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2003 Blog Entries
December ~ Entries #239 - #250

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Blog #250. December 11, 2003: Call to the Minneapolis Community (citizens, neighborhood organizations, churches, voluntary organizations, corporations, small businesss, etc): Become apart of the solution, not the problem: Be People of Resolution and Solution to Achieve the Prize of Freedom: equal access and equal opportunity for all.

There are several wonderful pieces to use to help discuss the 7 critical areas of need in Minneapolis (education, jobs, housing, public safety, safe environment, governing, ethcis). Several come to mind that could be used to hold discussions, workshops, and seminars, especially (1) the book, The Minnenapolis Story, Through My Eyes, (2) the Seven Solutions paper , (3) the The Minneapolis Table Building Blocks paper (“The Blocks to Construct a Minneapolis Table for All to Sit at Together”), and (4) the materials on the web site of Will we let yesterday’s questions haunt tomorrows answers? Will we strive to meet High Hopes or continue the status quo of Hopeless Helplessness? Dream Fulfillment or Dream Deferment.” For this holiday season, my publisher is offering the book at a special price of $15 each, or $10 each for orders for 10 or more, or $7.50 each for orders over 10 for discussion groups of community and voluntary organizations (plus S&H). The books can be ordered from either or

Thursday, December 11, 2003, 1:22 a.m.

Blog #249. December 11, 2003: Call to the Mayor and City Council: Be People of Resolution and Solution to Achieve the Prize of Freedom: equal access and equal opportunity for all.

I have just received this letter copy from my publisher. It was sent to the Mayor and the City council. It is an open letter to the Mayor and City Council to Review the book and critique the solutions as a way to begin a Minneapolis “family discussion” to first resolve to solve and then act to solve the city’s problems in the seven areas of education, jobs, housing, public safety, safe environment, governing, and ethics, and then either keep the book for future reference or donate the book to a library (public, school, government, agency, college or university, etc.), as the last time they were sent a copy they returned them saying they couldn’t receive “gifts.” Can you imagine? I share my publisher’s letter with you here:

December 8, 2003
Dear Minneapolis Mayor and City Council Members,

The enclosed book, The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes, is NOT a gift! This is a review copy, also called “surplus” copy. If you still feel you have to return it as you did last time, give it instead to a library. Then, as now, it is sent as input from a citizen, a community person, Ron Edwards, to add to the public dialogue of issues facing the city. Ron is a citizen you all have, do, and will interact with in some way. My original letter concluded with: “If you have any further questions or wish to use the book for discussion groups, as some have suggested, or other uses, just let us at Beacon on the Hill Press know how we can help.” I noted then that (emphasis added):

The book uses the term “racism” and “racist.” These terms are not used to emotionally obscure fuzzy thinking about the causes of poverty, inequality, different levels of school achievement, etc., about which there is much debate (but, as Ron says Nellie Stone Johnson always used to remind him, “No education, no jobs, no housing, no hope”). Ron uses the terms to build on the Star Tribune’s 1991 series on racism in Minnesota (”Issues of Race”) as he notes in Interlude 2. The terms refer to the prejudice, discrimination, segregation, bigotry, and bias used to deny equal access and equal opportunity, something [many] Whites did not see [in 1991] as an issue.

In a word, the book is about the gaps that still exist between Blacks and Whites in education, jobs, housing, and public safety, why they happened and how to close them. One school of public policy thought blames it innately on Blacks, hence the legality of slavery and Jim Crow. Current public policy follows the 1968 Kerner Commission Report that stated Blacks can’t make it on their own and thus need the support and direction of the government (continued by the 1998 “The Bell Curve” that concludes the same saying Blacks are too dumb to make it on their own). These public policy assumptions have kept Blacks from the table of equal access and equal opportunity. In his book Ron calls for changes in public policy in the gap areas to begin to undo the damage caused by those assumptions. As you are the closest to public policy making you are the ones best able to reverse bad policy instituted by your predecessors. However, each time a policy group doesn’t do so, they too become part of the reasons for the gaps. That is not a “blame” statement. It is a legacy statement. Certainly all of us realize that we live in a world that is not free of intellectual difficulties, not free of insoluable problems, such that if we would just all have good will these problems would be solved. Breaking the cycle of welfare dependency for both Blacks and Whites (not to mention corporations) and enabling long-term employment is still a shared goal without a clear ”how to” answer in our post-agricultural, post-industrial, information dominated economy. But Ron lists specific “how’s” for closing the gaps.

Ron doesn’t suggest in his book that “ought” equals “can.” He does suggest that the gaps can be closed and outlines a process for achieving it. To do so, the first requirement is to repudiate the 1968 policy base of the Kerner Commission Report that Blacks are “unable” to make it on their own and thus need government support and direction. The second requirement is the political will to act with appropriate public policy reflecting a repudiation of Kerner policy. This is not to deny government programs. But it is hard to argue with the empirical reality that “American capitalism is the most efficient antipoverty machine the world has ever seen.” Government can help but not when its programs are never doubted or, worse, excused when they do actual, proven damage, as seen in the gaps Ron articulates in his book that government policy helped create. Those are addressable. Ron recognizes the insight of JFK that the economic system is not some monolith acting on people. Rather, people act upon it, hence JFK’s “don’t ask what government can do for you” question, but rather, instead, ask what people can do for themselves and for the government. In other words, Ron’s book avoids the anthropomorphic attitude of an economic “system” that always places the key role on government.

We would like to receive your thoughts on Ron’s suggestions for closing the gaps by insuring there is a place at the table for everyone, as outlined in (1) the suggestions of the book gathered together in Chapter 17, that have been expanded and arranged into (2) the Seven Solutions paper and (3) the The Minneapolis Table Building Blocks, paper (both being in the Solution Papers section of web site). We believe Minneapolis can use these to either show the way to other cities on how to solve the problems of the inner city or it can continue the opposite, showing America how to keep inner city Blacks down and “in their place”.

In the 8/31/03 7 Solutions piece, David Jennings is quoted, at 7.f, following a statement of his in the Strib in 2000, of the need to hold public discussions, what he called a “family meeting,” on critical issues facing the city. In this case, 7 issues to start the discussion are listed. Table Blocks would serve as a wonderful framework for such discussions. It and 7 Solutions are available free on the web site. To contribute to the discussion, we are willing to offer the book at discount for groups at $7.50 each for multiple orders, plus S&H. Let us know if there are other ways in which we can be of help.

Sincerely yours,
Peter Jessen

Thursday, December 11, 2003, 1:20 a.m.

Blog #248. December 10, 2003: Charter Schools People have asked about Charter Schools

Many in our community believe they are what are needed to rescue our children from a school system that won’t. Here are excerpts from Black columnist Suzzane Fields, Chartering the future, 11-20-03, which gives us food for thought as she discusses the new book by Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom “No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning” (excerpts with emphasis added):

The most troubling example of racial inequality in America today is the inner city school. Civil-rights iniquities begin here.

…You don’t hear the educationist bureaucrats in the big cities, who pull down salaries wildly disproportionate to their talents and responsibilities, crying for the pain of what the schools are doing to black children. White liberals usually don’t want to clean up the wreckage because if they did they wouldn’t have convenient objects to pity to prove how compassionate they are.

But we’re beginning to hear from educators who have looked closely at the data and see a consistent pattern in the awful gap that separates achieving whites and Asians and failing blacks…The Thernstroms conclude that equal opportunity can be achieved only when the minority students in the inner cities reach a higher academic achievement.

The gapin academic achievement that we see today is actually worse than it was 15 years ago.”

The problem, the Thernstroms say, is not the lack of a racial mix in public schools. Nor is it the amount of money spent per child or the size of teacher salaries. What’s crucial to enabling children to learn is an educational environment that motivates kids to want to work and study hard. Such an environment requires teachers who are imaginative and innovative, whose careers are not governed by rigid union rules and whose hiring and firing is community based, where teachers, administrative staff and parents work together. [See Blog # on Expectations]

The best kept secret in education is that almost all of the achieving inner-city schools are charter schools, operating within the public school system. They’re financed by the public and held to public accountability but are freed from the bureaucratic wrangling that strangled the public system. Unfortunately, charter schools require a great deal of time and private energy, and suffer from many of the shortcomings of voucher programs. They draw money away from the vested interests.

…Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, which opened in 2001, exemplifies what a dedicated group of adults can accomplish for a diverse group of children enrolled in classes ranging from prekindergarten to the eighth grade. The school is small, and its racially diverse student body is composed of a majority of low-income families. Parents choose the school. The staff operates on a theory that emphasizes project-based instruction to help children meet rigorous academic standards. They meet them, too.

…Charter schools are a compromise between the fat and exhausted public schools and the more controversial vouchers that enable parents to transfer their children from bad to good public schools. Schools that don’t shape up fail. Charter schools, like vouchers, are innovative and offer fresh opportunities for turning around the racial gap in learning. They’re worth trying and watching. They brook no excuses.

Given the failure of the MPS to close the gaps, can we any longer afford to wait? Martin Luther King said no. And certainly we condemn our children to a life of being behind, of automatic lack of access to life success when they can’t read and write. All that stands between our kids and their success is their school system and the adults and political party that runs it.

December 10, 2003, 2:45 a.m.

Blog #247. December 9, 2003: The emergency re young Black men also has counterparts with young women.

An article in the Louisville Cardinal newspaper of the University of Louisville reminds us that the State of Emergency for Black Youth is NOT just about young Black men (see Blogs ), as it includes young Black women as well. So when we wrote Higher Hopes For Youth Than Hip Hop, please know that it refers to women as well as men.

We are reminded of this by Sister Souljah in a campus appearance at Louisville University in October. You remember the run in 1992 between Sister Souljah and then candidate for President Bill Clinton. Back then she said “Why not have a week and kill white people?” and then Candidate Bill famously criticized her at a meeting of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, prompting Jackson to sputter and Americans to think Clinton may be all right. Well, she is at it again. In her October 2003 University of Louisville speech, she again has had a lasting effect, albeit a negative one. She made very sexist put downs regarding black women. Given the put downs women take in gangsta rap and some hip hop, we need to understand that these lyrics and attitudes degrade our sisters. But when Sister Souljah not only repeats these but they are taken as gospel by our young sisters, we have an emergency regarding young women too. Here is a quote from the article cited above, as it reports that a woman student (emphasis added), a senior communication major, said that Sister Souljah talked about how black women represent themselves, how they act when they are with their boyfriends or trying to pursue men, how society makes black women and how black women accept that they’re “hoochies,” “sluts,” “whores” and “bitches.” “She said that.” All I could say was “Ouch. I can’t get angry because it’s the truth and the truth hurts.”

What do we stand for when we say nothing when a Black woman says that it is the “truth” that Black women are “hoochies,” “sluts,” “whores” and “bitches”? And this was a part of presentations nearly two hours long that was full of hateful remarks about White people in a speech billed as a “diversity” speech. First, “diversity” is supposed to be about uniting different people, finding that “common ground.” Hate speech divides. It is not diversity. It is not acceptable. And would Blacks sit back if a White person spoke hatefully for nearly two hours about Blacks? Any who stand by and say nothing have lost not only their moral authority, but have lost their understanding of what it means to keep their eye on the prize and to work for attaining that prize. We cannot build true self-respect by hating others or ourselves (Sister Souljah essentially showed that she hated herself too by calling Black women “hoochies,” “sluts,” “whores” and “bitches.”. Controversy is fine, and telling truth to power and not surgar coating is fine. But the goal has to be to bring people together so that what is wrong can be righted. So it’s not just the guys that have “gotten” the message rapped in hip hop on MTV. The young women have too. There is a lot of work to be done to deal with the state of emergency of Black youth, both young men and young women. Part of that work is outlined in my book and organized into action steps based on the book in both The Minneapolis Table Building Blocks and in Seven Solutions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003, 3:38 a.m.

Blog #246. December 8, 2003 Mediation Headlines:

Historic “Landmark” Mediation Agreement Signed Can we do that? Yes we can. Can they do that? Yes they can. It’s time we began to think more “we can” than “can we?”

Old Gospel Spirituals talk about the New Jerusalem. We want to talk about a New Minneapolis, a city for everyone, a city that makes a place at the table for all its citizens. Let us all celebrate that what was called impossible became possible, and then lets plan to work together again and again to make what people call impossible possible. Let us continue to work together to create a new vision to make a New Minneapolis, a city of possibilities. Here are key excerpts from the Strib stories above:

Monday, December 8, 2003, 6:35 a.m.

Blog #246. December 7, 2003: Mayor on Mayor: Sharon on RT in City Pages

In the November 24 City Pages, we are treated to an interview with Sharon Sayles Belton commenting on the her successor. We congratulate Sharon on her new work at the Humphrey Institute to study how changing demographics in Minnesota link to racism. She points out the need for the current Mayor to connect with the communities of color and how the Mayor seems to be advised to not meet with certain activists, which, of course, is how to disconnect. The article has an excellent explanation of why she who should have beaten RT lost instead. It was good to see much of what is written in The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes, is validated by yet another commentary on the processes of our fair city.

Sunday, December 7, 2003, 1:26 a.m.

Blog #245. December 7, 2003: Remembering Pearl Harbor

Remember Freedom is for Everyone. 62 years ago this morning, Pearl Harbor was attacked. That was an act of terrorism in a global war. We fought World War II and freed many people enslaved by despots and dictators of totalitarian states. On 9/11 we experienced another act of terrorism in yet another global war. Many still live enslaved by despots and dictators of totalitarian states. We pause to wish for as many peaceful ways as possible to free enslaved peoples. May we not forget the lessons of Pearl Harbor nor of 9/11, and may we all wage peace to help turn back those forces that engage in such acts of terror. There were those who disagreed with our response in 1941 just as those who disagree with our response in 2001. But let us never disagree on the cause and right of freedom for everyone, and work to find the common ground necessary to make that dream possible for everyone, in the United States and around the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2003, 1:25 a.m.

Blog #244. December 4, 2003: The Mayor’s Mediation Jive Talk

The mediation agreement worked out over the past seven and a half months is one of the most comprehensive in the history of mediation. Minneapolis will again lead the way, either in showing what could be done or in showing how to squash what could be done, as already the Mayor is putting forth the jive talk regarding “well, we just hope we have the money.” Obviously, it’s not whether the city has the money but whether it will allocate what it has for this purpose. There is a difference between not having the money and not wanting to spend it on something. Why do they think we don’t know the difference? The federation and its allies pushed for reverting to the Mayor’s private mediation approach that the Mayor can control. But cooler heads have prevailed.

We look forward to the signing of the Federal Mediation agreement between Minneapolis Police and representatives of various communities that is scheduled for this morning, Thursday, December 4, 2003, at 9:30 am at the Minneapolis Urban League’s Northside Office. We are glad that the City has not decided to risk putting the police department into Federal Receivership by cutting off its nose to spite its face. We all look forward to better relations in the future as we all work together to make Minneapolis a safe place for all its law abiding citizens. And given the fact that the mediation group consisted of representatives of the mayor, the council, and the police, it is unfortunate that some felt they had to attempt to cause further delay in a rear guard action of discontents. Well, there will always be two sides to every issue For seven months we hashed them out to find the common ground. We found it.

We invite those who were skeptical to read the agreement, to recognize how fair it is to all sides, and to celebrate that something of this magnitude for the benefit of all in our fair city could be worked out by representatives of the mayor, the council, and the police. Lets all work together to make it work.

Thursday, December 4, 2003, 2:45 a.m.

Blog #243. December 3, 2003: Doug Grow and the Strib, Bad Santa and his little partner in crime

In his December 19, 2002 column, a year ago, Doug Grow mocked and made fun of the mediation process and the community. He called us akin to Abbott and Costello. Doug wrote “Like a comedy routine without the comedy.” He goes on to say “Minneapolis Police Mediation morass has a feel of finger pointed players,” inferring that we were confused or not telling the truth. Had Doug read the copy of my book given to him, especially Chapter 16, he would have known there was no confusion, no falsehoods. As we tried to mediate, the Strib, because of the truth, decided to attack us and play naysayer, as the Strib was part of those who told the federal mediator it not only can’t be done it won’t be done. So the Strib, through Doug, wrote, “Abbott and Costello could not have come up with anything more bizarre” regarding the selection process. He then gets in his shot at me by saying that:

It’s a mess. Ron Edwards says one thing, Jerry McAffee says another, Clyde Bellecourt says something completely different. Upset men of color point accusing fingers at two White attorneys, and the Mayor says almost nothing. This would be almost funny except at the root of this farce is a serious problem. Almost anyone with a pulse will tell you there is a need for serious trust between police and large portions of the city’s population.

Having gotten away with that, the Strib then wrote an editorial: “Mediation: There is much to learn from St. Paul” (and I appreciate them honoring my birthday that way with their editorial on January 10, 2003. The Strib’s editorial board wrote: “In Minneapolis some city council members and the mayor express suspicion after community activist Ron Edwards invited Patricia Campbell Glenn to Minneapolis. At a hearing last fall the council questioned Glenn openly, wondering whether she intended to mediate or prosecute on behalf of the federal government.” Why the smear? Again, the Strib editors and Doug had my book. It was all spelled out in Chapter 16. No mystery. Nothing suspicious. Very much out in the open. As we wish the Strib would be. The Strib infers that the St. Paul NAACP president, Nick Kalief had done the same thing: “For starters the political egos and turf issues seem to be much more intense in the larger of the Twin Cities, and when the St. Paul NAACP leader invited a federal mediator to help it was a no brainer that two of the city’s most prominent civil rights organizations, namely the NAACP and the Urban League ought to be involved.” It is also no mystery as to why the NAACP and Urban League in Minneapolis were not included at first. Again, its all in my book: read chapter 14. Then the Strib “promoted” Spike Moss and chose him as the spokesman and then associated “suspicion” with Ron Edwards. Why do they do that? What is their motivation? My motivation is clear. Read Chapter 16: my motivation is to save lives. What is the Strib trying to save, other than the fact that they don’t want six different descriptions of the elephant in their living room, racism, as they want only their own blind description. Too bad. The Strib used to do so well. Its a gorgeous world with some wonderful people in it for them to see if they at the Strib would just open their eyes as they did with their magnificent series in 1990. Time to open their eyes again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003, 12:41 p.m.

Blog #242. December 3, 2003: To accept the report or not, that is the Federation and Council’s question. The answer should be a no brainer: accept. So why are they hesitating?

Federation sabotage and council steps to maneuver the unraveling of the mediation will not be new. Not only will this show no deference or appreciation for the Chief under whose watch it took place, it would show a lack of respect for the communities of color and their efforts as well. Going back to square one will not enhance the City or its leaders. The mediation process was never about the Chief but about the department regardless of who is chief. Not to complete and sign will be a disservice to the new Chief. It will hobble him or her, create a further divide between the police and the community, but then some would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces and the community they serve rather than allow all to save face as well as save body and soul. There is no end to the sacrifice of the common good willing to be made by those who view the commons as theirs as they in turn seem to want the Black community to know and keep its place, in its own commons, but not THE commons.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003, 12:40 p.m.

Blog #241. December 2, 2003: Is race an identity as a biological or social/cultural construct, or what?

The evening news show Nightline on Friday, November 21, 2003, ran a show on How do you define race? There is a company that offers Ancestry by DNA, a test that can be used, for example, to find out just how much of us is African or something else. It is an interesting question. Nightline asks : “Is your race defined by society or by scientists or by how you see yourself?” Then, “Is race a biological or social construct?…questions about science versus social organization.” This question is raised within the context of Terrorists who are targeting Americans, regardless of their race.

The question of race in America is the one that still defines us in a way that no other question does. At a time when Americans are fighting and dying overseas, Wayne Joseph points out that only Americans are consumed with racial identity. When terrorists target Americans, they are not targeting African Americans, Hispanic Americans or Asian Americans; they are targeting Americans. It is here at home where we have had the hardest time looking beyond what we define as our racial differences.

Obviously, as Dr. King always reminded both Whites and Blacks, the issue is not color but character, not ethnicity but community. We need a new vision for a new Minneapolis, to build on all that has come before. We need to work together to, Black and White, following The Golden Rule (Chapter 5 of The Minneapolis Story) as we use The Minneapolis Table Building Blocks to implement The Seven Solutions Vision so we can build a New Minneapolis together.

Tuesday, December 2, 2003, 12:06 a.m.

Blog #240. December 2, 2003: It ain’t race, it ain’t gender, it ain’t credentials: its results that count. Who has gotten them and who has not? And why? And what can we do about it?

We have seen that both White and Black mayors could change affordable housing programs to affluent gentrified housing. We have had a White and a Black Superintendent who couldn’t/wouldn’t close the gap in test scores and keep them from falling. We have had male and female, gay and straight. What has been the one common denominator: either incompetence or a belief African Americans can’t make it so why bother? There are no other explanation for the gaps in education, jobs, and housing, unless you claim we are just too dumb. And although thought, science doesn’t bear it out. What it does bear out is a pattern of 400 years of teaching helplessness. We need to change that to “learned optimism” (see book of the same title by Martin E.P. Seligman). We also know that all White or all Black isn’t the answer either. Atlanta shows what a city can do when both exert positive leadership (see Chapter 17 and Conclusion). Education is the beginning point of fixing our problems (see Chapter 5). We can fix the problems. We can come together as a community to find the common ground needed to fix what is broken (see Chapter 5). But first Whites have to let us help fix their problems just as we as Blacks must let Whites help us fix ours. If we can help each other, then we can heal. Then we can all succeed. Then we are truly community. So how should we proceed? How about we follow follow The Golden Rule (Chapter 5 of The Minneapolis Story) in using The Minneapolis Table Building Blocks to implement The Seven Solutions Vision, so we can build a New Minneapolis together.

Tuesday, December 2, 2003, 12:05 a.m.

Blog #239. December 1, 2003: Let’s bring JFK’s “Watchmen on the walls of world freedom” to the streets of our inner cities.

On Thursday, Nov. 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was to speak in Dallas at the Trade Mart. This is from the speech he was to have given that day. Honoring it and following it is a good way to honor his memory, especially in this day of war:

We in this country, in this generation, are—by destiny rather than by choice—the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility—that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint—and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient wisdom of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal—and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.’ ”

This has been a uniquely American experiment, by both Democratic and Republican presidents, as the U.S., under Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush have freed and then brought forms of democracy to Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Iraq. We in the United States understand the significance of the war of terror that has struck in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Bombay, Mombassa, Najaf, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Baghdad, and Istanbul” in just the last year. We who are descendents of slaves understand the terrorism visited upon our ancestors, as seen in Interludes 6, 8, 13, 14, and 15 of my book, The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes.” So as we “right” past wrongs in the Middle East, I still maintain that that there are still wrongs yet to right in the inner cities of America in general and Minneapolis in particular, especially in the areas of education, jobs, housing, public safety, etc. I again comend my 7 Solutions piece as a way we can all use together to bring the fruits of freedom and democracy to the inner city as well, not just to Middle Eastern nations.

Sunday, December 1, 2003, 10:00 pm.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entires and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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