Monthly Archives: March 2016

Northeast Minneapolis Celebrates Independence

NEWS RELEASE: April 1, 2016

By common agreement the residents of Northeast Minneapolis have officially seceded from the City of Minneapolis as of this date. The former Neighborhood has assumed independent status and adopted the less cumbersome name “Northeast”.

This decision is based on the fact that Northeast is 1) separated from Minneapolis by the Mighty Mississippi River, 2) renowned for its rich and diverse cultural heritage, and 3) politically and psychologically primed for independence.

Northeast residents have agreed to the following changes in policies, practices and priorities effective as of this date:

Purchase and rental agreements for Northeast newcomers shall include a requisite “What happens in Northeast stays in Northeast” clause.

Little Free Libraries in Northeast shall be complemented with Little Gluten Free Microbreweries to be allocated and sited in a competitive contest among qualifying residents.

The names of non-represented Presidents shall be applied to neighborhood alleys, beginning with the alley between Washington and Adams Street.

East-West streets (currently numbered) shall be renamed to recognize the non-native ethnic heritage of Northeast, moving West to East according to the year of the immigrant group’s arrival in the community.

The date of birth of each of the nation’s Presidents shall be celebrated (e.g. January 7shall be designated as Millard Fillmore Day. b. January 7, 1800). In the case that two or more Presidents share the same birthday (and thus same zodiac sign) the observance shall be held on the first Monday of the week.

A surcharge shall be charged for beer purchased by non-Northeasters. The surcharge shall be waived for potables brewed in Northeast.

Art-a-Whirl shall be expanded to a year-long event. Seasonal focus will be on snow sculpture with an annual Ice Brewery competition in January.

Volunteers shall construct a natural wall to complement the Mississippi as a dividing line between the cities. The wall shall be erected on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi to ensure that residents of Northeast shall have full view and access from the East.  The wall shall be of sufficient height to shield Northeast residents from view of the unsightly US Bank stadium. Cost of the wall shall be borne by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Northeaster shall be officially recognized as the Newspaper of Record for all things Northeasterly.

The Edison High School Alumni Marching Band shall be the official musical organization of Northeast. The official motto of the magnificent marching musicians will be “We (heart) the EHSAMB”.

Eat My Words shall be the officially recognized hangout for Northeast bibliophiles.

Dziedzic Drive shall be upgraded and added to the National Highway System.

Northeasters shall celebrate Black Friday with a bike-a-thon to the former site of Apache Plaza with a pit stop at the architectural remnants of Walmart.

Snow days shall be declared only on the occasion that there is more than 18” of snow or the temperature drops below -60 degrees.  There shall be a half day of school declared the instant the temperature at 11:59 AM exceeds +70 degrees.

The Stinson Boulevard property maintained by the Stinson Conservancy shall be duly recognized and maintained as the gem of the Ground Rounds Scenic Byway System.

The official recreational sport shall be bocce ball.

The kolachky (spelling negotiable) shall be the official food of Northeasters.

The motto of Northeast shall be “If you love life, life will love you back.” (Arthur Rubinstein)

The nexus of Central Avenue and Hennepin shall be known in perpetuity as “Where Banks Used to Be (UTB)” and 519-523 Central Avenue Northeast will be permanently recognized as “Where Totinos UTB)”.

Pedal Pubs shall replace environmentally toxic bus transit on Central Avenue. Passengers will cover cost of transit with pedal power.

Northeast shall extend Sister City status to adjoining communities including St. Anthony Village, Columbia Heights and Minneapolis.

Northeast shall invite  the Polish government to share BFF status. A Polish consulate shall be established on the site of Nye’s Polonaise where a polka-and-piano themed monument shall be erected to designate the BFF relationship.

Viva Northeast!

 

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April’s Poetry Month – A Time to Rhyme?

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence.

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

Given the times it is no wonder that this JFK quote comes to mind as we rev up – poetically speaking – for National Poetry Month 2016 (https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/home). Our last best hope may be the cleansing properties of a well wrought poem….

Poets and poetry lovers are celebrating prematurely with news today that the 2016 Walt Whitman Award recipient has been named. She is Mai Der Vang who is being honored for her first book, Afterland, which is scheduled to be published in April 2017 by Graywolf Press (https://www.graywolfpress.org), one of Minnesota’s distinguished independent publishers.  More than this, the 2015 Walt Whitman Awaard-winning book, Rapture, by Sjohnna McCray, will be also published next month by Graywolf.

For the past twenty years the Academy of American Poets has sponsored National Poetry Month, a massive project that involves poets, educators, librarians, booksellers, publishers and readers in a concerted effort to share the love of poetry, particularly contemporary poetry. The celebration includes an attractive (free and online) poster, a Dear Poet project for young readers, the Poem in Your Pocket initiative, and a month-long calendar of fun activities designed to share the written and spoken words of poets.

Though the calendar of Poetry Month overflows with events, projects and good ideas, one entry caught my eye – Al Franken’s Poetry Contest. Seems our Senator is hosting his fifth annual poetry contest for Minnesota students grades K-12. The theme of this year’s contest is “Celebrating the Veteran in My Life.” For all the details on Senator Franken’s contest, click here: http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Advocacy/ChildrensMilitaryPoetryContest2014.pdf

 

 

Conference spotlights American Indian books for young readers

Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.

These wise words of George Bernard Shaw capture the essence of Spotlight on Books, (http://spotlightonbooks.weebly.com) the popular “conference for adults focused on youth literature.” For the past several years Spotlight, sponsored by the Northern Lights Library Network, has drawn teachers, parents, libraries and bibliophiles of every stripe from throughout the region to springtime celebration of reading and young readers. This year’s Spotlight is April 8-9 at Chase on the Lake in Walker, Minnesota.

A feature of the 2016 conference is a timely focus on books and resources related to American Indian literature for young readers. The roster of speakers is powerful:

Sponsoring organization, Northern Lights Library Network (NLLN) is the geographically largest of Minnesota’s seven library cooperative systems. The system serves over 300 school, public, academic and special libraries in the 23 counties of Northwest and West Central Minnesota. Member libraries include public, school, private and public academic, and special libraries. NLLN offices are located in Moorhead.

 

 

World Storytelling Day 2016 – Local Update

Globally speaking, World Storytelling Day 2016 was yesterday (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/world-storytelling-day-2016/.The World Storytelling Day website indicates that the global celebration involved storytellers and listeners in over twenty nations around the globe.

Fortunately, the celebration and the spirit live on in Minnesota’s vibrant storytelling community. The stories continue this week, highlighted by a very special event on Tuesday evening, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul. The program, entitled “Strong Women Telling Stories of Strong Women” features Minnesota women sharing stories; the roster of storytellers includes women from a variety of walks of life and heritage. (see earlier post) The schedule includes information about related programs and services – and the evening wraps up with refreshments and a chance to meet and share stories informally. The $10 donation supports the Veterans Resilience Project.

Organizer Larry Johnson advises that time is of the essence – available space is limited. RSVP asap at 612 747 3904 or larryjvp@gmail.com.

Celebrating women religious as visionary agents of change

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.  Mahatma Gandhi

As noted earlier on this blog March 8-14 was National Catholic Sisters Week. At random moments during the week I struggled to think of how to write something about the week and about the role of women religious, their history, their contributions, their leadership the challenge to achieve social justice in so many fields. Try as I might I couldn’t focus on a general theme that encompasses the enormity and complexity of the narrative – or that expresses my personal experience. The common thread, I’m finally beginning to realize, is the ability and willingness of the women religious I’ve known to embrace change. Thus, post -National Catholic Sisters Week tribute:

The change among women religious that everyone remembers is the shift that most community members made from restrictive habits to modern dress indicative of their worldly role. While memorable, that change is but a clue to the substantive change within the minds and hearts of the Sisters.

What the visible change indicated, in fact, was manifestation of a far more profound change in the role of women religious, a change credited in a 2011 “Essay in Theology” by Richard McBrien, Professor of Theology at Notre Dame University.   In his essay on “Women Religious’ embrace of Vatican II change commendable” McBrien notes the several changes happening in the Catholic Church during the 50’s and 60’s; he specifically cites “abolition of outmoded customs, the modification of habits and increased attention the professional education of sisters.” As a consequence, McBride observes,

Vatican II urged religious communities to return to their biblical roots and their founding charisms and to develop a greater measure of engagement with the modern world. Women religious, however, responded with more energy, creativity and enthusiasm than church officials anticipated, to the chagrin of more traditional nuns and ultra-conservative Catholics – the very type of both constituencies that applauded, and even instigated, the recent investigation of U.S. sisters and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious….”

While McBrien focuses on the impact of Vatican II, my experience is far more personal and actually pre-dates his post-Vatican II reflections. What follows is a stream-of-consciousness collage of vignettes that remind me – and I hope illustrate — my story of a lifetime of experience with women religious who, as individuals and communities, have not so much responded to change but have taken the lead to make change happen.

Some personal memories and observations may illustrate a common theme:

  • As a wet-behind-the-ears freshman at the College of St. Catherine in the early 60’s my first major assignment was to write a paper-of-consequence on the topic “The Idea of Progress”, a mighty challenge. Though I’m sure the paper was painfully naïve, it shaped my frame of reference for life.
  • Later in my college years, still in the early 60’s, I recall a professor heading a bus tour to St John’s University to hear the controversial theologian Hans Kung, whom we found not only inspiring, but very handsome……
  • In my first grown-up job I led a national Catholic college student organization that joined the struggle for civil rights at the federal level, a role that involved hordes of youth in the struggle for equal rights. There it was often the Sisters who supported not only the cause but us ardent young protesters – of every denominational persuasion – who knew little of the how’s and why’s of the movement.
  • Again, during the 60’s I spent endless hours learning about the techniques of educational technology. It was not until I saw a brilliant Sister using computer assisted learning for a long-distance discussion of the depths of Thomas Merton’s writing that I understood the possibilities.
  • I had the same experience when I observed the leadership of women religious in revamping the health care delivery system. Women religious took a visible lead in the advance of alternative medicine, personal health responsibility, home and hospice care and other evolving efforts in the health care arena. Consistently, their focus was not so much on techniques but on human needs and possibilities.
  • More recently, as a staffer for a national open government advocacy coalition my job has been to reach out to other like-minded groups working in agriculture, environment, food, climate, health, to grapple with cataclysmic change. Whether it was sustainable agriculture or hunger, immigration or climate change I found women religious not in the headlines but in the trenches, seeing each issue as it relates to social justice.
  • Today hope for progress in a global context much of that hope is directed to the Millennium Development Goals. Again, women religious stand out as a united network committed to understanding and working to achieve those goals locally, nationally and globally. The quest for justice has inspired women religious of all ages and religious communities to share their knowledge and experience in the slow and steady struggle to make real the vision reflected in the MDGs.
  • Finally, as I have come to know the rank-and-file advocates of change in so many sectors, I have observed just how colleagues were educated by the Sisters and inspired by their willingness to assume personal and institutional responsibility as change-makers in the relentless reach for progress.

These are simply personal memories of the Sisters I have known as teachers, colleagues and visionaries, just a few facets of a beautifully complex history. Still, the lesson I learned many decades ago is that there are many paths to progress. As Martin Luther King reminded us, “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Sunshine Week 2016 – A heritage of openness and challenge to take a lead

Sunshine Week 2016 (March 13-19) spurs more than the usual reflection this year.  Over the years I’ve written countless words about the idea of the people’s right to know – this year seems like a chance to think more than write. The mass confusion in which this democracy is embroiled seems too often at odds with the informed democracy our forefathers envisioned.

The recent death of Martin Olav Sabo brings back thoughts of Minnesota’s open government heritage of which he was a powerful and visionary leader for many decades. Just today I received an email from Mike McIntee, long-time leader of The UpTake. Mike suggests that reflections on Sabo’s legacy will be inspired by this video which The UpTake produced almost a decade ago. I agree. I watched and remembered. http://theuptake.org/2016/03/13/longtime-minnesota-congressman-martin-sabo-dies-at-78/

The beautiful video he shared gives me pause and hope. I’m thinking  others might have the same reaction. It’s an oral history of the Minnesota Legislature as members have worked across the aisle to think through the issues and do the good work of governing our state. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I have. Viewing and thinking about the ideas shared here seem an appropriate tribute to Martin Olav Sabo – and the best possible way to celebrate Sunshine Week.

A good news note is that Mike McIntee and The UpTake are being honored as recipient of this year’s John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information. The award will be presented at their Sunshine Week event on Wednesday, March 16, Noon at the Minneapolis Central Library. The work of The UpTake (http://theuptake.org) is under-recognized; my hope is that this overdue recognition helps Minnesotans understand the power and influence of this unique and powerful resource.

On a contemporary note, Star Tribune columnist James Shiffer offers a great list of FOI issues that need tending to by today’s Minnesotans. Find today’s Sunshine Week column here: http://startribune.com/on-sunshine-week-how-we-can-brighten-our-public-life/371887941/.  Emphasis for Sunshine Week 2016 is on passage of and improvement of the Freedom of Information Act, signed on July 4, 1996 by LBJ;  the roots of that monumental legislation are evident in the initiatives of progressive Minnesota legislators, including Martin Olav Sabo. Minnesotans  need to be engaged in adapting that 50 year old legislation to the reality of the day.  We need to think as Sabo did about the public good and the future of the democracy.

Inquiring Minds NEED to Know – Thoughts on Sunshine Week 2016

The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.  Justice Hugo Black 1886-1971 

“The mark of a truly civilized man is confidence in the strength and security derived from the inquiring mind.       Justice Felix Frankfurter 1882-1965

 These words of two Justices who served similar eras on the United States Supreme Court form the bookends of this post. They frame my “thoughts while thinking” about next week, March13-19, celebrated throughout the nation as Sunshine Week 2016.

Focus of the eleventh annual recognition of Sunshine Week reflects Justice Black’s emphasis on a free press. In this construct, government is the source and a free press is the necessary medium of access to information by and about our government. Traditionally, these essentials have been the emphasis of Sunshine Week, principles that have shaped my annual Sunshine Week thoughts and posts.

This year, for a mix of reasons, my thoughts keep turning to Frankfurter’s reference to the other essential, the inquiring mind. (I find consolation for my oversight in the fact that Frankfurter also observed that “wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late…”)

To give credit, it was local activist Rich Neumeister who struck me with his passionate defense of the “inquiring mind” that fuels his lifelong embrace of the spirit of inquiry to effect change.

Rich was just one of several committed open government advocates who spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon sharing their thoughts and experiences; they were the first interviewees in a fledgling video story of how and why the right to know matters. All had accepted an invitation to participate in an independent project with which I have the privilege of collaborating with Matt Ehling, President of Public Record Media.

The impetus of the project was to recognize the 50th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); the strategy is to do so by “putting a face on” the right to know. To do this we are calling on people who represent the myriad facets and faces of how open government laws make a difference in real life. We will videotape and share their ideas, their recollections, their knowledge and their suggestions, then share those stories with Minnesotans as a way to spread that spirit of inquiry and thus inspire others to exercise their right to know.

What emerged from these first interviews was one unifying thought – that the life force of the right to know is the inquiring mind. It is the spirit of the individual who realizes the power of information that leads to change at the neighborhood or the national level.

It is our contention that, by using technology to share the experiences, perspectives and insights of these and other individuals we will celebrate not just the fact of open government but the power of inquiry itself.

On the one hand the focus is on the keys to implement the rights codified in FOIA and related legislation — sound policies, efficient bureaucracies, a free press, and a thoughtful approach to digital age challenges.

Still, the power of the right to know rests in the inquiring minds of individuals who place a priority on good information by and about the government. It is these inquisitive agents of change who breathe life into the right to know. They exercise that right by harnessing the power of information to improve their lives, their neighborhoods, their institutions.

In turn, they share their passion for inquiry and their knowledge of the channels of access, especially with young learners who too often know more about the how’s than the why’s of information access.