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2004 Columns
Quarter 1: January thru March ~ Columns #1 - #6

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March 25, 2004 Column #6: The Minneapolis Branch NAACP: Living good, doing bad

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

On April 28 and 29, 2000, the national board of the NAACP lifted the administrative authority that had been imposed on the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP a year prior. The assumption was that the branch was back in shape financially and otherwise. On December 15, 2001, Silas Houston, then branch treasurer, reported that the records were in good standing and all accounts had been properly reconciled. This was contradicted by the May 26, 2001, report of the acting treasurer that the branch was behind in the filing of reports to the national NAACP. Despite the declaration, nothing really changed between May 26, 2001, and December 15, 2001.

On March 7-9, 2002, at a conference in Des Moines, Iowa, the discussion began in earnest on the need for the branch to cover their tracks. On January 25, 2003, a document previously identified in this column as the cash review was presented to the general membership. On page 2, sub 4 of that report, there is an interesting comment by Alpha Diversified Services, LLC, the firm commissioned to do the report, to the effect that there was no evidence that bank reconciliations were performed on a monthly basis for all accounts. Now, I realize that sounds innocent. It is not. There is a greater story there for us to follow up on later.

On February 20, 2003, the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP presented a report identifying transaction details by account. This is just an example of an organization that is living large and doing bad. On January 28, 2003, a check was issued for $1,151.19 to the Capital Plaza Hotel in Topeka, Kansas. On February 27, 2003, a check was issued for $436 for registration. Another check, for $250, was issued for the rental of a car, although we don't know if that was to drive to Topeka or to rent a car in Topeka. And then, in a most frivolous manner, two checks for $50 each were issued to two individuals for food money.

Now, this all seems innocent on the surface. The only problem is that in May and June 2003, when inquiries were made of the leadership of the NAACP, particularly of Mr. Buckner, the membership was told that the delegation that had been voted to go to Topeka, Kansas, had not gone. As of this date, no one has been able to reconcile what happened to those checks. In a report dated July 31, 2003, the branch reported expenses of $43,688 as of that date. But as we reported in our last column, on February 28, 2004, the expenses had climbed to $238,683.

That means that approximately $195,995 of the NAACP branch's funds, not to be confused with the Parent Information Center, was spent during the months of August through December—yet there are no requisition orders, no vouchers, no information at all.

In fact, the national administrator, Mr. Bree, is expressing frustration in some quarters, talking about issuing subpoenas through the Hennepin County District Court to obtain information. What a dark day this clearly represents to the integrity of a once-proud organization: Looking good, doing bad.

We are further puzzled by a fax dated 4-9-03 to the Rev. Al Gallmon from Andy Martin, the secretary, in which they discuss how to withhold information from the general membership, particularly in terms of certain matters pertaining to the finances. This was further elaborated upon in very specific detail in the now-infamous tape of the branch's executive committee meeting on September 27, 2003, at the Minneapolis Urban League building, between the hours of approximately 9:05 am to 10:01 am. Part of the conversation on that tape is about how to withhold information and mislead the general membership. These tapes are now in the possession of attorneys for two parties, including the Minneapolis City Attorney.

This is an organization that lives good but does bad. $19,600 was spent to send a delegation to the National Convention in Miami, Florida, in July 2003, yet the general membership never received a report, as is required by the rules and regulations of that body. When will we receive a financial report on how the $19,600 was spent by the 11-member delegation that journeyed to Miami, allegedly in the best interest of and for the good of the movement?

Sports Update

Congratulations to Minneapolis Community College for their victory in the Junior College Division III National Tournament in upstate New York last week. That group of young women did an excellent job of bringing home a national title to Minneapolis and to the state of Minnesota.

Had I not seen the story in a few lines on the back page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune sports page, I wouldn't have known that these young ladies had accomplished that tremendous feat until it appeared on the front page of last week's Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Congratulations are in order to their coach and to the many fine players of that team. Is the reason the Star Tribune didn't highlight them because they were mostly African American female players? Say it ain't true, Strib.

Posted 03-25-04

March 11, 2004 Column #5: Minneapolis NAACP goes broke. Mr. Greenspan, we need your help.

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Frank Humphries arrived in Minneapolis in late 1999 to provide administrative direction to the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP. One of his first acts was to recover $75,000 from a secret bank account maintained by previous leaders.

Mr. Humphries put into place financial mechanisms so that the membership could not be misled again. This is why it was so depressing to discover a week ago Saturday that the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP, which had enjoyed a surplus of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, is unaccountably broke.

Just as the sportscaster used to say, "Roll the tape for highlights," I'm rolling the files: Every figure in this column is backed by official documents attesting to their truth and authenticity.

The local NAACP branch invested $86,266 with Piper Jaffrey in 2001-2002; now, on May 31, 2003, they say that it has been "misplaced." It is disturbing to learn that the branch cannot or will not account for this or the hundreds of thousands of other dollars it has received. It is troubling that the stewards of the branch pushed it over the financial cliff into the abyss of insolvency.

President Shayla Lindsey, who succeeded Rickey Campbell, reported to the general membership on March 24, 2001, that the branch's share of the Freedom Dinner that featured Nelson Mandela netted $82,374.75. That came on the heels of a $54,000 Otto Bremer Foundation grant in 1998. The National Registry of the federal grant noted an award to the branch of $380,000 for the No Child Left Behind program.

The records show that just a year ago, as of May 31, 2003, the branch had assets in excess of $300,000 cash money on hand. Where is it? The branch can't or won't account for it. Why not? In the review document given the membership on January 25, 2003, the branch reported that, as of December 2002, there was cash on hand of $216,000. Yet two weeks ago, unfortunately and regrettably, the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP produced a document dated February 28, 2004, stating that as of January 31, 2004, there was only $43,347 on hand.

This past Saturday [February 28], we discovered that the information and clarification promised for the February 2004 report was not presented. Given the current state of the economy and the downfall and downsizing of the agencies of color (due to agencies spending money on White projects and White bureaucrats and their White developer friends), it is depressing that an organization like our NAACP branch has so little cash that it has had to terminate its employees, unable even to provide separation pay in an appropriate and professional manner.

Now we find that the work, the services, and the leadership expected by citizens of color in Minneapolis won't happen because of the imploding insolvency caused by the branch leaders' actions. We need a clearing of the air.

Doesn't it trouble you that if, as the local branch alleges in its May 31, 2003, balance sheet, the $86,000 was lost by Piper Jaffrey, branch leaders have not filed with the SEC to recover that money? Oh my, oh my, how we need a sense of direction from Alan Greenspan. Alan, please come to our aid.

Let's review the NAACP numbers further. In a financial statement dated May 31, 2003, the Minneapolis NAACP showed cash on hand of $343,454, which included the $86,266 investment that was being administered by Piper Jaffrey. As of that date, the membership was told all was accounted for. What happened to the $342,000?

How is it they could have $238,683.45 in expenses for 2003, and only have a remaining balance of $43,000? These figures do not jibe with the NAACP documents that this columnist has regarding the investments and the cash that should be on hand. If they spent $238,000, how come they only have $43,000 left? Where is the other $70,000?

But that is not all. Other documents show another $200,000 was added to the $341,000. There is $152,000 that is not reported as part of the $238,000. What happened to the firewall that was supposed to keep funds from being commingled? The math isn't right. How many commercial ventures in supermarkets and other "investments" has this organization made?

Alan Greenspan, come on down. Will they be able to explain this to the Attorney General of Minnesota? As Shakespeare wrote in one of his plays, "What webs we weave when we first attempt to deceive."

Phyllis Wheatley update We continue to applaud Harry Davis and his alumni group for their dedication and commitment to the stabilization of the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center. It is unfortunate that some are suggesting to Harry and others that they write letters condemning our last column, "The end of a dream, the betrayal of a people: The demise of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center." We commend their refusal and recognition of the truth of that column. We all need to come together to support Harry and his group to rebuild this great organization. The facts will all come out. We know enough now to act in support of this effort.

Sports update Why the controversy surrounding Barry Bonds and his alleged steroid use when no uproar occurred upon acknowledgment that Mark McQuire used steroids when he broke the long-standing home-run record, which was broken in turn by Barry?

Posted 03-11-04

February 25, 2004 Column #4: The end of a dream, the betrayal of a people The demise of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

In his book Overcoming, published in 2002, the respected and loved W. Harry Davis, on pp. 33-293, makes reference to his beloved Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, an institution equally beloved by many of us who were raised and grew up in Minneapolis. Davis talks about the richness and the values and the strength and the fiber Phyllis Wheatley provided that made this African American community so great and so resilient.

Now, with great sadness, we have just learned that there are those who would end this great institution. We need to stop that from happening.

Why and how could this happen? Why and how is it deemed possible to happen? Upon further research, we found that Harry Davis, Danny Davis, Bubba Brown, Earle Miller and others have desperately been trying for a year to develop a plan to save this institution so important to the history and life of our African American community.

But these men and the others are no longer members of the board of directors of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center. So the question now has to be asked, what is at play here? Is it the property identified as the camp so many of us went to, that was left by Mrs. Parsons so many years ago, a property now valued in the millions? Is that what this is all about, in the effort to squeeze the very life out of this great institution known as Phyllis Wheatley?

There must be an accounting. Someone must explain why and how this has happened. Someone must explain why there is not a plan to save this great institution. And we must, together, stand up to save this institution.

On the other side of the aisle, White Minnesotans would not allow an institution with such stature and history to come so close to the perilous cliff of elimination. We need to immediately hold a series of community meetings and get full reports on why it is that Phyllis Wheatley is no longer considered to be important in the minds of some, and why it should not continue serving the great legacy that is the African American community.

Throughout his book, Harry Davis reminisces and reflects upon the love affair that was Phyllis Wheatley and the African American community from the 1920s to today, and what Phyllis Wheatley meant to our young and old. We would be irresponsible as a people, as a community, as a city, as a state, to allow this organization to perish because of the gamesmanship that would tear down the principles that represent the very existence and importance of institutions such as Phyllis Wheatley that serve the interests of the African American.

We expect no less, we demand no less. There must be an accounting. There must be an explanation. There must be a plan. And Phyllis Wheatley must survive.

Minneapolis Black history, the DFL, and the NAACP

Two books from 2002 still address our history and celebrate rather than try to erase it. The first is Harry Davis' book ***Overcoming***, a powerful word defining the struggle of all African Americans in Minneapolis. The other is ***The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes***. No African American in Minneapolis worthy of his or her history can claim authentically to have that history unless they have read these two books that explain and strengthen our roots.

What greater tragedy than for our children and our children's children not to know our struggles and be proud of what we have accomplished, accomplishments far greater than any White person's struggle born on the other side of the aisle of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued discrimination?

What else can we call it when we deny our history and let them tear down Phyllis Wheatley? We need to all rise up, gather, organize, plan, and save this cherished institution, this living embodiment of our struggles and successes in Minneapolis. So, what better way to celebrate this month of Black history than to pledge as a community to do all that is possible to save Phyllis Wheatley?

When Moses was kicked out of Egypt they erased his name so there was no trace left of him. We cannot allow the great markers of our history to leave us without a trace of our past. If Nellie Stone Johnson and her DFL co-founder Hubert Humphrey were still with us, they would lead us in the cause. Where is the DFL today? Where is the NAACP? Why are they silent on this issue? We are being shut out as African Americans in this town. Why? Read the two books.

The Phyllis Wheatley crisis postpones my column on the NAACP, which has failed to meet its payroll, is in receivership, has fired its employees, and has its national administrator coming back to town. We wait for the moment when the local African American community will finally take back this organization so that it can stand and do battle for us in just causes like the preservation of Phyllis Wheatley.

Posted 02-25-04

February 11, 2004 Column #3: Sun Setting the Set-Asides Is The Twilight of Civil Rights Signaled In The Dismantling of the Civil Rights Ordinance?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Dismantling the city's Civil Rights Ordinance looks like the twilight of civil rights. More than a decade ago, we applauded the vision of the City of Minneapolis for providing statutory protection for poverty-fighting economic opportunities that had long been denied to communities of color. Thus, we are greatly saddened to learn that, since our last column, the City of Minneapolis has "sunsetted" the set-aside programs of chapters 139-150 of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance before sunrise was given a chance to shine.

We assume the City will explain to the community its justification for its actions, especially when, as reported in this column, it has allowed the set-aside programs to be circumvented through non-compliance at the expense of the communities of color. With set-asides there was hope. Now, non-compliance is being made policy.

This is of particular concern in light of the announcement of the Lake Street Sears project and other major projects involving taxpayers' dollars that are either ongoing or about to be initiated in the City of Minneapolis—that these projects can again ignore contractors and employees of color. With the City now searching for a new Civil Rights Department director and appointing new members to the Civil Rights Commission, we recognize how important it is for the commission, the department, and the affected communities and neighborhoods to be on the same page.

Stripping enforcement from set-aside programs can only result in returning Minneapolis to the dark days of the 1950s and early 1960s. African Americans took to the streets of America's cities to stand up for guarantees of the existence and furtherance of ordinances that would end separatist exclusion and finally allow full inclusion.

Unfortunately, the African American community and others of color are being denied that inclusion by virtue of the City "sunsetting" set-aside programs. The presentation made at the end of January by the acting director of the Civil Rights Department, in terms of all the wonderful things that had been accomplished, was but the tip of an iceberg that hid the many failures of compliance below the surface and the continued impoverishment in the impact zones of our city.

Full disclosure and truth would have clearly shown the ongoing disparity in terms of the amounts of contracts and jobs and dollars not awarded to the African American community. Too many set-aside programs have been sabotaged and denied before they got started.

The problem will not be resolved by putting a thermometer on the side of the Sears project, as has been suggested by a number of entities that have been working together, entities whose plan seems to be to gather in the cash and then flee. It is a sad day. "Sunsetting" the set-aside program darkens the dreams of African Americans who had such great hopes of inclusion.

Hollman/Heritage Park. Despite the great pronouncements on how well the community would be served by the Hollman/Heritage Park housing project, it still fails to do so. We are also troubled by the withdrawal of the Minneapolis Urban League from the development opportunity immediately across the street, the former McDonald's parking lot. We assume that Time Warner has prevailed through their proxies.

The question we have to ask here is this: At what point do City officials become concerned about nonprofits carrying debt in excess of $800,000? Does the game work like this—that the City gives the taxpayers' dollars to the nonprofits that then pay their executives huge sums, using what's left over to retire their debt? To me, this is not good fiscal management.

Local NAACP in receivership. We'll be talking about this in greater detail in our next column. This is a sad story, one that this newspaper covers and that the Star Tribune refuses to cover. It is a story that exonerates these columns, the web log, and my book. It shows the tremendous transformation of the local branch that is needed to make it effective again. Are the national and local up to it? Will the local remain a honey pot for a couple hundred locals, or will it finally transform to serve all 80,000 African Americans in Minneapolis? We'll discuss this more thoroughly in two weeks.

February is Black History Month We have a wonderful history. But it is not our idol. History has a way of playing cruel tricks on those who chase it through rear view mirrors. It is the future, made in the present, that counts. The truth in history is what The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes and its historical Interludes provide. Let's celebrate our history and continue to work to make history by building our tomorrows today.

Posted 02-11-04

January 28, 2004 Column #2: In the Matter of the Civil Rights Department. The Right Person Needed

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Over the months of January and February we will see many celebrations as well as hear many discussions about the Dream and the importance that Black Americans played in the growth of this nation. Thus it is interesting that there has not been much discussion or publicity about filling the vacancy of Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, now that Vann Owen Hayes has departed. Contenders and pretenders are now lining up to take possession of this $85 - 90,000 position. Enough said. But in this corner, we think there needs to be a demand of expectation and fulfillment. Fulfillment is a word that is used quite often during the months of January and February when we talk in terms of what we would like to see the sons and daughters of the descendents of Africans achieve. It is a word that must be turned into practice. The Civil Rights Department has been on hold far too long in this city. "On hold," meaning a lack of enforcement, a lack of surveying, a lack of reporting the problems that exist, a lack of recommendations to the governing bodies (the Mayor and the City Council), as well as, underlying it all, a lack of tenaciousness and perseverance in the desire to fight for what the Commission says its knows but doesn't act upon. Civil Rights Department heads have come and gone, all stating that there is a lot that they know and understand about the problems of race, but then follow the words with little or no action or recommendations of action.

Conference on race. A very successful conference was held January 19th at the Minneapolis Urban League, hosted by a fellow columnist at this newspaper, Booker T. Hodges. The Chair of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission was one of the panelists, and her input was greatly appreciated. But one of the things that came across to this columnist was that there was not a lot of confidence on the matter and proposition of race, nor that the Civil Rights Department of the city of Minneapolis could at all be depended upon or called upon to do anything. This is a department that has one of the best ordinances in the United States (I know as I helped craft it many years ago). It has stood the test of court challenges. But it has not withstood the political shenanigans used to water down the ordinance and to water down the department. I can't remember the last time we had a Director of the Civil Rights Department prepared to put their job on the line in defense of the proposition for civil and human rights. In my estimation, that is what the Dream is all about. That is what is important to the survival of the sons and daughters of the African. So we say to R.T. Rybak and the City Council, walk cautiously and be concerned in the selection of the next head of the Civil Rights Department.

Empowerment Zone Watch. Some interesting figures have come to our attention with respect to the handouts by the Empowerment Zone agency that shows that once again a disproportionate amount of money went in one direction, to people the empowerment zone is not meant to enrich, which means that a disproportionate amount of money did NOT go in the other direction, to the people the empowerment zone laws were designed to help, the communities of color and, specifically, the African American community, a pattern that has continued consistently over the past six years. We need some explanation from the head of the Empowerment Zone and the members of its Board. In our next column we will print the names of some of the members of the Empowerment Zone Board of Directors who seem to be real comfortable in making sure that communities of color are denied not only access, but denied the purpose for which the Empowerment Zone was established.

Journalism watch. In the archives of my web page are many postings exposing the lack of true journalism in the Star Tribune in its reporting on the communities of color, exposing its bias and racism. In his column cited in my last column about Black support for McManus for Police Chief, Doug Grow admitted "I assumed that people of color would support only a person of color, presumably Black, to be the next Chief." He admits that he and "many other old, white liberals" just received a "stunning life lesson about the foolishness of stereotyping, presumptions and assumptions." In other words, he and the Strib editors have long been judging us not by our character but by our color. They have written on the communities of color with "the foolishness of stereotyping, presumptions and assumptions." We hope that Doug and the Strib will now change. We'll be watching and reporting. Stay tuned.

Posted 01-28-04

January 14, 2004 Column #1: Time to get behind McManus

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

On Wednesday, January 7, 2004, at approximately 1:45 pm, the Public Safety Committee of the Minneapolis City Council held another historic meeting at which it recommended the appointment of William McManus as chief of police for the City of Minneapolis. The council chambers were packed. Speaker after speaker spoke, Black and White, and, by a significant majority, probably 80 to 20 percent, they supported the recommendation made by Mayor R.T. Rybak that William McManus become the new chief of the Minneapolis Police Department.

There were some surprises, but it was probably Doug Grow's column of January 8, 2004, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that best reflects the problem that has descended upon the liberals in this great city. It is rather interesting to see the difficulties so many self-proclaimed liberals are having in accepting the nomination of this White man, William McManus, as chief of the department. Grow points it out, and he points it out well: People made assumptions about what people of color think and how they think, particularly the assumption that if it wasn't a person of color, if it wasn't specifically an African American, that people of color would generate unrest and uprisings in the streets of the city.

What Grow claims to finally understand is that communities of color are far more sophisticated than that, and should be given due credit for that sophistication. Certainly he reports the good news that McManus says, "I tell them [officers] I want them to treat everybody they deal with as they'd want their parents treated if they were stopped by the cops."

This is in accord with Archbishop Flynn's December pastoral letter on racism urging people to deal with each other according to the Golden Rule, which is the same urging I make in my book. Would that the Strib would follow it with its journalism.

The burden is now on the Minneapolis City Council. The selection committee did its job. The search firm did its job. And the mayor did his. And God knows the community carried out its responsibility by coming forward and expressing its choice. Now, everything rests with the city council.

If this council is up to the task, as we said in our previous column that we hoped that they would be, the city council will vote 13-0 for the nomination submitted by the mayor. And then we will all move on and put into place the ideas of William McManus and R.T. Rybak, and specifically the many fine ideas, recommendations and agreements that came out of the federal mediation process.

Affirming McManus is the least that can be done. As Council Member Natalie Johnson Lee said, "The mayor shouldn't make the politically correct decision, he should make the right decision, and I think he did that."

We owe it to our children, we owe it to the legacy of this city, we owe it to her people, and we owe it to the future of better relationships between communities that have warred far too long in the quest for justice.

Sports and journalism watch

Congratulation to Dennis Green, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, on his appointment as the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. If there is anyone who deserved the opportunity to move forward once again, it is Dennis Green.

He has been a true pioneer and he has been a true visionary. He has been a man who not only understands the game of football, but also the importance of life, and he certainly understands the importance of African Americans being in the mainstream.

We were rather disappointed by CJ's column in the January 8, 2004, edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune where she found it necessary to attack Larry Fitzgerald and, in a snide way, to attack Dennis Green.

Larry Fitzgerald is a journalist, a man who is held in the highest esteem and is well respected as a sports columnist and journalist. He has a right to his point of view, just as CJ does, and just as any of us do in our columns in our newspapers.

I didn't think that CJ would be about the business of carrying the wheelbarrow or, in this case, pushing the wheelbarrow of racism, but apparently that appears to be her job. How sad. We thought the Minneapolis Star Tribune had begun to grow just a tad.

But, no matter what CJ says, and no matter what current Vikings Head Coach Mike Tice says, Dennis Green is back in the ball game. Make sure you keep your job, Mike. Know what I'm saying?

Posted 01-14-04

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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