.
I am somebody.

Cocreating safe places
Vernosh wanted Maxfield to continue being a safe space for both staff and students to come to. Especially after the murder of George Floyd two weeks before school ended, students began to have more questions. The St. Paul Public School District sent out information in order to support teachers, and to help guide them through questions students may have or how to go about explaining the events happening. The staff had many conversations about how best to create a community of support for their students. They needed to keep things grade appropriate, as well. Kindergartners may understand less of the situation than a fifth grader.
“Our kids are aware of what’s going on whether it’s COVID or the murder of George Floyd,” Vernosh said. “Part of our role is to listen and be supportive; to cocreate a safe space for our students and families to be able to process these things.”
Maxfield aimed to never shut down a conversation that brought up any questions about COVID-19 or the murder of George Floyd. In order to fully create this safe space, the school implemented things like a restorative morning circle. This was a time where students could sit and express themselves. It also included guiding questions, activities, or a review of what lessons would be taught that day. The school wanted to focus on community building along with mindfulness for the students. Through the Cultural Wellness Center, an organization that helps communities solve problems that come due to loss of culture, the students take African drumming and dance classes in order to make sure students see their culture in each area of the school.
“If our students don’t feel seen and heard and loved, learning is not going to take place,” Vernosh said.
They have a call-and-response over the intercom each morning to let students know that they are here and being heard. This daily affirmation poem, “I Am Somebody,” is said to remind the students that they are teachable, loveable and capable.

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Fireworks complaints rise sharply

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Abu Nayeem [middle] at one of the Frogtown Cleanup Squad events with the St. Paul Police Department. He and the rest of the Frogtown Cleanup Squad aim to work with communities directly to clean up their neighborhoods from trash and other debris. (Photo submitted)

If it makes noise or flies, it is illegal in Minnesota

With COVID-19 still prevalent in Minnesota, most community fireworks were cancelled throughout the Twin Cities. However, fireworks have still been lighting up the skies with loud booms and cracks echoing off of neighborhood houses. Nationwide, illegal firework use went up 11 percent in the last few months of quarantine, according to Patricia Lammers.
Last year, the St. Paul Police Department received 191 complaints about fireworks from June 1 to June 30. This year, in the same time span, they received 664 firework complaints.
“Most of it is not designed to be destructive, but it sometimes can be,” Lammers said, “particularly if we’ve had a really dry summer.”
Lammers has worked at the St. Paul Police Department as a Crime Prevention Coordinator for three years. It’s her job to inform and educate communities on how to reduce crime in their areas. Working mostly in the North End area, she teaches classes on things like personal safety. Lammers mentioned that these illegal fireworks were universal throughout St. Paul; no neighborhood was particularly worse than the other. However, there are no classes on firework safety or illegal fireworks at the department.
Illegal firework use normally skyrockets around the Fourth of July. And, the St. Paul Police Department expected higher numbers this year due to it falling on a Saturday and fewer professional shows. The department dedicated one squad car solely to patrol the neighborhoods in order to watch out for illegal firework use June 26 to July 4, 2020. The department does not create checkpoints coming from other states, but they do look for noise disturbances or other complaints on neighborhood watch pages on Facebook. They also hand out pamphlets including information on which fireworks are illegal in Minnesota.
“If it makes noise or it flies, it’s illegal here in Minnesota,” Lammers said.

Is it a gunshot or firework?
The Uprising has also been creating more tension and anxiety around whether what a citizen hears is an illegal firework or gun shot. More and more calls have been coming in as “shots fired” that actually turn out to be fireworks. However, Lammers encouraged people to still call the non-emergency number for the St. Paul Police Department, 651-291-1111.
Even though Lammers said that majority of the calls for illegal fireworks are non-violent, they can still have a negative impact. For those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), fireworks can set off panic attacks or other stressors. Lammers said there have been cases where pets have had heart attacks or families will need to medically induce sleep for the night because they get too anxious. When these fireworks come as a shock, this can make it even more difficult.
“We try to educate people on: yes, it’s fun for you, but it’s not necessarily fun for everyone,” Lammers said.
If people do have neighbors who are lighting off illegal fireworks, Lammers encourages using a neighborly approach before calling the number above. Often, it’s families that aren’t aware the fireworks they purchased in another state are illegal in Minnesota. Using fireworks to damage property or cause harm is very unlikely according to Lammers. But, of course, if the situation seems or becomes violent or dangerous, Lammers says that people should call the non-emergency number listed above.

Clean-up crew organized in Frogtown
Abu Nayeem, a community organizer in Frogtown, St. Paul, also agrees with the neighborly approach and mitigating harm. Nayeem has recently started working on a clean-up crew called the “Frogtown Cleanup Squad.” This group is made up of volunteers from various neighborhoods around the area that keep the neighborhoods clean of trash.
Their GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/f/frogtown-cleanup-squad, states, “The true value of the initiative is not the amount of trash collected, but our individual effort in giving back to our planet and community, and building relationships with neighbors.”
This community-based organization is aimed toward empowering, connecting, and feeling community pride. They want to give an opportunity for a community to take back ownership of their own neighborhoods. Nayeem believes that illegal fireworks could harm neighbors and therefore harm the overall community. According to the Neighborhood Safety Network, 243 people attend the emergency room every day from injuries caused by fireworks in the month surrounding the Fourth of July. Nayeem also says that firework debris not properly taken care of can harm pets.
“I think what people may not understand is that the fumes from fireworks are rather toxic, and if not properly discarded, it may poison animals, such as cats,” Nayeem said.

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Monica_HamlineElders jpg

Help an older neighbor

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Hamline Midway Elders

Monica Gallagher Hamline Midway Elders

By Monica

So many have asked us recently in light of Covid 19, and then neighborhood unrest, “How can I help seniors in areas affected?” The outpouring of generosity and community concern has been deeply moving. Our older neighbors are proving themselves to be resilient and resourceful, yet again. That said, we are also talking to many people who miss usual activities and connections, as well.
To answer the “how to help” question, we could use volunteers to do the following things:
• ”Adopt” a senior’s home this summer for mowing and weeding and/or raking and shoveling in other seasons
• As clinics reopen, we will need volunteer drivers for medical appointments who are at less risk for Covid-19 transmission than older drivers, some of whom have had to take a break
• Weed a senior’s yard and/or remove volunteer trees, or prune shrubs. Some lifelong gardeners with new limitations feel discouraged.
• Paint a garage, clean a garage, or wash windows at a senior’s home
• Deliver from a food shelf or grocery store to a senior’s home regularly
• Handyperson skills? Change a lock or install motion detector lights at a senior’s home
• Have a pickup? Haul trash, compost, or waste to the appropriate place. This is a morale booster and stress reliever. (Homeowner will cover disposal fees, typically).
Direct service to seniors – in their yards or as a volunteer driver – requires a background check and short volunteer application. To complete the background check, and begin the volunteer intake process, email Service Director Monica Gallagher at monica@hmelders.org. (If you are serving with a group outside, we ask that the group leader complete the background check). She can send you a link to complete the background check right away. There is also a volunteer application. Volunteer drivers must also show proof of valid insurance, driver’s license, and complete a 30-min. volunteer intake over the phone.
There are other ways to support seniors in our neighborhood, short of becoming an “official” volunteer:
• Introduce yourself, or simply leave a note, for your older neighbors. Leave your contact info if you feel comfortable. Many people we a to are disappointed they don’t know their neighbors anymore.
• When you are going to the store yourself, ask an older neighbor if they need something.
• Even if you are young and healthy, wear a mask in public and take hygiene precautions – you will be indirectly protecting senior neighbors
• Donate to the rebuilding of Lloyd’s Pharmacy or other damaged businesses – links on the Hamline Midway Coalition page.
• Identify local reliable, friendly, affordable mowing services, favorite handyperson, electrical, plumbing, or housecleaners to add to our Aging Well resource list. These should be contractors willing to accept checks, phone calls, and to complete a background check including references.
• Be aware of handicapped parking spaces, sidewalks, etc. when you park in the neighborhood. Open doors for those using walkers, canes – or anyone, really!
Please call our office with any questions or concerns. We remain grateful to serve a community-minded neighborhood!

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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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