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Q&A with Otis Zanders of Ujamaa Place

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Elena Vaughn

Otis Zanders of Ujaama Place

Otis Zanders has had enough. “As the CEO of an organization that serves the most marginalized population in society, African American men, aged 18-30, Ujamaa Place (1821 University Ave. W. n187, St. Paul) serves on the front lines of the war on injustice by helping men navigate systemic poverty and racism, connection to the criminal justice system, homelessness and unemployment.”

What is the current situation as you see it?

Our nation has been in crisis for decades.  George Floyd’s murder was where the world said enough is enough and [it] happened at a time when the world was stood still from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Why are we here? What factors brought us to this point in time?

Our hearts are broken from the generational trauma and human rights atrocities that our people have suffered for 400 years since the recording of the first slave ship’s arrival in the U.S. We must allow the voices and strength of our ancestors to guide us through these unprecedented times and the challenging waters ahead.

 

How can white people support the Black Lives Matter movement? Can you define what “ally” means to you?

Allies can support us by denouncing racism and inequality in all forms.  An “ally” is a human being.  There is one race, the human race.

 

What needs to change in Minnesota to address the systematic racism?

NOW is the time to strategize ways to confront systemic racism in every form of injustice that exists in Minnesota. We have to change. History is being written that will teach future generations that freedom and equality is not a given. We must fight for it.  Starting NOW, Minnesota must stand on the right side of history.

 

What is your reaction to the peaceful protests and the looting?

As the son of sharecroppers from the Mississippi Delta, I witnessed firsthand at a very young age, the clear connection between the legacy of slavery and American Capitalism. Today as a husband, father, and CEO of Ujamaa Place, I still see the ways in which the legacy of slavery lives on through systemic racism and plays out in the everyday lives of African Americans. We pray that the solidarity we are witnessing from around the world is a sign that we are collectively ready to pluck the ugly root of systemic racism for good. We regret that it took the murders of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others for people to finally be fed up. We stand on mighty shoulders that taught us freedom and justice is not a given, and that we must continue to teach each generation to fight for equality.

 

Watch the YouTube video of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. explain why people protest.  “A Riot Is The Language of the Unheard.” There is no enjoyment derived from watching a city burned or looted.

 

In 1968, Martin Luther King asked “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” How do you see the impact of these protests carrying on King’s legacy?  Where do we go from here as a community?

 

The world witnessed George Floyd take his last breath as the knee of a white police officer lay on his neck restricting his airways, with members of the community pleading for his life. This was a reminder that we are not yet FREE from the bonds of slavery. The institution of slavery and its byproducts – racism, inequality, poverty and injustice are alive and well in our society today. This is why at Ujamaa Place, we focus on teaching our men to navigate systems of racism and ways to eliminate roadblocks that perpetuate inequality.

 

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Ron Johnson remembers Lloyd’s

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Ron Johnson was working at Target when he heard Lloyd’s Pharmacy was for sale in 1974.
He headed to the longtime pharmacy at Snelling and Minnehaha to meet Lloyd Jensen, the 25-year owner.
“He was one of the nicest people I’d ever met,” recalled Johnson, who is 74 years old now. “Thoughtful.” It didn’t take Johnson long to decide to buy the business.
Johnson sought to be a good asset to the neighborhood as Lloyd had, and Florian Ritschel had before him.

Click here to read article titled: Lloyd’s, Menopause Center burn to ground

The son of German immigrants opened Florian’s Pharmacy in 1918 after purchasing the building at 720 Snelling in Hamline, Minn. It had been built in 1914 and previously housed a millinery shop. “He was the kind of guy who ran a lot of different promotions,” recalled Johnson.
Lloyd purchased the pharmacy in 1949, renaming it.
When Johnson bought it, he never thought of changing the name. Everyone knew Lloyd and respected him.
Johnson worked to keep the store as Lloyd had, greeting all of his customers by name. “There’s a huge difference between the business at Target and Lloyd’s,” observed Johnson. “Lloyd’s customers are really special people.”
Although Johnson grew to own six pharmacies in St. Paul, Rochester, and Arden Hills (where he lived), he always worked out of the Lloyd’s location. For a time, Lloyd continued to live in the apartment above the store, coming down to chat with former customers. Florian dropped by, too.

Lloyd’s Pharmacy, 1985

Johnson started as the pharmacist at the store with one other staff member, and his wife helped out on the weekends when she wasn’t working as a school speech therapist.
At one time, there were about 10 independent pharmacies along Snelling, Johnson pointed out, and hundreds in St. Paul. Today, there are very few, and Lloyd’s is one of the only still compounding medications there on site.
It was important to him to keep it as an independent pharmacy.
“Lloyd’s Pharmacy has been a great part of the community, and I’d like to see it stay that way,” said Johnson. He sold the pharmacy in 2014 to his head pharmacist, Jim Stage.
One of his former staff members called Johnson on Thursday, May 28, 2020 to let him know the store had been looted. He discovered the next morning that it had also been set on fire and burned to the ground.

Ron Johnson

In his grief, he held onto what his son said to him. “‘The lumber, the wood is gone, but you still have the memories.’ That was an important time in my life,” said Johnson about the 40 years he spent at the pharmacy.

Four owners in 102 years
• Florian Ritschel: 31 years, 1918-1949
• Lloyd Jenson: 25 years,
1949-1974
• Ron Johnson: 40 years,
1974-2014
• Jim Stage: 2014-present

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Lloyd’s, Menopause Center burn to ground

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

102-year-old pharmacy burns during uprising, owners forgive looters

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Midway resident Beverly Jones has bought medicine at Lloyd’s Pharmacy since the 1970s, when they delivered to her home. A few of her kids worked there, as well. “This is a death here, it really is,” she said on Friday, May 29 as she looked over the damage. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The Hamline Midway community is mourning the loss of the 102-year-old pharmacy at the corner of Snelling and Minnehaha that burned to the ground on Friday morning, May 29, 2020.
It was part of rioting and looting following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers earlier in the week. In the Midway, Big Top Liquors, Bole Ethiopian/Napa, Sports Dome, Footlocker and Great Clips were also destroyed by fire. About 170 businesses in the Midway and 530 overall in the Twin Cities were looted causing as estimated $500 million in damages. An estimated 67 were destroyed by fire, with the majority of those in the area covered by the Monitor’s sister newspaper, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger.
Lloyd’s Pharmacy and the Menopause Center owner Jim Stage plans to rebuild, spurred on by the wish of the community. Right now, customers from Lloyd’s are being served by Setzer’s Pharmacy in Roseville (1685 Rice St., 651-488-0251). They’re also seeing customers from other pharmacies that were damaged.

Lloyd’s to set up temporary
location in Midway
Stage also owns Setzer’s, and was among the 20 staff members from Lloyd’s and Setzer’s working out of that location on Thursday, June 4 when he spoke with the Monitor via phone. Unfortunately, with the loss of the compounding lab on the second floor of Lloyd’s, pharmacists are not able to do any compounding right now, according to Stage. Customers using this service came from across Minnesota and Wisconsin.
He is working to set up a temporary location in the Midway for Lloyd’s and hopes to have that up and running soon. He was waiting for his computer records system to be recreated on Thursday, but pointed out that his longtime staff know their customers so well that they were working with them to fill orders earlier in the week.

Firefighters were called at about 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 28 to the corner of Minnehaha and Snelling, but weren’t able to save the building. Owner Jim Stage plans to rebuild, but estimates it will take one year. (Photo by Rich Trout )

‘Police never came’
It started as a regular day on Thursday, May 28. Stage had bought the staff lunch from Checkerboard Pizza, and while picking it up the staff member saw CVS Pharmacy being looted across the street.
He returned to the pharmacy, alerted Stage, and they began locking the door between customers. At 3:15, they made the decision to close for the day. In hindsight, Stage wishes they would have grabbed the server and other items. The Menopause Center staff member at the back of the building also left.
At about 4:30 p.m., people began to break in and loot the store. Based on surveillance footage, Stage estimates that 100-150 people vandalized the store.
“The police never came,” Stage said. “That still baffles me. There was no help. They had to protect Alliance Field and all the big things, I guess.”
At about 10/10:30 p.m., the fire was set and firefighters responded.
Stage didn’t realize how badly the building was damaged until Friday morning at 7 a.m. The fire department had leveled the building in so that the fire didn’t spread. Up until then, Stage had thought they could fix the existing structure.
“When I drove up to it on Friday morning, I was pretty devastated,” said Stage. A week later, Stage views the complete destruction as “almost a relief from God. We would have probably had to rebuild the whole main level and [the building] might have needed to go anyway.”
Stage doesn’t know who set the fire or why.
“It doesn’t matter the reason,” said Stage. “We forgive the people who did it.”
At first, he wondered what to do next, and he’s been buoyed up by the care and concern members of the community have shown. They’ve told him how much the pharmacy means to them and that they don’t want it to go away, but are pushing him to rebuild.
A GoFundMe page had raised over $100,000 as of press time. “The community has been great,” said Stage. “It’s really amazing to me, my wife and our five kids. With God’s help, we’ll be able to do it. We know it is a tall order.”
Stage has also been encouraged by his staff of just under 40 people, who want to continue working at Lloyd’s and have risen up to help figure out details for customers despite the loss of records immediately after the fire.
“It’s a beautiful thing. That’s what encourages me,” said Stage. “I was devastated, but my employees have shown the resolve and so many people want the pharmacy rebuilt. It inspires me and gives me motivation.”

Ward 4 City Council Member Mitra Jalali visited Lloyd’s Pharmacy owner Jim Stage and his hardworking staff on June 3 at their sister location, Setzer’s on Rice Street, with donuts and coffee for the team that works long hours to help impacted customers still get medications. “The loss of Lloyd’s has been nothing short of tragic to our Midway neighborhood, but they’re planning a pop-up location nearby their old spot in the coming weeks, and will also be working on a public art memorial for their beloved Snelling location lost to fire. My heart goes out to the entire team at Lloyd’s, and we’ll keep working with you to support your rebuilding in any way possible,” said Jalali. “Our community will continue to show up for you, just like you have for us for decades.” (Photo courtesy of Mitra Jalali)

Lloyd’s serves 8,000 customers
Stage grew up in the Midway and graduated from Concordia Academy in Roseville class of 2000. His uncle suggested he might enjoy a career in pharmacy because he liked science and math, so he tried it out and agreed. He earned his degree from North Dakota State University and interned at Lloyd’s. His first job was at CVS as there wasn’t an opening at Lloyd’s, but after two years Lloyd’s owner Ron Johnson called him up and asked if he’d like to work as a pharmacist at his Rochester location. Stage moved the family down and worked at Hunt’s Pharmacy for three years, but he wanted to return to the Midway area.
“I learned a lot about independent pharmacies,” Stage recalled, and he realized he wanted to own and operate his own. When a position opened up at Lloyd’s in December 2011, he returned.
In 2014, at age 33, Stage purchased the pharmacy and its building. Much of running the business has been learned as he goes. “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it,” Stage observed.

Click here to read related article: Ron Johnson’s remembers Lloyd’s

He bought Setzer’s in Roseville from Gary Raines in 2017. The two stores have operated independently. He also owned Schneider Drug off University but sold it to CVS last year.
It’s a tough time for independent pharmacies, according to Stage, because of Pharmacist Benefit Managers (PBR). “They’ve been brutal to us,” Stage said. “They manipulate the market.”
Pharmacies are punished if customers don’t refill their prescriptions on time and money they were paid is pulled back, so a business owner never fully knows what their income will be, he explained.
Because of its compounding work, Lloyd’s income has been steadier. The store serves 8,000 people, and about 15% of the work is compounding.
“The goal is to serve the community, and get back into business and fill people’s prescriptions that are needed on a daily basis,” said Stage. “As a business owner, I’m just called to forgive. I’m thankful no one was hurt and we can move on.”

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How to shrink the racial divide?

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

A conversation with the Truce Center’s Miki Lewis

Miki Lewis is the founder and director of the Truce Center in St. Paul. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The first time Summit University resident Miki Lewis saw George Floyd he thought, “Now, there’s a big guy. Being from African American neighborhoods, a lot of us come up thinking we have to show aggression – but George was different. He was very peaceful.”
Lewis explained, “We met in truck driving school in 2017, when George had been in Minneapolis for a couple of years. We naturally gravitated toward each other, and got to be friends.
“We were together for three months in training. I learned a lot about George in a short period of time. He was from Houston. He came to Minnesota for a fresh start. We both completed the training, and saw each other a few times after that. I hadn’t seen George in five months prior to this happening. When I learned about it on Facebook, I couldn’t believe it.”
Lewis continued, “For a lot of us, it’s the way George was killed that is fueling the anger right now. We’ve seen officers shoot us over and over again. To a certain extent, we’ve gotten desensitized to shooting. In the eyes of our community, it was the level of non-compassion that we saw in the killing. That officer just tucked his hand in his pocket and looked down on George as if he were nothing.”
Lewis runs a non-violence initiative in the Summit University neighborhood called the Truce Center, and he is no stranger to violence himself. He said, “I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been shot, I’ve been homeless, I’ve been hungry, I’ve been cold.”
Out of these hard times, Lewis emerged with a strong faith and a commitment to assist in making the world a more peaceful place. It can often feel like an uphill battle, but Lewis presses on. He said, “I’m not scared anymore because, unfortunately, I’ve gotten used to this. There will be another unarmed black man murdered by a white officer, that’s no secret. We have a president who is inciting racial differences among us: I believe he’s trying to fuel further division, to fuel a race war. That divide is being driven even harder as time goes on. It seems like the divide is growing bigger, not smaller.”
The work at the Truce Center is to help young people develop a positive sense of self through learning African American history and conflict resolution skills.
Lewis explained, “If there’s a kid being taught since he’s little that you don’t like or tolerate certain kinds of people, and that kid grows up to be an adult who acts like that. Is it his fault? Is it his parents’ fault? Is it society’s fault? The only thing we can do is to try and educate each other about our pasts, and to try and develop empathy for what we’ve been through.”
He continued, “You can feel the energy in the air right now; racism is really coming out of the closet. It’s becoming more blatant than it has ever been before, but we can’t continue to divide ourselves as human beings. We will rebuild our cities. I guess we’ll see if the change comes then. We see what this divide has done to us.
Lewis concluded, “It’s critically important for white people to open their mouths and say when things are wrong and not fair, to stop keeping a closed mouth to the racial injustices happening around them. Somehow or other, we’re all going to have to come together.”

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School board chair dies of COVID19

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Marny Xiong

Marny Xiong, 31, the St. Paul School Board Chair, died on Sunday, June 7 of COVID-19. Xiong is the sister-in-law of Ward 1 Council Member Dai Thao. “Marny will be remembered as an inspiring community organizer, a courageous leader and a fierce champion for education, gender equity, and racial justice,” according to Thao. “She was a selfless public servant who made the community’s problems her duty to solve. To those who knew her, Marny was more than a loving daughter, aunt, niece, cousin, a devoted friend, and sister. She was beautiful; she was a book of generosity and fire.”

 

Family Statement Regarding the Passing of Saint Paul Public Schools Board Chairwoman Marny Xiong

Our hearts are in pieces as we share the news that our beloved daughter and sister, Marny Xiong, passed away on Sunday, June 7, 2020 following a month long courageous battle with the Coronavirus. We prepared a celebration for her return and waited, and waited but she never came home. We prayed and prayed for a miracle but none was granted.

Marny Xiong, 31, grew up on the Eastside of St. Paul and was a proud student of St. Paul Public Schools. She attended Longfellow Elementary, Washington Middle School, and Arlington High School, graduating with the class of 2007. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a BA in Political Science and a minor in African and African American Studies in 2012. She was a School Administrative Manager at Hmong International Academy in the Minneapolis Public Schools District. In 2017, Marny was elected to the St. Paul School Board. She was elected Chair of the Board in 2020.

Marny will be remembered as an inspiring community organizer, a courageous leader and a fierce champion for education, gender equity, and racial justice. She was a selfless public servant who made the community’s problems her duty to solve. To those who knew her, Marny was more than a loving daughter, aunt, niece, cousin, a devoted friend, and sister. She was beautiful; she was a book of generosity and fire.

Marny’s parents Zahoua Xiong and See Xiong came to Minnesota as political refugees from the CIA’s Secret War in Laos. They instilled education, family, hard work, and public service in all their children. As the youngest daughter, Marny began her leadership at home and as an NJROTC Cadet at Arlington High School. Marny fought for racial justice. She dedicated almost all her adult life to education because she believed education was a foundation for dismantling structural racism. Marny was a Union and Community Organizer with TakeAction Minnesota, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Marny has gone back to be with the ancestors far away in the sky where all Hmong people come from. She is survived by her parents, Zahoua Xiong and See Xiong; two sisters, five brothers, two brother-in-laws and a sister in law and four nieces and nephews and a large extended family. We thank all the hospital staff, doctors, nurses, assistants for taking great care of Marny at Regions Hospital and the University of MN Fairview Hospital.

Marny was a person who likes to give and doesn’t like to ask for help. However, she has accrued medical expenses for her care. We have set up a GoFundMe on her behalf to cover medical and funeral expenses:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/healing-support-for-marny-xiong…

Marny loves to smile and to make people smile. Mark Twain once wrote, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”

The funeral arrangements will be shared in the coming weeks. At this time we ask for privacy as we grieve, and to not dwell on how she passed on but how she lived.

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Children & Family Circle 25

Through East African eyes

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Unrest painful reminder of violence immigrants left behind

Youth & Family Circle Eexecutive Director Mahmud Kanyare helps during a food give-away for hundreds of East African families at the Al-Ihsan Islamic Center in Frogtown on June 8, 2020. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd is unlike anything most Twin Cities residents have experienced or imagined. For the East African community that has made Minnesota their home however, it is all too familiar for those of a certain age.
Mahmud Kanyare lives in the Midway neighborhood and has run a program called Youth & Family Circle since 2012. He said, “We serve East African families across the metro area. Many of them are under-resourced, vulnerable, and tend to ‘fall through the cracks’ for a number of reasons.”
The clients he sees are breaking under the combined stress of the pandemic and the recent unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Kanyare said, “Our organization is one of the few in Ramsey County that is fighting for culturally appropriate resources for the families we serve.”
Ramsey County is home to a large East African community. According to Kanyare, the key components his organization is addressing right now are food insecurity, coping with trauma, and addressing racial equity through collaborative efforts.
The majority of East African people are Muslim, and most of the food they eat is certified halal. Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” In terms of food, it means food that is permissible according to Islamic law. They cannot eat pork, any food product to which gelatin has been added (because it often contains pork), and certain cuts of other meats. This can make it difficult to receive culturally appropriate food assistance.
In East African families with male heads-of-household in their 50s and 60s, the men tend to be the wage earners and they often have limited English skills. Kanyare said, “Many of these men lost their jobs when the pandemic began – and most were not successful in applying for unemployment benefits. Youth & Family Circle is partnering with an organization called The Food Group this week to make culturally appropriate groceries available to an estimated 500 East African families. This will help in the short-term. Drivers are needed on an ongoing basis to help bring food to families who don’t have transportation.

(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Large numbers of Somalians began arriving in Minnesota in the 1990s, fleeing the violence of the Civil War in their country. Kanyare said, “During the Civil War, no matter where you lived in Somalia there was unrest. His own family fled from Somalia to Pakistan in 1995, where they waited five years before being admitted to the U.S.
Many East African community members are experiencing trauma from being exposed to the fires, looting, and civil unrest following George Floyd’s death on May 25. It is a painful reminder of the violence they tried to leave behind.
Youth and Family Circle is scrambling to set up an online education forum that can help address the fear and frustration people are feeling. Kanyare and his staff will eventually each take a group of 20 families and work with them online throughout the week: moms, dads, and kids all together.
He said, “We hope to offer them a calm, peaceful conversation – but there are technical hurdles to overcome, as many of our East African families don’t have access to computers or internet service. It is a work in progress.”
The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, and contains a passage that rings true to these times: “Whoever kills one human being innocently, it is as if he has killed all of humanity.”
Through East African eyes, there is deep solidarity with African Americans in this struggle and there is anger. Kanyare said, “We have seen throughout the years how African Americans have been shot or abused by some members of the police. When is it going to stop? One can only be patient for so long.”

(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

For more information about Youth & Family Circle or to make a donation of time or money, visit www.yfcmn.org.
* Editor’s note: Check our web site for articles in this series published between editions of the newspaper at www.monitorsaintpaul.com, tagged Through Their Eyes. The series focuses on letting people tell their stories as it relates to the uprising following George Floyd’s death.

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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)

By JAN WILLMS
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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Over 170 businesses damaged in Midway

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

People step up to help, city council members talk about needs for honest dialogue

Big Top Liquor, in the former Midway Perkins, was looted and set ablaze on Thursday, May 28, and the next day staff from Restoration Professionals was on site to board up the building. Firefighters were still working on DTLR Sports Dome the next day across the street. Businesses damaged there include Midway Tobacco, Boost Mobile, Maxx It Pawn, Culver’s and neighboring businesses. The eastern half of the Maxx It Pawn-Sports Dome group of businesses was leveled after looting, vandalism and fire. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By JANE McCLURE
Clean up and recovery efforts continue throughout St. Paul after the vandalism, looting and arsons that began May 28. Several area district councils, business associations and community groups organized clean-up groups and were out sweeping up glass and picking up debris May 29 in Midway and Frogtown.
The morning of May 29, hundreds of volunteers helped clean and board businesses. Hamline Midway Coalition, Frogtown Neighborhood Association and Union Park District Council worked (UPDC) to help organize the groups.
Hamline Midway Coalition and Union Park District Council (UPDC) have expressed gratitude for the help rendered. Both district councils have not only helped on the ground in many ways. They also have had to sort through rumors and real situations of possible illegal activities in the neighborhoods.
“There’s been a lot of ways that people have stepped up to help,” UPDC Board President Henry Parker said. Volunteers have worked to clean up and board up businesses, collect and distribute food, and continue to help affected businesses and residents. UPDC volunteers alone helped board up 10 businesses. Others have helped at food distribution points at Lexington Parkway and Central Avenue, University and Fairview, Celtic Junction and at Bethlehem Lutheran Church-in-the-Midway. The church has become a major food hub.
Both Merriam Park, Frogtown and Hamline-Midway Facebook pages set up regular neighborhood watches during and after the nights of violence, to keep each other informed and report activity. Some volunteers walked neighborhood streets in violation of the state-imposed curfews and county state of emergency. Others kept watch from their yards and porches.
Elected officials have been out helping, and are appreciative of the volunteer efforts to help the community. “It’s been an extraordinary, extraordinary week in many ways,” said St. Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen. City council members have not only been out observing damage and helping with clean-up, they are also looking at the need for an upcoming policy session on steps St. Paul and its Police Department can take to prevent tragedies tied to police brutality. Brendmoen said there is a need for an honest dialogue to continue making changes.
University Avenue businesses sustained the heaviest damage in terms of looting and fires. Two local businesses, Lloyd’s Pharmacy/Menopause Center and Bole Ethiopian restaurant, were lost to fires. Both business were the focus of separate, successful GoFundMe campaigns and plan to rebuild or relocate in the area. Lloyd’s, which is serving customers through its sister pharmacy Setzer’s in Roseville, is planning to open a small interim location in Midway. (See related story beginning on front page.)
Midway Center was hit very hard with looting and then fires. Foot Locker was looted and set ablaze. Adjacent businesses were damaged including Great Clips, Rainbow clothing shop, GameStop Midway, To New York Midway and Peking Garden. Big Top Liquor, in the former Midway Perkins, was looted and set ablaze.
Across the street, businesses damaged include Midway Tobacco, DTLR Sports Dome, Boost Mobile, Maxx It Pawn, Culver’s and neighboring businesses. The eastern half of the Maxx It Pawn-Sports Dome group of businesses was leveled after looting, vandalism and fire. But crews were inside the western half of the structure making repairs the first week of June.

CVS at University and Snelling was looted and vandalized, as were businesses to the east including Ax-Man Surplus, JJ Fish and Chicken, and Metro Sound and Lighting. Metro Sound and Lighting was hit very hard. “We were broken into last night and majorly looted and vandalized,” the business owner stated in a Facebook post. “They tried breaking a front window, and when that didn’t work, they went around to the back of the building, gaining access by virtually destroying a back door. Recession, light rail construction in front of our building, pandemic….and now this.”
At Midway Marketplace, businesses were looted and fires set. Cub, Dollar Tree, TJ Maxx and the Healtheast Clinic were hit hard. The strip mall along University at Hamline had a fire set at the UPS store and businesses including Discount Tire were vandalized and looted. LeeAnn Chin restaurant sustained heavy damage.
Furniture Barn was set on fire and looted.
Midway SuperTarget was looted and vandalized, as were the nearby shops in the building at Hamline and University – Verizon, Noodles and Company, and the Vitamin Shop. The closed BP station at Hamline and University was vandalized.
Stores and restaurants on the first floor of the PPL Building at Hamline and University sustained damage. The building housing Bole Ethiopian restaurant, NAPA Auto Parts and Jackson Hewitt at University and Syndicate was destroyed by fire.
Goodwill at Griggs and Syndicate was vandalized and a dumpster set on fire.
Enterprise’s University Ave. vehicle rental business was damaged by fire. Anaya Dance Theater was vandalized and a wig shop in the former Arnellia’s nightclub was looted and set ablaze.
Office buildings at University and Syndicate were vandalized.
ALDI and Gordon Parks School were vandalized, with a fire set inside of Gordon Parks. Businesses at Lexington and University were damaged including UnBank, White Castle and TCF Bank. O’Reilly Auto Parts was vandalized and set on fire.
Many convenience stores including Speedway and Holiday Station stores were damaged throughout the area including stores on Snelling, University and Lexington. A fire was set at the Speedway at University and Chatsworth.
Many liquor stores around the city were looted and/or vandalized including Snelling Avenue Fine Wines and Liquors.
A few stores have reported break-ins and attempted break-ins during the first week of June.
Overnight May 28-29, the St Paul Fire Department responded to 295 calls for service, 169 of those calls were EMS calls for service and 126 were fire calls. The fire department deployed almost 200 of its own firefighters and had mutual aid from Roseville, Roseville, Maplewood, Little Canada, Lake Johana, North St. Paul, Dakota County Washington County, South Metro, Woodbury and MAC Fire.
Of the 126 fire calls, 55 were actual working fires primarily to commercial properties.
“I want to thank the women and men of our department for the incredible work they performed. Our firefighters responded in challenging conditions which included them having rocks, bricks, and bottles thrown at them. They do this work to serve the residents and visitors of St. Paul and to ensure that every person is cared for and safe,” said Chief Butch Inks.

Volunteers pass out water to those cleaning up and boarding windows on Friday, May 29. “There’s a lot of ways that people have stepped up to help,” observed UPDC President Henry Parker. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

DONATION SITES

• Midway Chamber of Commerce – We Love the Midway: http://www.midwaychamber.com/we-love-midway

• Neighbors United Funding Collaborative: https://midwayunited.org/

• Bole Ethiopian: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rebuilding-bole-ethiopian-cuisine

• Lloyd’s Pharmacy: https://www.gofundme.com/f/lloyd039s-pharmacy-rebuilding-fund-st-paul-riots

FREE LEGAL CLINICS

A series of rapidly organized free legal clinics for individuals, businesses and families impacted by the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd began June 6. The clinics aim to provide safe, confidential and free legal advice, resources and forms for anyone who needs assistance in the community.

Running every weekend while there are those in need, the clinics are organized by the Community Law Collective, a coalition of Twin Cities law firms and Zeus Jones, which will host the first three clinics at 2429 Nicollet Ave S., Minneapolis. Future clinics may be held in the Midway. More information at https://tinyurl.com/FreeLegalClinic.

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Steven_MILES BOOK PHOTO

THE TORTURE DOCTORS

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Medical ethics professor documents worldwide problem in book

Does he see any hope for change? “I think so,” stated Steven Miles. “Despite the rise of autocracies, human rights activism is also increasing. Social media has exposed torture in several countries with regime changing effects.” (Photo by Ann Berget)

By JAN WILLMS
In his recently published book, “The Torture Doctors: Human Rights Crimes and the Road to Justice,” Steven Miles, MD, explores the paths of physicians who stray from their Hippocratic Oath and collaborate with dictatorships as well as democracies across the world to mete out pain and suffering.
Miles, who brings extensive research to his book, describes how medical professionals can prescribe torture methods that leave no marks, determine how much suffering an individual can endure and still remain alive, and how torture doctors have the power to falsify death certificates.
A professor emeritus of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Miles previously managed the Doctors Who Torture Accountability Project and is a past president of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities.
As a long-time teacher of medical ethics, Miles reflected in a recent interview on whether the subject is emphasized enough for medical students.
“It is adequate for death and dying, inadequate on contraceptive and reproductive rights, and inadequate on how the structure and personnel of the health care system contribute to class and race disparities,” he said.
As he writes about the torture doctors, he describes horrendous cases of man’s inhumanity to man, and yet these doctors seem able to push aside their ethics for what they consider patriotism and support of their government.
Miles said his research has shown that these doctors vary in their response to their own actions following a war or domestic revolution.
“Most justify their actions as necessary or patriotic,” he said. “A few authentically atone. Some are badly damaged with PTSD or depression.” His research follows the early Nazi doctors to doctors in more recent wars and revolutions in South America, Africa, and Europe and to the “enhanced interrogations” by the United States after 9-11.
Miles said he has interviewed torture doctors, but cannot comment on it because the proceeding is still ongoing.
Miles said in working on “The Torture Doctors,” he spent 1.8 percent of his time writing and fact checking, .2 percent in production and 98 percent in research. “This book took seven years to write, on top of about four years for a preceding book, ‘Oath Betrayed,’ on U.S. torture doctors alone. That earlier book gave me a foundation for this one.”

Why isn’t profession holding these doctors accountable?
The accountability of torture doctors is a topic that Miles has thoroughly investigated. He suggests in his book that human rights activists have pressed more strongly than medical associations or criminal justice systems to hold torture doctors accountable for their actions. He claims this is clearly still true. “The major national and international medical associations and criminal justice systems pay virtually no attention to either holding torture doctors accountable or suggesting to subsidiary groups (such as licensing boards, professional associations or even clinical facilities) their potential role in accountability.”
As far as what part an independent press can play in exposing the behavior of torture doctors, Miles said, “The roles of journalism should be to illuminate the problem of torture doctors, highlight the need for accountability, document impunity and publicize credible work of human rights activists identifying torture doctors.”

Torture in the U.S.
Miles said torture is illegal in the U.S. prison system. “But there are events that the medical personnel participate in that are torture,” Miles explained
“The medical participation in the drugging, restraining and non-vaccination of children in ICE prisons is often highlighted,” he said. “Another is physician oversight of prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement. Those doctors note without protest the psychological destruction of prisoners, an event the United Nations and other human rights groups define as torture. Again, impunity for the doctors is norm.”

Does he see any hope for change?
Miles has devoted much of his life to researching and writing about the global problem of doctors participating in pain, suffering and dehumanization of individuals at the behest of their governments, with very few of these doctors ever being brought to justice. Does he see any hope for change?
“I think so,” Miles stated. “Despite the rise of autocracies, human rights activism is also increasing. Social media has exposed torture in several countries with regime changing effects.”
He sees some optimism through his research that the international human rights community and the medical community can come together to end the atrocities perpetrated by the torture doctors.
His book is currently available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

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Lights On 01

Community partnership provides repair vouchers instead of tickets

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Program offers healing interactions with police

Keep those car lights in working order! Previously, a broken head light, tail light, or brake light could spark a downward economic spiral that, for some, brought on multiple tickets, confrontations with law enforcement, and even vehicle impoundment. Lights On has the potential to disrupt that downward spiral, and transform hostility into helpfulness. To date, almost 2,000 Lights On vouchers have been issued in Minnesota. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
It’s been nearly four years since African American motorist Philando Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer. In the 14 years since he started driving, Castile was pulled over by law enforcement 46 times for alleged violations. On the night of his death, Castile was stopped because he resembled a suspect in an armed robbery that had taken place four days earlier, and because he had a broken tail light.
On the day Castile’s shooter was acquitted of all charges, Don Samuels was in a board meeting. Samuels is the CEO of a South Minneapolis-based nonprofit called MicroGrants. Since 2006, MicroGrants has partnered with local organizations to promote self-sufficiency for lower income people.
According to Samuels, “As a board, our plate was already completely full – but we felt we had to do something extra. We reached out to our more than 50 partner agencies and said, ‘If any of your clients has a head light, tail light, or brake light that needs fixing, we’ll help them get it fixed.’ Someone suggested the idea of police officers handing out repair vouchers instead of tickets.”
MicroGrants has a long-standing relationship with Bobby and Steve’s Auto World, who operate eight auto shops across the metro area. They agreed to do the car repairs at cost, with reimbursement provided by MicroGrants.
Samuels said, “Bobby and Steve’s Columbia Heights location was the first to participate. I did the math and figured we could cover the whole metro area for $100,000. This program is funded by donations, not tax dollars.”
He added, “I called 20 police precincts in our metro area, and 19 of them said, ‘Yes.’ We printed out our own vouchers, two vouchers side by side on a sheet of regular computer paper.”
The program grew over time, but it was clear that a funding boost was needed to move it beyond what MicroGrants could support. In 2018, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation donated $100,000 to fully implement the program and hire a Lights On staff person. Between March-December 2019, the program went from operating in 20 Minnesota cities/counties to 65.
Fast forward to February of this year. Samuels said, “We’re currently working with police departments in 93 cities/counties, and also expanding into tribal lands/reservations. We ask out-state participating police precincts to find service providers because they know their own communities. Service providers are required to sign an agreement that they won’t up-sell parts and labor.”

“Having dependable
transportation is essential
to moving people out
of poverty.”
~ Don Samuels

Giving help, not lectures
Lights On takes a pro-active approach to getting minor car repairs done. Previously, if a car light was out and the owner couldn’t afford to fix it (or didn’t know it was broken), a cycle of fines and penalties had the potential to upend a life – all starting with a broken $5 bulb.
Now if a motorist is pulled over for a non-functioning car light, they will be issued a repair voucher for up to $250 to cover a new bulb, mounting, and wiring. Repairs above $250 are the car owner’s responsibility – but the average repair cost, according to Samuels, is about $50.
The police officer will advise the driver where to go for the repair. Vouchers are issued to all drivers, regardless of race or income. Exceptions to a voucher being issued are when equipment violations result in a crash, or when a driver had an outstanding warrant.
Samuels said, “The money is very helpful, but it’s the interaction with the officer that is healing. We want this to be a gift. This effort is aimed at improving police-community relations, and making streets safer for everybody by having more cars in good repair. Officers are being instructed to give a voucher, not a lecture.”
Steven Anderson is a senior commander with the St. Paul Police Department. He said, “I haven’t heard any negative feedback with regard to this program. By most accounts, drivers receiving vouchers are getting the necessary repairs done.”
“Obviously, with the current Covid-19 national response, traffic-related contacts are greatly diminished. When we were operating normally, the program was a great tool. It allowed our officers to build bridges within the communities we serve.”
Samuels concluded, “I feel really proud that Lights On came out of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and will likely become a national program in a couple of years. It makes Philando Castile’s death not be entirely in vain. With our partners, we’ve been able to take a situation where there has been a lot of mutual discomfort, even tragedy, and turn it into something positive.”
For more information, go to wwwlightsonus.org or call 612-220-8174.

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