“Time to Team Up.” (Demonstration Diary, February 27, 2017).


FullSizeRender 3 2“After walking on to the freeway for Philando Castile last August, I told myself I would stay of the streets… but here I go!”

Comment heard February 27, 2017 as the organizers led those gathered at Peavy Plaza on to 12th Ave in Downtown Minneapolis, to march through Downtown for Fight for $15 — United Against Trump.


“You have to understand — this march is intersectional,”  said the organizer on the truck , before inviting Black trans activist Andrea Jenkins – candidate for city council in the (my) 8th ward — up on the truck to speak.  Jenkins named seven trans women killed since January 1 2017 and talked about how trans people need health care, livable wages and dignity — like everyone else.

Our issues are intricately connected.

Then the sister of Chad Robertson, the 25 year old Minneapolis man shot by amtrak police while in Chicago, gave us a searing rendition of what happened to her brother. She concluded, “This is my first time speaking. It will not be my last.”

The organizer then led us in a chant of MY FIGHT IS YOUR FIGHT.

What seemed to the Star Tribune reporter  as an “array of causes” were — the demonstration leader explained — all the same cause.  As we marched into rush hour traffic sidelining suburban commuter buses, we chanted the names of people killed by cops, pledged our solidarity with water protectors, immigrants and refugees, poor and working people.   The crowd was mostly young. People of Color were well represented. I did see a white man I have not seen for three decades — back when he was a meat packer organizing  with  P9 in Austin Minnesota. There were Latino families — multiple generations, African American and African immigrant youth, Native activists.

An indigenous women held a sign  that read, NO BANS ON STOLEN LANDS.

We marched to the Chamber of Commerce office and stood in the street listening to speakers explain the how MN legislators were trying to passing pre- emption   a dirty legislative trick to would allow State representatives to nullify local labor ordinances like the Paid Sick leave , passed after a concerted mass campaign  — this past May.  Preemption would also make it impossible for the city to pass a $15 minimum wage.

As we  marched on, the music coming from the turck made this  woman of a certain age feel a lot of ways.

Hopeful.We gonna be alright

Enlightened. “Look, Reagan sold coke, Obama sold hope. Donald Trump spent his trust fund money on the vote.

Inspired. “It wouldn’t be the USA without Mexicans, And if it’s time to team up, shit, let’s begin.”

Twisted.  This White child of the sixties and seventies who grew up in the South and the North  is insanely uncomfortable marching on a downtown street to the N word sung full blast to an irresistible beat.

United. “Fuck Donald Trump!”

We paused at Panera Bread and heard testimony from a former employee who never made more than $20 in a day–explaining why the fight for 15 must not punish tipped employees.

By the time the march stopped at Wells Fargo — banker for the Dakota Access Pipeline —  I had to go. I had walked downtown from South Mpls and I was cold and exhausted. My I-phone health status said 6.5 miles. It didn’t mention the boots , the heavy back pack, the advancing age.  So I missed the stop at the county jail,  but I was still there in spirit.

Your fight is my fight.


As we marched  President Trump announced his budget would include a $56 billion increase in defense spending. Some Reps in Congress complained it wasn’t enough. Please correct my math if necessary. I believe   thats $1million for every homeless veteran in the United States?!  What else could we do with 56 Billion?

The weapons we need to stop this insanity:  a multitude of tactics from a a multitude of communities, joining feet and heads and hearts.  Thank goodness most of these people ($15Now, NOC,  CTUL,  CAIR, Native Lives Matter, Navigate MN  Young Muslim Collective,   Black Lives Matter) have been organizing for years. Thank goodness they are working together.


Time to Team up. Shit, let’s begin.


More Than A Single Story



More Than a Single Story: Women Writers of the African Diaspora,  was a three session series at the Loft Literary Center, curated by Carolyn Holbrook in the fall of 2015.  Holbrook took the title  from  the Ted Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Single stories are the stuff of stereotypes that dis-empower.

The first session featured Tish Jones, Shannon Gibney, Andrea Jenkins, Lori Young Williams, Pamela Fletcher, and Mary Moore Easter. The second The October 4 session featured three Caribbean writers :Valérie Déus, Beaudelaine Pierre, and Junauda Petrus.

Holbrook asked what they feared writing about. For Shannon Gibney it was the experiences of others. Andrea Jenkins felt comfortable in that space but feared writing about herself. All struggled with writing about those close to them.

“Should there be a cannon for Black women writers?  They disagreed, but all felt It’s important to know you are not the first, when you sit down to write.

Moore Easter and Gibney encouraged writers not to worry about what genre you are filling. Jenkins encouraged people to self-publish and not let the industry get between you and your audience.


Déus,  grew up  in a Haitian community in Brooklyn, New York. She fears writing about trauma. She has a ritual of retelling to mark anniversaries, but is waiting for the time when she ready to say something more about them.

She told of countless retellings of the Haitian revolution growing up — the island that overthrew slavery and colonialism all at once — a story that made her unafraid to imagine radical change.

Petrus, who grew up in South Minneapolis of Caribbean immigrant parents, compared inter-island migration that splits families and leaves children without their parents, to African-American great Migration North.

Petrus hears Black Cannon everywhere: in her mother’s voice, in Chicago’s south side, in hip hop. She told of a year her mom took them to live in Florida, of falling in love with the ocean.

Both she and Déus, talked of the difference between Minnesota lakes and rivers and the power and smell of the big salt sea.

Pierre came from Haiti to the Twin Cities in 2009. Her father told her to be a writer because she could speak French well. Now she writes in Creole, a language that most can’t read, but one that best describes her reality.  Coming from a place where everyone is Black and therefore no-one is black-identified she struggles with American racism, especially as a mother of Black children in Minnesota.

Not a single story, but many essential stories.

Photo by Brian Peterson, StarTribune.

Carolyn Holbrook, Limelight Sharer.



I just came back from the second of the three readings  by women writers of the African diaspora, a series  conceived, curated and moderated by writer and educator Carolyn Holbrook.

The series is entitled “More Than a Single Story,”  to highlight the diversity of Black women’s stories. She was inspired by the Ted Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who notes that single stories are the stuff of stereotypes that disempower.

The first session on September 27, featured Minnesota African American women across the age spectrum: Tish Jones, Shannon Gibney, Andrea Jenkins, Lori Young Williams, Pamela Fletcher, and Mary Moore Easter.

Today’s session featured three Caribbean/Minnesota  writers: Valerie Deus, Beaudelaine Pierre and Junauda Petrus.

Holbrook used her own 2015 Minnesota State Arts Board Artists initiative grant to bring together 14 other women writers and shine a light on them. At today’s session I bought her book, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Journeys  a beautiful collection of stories of individuals who used a neighborhood grant to  build the commons in St Paul.  Like her More Than a Single Story series, Holbrook uses the book to shine a light and build power in as many  grassroots places as possible.

Holbrook is  a gifted writer.  She read an exquisite essay about being visited by an ancestor at a time when she was 50 and broke and had moved in with her parents. She is also deeply committed to feeding the tide, sharing the stage, advancing the work and telling the stories that extend the grants. In the ego-centered world of academia, writing and nonprofits that is rare and precious.

Carolyn Holbrook, Ph.D is an adjunct faculty at Hamline University and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. At the first presentation she talked about how the State Arts Board Grant gave her the opportunity to write everyday this summer. All I could think was: the Universities she works for  should be providing enough for her to do that every summer.