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October 2020 Monitor_01S

Read entire October 2020 eEdition

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

 

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Gala 2019S

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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Web_Stop-Abuse-Campaign-hand

‘She must have done something wrong’

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Because fit mothers are losing custody and children are being harmed, supporters of Safe Child Act want to make sure family court focuses on child safety over parents rights

domestic violence awareness month

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Broke.
Homeless.
And in danger of losing custody of her children.
That’s where Bonnie Roy found herself while trying to get a divorce in Minnesota 10 years ago.
Because of her own experience and the stories she’s heard, Roy has dedicated herself to positive change in the laws around family court that prioritize the safety and well-being of children.
She’s attended the New York Battered Women’s Custody Conference, and events by the Center for Judicial Excellence and Protective Mothers Alliance International. She’s worked to bring well-known domestic violence advocates Barry Goldstein, who authored the Safe Child Act as well as “The Quincy Solution,” and Lundy Bancroft, who authored “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” to Minnesota to provide trainings to therapists and other family court professionals.
And she’s worked hard to counter this statement made by so many: Well, she must have done something wrong to lose custody.
Of the moms she knows who lost legal custody and got reduced parenting time, none had criminal convictions or had been in criminal court. There was no determination of negligence or endangerment. “They hardly had a speeding ticket,” said Roy.
“People just assume lawmakers and judges are looking out for children – and they’re not.
“The public needs to get informed.”

Evidence ignored as ’heresay’
What is the contributing factor to women losing custody? Not being heard on the evidence they have, according to Roy.
She pointed to cases like that of her friend, Leigh Ann Olson Block, whose evidence of domestic violence was ignored by the Ramsey County Family Court. Having been given joint legal custody and over 50% of the parenting time, Highland High School graduate John Tester murdered their daughter Mikayla the weekend before she would have started kindergarten in September 2004.
This isn’t an isolated case. Since 2008, the Center for Judicial Excellence has identified 748 children who were murdered by a divorcing or separating parent. Among those are 11-year-old William and 8-year-old Nelson Schladetzky, who, along with their mother, Kjersten, were murdered by their father and Whittier International Elementary School PTO president David last November in South Minneapolis.
Once you step into family court, evidence that would be heard in a criminal court gets thrown out, said Roy, who has talked to many women in Minnesota over the years about their experiences in family court. The evidence is labeled “heresay.” Women are labeled as having made “false allegations” and in some cases children are taken away because they’re seen as “alienators” and accused to trying to alienate children from their fathers, a theory that is not supported by research, she observed. Women are even punished for cooperating with child protection investigations.
Minnesota courts are taking children away from their primary caretakers without a determination of neglect or endangerment. You can’t do this in criminal court, but it happens in family court, pointed out Roy.
This is a widespread problem, one that researcher Joan Meiers and team from Georgetown University studied in depth, pointed out Roy. After looking at more than 2,000 custody case appeals involving child abuse, domestic violence and parental alienation nationwide, researchers found that women are losing custody when they bring up domestic violence. When a woman states there was domestic violence in the home (against her, the children or both) and the man counters by claiming she is alienating the kids from him, she loses custody 44% of the time. When claims of sexual abuse is involved, the mother loses custody 81% of the time.
In family court today, claims of abuse by mothers are only believed 23% of the time when alienation is claimed by the father.
This was the case for Block, whose evidence of stalking, abuse and more that was downplayed and ignored in family court. (Read past article on Block online here)
Block was told: “‘You need to stop pushing his buttons.’
“His buttons? He was trying to kill us,” said Block.
A woman may have an order for protection in place against her abuser, but she’s still instructed by the family court to engage in co-parenting in a joint custody situation. “They don’t factor that in,” said Roy. “It is shocking to most people.”

Current law doesn’t make child safety the priority
Minnesota Statute 518.17 lists 13 factors to be evaluated during custody cases. The statute states that the court should consider the best interests of the child and should not prefer one parent over the other, and one factor deals specifically with domestic abuse. But Roy and Block have seen too many cases where domestic violence isn’t factored into a judge or referee’s decision on a custody case.
Because of that, they’re working to replace this language with the Safe Child Act.
“There is no current law that says safety of the child has to be taken first,” said Roy.
“We’re trying to make children’s safety a priority in family court by passing the Safe Child Act,” stated Block.
The Minnesota bill needs a sponsor.
“It’s not a father’s rights issue or a mother’s rights issue,” said Block. “It’s a people’s issue.”
“The issue is children not being heard,” said Roy.

‘No sense to this’
“Abusive fathers are more likely to get custody of their children than mothers,” said Roy. “In law and logic – there’s no sense to this.”
In some of the families, a Guardian Ad Litem had been assigned to the case. The guardian is supposed to assess a child’s situation and then make recommendations to the court about a child’s best interest.
However, a 2018 report by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor found that they are failing children. “There are no training standards,” pointed out Roy. “The training they have is a minimal baseline. Those who lack relevant professional education are making critical decisions that create horrific outcomes.”
The results of the audit didn’t surprise Roy or Block, who have heard story after story of how guardians without training in psychology or domestic violence ignore abuse when a mother or child brings it up. Instead, they’re told they need to get along with the father and co-parent.
“You can’t co-parent with an abuser,” said Roy.
In many of these cases, mothers end up losing custody because the guardian made the determination that a mother bringing up issues of abuse meant she was making false allegations and/or engaged in parental alienation. Decisions are also being made based on the old research that children act out when there is abuse or that women made false claims of abuse to gain an advantage in custody court.
The Safe Child Act would address some of these issues by stipulating that a common intake form is used by all guardians, and that judges would also be educated on how to use the assessment tool. The SAFeR Approach has been developed by the Minneapolis-based Battered Women’s Justice Project, and helps practitioners screen for and understand the full nature, context and effects of abuse so that they can respond with safe and workable parenting arrangements. SAFeR can be used by attorneys, advocates, judicial officers, custody evaluators, guardians ad litem and survivors, and is implemented through the use of worksheets and practice guides.
“The bottom line is that when the Safe Child Act is passed, it will change the dynamics of family court,” said Roy. “It will force the court to look at the dynamics that haven’t been recognized and the abuse cases that are labeled high conflict.
“It’s accountability on everyone’s part.”
The act builds upon House Congressional Resolution 72, which says child safety is the first priority of custody and visitation adjudications, and that state courts should improve how they manages custody where family violence is alleged.
According to the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, an estimated 58,000 U.S. children a year are court-ordered into the unsafe custody or care of abusive parents, over the objections of caring parents.
Right now, too often, “the rights of the father outweigh the health and safety of the mother and child,” said Roy. She wishes the system would do away with the word “custody,” as it becomes a tool used by an abuser. “The abuser looks at it as a piece of property. They will spend a million dollars to get custody,” observed Roy.
“Why did the mother lose custody when all she did was try to protect the child and try to protect their life?”
The Safe Child Act would prioritize keeping the main caretaker the same, recognizing that this has been shown by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies to be better for kids.
“One of the most important findings from the ACE Studies is that fear leading to stress rather than physical injuries cause most of the damage. The essence of domestic violence is that abusers use a variety of tactics to coerce, scare and intimidate the victim to do what the abuser wants. The fear that is engendered in both the mother and children causes a lifetime of health and other problems,” pointed out Barry Goldstein, who authored the Safe Child Act and wrote “The Quincy Solution: Stop Domestic Violence and Save $500 Billion.”
Researchers at the University of Michigan along with the National Institute of Justice looked at what happens when the alleged abuser wins custody and a safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure for the child, is limited to supervised or no visitation. “The Saunders’ study found that these decisions are always wrong because the harm of denying children a normal relationship with their primary attachment figure, a harm that includes increased risk of depression, low self-esteem and suicide, is greater than any benefit the court thought it was creating,” pointed out Goldstein. “One reason for the mistake is the courts rarely compare the known risk of separating children from their primary parent with the often-speculative risk they are using to justify the extreme decision.”

Fit mothers losing custody under the radar
“If a divorce was not contentious, you would be able to sit down and you wouldn’t have to go in front of a judge,” pointed out Roy.
Of the 3.8% of cases that require trial, a large majority (75-90%) are domestic violence cases involving the most dangerous abusers, according to Goldstein. “These are fathers who believe the mother has no right to leave so they are entitled to use any tactics necessary to regain what they believe is their entitlement to control their partners.”
He added, “Inadequately trained professionals often fail to recognize the danger because most of these fathers have not committed the most severe physical assaults. But these abusers are willing to hurt their children by taking them from mothers who are usually the primary attachment figures, abusing the children and in extreme cases killing them. Courts rarely look for patterns to help understand domestic violence, but in the last 10 years over 700 children involved in contested custody have been murdered, mostly by abusive fathers.”
Men who abuse women are 40-60% more likely to abuse children physically and sexually, and domestic violence makes child neglect more likely, pointed out Goldstein.
Because the Saunders’ study found that the standard and required training in domestic violence obtained by evaluators, judges, lawyers and guardians ad litem do not qualify them to respond effectively to domestic abuse allegations, the Safe Child Act would require specific training.
It would also requires the use of current scientific research to inform court decisions, instead of the personal beliefs, biases and invalid theories used instead. The idea that a woman makes false allegations of abuse in family court leads to judges imposing punishments and retaliation against the mother – not recognizing the court is punishing the children, pointed out Roy.
“A fit mother is losing custody to an abuser,” said Roy. “That’s the part that is going under the radar.”

 

PROBLEMS WITH GUARDIANS AD LITEM IN MINNESOTA

DEFINE IT
Each year, thousands of children in Minnesota are involved in court cases related to abuse, neglect, custody, and other matters. In some of these cases, the courts appoint a guardian ad litem to help ensure the child’s needs are not overlooked during the court process. Guardians ad litem assess a child’s situation and make recommendations to the court about a child’s best interests.

What does it take to be a GAL?
– 40 hours of training and and a bachelor degree (field is not specified)
– Training in child psychology, Cluster B personality disorders, or domestic violence is not required.

Key findings of 2018 legislative audit:
– The GAL program has not had sufficient oversight.
– Not all are complying with required training.
– It has established few standards to ensure guardians ad litem provide high-quality services statewide.
– The program needs greater financial oversight and regular reviews.

READ IT YOURSELF
GUARDIAN AD LITEM AUDIT
https://www.leg.mn.gov/docs/2018/other/180389.pdf

 

25 common dangerous
mistakes caused by failing
to use current research

1) Asking abuse victims to just “get over it.”
2) Minimizing the full harm caused by domestic violence and child abuse.
3) Assuming the end of a relationship ends the risk from an abuser.
4) Assuming abuse that is not recent has little impact on children.
5) Focusing only on physical abuse.
6) Failure to understand the significance of the fear and stress caused by abuse.
7) Failure to focus on the assistance and protection children need in order to heal from exposure to abuse.
8) Mistaken assumptions that very young children cannot be harmed from witnessing domestic violence.
9) Pressuring victims to interact and cooperate with their abusers.
10) Failure to use a multi-disciplinary approach to domestic violence and child abuse cases.
11) Using non-probative factors like returning to an alleged abuser or not following up on a request for a protective order or the failure to have police or medical reports to discredit reports of abuse.
12) Failure to look for a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior to recognize domestic violence.
13) Failure to consider which party is afraid of the other in adjudicating domestic violence.
14) Failure to guard against the ability of abusers to manipulate witnesses and professionals.
15) Failure to consider factors that are associated with a higher risk of lethality in resolving domestic violence.
16) Failure to consider an alleged abuser’s past and future relationships when investigating reports of domestic violence.
17) Treating an alleged abuser’s good behavior in public as if it provides proof about his behavior in private.
18) Treating evaluators who fail to discuss ACE and Saunders or are unfamiliar with the research as if they are qualified to respond to domestic violence cases.
19) Treating any professional who recommends a harmful outcome case as if they are qualified to respond to domestic violence cases.
20) Failure to discuss which parent is the primary attachment figure and how that affects the children regarding the possible outcomes.
21) Failure to guard against gender-biased approaches and assumptions.
22) Failure to understand the importance of holding abusers accountable.
23) Recognizing that court professionals that focus on the myth that mothers frequently make false allegations or unscientific alienation theories reveals more about their lack of qualifications for domestic violence cases than the circumstances in the case.
24) Failure to understand that child sexual abuse is far more common than previously realized and most abuse is committed by someone the child knows.
25) Assumptions that men who are successful in other parts of their lives are unlikely to abuse women and children.
~ Compiled by Barry Goldstein, author of the Safe Child Act

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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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Hamernicks_9159227486316446103_o

ON THE JOB with Hamernick’s flooring

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Facing a global pandemic, Hamernick’s has shifted its business model to add a flooring superstore across the street from its main design headquarters (1392 Rice St.).
They were listening to customers who have shifted their focus to improving their homes instead of traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamernick’s has been a part of the North End community for 74 years, and also has two warehouses in Roseville.
Ted Natus was driving back to Montana from a job picking cotton down South in 1967 when his car broke down in St. Paul. “Out of money, the young vagabond decided he needed a job,” according to Amy Mauzy of Hamernicks. “Although he’d fought forest fires and mined for copper since leaving home at age 14, he settled on a paint store job at Hamernick’s on Rice St. Natus worked his way up to owner when he bought the store from Ed Hamernick in 2000.”
The main design headquarters has been on Rice Street since 1946. “It has grown from a paint and residential decorating store to a multi-million dollar business focusing on commercial flooring and paint contracting. Customers include individual home owners, multi-family business owners, and some of the largest general contractors in the city as well as some of the largest single-family home builders in the country,” said Mauzy.
Learn more about how Hamernick’s is managing the pandemic below.

How has COVID-19 changed how you operate?
Mauzy: We responded to COVID-19 in a number of ways all designed to provide safety for our clients and staff. When the pandemic hit this spring, most customers chose to stay home and shop virtually for their new flooring or other design product on our web site: www.Hamernicks.com. They would browse the site, and call us to ask us to ship a carpet or tile sample directly to their home or business. If they liked it, they could place an order for installation. This late summer and fall the foot traffic has come back somewhat, but we still have customers who choose to shop online.
From our design and in-office team to our warehouse workers to our flooring installers, all staff are working in a socially distant atmosphere wearing masks and sanitizing their work areas on a consistent basis.
What trends do you see right now?
Hardwood flooring is one of the most popular flooring solutions taking place right now. The #1 rule local real estate agents tell home sellers is to install hardwood floors before they place their home on the market. Buyers will walk away from homes with bad flooring the same way they’ll walk away from homes that smell bad, or have little to no curb appeal. Flooring matters tremendously when selling a home. It immediately influences if the buyer will like the house as they walk into every room and hallway, kitchen, and even exterior patio.
Also, many homeowners who have spent significant time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic have put the time to good use by starting or finishing home improvement projects. A major benefactor was Hamernick’s as we were a major company in town that remained open and sold, installed carpet, hardwood, tile floors and similar surfaces.
We made the decision to open our Flooring Superstore based on the need that we saw coming this summer.
Ted Natus, owner of Hamernick’s Interior Solutions and the new Flooring Superstore said, “Luxury vinyl tile and plank is the hottest flooring trend in home decorating and remodeling. No flooring company in Minnesota, and specifically the Twin Cities, was stocking such a wide variety of product and selling it directly to consumers. We transformed our former Mill Direct Warehouse into a showcase for over 100,000 square feet of flooring that can be purchased and installed immediately. Traffic has been brisk since opening the first week in October.
What sets your business apart?
Hamernick’s new Flooring Superstore (open now at 1392 North Rice Street) is the only flooring company in Minnesota to showcase the largest selection of in-stock vinyl and plank flooring.
Even though commercial flooring and painting is considered to be a male-dominated business due to the manual labor implications of the work, we have woman and minorities in nearly all positions across our business. Our current workforce represents 21% women and 18% minorities.
Both Ted and wife Lynn are long-time supporters of Saint Paul. When everyone asked, “Why would you build on Rice St.,” Ted’s response was that Rice St. and Saint Paul have been very good to us and our family so why wouldn’t I build here? As a result, Hamernick’s has grown to become one of the largest businesses on Rice St. and plans to continue growing for many years to come.

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IMG_8282bS

ON THE JOB with Buck Bros.

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Longtime Buck Brothers employees Scott Vetsch (left) and Buzzy Napoly return to install new windows at a home where they built a garage previously. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Tracy Kruse didn’t start out to be one of the few women in construction, but it is a role she has enjoyed. The daughter of a high school shop teacher, Kruse was looking for work after college and ended up building movie sets in the Twin Cities.
After a few years traveling and juggling family commitments, she told her Seward neighbor, Joe Buck, that she was interested in a change. He offered her a job on his crew.
This year, Kruse and fellow long-time employee, Jason Manthey, are taking over from Joe and his brother Bob.
“Our company was started in 1983 by Bob and Joe Buck, with the goal of concentrating on remodeling urban core homes and respecting the historic design and detail of these homes,” observed Kruse. “We will continue our commitment to providing high-quality service to our community.” She added, “We have worked on older, single-family homes for over 35 years, and understand the challenges that these homes present. Over the years, we’ve handpicked a project team that can work with homeowners to design the space, anticipate the issues that older homes present and manage the construction of the project.”
Read on for more from Kruse.

Scott Vetsch installs new windows on the upper level of a Minneapolis home.

How has COVID-19 changed how you operate?
COVID-19 has changed many aspects of how we run our jobs. One thing we have always been proud of is running a tight schedule. With lead times on materials becoming longer and longer, it has created some challenges. We require our staff and subs to wear masks and gloves as possible while on the job site. We have created washing stations on the job sites. We are not having more than one trade at the job site at a time, which has also increased the length of our projects. Social distancing can be a challenge in construction as many tasks take more than one person, for example installing windows. While working in homes, we isolate ourselves as much as possible with plastic barriers. At the end of each workday, we sanitize any areas that the homeowner may come in contact with, handrails etc.
What trends do you see right now?
Families are looking for more liveable space in their homes with many people staying home. We have seen an increase in basement remodels and additions.
How do you seek to be environmentally friendly in your business practices?

Jason Manthey and Tracy Kruse are the new owners of Buck Brothers.

We’ve always been proponents of energy-efficient design and construction, and our projects have won awards from Minnesota GreenStar. We have extensive experience at providing clients with creative options for building projects that conserve energy and promote efficiency.
What sets your business apart?
Our extensive experience has enabled us to build a team of designers, field staff, and sub-contractors who provide the quality service and high value that our clients demand. Homeowners need to trust the tradespeople who work on their projects to provide quality and stay on schedule and on budget.

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Forage_IMG_8081b

URBAN FORAGER

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Professional forager Tim Clemens said, “If you want to learn about the trees, herbs, and mushrooms all around you, let’s take a walk together. You don’t have to travel halfway across the world to discover new experiences of sight, taste, and smell.” He offered a free foraging tour at Newell Park in early September in partnership with the Hamline Midway Coalition. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

As people use public land more and family budgets get skinnier, Tim Clemens of Ironwood Foraging is helping build more resilient communities.
He does that by sharing knowledge about plants that everyone used to know but has been lost.
“Learning the lifeways of trees, herbs, mushrooms, and animals used to be essential for humanity and by many accounts a return to that knowledge has never been more necessary and rewarding. Foraging can be done in the city, countryside, forest, or even your backyard,” said Clemens, who moved from South Minneapolis to the east side of St. Paul last year.
He teaches local workshops on wild mushroom identification, edible and medicinal plants, fruit, nuts, and berries, urban foraging, maple syruping and more.
Clemens founded Ironwood Foraging Co. in 2017. He is the president of the Minnesota Mycological Society, a Minnesota Master Naturalist, and a Certified Wild Mushroom Expert. Clemens holds a bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Minnesota and a certificate in environmental education from Cornell University.
The Hamline Midway Coalition offered a free foraging tour with Tim Clemens of Ironwood Foraging in early September, made possible by a grant from the Trust for Public Land’s 10-Minute Walk campaign.
Read on for more.

What drew you into foraging?
Foraging is the ancient human narrative of finding and gathering food from the land. We all still have those foraging skills ready to blossom within us and we actually use those skills every time we go to the farmer’s market or supermarket. I like showing people how much deeper they can connect with the land using that same skill set.
Growing up I spent a lot of time exploring Minnehaha Falls, Minnehaha Creek, and feral alleyways. Those adventures helped me discover raspberries, gooseberries, and wild plums, but I also got lucky and didn’t eat anything toxic, which is the serious risk you take if you don’t identify and research everything prior to consuming. My first intentional foraging was for Ojibwe Language and Culture classes at the University of Minnesota where I participated in iskigamiziganing (Sugarbush Camp) and learned to tap maple trees to make maple syrup and maple sugar. I founded Ironwood Foraging Co. in 2017 to bring hands-on foraging education to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and Minnesota at large.

Midway resident Ray Neal (second from left), along with his brother, Rob Neal, and Krina Damien observe and taste test during a tour led by Tim Clemens. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

How/where did you get your training/knowledge?
Finding and learning from experts is always the best way to learn, so in the beginning I took every class and read every book I could find and I took a lot of notes. I’ve spent countless hours and hiked countless miles observing plants and mushrooms wherever I can find them. Foraging oftentimes brings to mind pristine wilderness areas, but urban foraging in the green spaces of a city can be just as rewarding. Plant ID apps for your phone, such as iNaturalist, can be a fun start, but never use an app to decide whether to eat something. They are often wrong and could lead to a potentially deadly misidentification.

What do you appreciate most about foraging?
There are more than 20,000 edible plant species, but fewer than 20 plant species account for over 90% of our food.
A forager has access to foods, aromas, and flavors that simply are not available to someone who doesn’t forage.
When I first started foraging I thought “Wow, look at all of this free food,” but I quickly learned that with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. My connection with these plants and the land was calling me to also be a friend and steward – a voice for the voiceless green and natural spaces. Picking up trash, planting native seeds, and protecting the land through outreach and legislation makes me feel good.
When you see a new patch of milkweed spreading or a butternut tree you planted producing its first nuts, you can’t beat that.

How do you work to be culturally sensitive to the knowledge you give that comes from Indigenous sources?
I have Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) heritage from my paternal line, and I’m an Ojibwe language learner. I am a ‘lineal descendant’ which means that I can trace my ancestors through genealogy, but my blood quantum (a controversial law), is too low to enroll for federal status.
Since the rest of my heritage is European-American, I’ve made a point to approach indigenous knowledge as considerately as possible. Centering community knowledge and historical and cultural context is essential. When benefiting from indigenous knowledge, make sure you’ve given back to the community more than you’ve taken away.

What benefit does foraging offer in our COVID-19 world?
Foraging is inherently physically distant and occurs outdoors. Discovering new plants and mushrooms allows you to become a tourist again in your neighborhood or state. Planting native pollinator plants for a prairie restoration or harvesting wild cherries is a great way to spend time with friends and loved ones safely outdoors while tending to the health of the land and resiliency of your own health and the health of your community.
I’ve definitely seen an increase in foraging workshop attendees in the last six months. I think some people have more free time to pursue their interests, and I think others are currently cut off from their typical recreation and they’re looking for new outlets.

Tim Clemens holds a Pheasant Back mushroom that he cut from the hackberry tree behind him during a foraging tour at Lake Nokomis park while Krina Damien snaps a photo. Clemens offers tours in St. Paul, Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities area. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Why do people take your workshops and what is the value in them?
Some people want to take the edge off their grocery bill and access the most nutritious food on the planet. Others want to grow their understanding for herbal medicine, gardening, dyeing, or photography. Whatever their stated reason is, I think at the heart of it, people take my workshops to connect with the land, each other, and themselves.

How can people safely forage in urban environments?
Always identify every plant or mushroom with 100% confidence before using it to make sure it’s not toxic. The best motto to live by is “when in doubt, throw it out.” Find an expert and learn from them and when foraging on your own, always compare at least three sources, whether those sources are field guides or trustworthy websites.
Foraging is not legal everywhere and is not uniformly legal where it is. Contact the park you plan to forage at and see if foraging is allowed for what you want to harvest, and also ask them where they spray herbicides and what species they are managing in that way. Never harvest near train tracks, from contaminated waters, and make sure you know the history of the land you’re foraging on – i.e.. avoid Superfund sites and other hazardous sites.
Go to www.IronwoodForagingCo.com to sign up for public workshops or to inquire about private bookings. Find Clemens @MNforager on Instagram, and Ironwood Foraging Co. on Facebook.

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2019 Midway Chamber Directory

COVID-19