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Archived Posts from this Category
Excerpt from David Lawrence Grant’s essay, “People Like Us,”
in A Good Time for the Truth: Race in America, edited by Sun Yung Shin
Anyone who has ever been in a difficult, complicated relationship knows that the opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference. Neglect is indifference’s twin sister. And there is no such thing as benign neglect. Neglect is, in its truest meaning, a verb. And like twin horsemen of the apocalypse, Neglect and Indifference have teamed up to cause a lot of damage.
The evidence of the damage is everywhere to be seen: failing schools; high concentrations of persistent poverty in failing neighborhoods; the egregious over-incarceration of people of color; an alarming number of annual incidents in which people of color are shot by the police or end up dead in police custody. How did things get so bad, even here?
As always, it helps to know the history. Minnesota’s soldiers returned from the Civil War thinking, “Union restored; slavery finished; problem fixed.” The slaves had been freed. Why wasn’t their community exploding with vigor, enthusiasm, and industry, looking to make the most of their newfound liberty? Why were they still having problems? “Why, after all this time, aren’t they becoming more like us?”
Any reader of the fledgling black press during Reconstruction would be mightily impressed at the astonishing degree to which the recently freed slaves were, indeed, deeply grateful . . . were, indeed, working with great vigor, enthusiasm, and industry to build a better life for themselves and their community. But even though two hundred thousand black soldiers had just served bravely and nobly in the cause of Union, they found themselves still excluded from every new opportunity. The promised forty acres and a mule were never delivered. White veterans in the tens of thousands got an opportunity to help this nation-building effort in the underpopulated West—in places like Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—along with an opportunity to build a personal legacy of prosperity that they could hand down to future generations. Black veterans got . . . lectures about “bootstraps” and hard work—something about which they already knew plenty.
There would be no help forthcoming, no assistance in lifting themselves out of abject poverty and the shadow-world of life on the extreme margins as second-class citizens. Instead, there were Black Codes (spelling out where black people could go and could not go; requiring annual and unbreakable labor contracts; demanding fees from any who worked in any occupation besides farmer and servant) and Jim Crow domestic terrorism. Now that slavery was gone, what black people encountered was the cold reality that the rest of America still seems so completely unready to admit: that America’s real original sin was not slavery, but white supremacy. The law may say Jim Crow is dead . . . but if it is, then it’s having a long and vigorous afterlife.
I was doing some neighborhood organizing work in Chicago during the summer of 1970. When I told a friend there that I was getting ready to come live in Minneapolis for awhile, he said, “Aw, brother, really? Why? Worst cops in the whole world up there, man!”
I used to volunteer at a residential substance abuse program in South Minneapolis. After finishing my last tutoring session one evening, I started walking home about 7:30 pm. Just as I crossed the street, a car came tearing up at high speed, and three plainclothes police officers leaped out with guns in hand. They identified themselves, and then one of them holstered his gun, threw me up against the trunk of the car, and cuffed me.
I asked why. One of the officers pulled a handgun from his boot—a personal, non-regulation weapon—held it against my head, removed the safety, and cocked it. That’s a helluva sound—a gun being cocked while jammed tightly against the dome of your skull. Intimidating. I was intimidated. But more than anything, I was angry. And it occurred to me, even in the heat of the moment, that this was exactly the reaction he wanted . . . like someone who lights a fire and thinks, Now, let me throw a little gasoline on there. Instead of answering my question, the cowboy with the gun to my head told me not to move, then shoved my head hard to one side with the barrel and said, “Wouldn’t even breathe real hard if I was you. This gun’s got a hair trigger.” There was another reason to be wary of that gun. I knew countless stories of weapons like that, produced from a boot or the small of an officer’s back, meant to be placed in a suspect’s hand or close to his body should he somehow end up dead by the time the encounter was over.
One of the other officers finally spoke up: “Liquor store was robbed a couple blocks away about twenty minutes ago by somebody who matches your description.” As they inspected my ID and the other contents of my wallet, I told him as calmly as I could that right across the street, there was a whole building full of people who could vouch for who I was and where I’d been all evening. All three cops heard this, but they ignored it. It was as if I hadn’t said anything at all.
They threw me into the back of their car and radioed that they’d arrested a suspect. As they began to pull away from the curb, a voice on their radio told them to stay put. A lieutenant pulled up in a plain car behind us and talked with the officers while I listened to the police chatter coming over the airwaves.
The suspect was described as a light-skinned black male, about five foot seven, with extremely close-cropped hair and a slight mustache, wearing a knee-length, light tan leather coat. That was the only time I gave them attitude. I smirked a little and asked them, “That supposed to be me?” I stood about five foot ten in my boots, and I’m a medium brown . . . not someone that anybody has ever described as “light-skinned.” I wear glasses and was then sporting a scraggly goatee. And at that time, I had what might have been the biggest, baddest Afro in the entire state of Minnesota—a foot-tall brain-cloud kind of Afro, as far from “close-cropped” as it’s possible for hair to get. And I was wearing a waist-length, almost sepia leather coat, nothing remotely like the one in the description.
The lieutenant heard this, too. He flashed his badge at me and said to them, “Guys . . . really? Cut this guy loose.” Just like that. One of them spit, a couple of them grumbled, they uncuffed me and pulled me back out of their car, returned my wallet, and then tore off back down the street. No, “Oh, well, sorry, sir,” from them. Nothing.
I knew, as I tried to shake it off while walking home, that other scenes like this were playing out that evening in any number of other places in America. What if that non-regulation gun the cowboy cop had pressed against my head really did have a hair trigger? If I had reacted angrily and resisted, I might well have been killed, as have so many others before me and since, in just such an encounter.
There’s a history to encounters like these. And if you understand this history, even a little, you understand that all the hue and cry about “weeding a few bad apples” out of police departments and doing some retraining will not fix our problem. It is important to weed “bad apples” like that cowboy out of our police departments. But the core of the problem is that although undeniable racial progress has been made, the large numbers of African Americans left behind in intractable poverty are still stuck in the same cultural space as our ancestors were when just newly freed from slavery: stuck on the margins as perpetual outsiders in the land of their birth; feared; stigmatized as criminal by nature. This mostly subterranean attitude applies, in general, to other low-income communities of color as well.
So, the hard truth is that police departments deal with communities of color in exactly the way that American society, Minnesota society, has asked them to. There’s a readily observable pattern: people who find themselves routinely locked out of equal opportunity will generally find themselves locked up to roughly that same degree. Racially based restrictive housing covenants were declared unconstitutional in 1948, but they have continued in practice. Until 1972, thousands of municipalities had vagrancy laws on the books that were about regulating black people’s lives. Even though those laws have long since been struck down, the racist beliefs that created and sustained them are still very much around—and as a consequence, too many police officers sometimes behave as though they’re still on the books. The result is that simply being young and black or brown is a de facto “status crime.” It’s not necessary to do anything wrong . . . just step outside on the street or get behind the wheel of your car, and you could already be in trouble.
As many black families pulled up stakes and left the communities where they’d been born and raised, searching for a better life, this part of the collective African American story never seemed to be grasped by the communities to which they moved, Minnesota included. Truly welcoming weary strangers into your company means, first, learning something about their story. How else can you possibly begin to divine what assistance or support they might need from you as they begin to build a new life? But Minnesotans, like other Americans, have seldom known or, seemingly, haven’t cared to know much about the stories of the non-European populations with whom they share this land.
Minnesotans evince little knowledge of the history of settler aggression or the widespread and egregious abrogation of treaty rights when it comes to the experiences of Indigenous peoples native to this soil. There is precious little understanding of the diverse histories of our Chicano/Latino populations, many of whom long ago became citizens, not because they crossed international borders to get here, but because the U.S. border crossed over them as a result of the massive amount of land seized from Mexico at the end of the Mexican War. A story that can be told in easily graspable, shorthand form (think Hmong refugees whose men had helped the U.S. war effort in Southeast Asia, forced to flee their old homeland to escape reprisals) stirs sympathy enough to mobilize an organized resettlement effort. But even that only goes so far. There is little patience here for immigrants from anywhere—Asian and Pacific Islander, African, Latino—or even Americans from much closer to home, like Chicago, who seem slow to assimilate. Ojibwe and Dakota people get the same treatment. And there’s a stark, simple equation at work here: if you fail to value a people’s stories, you fail to value them.
In sharp contrast to this, new immigrants are always listening for and trying to make sense of the stories of their adopted land. But here in the North Country, immigrants scramble to figure out for themselves the many unspoken rules about how to live in harmony with Minnesota Nice. And some of these rules are damned hard. They learn that no matter how angry and aggrieved you may feel, given the history of what’s happened to you and your people, you’re still expected to abide by the unspoken mandate to “kwitchurbeliakin.” That’s “Quit Your Belly Achin’,” for the uninitiated. Because life is just not fair. Period. So, whatever’s happened to you, suck it up and move on. It’s not okay to outwardly show anger or resentment in any way. This is evidence of weakness. And it’s not nice.
Being a true Minnesotan also means being self-sufficient. All cultures express this value in some way, but Minnesota’s is the most extreme iteration I’ve ever encountered. My introduction to at least one man’s version of this ideal came from a mechanic named Bud. He owned and ran a car-repair shop in a South Minneapolis neighborhood that, over decades, he’d seen transition from mostly white, mixed middle and working class, to largely working class and poor people of color.
In an area that had become about 60 percent black, and whose population had been steadily getting younger, the only customers ever seen coming or going were white men over forty. In inner-city neighborhoods of color, places like that become unofficially recognized as “no go zones.” Doesn’t look like your business is welcome there, so . . . you simply erase them from your mental map of the neighborhood, to the extent that when you pass by, you literally don’t even see them anymore. But on the day Bud and I met, the family car was giving me big trouble and I happened to be just a block or two from his place, so I figured it was a good day to stop in and take my chances.
Word was that the guy was racist, but after a little conversation, it didn’t feel that way to me. The more we talked, the more it occurred to me that, really, Bud was just generally a grumpy old bastard . . . and that he probably tended to instantly distrust and dismiss anybody who found it hard to deal with this fact. As I look back on our encounter from the perspective of someone who’s become a grumpy old bastard himself, I’m even more convinced of this. I told him what the car was doing, but he cut me off, grunting his diagnosis before I could even finish. “Alternator. Ain’t got time for that today . . . but I got one I could sell ya.” When I told him that I’d never replaced one and wouldn’t know where to begin—told him I’d just go on and walk home if he thought he’d have time to fix it for me the next day—he shot me a searing look of pity mixed with disgust and said, simply, A man ought never pay another man to do something he could do for himself.
This pronouncement felt stunningly sharp and severe, especially coming from the mouth of someone who did, after all, make his living from doing the repairs that his customers didn’t care to do. His words made me wonder what he must think of most of us men walking around his rapidly changing neighborhood, black and brown men, none of whom had come up, as he did, on a hardscrabble farm established by Norwegian immigrant grandparents who made the clothes they wore and who ate, almost entirely, only the food they grew themselves. People for whom life was hard . . . but who never complained. I thought about us black men from the neighborhood who walk around looking sullen and sad, and how men like Bud must look at us and wonder why. They don’t see much, if any, evidence of the discrimination that keeps us angry and on edge. They certainly don’t see how they’ve ever personally been guilty of committing an act of discrimination against us or anyone else. We don’t “get” each other. They don’t tend to understand much about how the world looks to us, and we don’t tend to understand much about how the world looks to them. So, even though some of the time we share the same space, we avoid talking . . . and when we must, we keep it superficial, allowing ourselves to come tantalizingly close for an instant, but then spiraling past each other like separate galaxies, each on its own axis, into the void.
As Bud’s words sank in, I turned to leave, but then suddenly, something in me wouldn’t let me leave on that note. I felt the need to challenge him, surprise him, through a small, spontaneous gesture, aimed at bridging that yawning, silent gulf between us, if only for a moment. “Okay, then,” I said. “Wanna take a minute or two and show me how to do it myself?” Without needing even a moment to think about it, he surprised me by pulling out the tools I’d need and agreeably talking me through the job while he sipped strong coffee and went back to working on the car he’d been fixing when I walked in.
As we worked side by side in his tiny shop, I eased into a story about my own people—how generations of my folk struggled, always managing to creatively “make a way from no way.” He didn’t say much. But he was listening. My attempt to paint as vivid a picture for him as I could of the people I come from—people who also took what life threw their way and didn’t complain—seemed to resonate with him. Mid-job, I noticed there was a sign on the wall stating that it was illegal for customers to be back there in the shop, an edict he’d apparently decided to ignore in my case. Even though he stepped in to help me replace and tighten the belts, he also decided to completely ignore the sign that said, “Shop Charge, $45 hr.,” because when I pulled out my checkbook to pay for the parts and asked why I shouldn’t pay him at least enough to split the difference on time with him, he said, “Well . . . why? Done it yourself, din’t ya?”
Minnesota Nice can be really nice. Interesting and complicated too.
Bridging the gulf between us is hard. It takes courage and effort. And the effort often results in an encounter that can be both unrewarding and unpleasant. But what alternative do we have? The demographic makeup of Minnesota, like the rest of the country is changing rapidly and radically. By 2050, the majority of America’s citizens will be comprised of groups who used to be called “minorities.” The majority here in Minnesota is likely to remain white for some time, but populations of color, especially the Latino population, will see a dramatic increase. The Somali population of the state was already so large by the year 2000 that Islam quietly supplanted Judaism as the state’s second most prominent religious faith.
As we move forward, we can lean on this: that although it tends to happen slowly and only with great, conscious effort, people and cultures do change in response to the changing realities and needs of their times. If we are to sort ourselves out and make good lives for ourselves in this ever-more-multicultural landscape, we’ve got to start by talking less and listening more.
We can listen—really listen—to one another’s stories and learn from them. Collectively, we can learn to tell a story that includes all our stories . . . fashion a mosaic-like group portrait from those stories that we all can agree truly does resemble people like us.
David Lawrence Grant has written drama for the stage, film, and television, as well as fiction and memoir. He has written major reports on racial bias in the justice system for the Minnesota Supreme Court and on racial disparities in the health care system for the Minnesota legislature. He teaches screenwriting at Independent Filmmaker Project/Minnesota.
“It’s such a scene!” she says. “Performing arts audiences love a kind of under-the-lit-marquee vibe, when people are crowding along a sidewalk toward the box office, standing on the street during intermission, clutching their programs and talking talking talking about the show. The Fringe is perfect for that.”
The Fringe audience, passionate and opinionated, makes for great eavesdropping, especially at Rarig Center on the West Bank of the University, the home of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Rarig contains four different theaters with a total of nearly a thousand seats; its vast and echoing atrium will be jammed with theater-goers, talking among themselves and to strangers about the shows they’ve seen and will see. The building will present forty-four different shows over the ten-day Fringe, none more than an hour. “It’s deafening, and exciting,” says Guilfoyle, “to stand in that space and watch these big audiences surge in and out.” The Fringe also presents shows in twenty other locations in Minneapolis during the festival. Rarig is within easy walking distance of Mixed Blood and Theatre in the Round.
For her new book, Guilfoyle sat down with Fringe executive director Jeff Larson, who was clear about the unique nature of the Fringe experience.
“We have a lot of people who take off work and see fifty-five shows—that’s the maximum you can see on our schedule. These people get more and more excited every year and they talk about it year round.
“We’re growing the audience,” Larson goes on. “We’re a gateway drug. The tickets are inexpensive, it’s easy, you can dress however you want. Theater is not intimidating; it’s not something you should do to better yourself. It’s just another form of entertainment. We’re getting that idea into people’s heads.”
Larson adds that post-show conversation is built into the Fringe Festival experience: “What you want is the kind of work that you’ll talk about at the bar afterward. The fantastic and the terrible really stick with you, and you cannot wait to get to the bar and say, ‘Did you see that?!’ We tell the artists to invite your audience to meet you at the bar; the bar is just as important to the festival as any of the art is.”
“The Fringe is a great way to experience our wide and wonderful Twin Cities theater community,” says Guilfoyle, whose new book includes interviews with forty leading artists from directors to actors to designers. “An incredible variety of work, presented at an incredible speed. What a summer treat!”
CIVIL WAR HOMECOMING
Saturday, March 28 at 7:00 P.M.
The year 1865 saw inauguration, abolition, armistice, assassination, grief, celebration and reunion. The brand-new frontier state of Minnesota mourned and commemorated along with the rest of the nation. Minnesotans celebrated the return of the troops and got down to the business of building railroads and cities, sprinkling the countryside with farms and lumber camps and welcoming immigrants by the tens of thousands.
Dan Chouinard and an all-star group of friends gather to paint a Minnesota portrait of the times through songs, letters and newspaper accounts, in Civil War Homecoming. This live show at the Fitzgerald Theater on Saturday, March 28 is a co-production of the Minnesota Historical Society, MPR and the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force.
Featuring Kevin Kling, Maria Jette, T Mychael Rambo, Prudence Johnson, members of the Roe Family Singers, and the Brass Messengers as well as Eric Jacobson, Annette Atkins, Gwen Westerman, Mark Ritchie, Dean Urdahl, Pat Bauer and David Geister.
Additional information available here.
Interested in learning more about Minnesota and the Civil War? Visit www.mnhs.org/civilwar
“This book tells the story of one of the most vital and important theater companies of our time.”
Oskar Eustis, The Public Theater
Join us tonight for the Book Launch Celebration at Open Book in Minneapolis for:
All the Lights On: Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things by Michelle Hensley
Monday, March 9, 2015
Open Book: 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
Doors open at 6:30 pm, short program begins at 7:00 pm, followed by book signing
Also available via HowlRoundTV today at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern via http://livestream.com/newplay
“Ten Thousand Things brings the best possible theater, plays of Shakespeare and Aeschylus and Beckett, to audiences who have seen little of it before, those in prisons and shelters and adult education centers and rural towns and housing projects and Indian reservations and chemical dependency treatment centers, as well as to enthusiastic veteran theatergoers in consistently sold-out performances for the general public, all performed in large bare rooms, with no stage, just right on the floor inside a small circle of folding chairs, with all the fluorescent lights in the room turned on. Our budget is modest, we don’t need our own building, our set supply budget is little more than that of our very first show, but we pay our highly skilled artists on a par with the largest theater companies in town. We have even become Johnny Appleseeds of a sort, taking this unique model to other theaters around the country who are also eager to find ways to reach outside their buildings with excellent work. And all along this journey, the honest, openhearted encounters of our first-time audiences with our first-rate artists have led us to make wonderful discoveries about theater—pinpointing just what makes it thrive and flourish.” Michelle Hensley, from All the Lights On
The book features projects that celebrate Minnesota’s history and people. It includes crafts at four different skill levels, step-by-step instructions, free templates, and 180 color photos.
Imagine soldiers on the Civil War battlefield as you assemble a “housewife” sewing kit like those made by wives and mothers. Re-create the drama of a midwestern tornado when you build an automaton that actually spins, and celebrate the invention of water-skiing with a boat and skier that really glide.
Step-by-step instructions carefully guide you to make your own marionette, but it’s up to you to stage the puppet show. The playful miniature scene of a Day of the Dead nicho offers a way to honor a loved one. A woodland hike will provide the twigs and leaves to make a troll. A walking stick in the tradition of folk artist Maurice Carlton inspires you to create art out of what you can find.
These projects and more generate hours of fun, not to mention useful pieces you’ll want to share with your family and friends.
Minnesota in the ’70s, our documentary co-produced with Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Productions & Partnerships (tptMN), is nominated for a 2014 Upper Midwest Emmy® Award by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the Historic/Cultural/Nostalgic category!
More about the project:
The 1970s were more than big hair, mirror balls, and leisure suits. These were the years that bridged the chasm between the anti-establishment tumult of the 1960s and the morning-in-America conservatism of the 1980s. In Minnesota, this evolution unfolded in ways that defied expectations. No longer was Minnesota merely a vague, snow-covered outpost in the American consciousness. It was a place of note and consequence—a state of presidential candidates, grassroots activism, civic engagement, environmental awareness, and Mary Tyler Moore. Its governor appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Its city skylines shot up with uncharacteristic immodesty. Its farmers enjoyed some of their best years ever. Minnesota forged an identity during the 1970s that would persist, rightly or wrongly, for decades to come.
This is the second nomination for an MNHS Press/tptMN co-production. Last year, our Asian Flavors documentary won an Upper Midwest Emmy® in the Cultural category!
As part of the One Minneapolis One Read program, a new exhibit opens this week at Mill City Museum and Juxtaposition Arts with a panel discussion and opening reception on Oct. 24, 6-9 pm at Mill City Museum.
The panelists will include:
Archie Givens, President, The Givens Foundation for African American Literature
Robin Hickman, Founder, SoulTouch Productions’ In the Footsteps of Gordon Parks Legacy Initiative and a great-niece of Gordon Parks
Wing Young Huie, photographer
Jahliah Holloman, Juxtaposition apprentice
Moderator: Daniel Bergin, TPT
Minneapolis residents will have a unique opportunity to view a collection of photos by Gordon Parks and join in a community conversation around his book A Choice of Weapons, this year’s One Minneapolis One Read selection.
The exhibit will also feature approximately 30 photographs created by Minneapolis high school students alongside images by Parks, on loan from The Gordon Parks Foundation.
Taking inspiration from the book, the students worked with acclaimed photographer Jamel Shabazz at Juxtaposition Arts to create their own photographs. Shabazz will work with the students in early October during a week-long artist residency. (See feature in TC Daily Planet!)
For more information about these and other events visit the One Minneapolis One Read website.
About the Artist-in-Residence
Shabazz is an award winning photographer based in Brooklyn, NY, who has drawn influence from Gordon Parks, James Van Der Zee, Robert Capa, Chester Higgins and Eli Reed. Shabazz is also known for his community based youth work.
About the book A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Parks
One Read’s goals are to promote through literature and discussion a better understanding of race and the impacts of racism on our communities. A Choice of Weapons is a compelling autobiography, first published in 1966, about how Parks struggled against extreme poverty to find his purpose as a photographer, writer, director and musician.
A Minnesotan who developed an impressive artistic legacy that included an extensive photographic body of work, Parks documented important African-American political, artistic, cultural figures as well as daily life.
A Choice of Weapons is available in paperback at local independent and chain bookstores, online booksellers and MHS Press. It’s also available through the Hennepin County Library.
About One Minneapolis One Read
One Minneapolis One Read is presented by The City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County Library and Minneapolis Public Schools to promote literacy and respectful public dialogue. Minneapolis residents can play a positive role in their communities and explore important – sometimes difficult – issues that they face as a community by reading A Choice of Weapons and getting involved.
At its heart, One Minneapolis One Read is a community-driven effort with individuals, neighborhood groups, educators, businesses and nonprofits all coming together to make this a truly citywide read. Read the book. Join the Conversation.
One Minneapolis One Read is a collaboration of The City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County Library and Minneapolis Public Schools with support from Clear Channel Outdoor, Comcast, Gray Plant Mooty, Mill City Museum, Minnesota Historical Society Press, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), Pillsbury House Theatre and The YWCA of Minneapolis.
About Juxtaposition Arts
Juxtaposition Arts is a youth contemporary arts program, teen-staffed design firm and nonprofit cultural development center that anchors a diverse neighborhood in North Minneapolis.
Juxtaposition’s mission is to develop community by engaging and employing young urban artists in hands-on education initiatives that create pathways to self-sufficiency while actualizing creative power. We envision the youth of north Minneapolis entering the creative workforce as dynamic innovators and problem solvers with the confidence, skills, and connections they need to accomplish their goals and contributed to the revitalization of the communities where they live and work.
Juxtaposition believes that the creative genius of youth is an underutilized community asset. Since 1995, the organization has nurtured connections between underserved Twin Cities’ youth and artists and the region’s vibrant art and design communities.
About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, the Society preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.
Our Asian Flavors documentary, co-produced with tptMN, won the 2013 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy® Award from the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) in the Cultural Documentary category.
Inspired by the book Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875 by Phyllis Louise Harris with Raghavan Iyer, this thirty-minute documentary celebrates Asian immigrants who have left an indelible and flavorful mark on Minnesota’s culinary, cultural, and economic history.
Congratulations to a winning team!
The Asian Flavors team:
Daniel Pierce Bergin, Producer/Director
Angela Barrett, Production Assistant
Fanique Weeks-Kelley, Production Manager
Jim Kron, Director of Photography
Jerry Lakso, Online Editor
Bob Tracy, Executive in Charge
Pamela McClanahan, Project Consultant
Phyllis Louise Harris, Co-writer/Project Consultant
Raghavan Iyer, Presenter
Shari Lamke, Senior Director-Supervising Producer
Lucy Swift, Vice President, MN Productions & Partnerships
Terry O’Reilly, Chief Content Officer
We are honored to have one of our books selected as the One Minneapolis One Read title for 2013. This year’s selection is A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Parks. (Last year’s was Spirit Car by Diane Wilson, also published by MHS Press.)
For more information on the One Minneapolis One Read program, please visit
About the book:
This compelling autobiography, first published in 1966, tells how Parks managed to escape the poverty and bigotry around him and launch his distinguished career by choosing the weapons given him by “a mother who placed love, dignity, and hard work over hatred.”
In 2010 we re-released the book with a new foreword by Wing Young Huie.
Gordon Parks (1912–2006)-–photographer for Life magazine, writer, composer, artist, and filmmaker-–was only sixteen in 1928 when he moved from Kansas to St. Paul, Minnesota, after his mother’s death. There, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive, to educate himself, and to “prove my worth.” Working as a janitor, railroad porter, musician, or basketball player in such places as St. Paul, Chicago, and New York, Parks struggled against poverty and racism. He taught himself photography with a secondhand camera, worked for black newspapers, and began to document the poverty among African Americans on Chicago’s South Side. Then his photographic work brought him to Washington, DC, as first a photographer with the federal Farm Security Administration and later a war correspondent during World War II.
War can strain the bonds of love. No one understood that better than Minnesotans Madison and Lizzie Bowler. During the American Civil War, Madison and Lizzie courted, married, became parents, and bought a farm. They attended dances, talked politics, and confided their deepest fears. Because of the war, however, they experienced all of these events separately, sharing them through hundreds of letters. Discover how Madison and Lizzie maintained their steadfast commitment to one another, even as they struggled to balance extraordinary duty and distance with ordinary life and love in time of war.
Written by Minnesota playwright Victoria Stewart, this original play is based on the Bowlers’ letters, held in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection and published in the 2008 MHS Press book Go If You Think It Your Duty by Andrea R. Foroughi. It is directed by Ivey Award-winner Craig Johnson, with popular and award-winning local actors Peter Hansen, Anna Sundberg, Dietrich Poppen, and Abby DeSanto. The play features live performances of Civil War-era music with original musical direction by James Lekatz.
There are two show times: Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. or Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. Cost is $15 or $11 for MHS members. Advance purchase is required and can be made by calling 651-259-3015 or online.
This program is made possible with support from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, voted into law by the people of Minnesota in 2008.