Monthly Archives: November 2016

Give thanks by sharing access to ideas and information

Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does. Stella Young

This quote popped to mind this week as I pored through the most recent issue of Access Press. ( I remember reading the quote a couple of years ago in an obituary for Stella Young, a physically challenged Australian journalist and advocate for people with disabilities. Her observation may help explain a fact that perplexes me, i.e. why so many people miss the wealth of information and ideas that Access Press generates and every month at free and handy newsstands we pass by every day.

Though this great resource is targeted to the disabilities community, the content is relevant to a broad circle of readers who need to know, to take action and to share with a friend, family member or neighbor. If there’s a missing link in this information chain it’s that too many people just don’t understand the depth and breadth of this robust resource that hides in plain sight on local newsstands or with a click on the keyboard. (

With Thanksgiving on my mind, it seems a good time to share some of the treasures found on the pages of Access Press. As a regular reader I know AP as a unique, comprehensive and an untapped community resource – unrealized because folks don’t know what lies within the literal or virtual pages of the monthly journal. The potential readership of AP extends to individuals challenged by physical or psychological barriers, to those who would love to learn and enjoy activities – and have their ideas shared — without nighttime driving, climbing steps, and to those whose eyesight, hearing or stamina are not what they once were, That reach extends to anyone who knows someone who has yet to discover the resources featured in AP.

So, with thanks to Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief Tim Benjamin and to all who create and support AP, what follows are random links to what I gleaned from the November 10, 2016 issue which is still on the newsstands and forever online:

  • An example of calendar updates are regular updates from the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living that offers skills classes, events and more, all of which are listed on their website. The note in AP includes something I hadn’t seen elsewhere “MCIL activities are “free, accessible and mostly scent-free – the sort of inside scoop readers need to know (

There’s much more, but you get the idea – AP is a dependable, accessible, affordable gift to all of us. The unique treasure trove of information and ideas will be of interest to you and to many in your circle who aren’t yet aware of what they’re missing.

Face it, you’ll be looking for conversation starters during the coming holiday season. Those gathered will thank you in the moment for changing the conversation and in the long-term for sharing Access Press.


Stroll, shop, save and socialize on Shop Small Saturday

On November 26, local storekeepers roll out their red carpets for Shop Small Saturday 2016. ( Chosen to counter the excess of Black Friday, the day offers a great excuse for smart shoppers to hook up with a lifelong friend, an elderly resident, a grandchild, or a new neighbor to enjoy, explore, graze, shop, share a long chat over tea or coffee, and give thanks for our neighbors and neighborhoods.

Though I’ve explored a host of vibrant neighborhoods that put a unique spin on shopping small and shopping local today’s post adheres to the “write what you know” adage. The hope is to prompt shoppers to prep for Shop Small Saturday by poking around the world that may well be within walking distance.

A subliminal suggestion is to make a day of it so the essence of neighborhood sinks in and sustains, at least through the holiday shopping season – by which time shopping small will be habitual.

Here are some suggested Shop Small Saturday strolls through my Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood. The listings are uneven – some link to websites, others to Facebook descriptions and reviews; in several cases these may be familiar from past Poking Around posts. A check of the websites and Facebook entries will alert readers to last minute Shop Small Saturday specials, discounts, shopping and socializing options!

Let your fingers do the walking through this sampler of Northeast options – with equal attention to shopping and socializing. Then do an armchair tour of your own locale to see what’s happening closer to home.

St Anthony Shopping Center

29th and Johnson Northeast

Sheridan neighborhood – near Broadway & 2nd Street NE

Central and Lowry neighborhood

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Walk till you’re weary, shop till you drop – then stop for coffee


Tuning in to infinite hope

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Vincent Harding knew, worked with and was a lifetime follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Harding followed Dr. King by sharing and keeping hope alive for decades as he wrote, spoke and founded the Veterans of Hope Project at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. http://www’   Dr. King’s message is echoed in the words and emulated in the work of  Vincent Harding.   Those words brought much-needed hope to me this morning as I learned of Harding’s life, leadership and shared wisdom.

For this awakening I am indebted to Dr. Harding who died two years ago at age 82. I am also indebted once again to Krista Tippett who shares the wisdom of guests through her weekly radio series on Minnesota Public Radio. ( Today’s conversation with Vincent Harding teaches me truths I had not seen and reminds me of forgotten roots of ideas that shape my life.

What the world needs now is to hear, learn, think and hope to understand the wisdom of those who have walked the walk and held on to “infinite hope.”   Listening to Vincent Harding this morning inspired me to keep hope alive. My hope this evening is that others will find time to listen and to maintain and pass on the flame of “infinite hope.”  Take time to listen to the conversation and to read the comments of other listened —






Heeding the clarion call to civil conversation

The process of really being with other people in a safe, supportive situation can actually change who we think we are . . .. And as we grow closer to the essence of who we are, we tend to take more responsibility for our neighbors and our planet. ~ Bill Kauth

We’ve heard the clarion call. We have wounds to heal – the healing process demands civil conversation, open exchange of ideas, values, differences and fissures in our community. Now what?

A priority must be to locate or create safe gathering places for community members to gather, share opposing opinions, to listen, to share life experiences, to own our strengths and admit our weaknesses. We need spaces in which Individuals feel safe to be honest about their values, needs, hopes, fears and innermost struggles. And we need “prompts” that create common ground for civil discourse.

Minnesotans share a proud legacy of lively discourse. Our forebears believed in – and seemingly enjoyed – dialogue. We can learn them — from our American Indian ancestors who shared their thoughts around the community fire, from immigrants gathered in country school houses, church basements, the Grange, the firehouse or Main Street eatery.

Today many of us live in urban neighborhoods, high rises, far-flung suburbs. We commute to work, learn, shop or connect with distant friends and family members. We communicate by email, text, twitter, even by POTS. We exchange information and ideas not face-to-face but by “devices” with no relationship to place or neighborhood or physical community.

And yet, as social beings, we have not lost our need for tangible space in which human beings who may not know each other gather, learn, share, discuss, debate. As Bill Kauth writes, that’s how change – even progress – happens. The supportive environment Kauth describes frees us to think, grow and “take on the responsibility for our neighbors and our planet.”

And so I asked myself, what and where are the gathering places? Because we are told to “write what we know” I have looked to my Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood, not as a neighborhood booster but to offer examples of how one unique community gathers and shares in some of the safe spaces that foster open dialog.

Like every neighborhood, Northeast Minneapolis is unique. The character of Northeast is founded by generations of immigrants, strengthened now by artists who share with ethnic minorities a propensity to “see life steadily and see it whole.”   Creative, committed visionaries who live and work in Northeast have felt both a need and great possibilities. They have dared to create those safe havens – and that has made all the difference.

My passion for the past few years has been to identify and shine a light on leaders – often unsung – who have built a community rich with oases that answer the people’s thirst to communicate. I’ve shared many of the stories on this blog and, more recently, in my work on the Voices of Northeast video project.

The joy of it all is that, through Poking and Voices it’s been possible to share some, not yet all, of the gathering places that provide the fertile ground in which healing discourse thrives.

Eat My Words Bookstore ( hosts a rich program of speakers and events on a wide range of topics; the unique bookstore also publishes a great email newsletter. Learn more here or view this interview with bookstore proprietor Scott VomKorghnett (sound quality not good)

The story of Poken Sword ( is best told by those who provide the space and plan the programs. Christine Jaspers, the mind behind Poken Sword, ( and Dean Hawthorne, proprietor of 2001: A Space ( share the story of their collaboration in this recent Voices interview – (

Coffeehouse Northeast ( comes alive on “Open Mic” night – Don’t miss the post-election conversation next Sunday, November 13, 5:45-8:30 p.m. The Coffeehouse also hosts “Writers Read”, a series of readings by local authors organized by local poet Janaya Martin ( – see page 6)

The American Craft Council Library Salon Series offers another opportunity for open discussion. This post from last year’s series describes the nature and purpose of the series. The Fall 2016 series is just completed with a conversation on the “Art of Participation” led by Peter Haakon Thompson and Sam Gould. (

The Water Bar ( on Central Avenue was temporarily morphed into a pop-up poll during the election; they’re returned this week to offer safe space for public discussion of environmental issues. Next on the schedule is “Serve water”, two days of storytelling set for next week, November 14-15. Learn more about the Water Bar here: or in this more recent article in the TC Daily Planet

This is but a sample of Northeast Minneapolis settings in which neighbors who may not know each other can feel free to exchange ideas and opinions, including opposing opinions. Watch for more unique hot spots in future blogs or in postings or cablecasts of Voices videos. You’re welcome to drop in to any of these conversations – check the websites for updates.

If you think more clearly or just feel more at home in St. Paul, you’ll want to check out the East Side Freedom Library, the phoenix-like model of creating a supportive gathering spot in what was once a proud Carnegie Library in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood.

News flash  from East Side Freedom Library:

Most important, start seeing your own neighborhood, building or complex through the safe haven lens. No doubt you will discover pockets of conversation on issues ranging from social justice to climate change to GMO’s. Dare to join the conversation. Should your community lack spaces that foster discourse, spot the spots that show promise, pair up with an activist neighbor or local organization to create a convivial gathering spot tailored to your unique setting.

We’ve heard the clarion call – it’s  time to get up and do what needs to be done.

* * *

The difficulty of carrying on a leisure-oriented tradition of culture in a work-oriented society is enough in itself  to keep the present crisis in our culture unresolved. ~ Clement Greenberg   



Healing as opportunity – One community’s story

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity – Hippocrates

 As we struggle through this season of our political discontent, communities of interest – faith communities, academic institutions, senior residences, schools, neighborhoods, towns and cities – face a mighty challenge to heal the wounds inflicted by the election of 2016. Visionaries see both the pain and the opportunity implicit in the healing process.

One institution that has come to my attention over the weekend is St. Catherine University in St. Paul. Though SCU is my alma mater I share the story not to promote the institution but to suggest a path for others to embrace the opportunity at hand.

The need to heal the campus community came from the Student Senate President who emailed the University President with this question: “Should we do something post-election to help heal the St. Kate’s community?” adding that she was “really worried about how everyone is feeling.”  The administration shared the student’s concern and took immediate and concrete action.

The result:  On Wednesday, November 9, the University community – faculty and students, staff, board and founders will gather for an evening of dinner, dialogue and healing. Sponsors reflect every aspect of the University community — from Student Senate to Campus Ministry to the Muslim Student Association and the Theology Department.

The evening includes a gathering for Interfaith Prayer followed by dinner and dialogue that will focus on the institution’s legacy of service to the common good and the opportunity to heal as community.

The questions with which all will grapple include divisiveness, hurt and anger that have emerged during the election, how to live out the legacy of the founders, bridge building, the true meaning of “respect for all” and personal commitment to the opportunity to heal as a community.

This creative initiative strikes me as an idea that might inspire other communities of interest to acknowledge and act on the challenge to embrace a unique – and painful – opportunity to grow by working as community to heal the wounds that politics has exposed.

Information power and politics – An implicit but real challenge

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

Nearly two decades ago, 1998 to be exact, the library community launched a vigorous campaign in support of “information power.” That campaign morphed in time into the push for “information literacy” as described in last month’s blog post.

( The distinction is subtle – and the message is clear. Information, misinformation, communication, control and permutations of the truth matter.

More than policy, money, good looks or ground game it is information that will determine the Election of 2016.

On the scale of egregious crimes and/or sins with which this democracy should come to terms is the fact that messing with the facts – the misuse, withholding, manipulating, skewing, or otherwise communicating anything other the truth — is wrong.   The fundamental premise of this and every democracy is the power resides in an informed citizenry. That truth is pretty well spelled out by the Forefathers in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On the one hand, the meaning of information – whether in the form of the great American novel, a database or a tweet — is inherent. Still, that meaning is influenced by the medium of communication and, ultimately determined by the recipient. Individuals and institutions produce information that is conveyed by a plethora of media –all of which have a stake in the information game. The sources and conveyors of information then interact with receivers who bear the responsibility to evaluate both the content and the source. The power of the information rests in the source, the medium of communication, ultimately in the receiver who weighs the complexities then acts accordingly in light of source/content validity and personal values.

Information power and communication power are inextricably linked. Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan, author of The Medium is the Massage, laid out a framework for re-thinking information power. A review of those basics is in order at this juncture.

The fact is, instant transmission of information and misinformation leaves no time for reaction or reflection – there is no pause between communication and action! Though we may know how to locate information, we are ill-equipped to assess the information, the source, the channel of communication, the ownership, the relevance, much less the validity or value of the overload of information with which we are bombarded.

Within hours of this post the last vote of the 2016 election will have been cast, counted and verified. The influence of information/misinformation and of communications media is stark and inexorable. This election is a wake up call for this democracy to get a grip on digital age information skills, attitudes and values.

No matter the outcome on Tuesday we have some serious thinking to do. My hope is that we will embrace the challenge to grapple with the some tough issues including information power, the role of the media, and about how we as a democracy shape and share the power of information to create a better world.

As we struggle to restore the soul of this nation it is wise to reflect on the reality that good information in the hands and minds of good people has immense power to heal.


Campaign spawns threat to press freedom

The press doesn’t stop publishing, by the way, in a fascist escalation; it simply watches what it says. That too can be an incremental process, and the pace at which the free press polices itself depends on how journalists are targeted ~ Naomi Wolf

If one can have a favorite Constitutional Amendment, mine would be the First Amendment, which affirms the fundamental right of every American to speak and to know what’s going on. Though I often rail against the flaws of the press – everything from corporate overstretch to lousy grammar to editorial posturing – it’s because I care so much. So, when a presidential candidate calls out a respected journalist, who happens to be a woman, it is not anger, but pain, that erupts. (

The pain is exacerbated by the realization that the candidate in question is building an information arsenal, aided by his donors, so that he can shape both the message and the medium of distribution. On the one hand, my limited knowledge of media bears the indelible mark of Marshall McLuhan’s prescience. More to the point, life has taught me that the congenital disposition to silence one member of the press will not cease when the last vote is cast and counted.

Life has also taught me that the dictionary definition of bully is “a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker…”

Freedom of the press has been tested in the courts since before the ink dried on the Bill of Rights. The candidate in question seems generally unfamiliar with the document and/or the concept. With impunity he expels, excoriates, attempts to embarrass and thus intimidate the press. His legendary “good brain” apparently does not store the words of Justice William Brennan who ruled that “public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.”