Standing with Muslims against hate

Last year at this time, I was standing on a Bloomington football field with 800 other Minnesotans, after our state’s largest mosque, Dar Al Farooq Community Center, had been firebombed. Minnesotans showed up en masse, sending a clear message that we stand with our Muslim neighbors and won’t tolerate violence against them.

Last week, another mosque was hit. Vandals spray-painted the Islamic Institute of Minnesota’s Al-Salam mosque with hateful graffiti. As far as I know, no crowds rallied outside the Maplewood mosque. I didn’t show up.

Muslims — in Minnesota and around the U.S.– need to know we stand with them. So what can we do? We can help CAIR-MN, the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Continue reading “Standing with Muslims against hate”


After Philando: Have protests changed?

Two years after a police officer fatally shot Philando Castile, the protests, pain, anger and backlash continue to reverberate.

A quick recap:

IMAG4725Within hours of Castile’s killing, Gov. Mark Dayton told a crowd outside the Governor’s Mansion he didn’t think Castile would have been shot at a traffic stop if he had been white. Police union officials and some Republican lawmakers assailed Dayton for what they called his rush to judgement.

Within days, protesters blocked Interstate 94; more than a hundred were arrested; dozens charged with misdemeanor riot. Later in July, another 70 protesters were arrested for continuing to occupy space outside the Governor’s Mansion.

The Science Museum posted a small sign honoring Philando Castile by its “RACE: Are We So Different” exhibit, and critics slammed the museum for “taking sides.” The museum promptly removed the sign.

For the past two years, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed bills increasing penalties on protesters with fines of up to $1,000 and a year in jail. Governor Dayton vetoed those bills, which the ACLU-MN testified would have chilled Minnesotans’ rights to protest.

Now, the ACLU-MN is appealing one protester’s misdemeanor public nuisance conviction. Some protesters arrested outside the Governor’s Mansion are still awaiting trial.

Minneapolis Institute of Art Philando exhibit

In the two years since Diamond Reynolds live-streamed Philando’s last moments, many community members have worked to learn and heal. This month, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is showcasing an exhibit, “Art and Healing: In the Moment,” featuring posters, paintings, sculpture, video and a mural focused on Philando Castile and how his killing has touched people.

While the community works to heal, protests about racial injustice and many other issues have swelled — as have the angry reactions to those protesting. From the controversy over crowd size at the anti-inaugural protests to this month’s Families Belong Together, each demonstration seems to trigger a counter-protest, a continuing volley of action and then re-action.

Recently, after Rep. Maxine Waters encouraged protesters to challenge Cabinet officials anytime they show up at restaurants, shops or other public places, Waters faced a torrent of opposition. The president insulted her; conservatives alleged she was inciting mob violence. Leaders of her own party refused to back her up, and op-eds and calls for ‘civility’ have mushroomed.

What does civility mean in an era of repeated attacks on civil rights, and our country’s Constitution? Since Philando’s killing and this divisive president, have people become more or less tolerant of protest? More or lessing willing to take to the street in protest?

East Side Freedom Library will host a discussion with civil rights activists on how Philando’s killing has influenced protesters, police, courts, and Minnesota. All welcome to hear and talk with ACLU-MN’s Legal Director Teresa Nelson and Saint Paul and Saint Paul’s Community-First Public Safety Initiatives Director Jason Sole.

After Philando: Have Protests Changed?

​Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, Saint Paul 55106

In defense of dirt: Keep river bottom trails unpaved

Perched by a megamall, light rail station and airport, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge lives up to its name, a refuge from the made world of cars, trains, planes and buildings.

On a slow Sunday afternoon, I meandered for hours on natural trails along the refuge’s river bottomlands. Gravel crunched underfoot. My sneakers landed softly on the padding of dirt and mud. Beyond expanses of wetlands and tall grass, I spied gleaming high rises and heard planes thrumming overhead. On the dirt trails, I felt at home in the world of nature.

For now, at least.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to add paved trails, constructing a 10-foot-wide swath of concrete that will eventually snake from the refuge visitor center to the Bloomington Ferry Bridge. Other parts of the refuge, from Shakopee to Chaska, are already paved.

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-27,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-YNot every place in the world should be paved. Take, for example, river bottoms. They’re naturally absorbent, soaking up excess water from high rivers and heavy rains. Paving river bottom trails is akin to paving a sponge. It’s June, and the DNR website notes that several sections of the trail –paved and unpaved– are still closed due to spring flooding. The unpaved sections can dry out, naturally. The paved sections, after repeated flooding, will need repaving.

I went to the river bottoms to walk in nature, on natural trail. The wide dirt and gravel trail accommodated walkers, bikers and runners. I passed signs for a disabled hunter area. Just ahead of me, I saw a young boy, jumping across the trail in muddy boots. On this sunny day, he didn’t need those boots back home on paved sidewalks. Here in the refuge, those boots outfitted him for adventure.

In seven-plus miles of walking, my sneakers barely got muddy. Instead of jumping in puddles, I enjoyed the puddles while staying dry, appreciating their mirror-like sheen, and the splash of a robin, taking a dip mid-trail.  

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-27,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-YAs I walked, I noticed animal tracks on the trail — deer, frog, turkey and, hmm, are those raccoon prints? Along unpaved trail, it’s easy to see signs of nature. A hoof print caught my eye, and only then did I notice that a few inches away, a frog hunched, camouflaged, in a shallow divot in the dirt. The brown and gray of the trail blended with the frog, just as the dirt trail complemented the murky Minnesota River flowing alongside. Wildlife, trail and river fit together, naturally.

Walking on, I spotted a deer in the glade just north of the trail, eying me, just as I had observed the frog. The deer and I stood and watched one another, then I meandered on, moving easily, stepping on dirt, pebbles, twigs and leaves. I felt nature underfoot. Every step I took connected me to nature; my sneaker landing on and pushing off of dirt.

This refuge in Bloomington offers a retreat from the developed world. While some Minnesotans head north, fleeing the city for cabins, many others, including me, find respite from sidewalks and the paved world at this refuge. We seek out natural places because they are natural, not paved. The dirt underfoot is as essential as air, as necessary as rain.

We need a place to walk and run, bike and play, away from the paved world. The river is a refuge. Natural trails are a refuge.

Please, please, don’t pave this refuge.

The DNR is hosting two open houses for the public to hear and talk about the paved trail plans on:

Thursday, June 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bloomington Public Works Building , 1700 W. 98th St., Bloomington;

Wednesday, July 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bloomington Civic Plaza , City Council Chambers, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington.



A life, in 31 lines

  1. Born around Easter, the baby’s nickname was Bunny.
  2. His parents named him Dudley.
  3. His mom died before he was three.
  4. He stayed at boarding schools until he was nine, when his dad remarried.
  5. Dud saw the sunny side of life, an eternal optimist.
  6. He loved football.
  7. In December 1944, he left high school to become an Army paratrooper.
  8. The first seven times he went up in a plane, he jumped out.
  9. He wrecked his ankle.
  10. He finished high school; a veteran allowed to smoke in the teachers’ lounge.
  11. He re-enlisted, planning to make the Army his career.
  12. He served in Okinawa and Korea, an infantry platoon sergeant.
  13. He loved being a soldier, loved being with his buddies.
  14. Diagnosed with diabetes, he left the Army and worked as a bank teller for $40 a week.
  15. He was the best man in seven weddings.
  16. He met a young widow; their first date was going to her husband’s grave.
  17. To surprise her, he converted to Catholicism.
  18. Four months later, Dud and Marie married.
  19. They had a son, then a daughter, then another, and another, and another.
  20. Dud kept working at the bank, at times, working weekends at a gas station, and the National Guard.
  21. He ate the backs out of all his kids’ Easter bunnies.
  22. He became a bank manager and got to work first, making coffee for the tellers.
  23. He played softball and swam at the pool and Jersey shore.
  24. His tanning regimen started with spring chores, then June, Coppertone; July, Hawaiian Cocoa Butter; and August, baby oil and iodine.
  25. After 22 years with one bank, he was laid off; and soon found another bank job.
  26. His grandaughter called him Papa Bear; she was the only grandchild he met.
  27.  His diabetes worsened; he kept working full-time with just 6 percent kidney function.
  28. He stopped working and started dialysis.
  29.  His kidneys failed. He kept his sense of humor.
  30.  Hospitalized with pneumonia, one foot amputated, he was still joking with the nurses.
  31. June 4th, 1987, thirty-one years ago today, the easiest-going member of the family, Dudley William Havelin, died.



Challenge Islamophobia, meet neighbors

The mother looked sad, remembering how her teenaged son broke down in tears when she picked him up from school, where classmates had scrawled a picture of a bomb and the words, “You Die,” on his locker.

Zarina Baber was one of several speakers at Thursday’s Challenging Islamophobia conference who could pinpoint the moment when they were targeted for being Muslim. During the daylong conference, sponsored by CAIR-MN, the Council on American Islamic Relations, I learned:

  • Two Minnesota legislators—Rep. Cindy Pugh, R-Chanhassen, and Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater—refuse to meet in their Capitol offices with any Muslim constituents.
  • Three quarters of victims of Islamophobic attacks are female. And in most cases, the attacker is male.
  • There’s an app, Report Islamophobia, so researchers can track all incidents against Muslims and use data to influence policy.
  • One Twin Cities woman’s repeated anti-Muslim screeds likely inspired three men to drive hundreds of miles to bomb the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington.
  • Anti-Muslim sentiments rise more in relation to political campaign cycles than in reaction to incidents of Muslim violence.
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Report Islamophobia app

One of the conference’s biggest messages was this: Islamophobia has nothing to do with Muslims, in the same way that racism is not about people of color. Discrimination is more about the person projecting anti-black or anti-Muslim sentiments. The people who are discriminated against are just — people.

More than 200 people attended the Challenging Islamophobia conference; the lead sponsor was the Twin Cities Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. Japanese-Americans, whose families were incarcerated during WWII, know firsthand why it’s necessary to stand up for people who are being targeted. More of us need to join in, speak out and support Muslim people who are under attack. We can donate to CAIR, or attend a Ramadan iftar, where Muslim and non-Muslim people share a meal and conversation. It’s a good way to get to know our Minnesota neighbors.

I keep thinking of a scene CAIR-MN director Jaylani Hussein described, of a placid cul-de-sac, where five kids come out of their houses to play. Five kids whose families came from different countries, whose families may practice different religions. The kids run to their bikes, and ride around the neighborhood, just Minnesota kids, playing together, living in peace.

Get involved and donate to CAIR-MN



Listening to art & activism

This weekend, you can close your eyes at East Side Freedom Library and not miss a beat. Friday and Saturday nights, composers and musicians take center stage at the library, performing muscular works about social activism and artistic creativity.

Both nights also feature immigrant perspectives: Reinaldo Moyo grew up in Venezuela. Douglas R. Ewart is a native of Jamaica. Ewart will perform with his multi-disciplinary ensemble, Quasar, which mixes dance and poetry with music using instruments ranging from a didgeridoo, mbira, bells, gongs, and a laptop. Quasar  includes poet/vocalist/spoken word artist Mankwe Ndosi; dancer/choreographer/musician Lela Pierce; cellist Jacqueline Ulton; pianist Carei Thomas; computer musician Stephen Goldstein; reedist Donald Washington; and flutist/cellist/vocalist Faye Washington.

So come to the library this first weekend of May, and wake up your senses, tuning in to the energizing sounds of art and activism.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 8.45.36 AMFRI, May 4, 7:00 – 9:00 PM  The Artist as Activist with Composer Reinaldo Moyo The Schubert Club composer-in-residence will talk about his role blending art and activism. A graduate of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education, as well The Juilliard School, Moyo will be joined by pianist Matthew McCright.

SATURDAY, May 5, 8:00 – 11:00 PM  Sonic-Kinetic Paradise, A Performance by Douglas R. Ewart and Quasar This multi-disciplinary performance fuses poetry, dance, and eclectic music. A suggestion donation of $20 for the performers.

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Douglas Ewart photo by Glen Stubbe

Both performances at East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, Saint Paul, 55106. Free and open to all. 651-230-3294   



Powerful art

This weekend’s Saint Paul Art Crawl offers a bonanza of beauty and cool crafts, including powerful works rooted in solidarity and social justice at East Side Freedom Library.

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The vibrant purples and hot pinks textiles at the Library are more than pretty pieces of cloth. This art has a story, woven by Karen women who meet weekly at the East Side Freedom Library. Weavers will demonstrate their skills and sell their handcrafts at the Library, throughout the Art Crawl, which starts Friday, April 27, 6-10 pm, and continues Saturday, noon-8 pm, and Sunday, noon-5 pm.

Other East Side Freedom Library artists include musicians The Langer’s Ball, jewelry and leather artists plus several potters.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 12.50.36 PMVeteran potter Claire O’Connor’s commitment to social justice shows up in the work she’s done helping battered women, at-risk young people, and people with chronic mental health issues, as well as in her artwork. Photos of civil rights icons and a burning bus, part of the Freedom Ride, cover the sides of a potent work, Fill the Jails 1961.

O’Connor takes a long view on history. In her blog, she notes that most of the although archeologists don’t emphasize it, most of the pottery artifacts come from women. O’Connor and the Karen weavers are part of a tradition of women making art– be it pottery or textiles– embedded with meaning.