Category Archives: Saint Paul

Autumn Leaves Lots to Learn!

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!  

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The harmony and luster of autumn somehow inspire us to learn, to engage, to think deep thoughts about “life, the universe and everything.” The good news is that creative colleagues offer food for thought in the form of theater, literature, film, stories and more. Once again, the in-basket is so full of intriguing programs and activities that I plucked just a few that might ignite some plans. To be sure, the list is random, incomplete, intended as a prompt not a calendar of possibilities!

* Theatre Latte Da opens the new season with production of Ragtime, the award- winning tale of life in turn-of-the-century New York, the melting pot of Jewish immigrants, a woman of privilege, and a Harlem musician. The musical, based on the book by E.L. Doctorow, opens September 21 and runs through October 23. (http://www.theaterlatteda.com)

* A reminder that the Twin Cities Zine Fest is set for Saturday September 24 – details in earlier post (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/twin-cities-zine-fest-2016/)

* Stories, Down by the Riverside are featured when storytellers Larry Johnson and Elaine Wyne share their experiences – and those of past residents, their friends and neighbors. It’s Sunday, September 25, 2:00 p.m. at the Hennepin History Museum, (http://www.hennepinhistory.org) They’ll spin tales of “The Great Richter Drug Store Robbery,” “The Day the Old Radio Dramas Vanished” and one about thousands of Minneapolis school children who, in 1896, pulled the John and Helen Stevens house from Cedar-Riverside to Minnehaha Park. Guests will be invited to share their own stories of the Cedar-Riverside community.

* The well-received Women’s Human Rights Film Series sponsored by The Advocates for Human Rights launches September 21; the series is a collaboration with the Saint Paul Public Library where the films will be shown at area public libraries during the weeks to come. “Profiled”, set for September 21, at the Hamline Midway Library, relates the stories of mothers of Black and Latin youth murdered by the NYPD, depicting how the women channel their anger into a struggle for justice. “Red Light Green Light,” set for Thursday, October 13, at the St. Anthony Park Library, explores several nations’ efforts to prevent and cope with the travesty of sex trafficking. “Don’t Tell Anyone”, showing Wednesday, November 3, depicts the life of a young woman who is undocumented, one of the generation of DREAMers “eager to end their silence and push for social change.” All films will be shown at 6:30 p.m. (http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/womens_human_rights_film_series)

* Writer and teacher Wendy Brown Baez (http://www.wendybrownbaez.com/POP-UP-Readings.html) is all about Pop Up Readings, aka Classroom in a Backpack. The first Pop Up workshop is set for Wednesday, September 21, 6:30 p.m. at Eat My Words Books (http://www.eatmywordsbooks.com)

* Nimbus Theatre will inaugurate their new home with an original production of The Kalevala set to run October 8-30. The show is written and adapted by Liz Neerland and directed by Josh Cragun. Based on the 19th century epic of the same name, the original nimbus production overflows with fantasy, giants, gods, maidens and others of their ilk set in the “fierce lands of the north” (https://www.nimbustheatre.com/discover/production/kalevala)

* A quick reminder that the Twin Cities Book Festival is set for Saturday, Octobber 115 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. More about this free event in a separate post.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there is autumn.

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

Historians Make History as They Gather in St. Paul

Though history’s always in the making in St. Paul the saintly city is more than ever abuzz this week with curators, archivists, preservation and conservation experts, scholars, digitizers, funders and dedicated historians of every stripe.   It’s impossible to categorize, much less describe, the thousand-plus committed attendees at the annual conference of the American Association for State and Local History meeting this week at the Crowne Plaza on the banks of the Mississippi (if you don’t count the Kellogg Boulevard speedway….)

“Greater than the Sum of Our Parts” is the intriguing theme of the conference. A few hours in the exhibits gives meaning to the phrase – the exhibitors reflect the diverse and interdependent functions that comprise the complex world of these stewards of the narrative of the nation’s towns, states and regions. The robust agenda includes programs and tours on corporate history, museums, archives, court and legal history, classrooms, interpretive centers, historic homes, military history, religious history and more.

The keynote speakers for the conference suggest the diversity of the themes and participants — Garrison Keillor keynoted today followed tomorrow by Marilyn Carlson Nelson, CEO of Carlson and more.   Speaker at Friday’s awards banquet is Dr. Anton Treuer, Executive Director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University and editor of the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.

There are tours and more tours – of St. Paul’s brewing history “from Pig’s Eye to Summit”, a farm tour of the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life and the Oliver Kelley farm, tours of the mighty Mississippi, the Alexander Ramsey House, several farmers’ markets and corporate museums. And there are sessions on services for people with disabilities and one session that caught my eye, a discussion entitled “Memories Matter: Our Historic Resources to Help Those with Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases.”

The exhibits range from high tech digital archives to art conservationists determined to preserve art and objects as “primary sources”, reflected but not replaced be digital reproductions (or paint-by-number replications) of the original.

Squadrons of Minnesota museum mavens, clad in sky blue water t-shirts, are everywhere welcoming the visitors, pointing out the area’s sites and eateries, telling the stories, and having the strength to get up and do what needs to be done to guarantee that the 2014 American Association for State and Local History will go down in history!

 

 

 

 

 

Marvin Roger Anderson & Floyd G. Smaller Share a History, an Honor, and a Street

Librarians tend to get third paragraph thanks in the intro of historic works, or to merit a condescending note in a dissertation,  Librarians just don’t get streets named in their honor.  And then there’s Marvin Roger Anderson whose name and contributions will gain immortality this weekend.  Concordia Avenue between Lexington Parkway and Dale Street in St. Paul, Minnesota, will henceforth be named Marvin Roger Anderson Avenue.

In Marvin Anderson fashion, he will share the honor.  St. Anthony Avenue between Victoria Street and Western will henceforth by co-named Floyd G. Smaller Jr. Avenue, named in honor of Marvin’s lifetime friend and co-activist.

Marvin Anderson is a man of many talents and influence.  In his professional world of librarianship he is known as the Minnesota State Law Librarian who opened the doors and expanded the research capabilities of that renowned institution.  To young readers he is known as the idea person who built the “Everybody Wins!” reading promotion in the St. Paul Schools.  The program got a good start when Marvin inveigled Supreme Court justices to enjoy lunch and a read with early learners at Benjamin Mays School.  Though those kids are grown-ups now and the “Supremes” may be retired, the program continues to match caring adults with young readers.

The most important consideration of city fathers in naming of the street in his honor is the role of Marvin Roger Anderson as a power in preserving and promoting his home neighborhood, Rondo.  Marvin has turned a civic travesty into a celebration of the vitality of his home community.  Rondo Days, one of Marvin’s brainchildren, has claimed its place as a major community celebration, complete with a parade, jazz everywhere, and this summer a reunion of the Red Caps who served generations of travelers to and from St. Paul’s Union Depot.

Friends and fans of Marvin and his colleague Floyd G. Smaller may want to pull off Interstate 94 to check out the re-christened streets – and pause a moment to recognize the work of Marvin Roger Anderson and Floyd G. Smaller, two men who have collaborated for decades to shine a light on their community and the contributions of the people of Rondo.

Marvin Roger Anderson and Floyd G. Smaller will be recognized on the main stage of the Selby Avenue Jazz Fest, Saturday, September 14.

Gordon Parks: St Paul Claims – and Celebrates — a Local Hero

When I first read Gordon Parks’ A Choice of Weapons I was working at the District of Columbia Teachers College, 13th and Harvard Northwest in Washington, DC,  the epi-center of the DC riots of the late 60’s.  His experience as a teen in St. Paul’s Rondo area was so near and yet so far.  I had graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy, a five minute walk to Rondo (I know because we had to trek to the old Hallie Q. Brown for phy ed…)   Though I knew where Rondo was, I didn’t know Rondo.  I had no sense of what it meant to grow up there.

At the time I learned of and read Gordon Parks I had been working  2-3 years in an all Black environment.  It was also post the DC riots that had laid bare the unbearable raw evil of racism so palpable in the community in which I spent my days as a librarian who loved working an all-Black faculty committed to equality and excellence.  The reality of the college I loved under siege seemed unlike the Rondo neighborhood that was so near and yet so far from my high school days.

I began to wonder for the first time about the people who lived in the neighborhood around SJA, the kids we walked past every day en route to and from the bus.  I wondered about their parents – where did they work? where did they go to church? where did they shop or eat out or buy shoes or get a haircut?

Gordon Parks helped me face, and to some extent understand, Rondo – and to see the differences between the lives of African Americans in Rondo and the lives of those who lived near 13th and Harvard.

Referring to his earlier life in Kansas, Parks wrote:

Neither were these new friends as militant as we back there had been.  The lack of racial conflict here made the difference.  Minnesota Negroes were given more, so they had less to fight for….There were exceptions, but Minnesota Negroes seemed apathetic about the lynching, burning and murdering of black people in the South.  The tragedy taking place down there might just as well have been on another planet.  And they didn’t press vigorously for right in their own communities.

And, I realized, the white community in his St. Paul neighborhood were more accepting of the Rondo residents because the African Americans in St. Paul were so very few.   Scratch the surface, I thought.,,,

Throughout 2012 we celebrate the life and work of Gordon Parks who was born November 20, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children.  When his mother died Gordon, now fourteen, was shipped off to live with an aunt in St. Paul.  Soon left to his own devices he was at times homeless, at times finding jobs that ranged from piano player in a bordello to a job with the CCC and eventually a steady job as porter, then waiter, on the railroad – experiences that show up in his later life as a renowned filmmaker, writer, musician, and photographer.

Kansans and Minnesotans are both celebrating the centenary of their hometown artist this month.  In June, hundreds followers visited the exhibition of Parks’ photographs at the Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis.   The exhibit was mounted at the same time as a similar exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  The guide to the exhibit describes Parks’ pioneer work in photography:

 Parks was one of the most prolific and diverse American artists of the 20th Century.  His photographs span from the social commentary of the photographic icon of American Gothic, to Paris fashion for Vogue.  Parks’ photos chronicled the Civil rights movement in Life Magazine for two decades, and his portraits of celebrities like Ingrid Bergman brought him additional levels of fame and distinction.

As a filmmaker he was the first African American man to direct a major Hollywood production with the poignant memoir of his youth, The Learning Tree, and he broke new ground with a hip and provocative African American hero in Shaft, a movie that continues to be a pop culture classic.

This month brings a host of Parks celebrations, held in conjunction with the date of his birth, November 30,   Some of the highlights of this month’s tributes are these:

0 November 23-29 – Gordon Parks Centennial Celebration at the St. Anthony Main Theatre,  a Parks film festival featuring:

The Learning Tree – Saturday, November 24, 7:00 p.m.

Leadbelly – Sunday, November 25, 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday November 28, 7:00 p.m.

Shaft – Thursday, November 29, 7:00 p.m.  Special guest Richard Roundtree

0  November 27, John Wright, Professor of English and African American and African Studies, University of Minnesota, will discuss and sign copies of the book Gordon Parks Centennial: His Legacy at Wichita State University.  UMN Coffman Union Bookstore, 4:00 p.m.

0 Friday, November 30, at the Minnesota History Center.  Vocalist Jackson Hurst, The Sounds of Blackness, and Richard Roundtree.  7:00 p.m.

Though the films, photographs, lectures and music are great, St Paul’s true lasting tribute to Gordon Parks is the alternative high school that bears and honors his name.  Like the Green Line on which it is located,  Gordon Parks High School, 1212 University West in St. Paul’s Midway district, is a great work in progress.

No Hunger November – the Walk to End Hunger

Walk to End Hunger –  few simple steps:

Sometimes a problem is too big – sometimes it’s the process.  Hunger is a topic that’s so monumental – and so complex – it may seem to be too much to tackle.  The same might be said of the forthcoming Walk to End Hunger scheduled for Thanksgiving morning at the Mall of America.

(Parenthetically, my opinion is that the MOA fits the definition of too much to tackle, but that’s another story…)

Some time ago I posted a couple of pieces on the blog about hunger issues and my intent to walk to support Neighbors, Inc.  Since then I’ve come up with a simpler step-by-step guide to the complexities of the Walk to End Hunger mega-project.   It’s targeted to Neighbors, Inc.   I thought it might be useful to potential supporters who may be overwhelmed as I am by the process itself.

If you’re interested you may also check my page on the Walk site where you will also find a one minute video – that’s not Katie Couric….

The goal is to keep the focus on the need, not the process.  I hope this helps.

Support the Walk to End Hunger

Support Neighbors, Inc!

The Walk to End Hunger is a collaboration of hunger-related organizations of which Neighbors, Inc. is a member.   On Thanksgiving morning, November 22, from 7 to 10 am thousands of Minnesotans will walk the Mall of America to raise awareness and funds to end hunger in the Twin Cities metro area.

There are several ways you and your family can support the Walk and Neighbors, Inc.

  • Join us in the Walk. Do this by visiting our website (www.neighborsmn.org).  That will start you off with basic background resources and lead you to the Walk to End Hunger website (www.walkendhunger.org). Your $25 registration will go directly to support the Neighbors Inc. food shelf.  We hope that, as a member of the Neighbors Inc. Hunger Fighters Team you will encourage friends and family to match your contribution so that each member of the Neighbors, Inc. Hunger Fighters Team generates $100 to Neighbors.
  • Ask friends and neighbors to designate Neighbors, Inc. if they are making a contribution to the Walk.  Remember that all   funds go directly to Neighbors to support programs in the Northern Dakota County community.
  • Can’t make it?  You can make a financial contribution directly to Neighbors, Inc. by just contacting Neighbors directly with your designated contribution.   We will add it to the Neighbors fund as part of the Walk.
  • Cheer us on at the MOA!  No charge for spectators – family fun for supporters.  If you change your mind you can register on site to join the Neighbors, Inc. Hunger Fighters Team!

Neighbors Inc. serves individuals and families in northern Dakota County.  The demand for our food shelf is up 60% from just two years ago.  Neighbors will distribute 600 pounds of food this year alone.  Clients receive a package of one week’s worth of food for each member of the family.  In October we served 445 families through our recently expanded food shelf.

Neighbors is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization.  Any donation you make to support this event is fully tax deductible.

If you have questions or want to contribute, visit my page and/or contact me at mtreacy@onvoymail.com

Here Comes Peter! The Magnificent Peter Shea

Writing about Peter Shea, his quietly amazing projects and his magnificent mind, is no easy task.  As my then-young son once observed, Peter is just so “Peter-ish.”  Any profile illuminates but a single facet of a multi-faceted man of ideas.

For example, if you have to ask “Why the Bat of Minerva”? then you probably don’t know Peter Shea – yet.   The Bat is Peter’s long-running cable show (15 years plus – Peter’s not so sure of the inaugural date.) is a midnight Saturday and Sunday night regular on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6 in the Twin Cities.  Peter says that the format, in which a disembodied Peter poses questions from off-camera “allows me, a shy person, to have conversations I want to have and to pursue lines of inquiry with real people rather than with books and articles. …and it does some diffuse good for the community, in several dimensions: providing a model of civil, extended conversation, giving people ideas about the lives they could live, getting ideas and ways of working into circulation, helping bright and under-exercised people realize what kinds of challenging work are available to them.”

Over the years the soft-spoken Peter has posed thought-provoking queries to scores of famous scholars, authors, scientists, Americans on the rise, global leaders.  In recent times the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota has archived The Bat so the hour-long interviews are streamed for those who missed the midnight premiere. A sampling of recent interviews suggests the breadth and tone of Peter’s guests:

  • October 6, 2010 – Juliet Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College where her research focuses on trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the family, and economic justice. Most recently she is the author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (2010),
  • September 29, 2010 – Mike Tidwell, author of Bayou Farewell and founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
  • August 30, 2010 – Rob Gilmer, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of Minnesota. In the fall of 2010, he will be teaching Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, a course which has garnered national attention.
  • August 20, 2010 – Paul Barclay, a professor of History at Lafayette College where his research interests include Japanese empire, especially in Taiwan, frontier studies, and the use of images as historical documents or instruments of ideology.
  • August 15, 2010 – Ann Waltner, a professor in both the Department of History and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, talks about Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map of the world, recently acquired by the James Ford Bell Library.
  • August 5-15, 2010 – Minnesota Fringe Festival

Though these are the most recent, the full list of interviews over the years is astounding – Eugene McCarthy, John Davis, Rosalie Wahl are among Peter’s favorites. He also mentions  Maja Cerar (violinist), Carolyn Walker Bynum (medievalist), Morton Subotnik (composer), Andrew Light (environmental ethicist) and Ann Sharp (educator).  The Bat website lists the boundless and boundary-less library of videos Peter has produced since the early days of The Bat when Peter’s two sons (now grown) ran the cameras and, Peter hopes, “got some of the message.” Peter, who allows he’s not much into numbers, produces some impressive ones, e.g. some 82,000 visits  to the IAS website and nearly 10,000 video views since Fall 2008.

True to form, Peter has plans.  One big plan is just unfolding.  In a new series entitled Meet the Neighbors Peter, who also works with Shalom Hill Farm near Windom,  has begun interviewing members of the rural community for cablecast on community cable then archived in a blog.  He’s also been asked by the U of M Department of English to profile all willing faculty – of course he’d like to expand that to other departments.  In general, Peter hopes to produce “rich and coherent archives.”  He cites, for example, “a fine collection of interviews from the Spark Festival of Electronic Music” and a “small but growing collection of interviews done in connection with the Minnesota Fringe Festival.”  One oral history project underway, documentation of the history of the philosophy for children movement.  High on the list of Peter’s current enthusiasms is collaboration on expanding access to  the lectures from “Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010” a U of Minnesota course which IAS is providing online through the Bat.

Peter’s hopes for a bright technology future include great confidence in the future of cable, primarily because “the standard media have messed up fine productions with commercial interruption and commercial packaging to an extent that seems to me suicidal.”  At the same time, equipment is improving and coming down in cost so that “normal people with normal time resources can do interesting niche programming, and the shortcomings will be more than compensated by the lack of commercial distortion and the freshness and immediacy of low to the ground production.”  This offers unique possibilities for rural Minnesotans, Peter expects.  Other dreams include visions of easy archiving and repackaging, Internet 2, and every viewer both a producer of control of his or her own access options.

Learn more about Peter’s background, plans, persona and style by watching an interview archived on the IAS site.

You will never keep up with Peter’s fertile mind and high hopes – to keep abreast of the tangible products, watch the Bat of Minerva website or tune in to Channel 6 at midnight on any Saturday or Sunday.

Orphan Train Riders

Through stage productions, video and countless personal reflections most of us know something about the experiences of the Orphan Train Riders.  Beginning in 1854 and continuing until 1929  as many as 200,000 children were put on West-bound trains where they were sent to live – with mixed results – with new families in new homes.  The stories of these children, well recorded in numerous reports, are compelling.  Their descendents are estimated at over 2,000,000.

Thanks to committed individuals including an indefatigable Orphan Train Rider, Sister Justina Bieganek, OSF, the stories of Minnesota’s orphan train children are reflected, recorded and retold with love and care.  And each fall Orphan Train Riders and their descendents gather at the St. Francis Center in Little Falls, Minnesota, to remember.  Midst hugs, tears, laughs, scrapbooks, performance and good food, the stories unfold in a warm and wonderful celebration of tough times, good times, lives lived and survival.

One good story begins in 1913 when a 22 month baby arrived in Avon, Minnesota on the Orphan Train where she was met by John and Mary Bieganet who knew her only as child No 41.  The little girl was given the name Edith Peterson.  That little girl, now a nonagenarian, picks up the story.  “In 1929,” she notes, “two good things happened — the Orphan Train stopped and I entered the Convent.”  To be sure, in 1929 the young Edith Peterson joined the Sisters of St. Francis Little Falls where she took the name Sister Justina.

Among her many commitments over the past decades Sister Justina has played a key role in keeping the stories of the Orphan Train Riders alive.  In July 1861 Minnesota was the first state to carry out a gathering of Orphan Train Riders.  It all started when two Orphan Train Riders from North Dakota discovered their common heritage.  They decided that “if there are two of us, how many more shells in the ocean can we find?”   Starting with an ad in area newspapers, the region’s Orphan Train Riders met, reached out, and created a tradition that continues today with an annual gathering at the Franciscan Center in Little Falls.

This year, Sister Justina and her colleagues share the day with special relish. On Saturday, October 2, 2010, families, friends and interested persons (including “interested persons” Suzanne Mahmoodi and me) will gather for the 50th Celebration of Orphan Train Riders of New York (the generic name for the Riders groups).  A special feature of this year’s reunion is presentation of The Story of the Orphan Train, a one-woman show created by professional actress Pippa White of One’s Company Productions.

Impossible as it is to capture the spirit of the reunion, there are many ways to share the story.  Sister Justina herself is profiled in print and has created a 40-minute DVD in which she shares her experience of riding the Orphan Train from New York to central Minnesota.  Information about that video is available through the Sisters of St. Francis (info@fslf.org).   Among the several websites devoted to the Orphan Train Riders are many that are state-specific,  maps, statistics, personal reflections, contacts and more.  There is also a great website offering quick links to scores of educational resources and projects.

The story of the Orphan Train Riders offers a close and clear reminder of our relatively recent history rich with challenges, choices and consequences.  Long-time historian of Minnesota’s Orphan Train Riders Renee Wendinger has created an excellent up-to-date collection of articles by and about the Orphan Train Riders replete with original newspaper clippings, details re. the railroad depots, geograhic distribution and more   For a list of Minnesota’s Orphan Train Riders, check here.  Many thanks to Sister Justina and to the many Orphan Train Riders and their progeny who tell the stories, whether replete with pain or happy memories, stories so far and yet so near.