The Minneapolis Story Home Page

The Experience of Ron Edwards

A Renaissance Black Man in a White Man's World

A Beacon for Freedom in the City

2006 Columns
Quarter 4: October thru December ~ Columns #21 - #27

Home | 2007 Columns» | All Columns» | 2007 Blogs»
« Previous Quarter | Next Quarter »

December 26, 2007 Column #27: There were still heroes in '07 But it's a toss-up whether the year's glass is half full or half empty

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

In this Christmas/Kwanza season of 2007, we celebrate the gifts to our community by heroes of our community, and challenge the unheroic to be heroic, as we look at some of the high and low marks in the social agenda of the people of America, and specifically the people of Minnesota. We'd like to think that one of the strengths of a society that is a democracy is that we have heroes, good people, those who give us the gift of speaking out for the causes of justice and goodness, those that fight for righteousness.

But then sometimes we begin to have doubts. And then you pull out the Honor Roll, and you realize yes, Margaret, there are still heroes in America.

And so we dedicate this year-end column to those quiet, anonymous heroes of the day.

Like Roosevelt Gaines, who for 30 years as an employee of the Urban League of Minneapolis has fought the passionate and yet often thankless job of finding jobs for our people, particularly in the field of construction.

And then you have Joe Boone,a Black general contractor who, for over 30 years, has toiled in a very competitive field of construction as an owner and contractor, a man who, a couple of years ago, put his business career on the line by successfully suing the City of Minneapolis and others for racial discrimination in the trades.

And then you have Lester Hall, a Black contractor who has fought the City to a standstill in his attempt to open the door of inclusion for all.

And then you have the group of Black women who have fought the University of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis to a standstill over the building of a still-questionable research center in North Minneapolis for which there remain unanswered questions.

And then you have those Black men and women who have raised questions about education and who have faced off against the Minneapolis Board of Education.

And then you have a group who no one saw coming and no one expected who have challenged the status quo of racism and nullification: five very courageous police officers who, in filing their lawsuit on December 3, 2007, brought into clear focus the culture of racism and nullification that has permeated the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).

The issues that they laid out, the allegations that they have made under the rule of law, have sent a tidal wave across this city and state -- in fact, across this nation and foreign countries, because we can tell you that the American Bar Association Law Review and the Canadian Broadcasting System and other major American publications are now examining the lawsuit and the allegations contained therein.

There had been warnings prior to December 3, one by a White lieutenant of the MPD whose career was dealt a blow when he was relieved of command because he exposed the reverse tidal wave of nullification, reversal and racism in the department. Michael Keith is his name. The Black Police Officers remember him, and that's a good thing.

And then there was the White female officer of the Minneapolis Park Police who was reprimanded because she did not shoot a 14-year-old Black student at Anderson Middle School.

We also recognize our heroes serving in the military, and service workers who work to make sure we get our water and heat and electricity.

These, my friends, are the kinds of heroes who give hope that the democratic institutions of our society will attempt to maintain a steady course toward justice and fairness and corrective action; and so, in some respects, '07 was a very good year, while in other respects, '07 was the year of uncertainty whether the glass is half full or half empty.

We address the half-full/half-empty question in a 3,000-word essay on our website (see 12-14-07 blog entry #36), and that raises the question of who has not been heroic. Our nominees for un-heroic non-heroes (unless you want to honor heroes of nullification and reversal) are Chief Tim Dolan, Mayor R.T. Rybak , and City Civil Rights Department Director Michael Jordan, a trifecta of not only racism and discrimination, but also of powerful men pretending to be victims while they themselves victimize others with their racism and discrimination.

Chief Dolan: You have been with the department for 22 years. You not only know its racist side, you have long been a part of it. Mayor Rybak: you inaugurated your first term by trying to eliminate the civilian panel established to review the work of the police. And Civil Rights Director Michael Jordan: you continue to bring shame with your lying and your playing the role of Mr. Charlie, denying Blacks their civil rights by pushing every so-called special interest group minority ahead of Blacks.

These are the mini-minded-mini-men-of-Miniville. Minneapolis doesn't need leaders driving while looking through the rearview mirror.

Only time and you will be able to make the half-full/half-empty judgment. So, as we move toward 2008, the battle will continue, and in this column we will continue to bring you the information and the facts. It is the right thing to do.

Have a blessed Christmas/Kwansa season. Give your children a hug and pray for the survival of Black America. In fact, pray for all of America.

Posted 12-26-07, 11:55 p.m.

December 19, 2007 Column #26: The Stiffing of OIC: Louis King and Steve Cramer Betrayed

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

In the early Spring of this year, Louis King, the Chief Executive Officer of OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Centers) felt that opportunity to be involved in the construction of the Twins stadium.

Mr. King knew, from previous history, that he was taking both a professional and a political chance, but Steve Cramer, the Chairman of the Baseball Authority, was equally confident that this thing, full and gainful employment for African American workers on the Twins baseball stadium could be done.

The general contractor is M.A. Mortenson, assured Mr. Cramer and the Baseball Authority and Mr. King and OIC, that they were all pulling in the right direction.

If there was ever a misrepresentation of fact, it was the false assurances by M.A. Mortenson that diversity is the order of the day. In fact, Mr. King was being treated so badly, that the Hennepin County Board, a couple of weeks ago, took away $186,000 in training money from OIC's Hardhat Program.

Only after Mr. King made a personal appeal did the County Board of Commissioners restore about $150,000. In the meantime, in a very confidential report to Mr. Cramer, OIC laid out a chilling set of circumstances that has led to, at best, only one African American being employed on the Twins stadium site.

And guess who is the prime obstructionist besides M.A. Mortenson? That right. The Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, that reported to the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission that the Department had just signed a lucrative contract with the Baseball Authority to monitor the stadium construction.

In a meeting about a week and a half ago, all of the principals came together, including Michael Jordan's Civil Rights Department. Louis King laid out in detail the violations that were occurring and which were an outgrowth of M.A. Mortenson's resistance to diversity and compliance.

On November 21, 2007, OIC spelled out to Steve Cramer the resistance and the reversal by M.A. Mortenson to diversity.

Now you have to understand that this is the same M.A. Mortenson, acting as the general contractor for the Gophers football stadium, that essentially made it clear that Blacks need not apply for employment.

The City of Minneapolis has taken the position that that is acceptable, and has declined to challenge the University of Minnesota or M.A. Mortenson's continued participation in the nullification and reversal of the Civil Rights Act of the City of Minneapolis.

To the credit of Louis King of OIC, and Steve Cramer of the Minnesota Baseball Authority, they have held these violations as unacceptable.

But unfortunately for Mr. Cramer and the Baseball Authority, they have entered into a contract with the City of Minneapolis and its Civil Rights Department that apparently is only concerned with maintaining the status quo of segregation, the nullification and reversal of civil rights.

The City of Minneapolis is saying that you can pay to go the game when the stadium is completed, but we'll be damned if we'll fight for you to work on it as it is being built.

Remember what we reported a couple of months ago, that Minneapolis City officials have said you can complete any project you want and not hire a single African American and still meet the diversity requirements, and its OK with them. Diversity, in other words, is becoming the new word for segregation.

Update on MPD

Las Vegas and the lastest MPD cover up: even though a Black female civilian employee of the MPD reported to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that late on a Thursday night, early on a Friday morning, she was a victim of a sexual assault by white MPD officers in a hotel room in Las Vegas, the MPD has worked to silence her and carry out the big cover up. Check out Steve Perry's web site, the daily mole, December 7, 2007. He broke the story wide open, while the Strib and the MPD remain silent.

New Promotions

Chief Dolan has promoted three new white Lieutenants. What was interesting is that none of the three were on the Lieutenant's promotion list. We wonder why. Oh I'm sorry. We know the anwer. The leading candidate, the number one candidate on the list, is an African American sergeant with the initials of AK. Oh yes, and what about the Asian officer whose name showed up as appointed to Lieutenant and then bumped down to sergeant after the Duy Ngo settlement?

His name wasn't Vang, was it? They said it was a "typographical error."

Is this punishment for the Asian contingent for applauding too loudly when their beloved brother and comrade in arms received $4.5 million for his injuries? We hope not. After all, the Chief and Mayor says there is no racism, no racial animus in this police dept. What was the word they used? Oh yes, coincidence.

Liar liar response to law suit

Just as the Jim Carrey character in the movie "Liar Liar" could not lie, the city seems unable to tell the truth. See our web log entry 12-14-07, Blog #36: The Twin Towers of Minneapolis' Nullification and Reversal Begin to Finally Crumble as 5 Black Officers Sue the City for discrimination for more details about the City's blame game and playing "victim" and how it uses "diversity" as the new segregation.

Posted 12-21-07, 2:33 a.m.

December 5, 2007 Column #25: 1. The Betrayal of Joan Johnson: A Civil Rights Tragedy 2. Black police officers sue city and chief for discrimination

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

When Joan Johnson, the Chief Executive Officer and owner of Joan's Minority Owned Supplier, hereafter identified as J-MOS, became enrolled in the Small Underutilized Business Program, referred to as SUBP, she was led to believe that the City Civil Rights Department and the SUBP program were there to help contractors of color.

In April of this year, when the City of Minneapolis' purchasing department published the successful bids for the construction of sidewalks, alleys, curbs and gutters, J-MOS was informed that J-MOS would be a prime subcontractor/supplier for Standard Sidewalk, Inc., operating from a post office box in Blaine, Mn, but is shown to have corporate offices in Chisawgo County. Joan's company is also referred to as JMB (Joan's Minority Business).

But by late May 2007, Ms. Johnson had not heard anything. No wonder. We have discovered that rather than contact J-MOS, Standard Sidewalk, in the second week of May, 2007, emailed the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department to announce that they had reversed their postion and would not use J-MOS, but would award the $900 contract to another firm. As the overall contract was for $699,899.75, the $900 is .01% of the contract, far below the required 5% goal.

In July of 2007, an official of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department emailed Standard Sidewalk as well as officials in the City of Minneapolis' purchasing department, that this created a serious problem, stating, and I quote: "we have to discuss this issue as JMB's complaint won't go away, especially after you again placed heir name legally on that bid that was approved by us and the city's purchasing department. The go signal for your company on the city sidewalk project was done because of your statement." A city official then requested an immediate meeting to be held July 25, 2007, at 2 p.m., at the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

The only problem with that scenario was that a formal complaint had already been filed by a 3 rd party, alleging a civil rights violation against Standard Sidewalk. Consequently there were serious ethical issues with respect to such a meeting, which was presided over by the person who is now the Deputy Director of the Civil Rights Dept.

In fact, Standard Sidewalk was encouraged and guided in filing a formal complaint against Joan Johnson of J-MOS, making the preposterous statement that J -MOS serves "no commercially useful function." This is an allegation that has serious legal ramifications that can be a contract killer, a strategy that has been used by other white contractors to eliminate sub-contractors of color from the SUBP program.

In their letter to Michael Jordan, the Director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department in the first week of August 2007, Standard Sidewalk made allocations that were both slanderous and unsubstantiated, and which ran very contrary to correspondence the Civil Rights Department received from J-MOS in both May and July of 2007.

In her correspondence of July, Ms. Johnson identified her suppliers, her relationship with the SUBP program, her lisings and contracts with the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Counties of Hennepin and Ramsey, and with the state of Minnesota.

A second letter in August, five days before Standard Sidewalk sent its letter, the Civil Rights Department declared specifically that J-MOS was not a commercially useful functioning enterprise. Unknown to Ms. Johnson and her firm, individuals within the Civil Rights Dept had begun a process to remove J-MOS from the list of approved companies from the city's certification list

In their letter of the first week of August, and I quote, "as pointed out by Marvin Taylor at our meeting of July 25, 2007, Standard Sidewalk has partnered with the City of Minneapolis going back many, many seasons. We value this relationship and hope to work for the City on many projects to come."

What is chilling about that statement was the email from the Civil Rights Department on July 19, 2007, 12:32 p.m., which stated the complainent firm JMB won't go away.

But it appears to the naked eye that arrangements were made, and in the letter of August 6, 2007, Standard Sidewalk indicated their appreciation for the problem going away and of J-MOS disappearing from the American landscape.

Incidentally, just a week and a half ago, Standard Sidewalk was the recipient of another large contract from the City of Minneapolis, with the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department saying that Standard Sidewalk was a business in good standing. How interesting.

On March 8, 2007, three white firms received over $2.3 million in contracts, and not a single one of them met their minority and women's goals. Joan, with friends like this, you don't need any enemies. Stay turned.

Black Police Officers Take A Stand

As this column hits the news stands to press, two recent stories about one of Homicide's best, Sgt Adams, and his reassignment and the outcry against that action of the MPD, provide helpful backdrop to explain why, two days ago, Monday, December 3, 2007, high-ranking members of the Black Police Officers Association filed the largest discrimination law suit in the history of the city of Minneapolis, "sueing the Minneapolis Police Department and its chief Monday over allegations of systemic racial discrimination and a hostile working environment." Congratulations. Our next column will provide more details.

Posted Dec 5, 2007, 9:15 a.m.

November 21, 2007 Column #24: Foundation in place to begin 'research' genocide—again

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

Last week, preparation began at the corner of Plymouth and Penn for the construction of Dr. Frankenstein's dream research center, which should be completed and up and running by late summer 2008.

After much maneuvering, back-room politics and payoffs, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents has authorized the beginning of this Great Racial Experiment. Dr. Dante Cicchetti and his associates are in place. The roundup of the usual suspects, Black children, will mark the program.

Also note that the Northside YMCA at North Commons was quietly shut down and boarded up for "rehab." In the future, families with children will be referred to this new incubator center at NorthPoint for processing before being moved to the research center.

Many do not realize that this is not the first time the University of Minnesota has conducted questionable experimental research involving African Americans.

In the mid-1970s, a very courageous Black woman, Elizabeth Samuels, sounded the alert regarding a dangerous research project on sickle cell anemia conducted by the University of Minnesota and the American Red Cross. Samuels was a community advocate and a community specialist located at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center.

There was some Negro leadership who suggested that experimental medical research directed toward the African American community should not be questioned. It was questioned by the late Dr. Thomas Johnson and other prominent African American physicians of Minneapolis, who mounted a significant challenge to protest this sickle cell project, raising questions about its purpose.

In fact, TV stations and the local newspapers reported on picketing and other protests outside the American Red Cross offices in Minneapolis and outside medical facilities of the University of Minnesota. They requested that data pertaining to the project be released. Their request was denied.

Once the American Red Cross realized that Samuels was the source of the information, they initiated a retaliatory action that led to her termination and the end of her career. She paid a severe price for her honesty, integrity, and commitment to humanity.

Some aspects of the investigation were so embarrassing that the University of Minnesota and the American Red Cross eventually promised, in a written agreement, that they would do more due diligence on the sickle cell project.

That due diligence lasted about two years. With Samuels gone, Black physicians under attack, the precedent of retaliation established, and the Black community moving on to deal with other issues, it was back to business as usual.

Now, 30 years later, the university and the medical community get another shot at experimental medicine that others consider medical genocide and medical apartheid against the African American community.

As the crews began preparing the site for the new medical Dachau last week, we realized that those engaged in experimental medicine with good intentions that get bad results against the interests of humanity were back in business. Again using the Black population as guinea pigs, Dr. Frankenstein's disdain and disrespect for the African American community resurfaces.

In 1980 I worked with Dick Gregory, who exposed a very dangerous project that involved the then-little-known HIV virus (later reported in the 1999 book The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS, by Edward Hooper and Bill Hamilton).

In these polio vaccine experiments in the Congo (and later in New Jersey and San Francisco), serum from infected primates was given to Congolese (in the U.S. it was given either to handicapped children or newborns at prisons and hospitals), in a demonstration of the casual racism of the day. A program on this that Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby and I were going to host in Minneapolis was killed by our local Black ministerial leadership.

The Star Tribune reported November 7 a story from Dar Es-Salaam, Tanzania, about the scientific conference in Seattle two weeks ago, reporting that a vaccine trial was stopped as it increased the risk of AIDS in some who had been exposed, rather than preventing it. Some of the trials were held in South Africa.

Uncalled-for punishment in MPS

A valiant effort is underway by a dedicated group of citizens, predominantly Black, who are developing a covenant to deal with the future education of the African American child in a very hard-hitting approach that will be considered historic and of national importance.

The document will thoroughly test the commitment and direction of the board and administration of the Minneapolis Public Schools Special District #1.

The organizers will be announcing specific language over the coming weeks. In light of the report by the McKinsey Group to the MPS Board of Education about 10 days ago, and in light of the escalation of Black students to the new disciplinary program at Olson Middle School, and in light of the fact that principals are being told that they are not meeting their quotas in referring African American students to these disciplinary programs, we desperately need somebody to step forward with a program, with a plan, that has both impact and solution.

We applaud this group. Stay tuned.

Posted 11-22-07, 4:53 a.m.

November 7, 2007 Column #23: Park police prefer lethal force against our schoolchildren

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

Do you recall delicate conversations with others about how it sometimes seems that the life of Black children in the Minneapolis Public Schools are little valued or appreciated? We have heard them too.

These are not rumors. These are not speculation. They are true.

It is difficult for many, regardless of their race, to believe that there is such hatred and disdain for Black people in this city that it extends to children also. But it does. When we are offered proof, it is our journalistic responsibility to move the truth forward.

There is a 13-year-old Black student of Anderson Middle School sleeping peacefully tonight because of the professionalism and objectivity of a 27-year-veteran of the Minneapolis Park Police. That child owes her his life. He and his parents have no clue that the Park Police Command wish he had been shot dead instead.

Less than two weeks ago, an altercation took place in the cafeteria of Anderson Middle School. A young Black student in the special education program, 13 years of age but weighing 250 pounds, became unruly. As it is the park police that provide security for the public schools, this Park Board police officer answered the call.

She and the assistant principal brought the young boy under control; he lightly brushed the officer's neck area as she successfully defended herself. He was arrested and taken into custody.

The child pleaded guilty to forth degree simple assault. But, it was the aftermath that sent the chilling message reaffirming the danger that children of color face in their relationship with the security forces hired by the Minneapolis Public Schools.

This near-30-year Park Board officer was written up and, according to reliable sources, reprimanded for not using lethal force . Think about that: She was reprimanded for not discharging her weapon in a cafeteria filled with children. This is how deep the racism runs in the Park Police.

Rather than receive praise for safely bringing a situation under control, the officer was told that she froze, that she should have pulled her weapon and blown this "Black bastard" away.

This officer challenged the reprimand and the Park Police top command's logic and rationale.

Do not try, Park Board commissioners, to pass this off as rumor. It happened. We know. In fact, it took communication between the city attorney's office, the female park police officer, and, apparently, the Police Federation, to effect the rescinding of the reprimand and the order that the officer retake a course in how to use deadly force.

Understand that this means she was being reprimanded for not shooting this 13-year-old child in a cafeteria full of children, teachers, administrators and teachers' aides. The tradition of the doctrine of Justice Taney is alive and well in the commander of the park police -- that an African American child has no rights that Whites are duty bound, legally bound, or morally bound to respect.

Will public officials be angry that this happened? No. They will be angry because the information got out. There will be no ongoing discussion or debate against the policy that says lethal force is appropriate against a Black child under any and all circumstances.

For you Black parents with children in the Minneapolis Public Schools, give your babies a hug and a kiss and pray that they will be able to survive what is supposedly an educational journey in an environment of absolute safety.

Construction of the bridge

"Blacks Need Not Apply For Jobs." Again.

That was the message last week when a major bridge-building corporation from Colorado began the first stages to reconstruct the bridge that fell across the Mississippi. Just like the baseball and football stadiums, the bridge joins that infamous noncompliance Hall of Shame.

Do it. Build it. Make shareholder profit. And don't worry: Our City has officially defined minorities such that you don't have to hire Black folk. Why do federal, state, county and city officials stay silent instead of fighting for the right of African Americans to walk through the doors of opportunity on these projects?

Why are violence and homicides called violations when the laws, ordinances, and rules used to discriminate against our opportunities are not called violations?

This is how the agents and the designers of racism are able to legally carry out their successful program of nullification and reversal. They act as if we Black folk are invisible, nonentities, non-franchised, without meaningful constitutional rights.

Business as usual. Suffering continues. Dreams are unmet. They fill the penitentiaries and graveyards with us. Our leaders continue to eat fried chicken, drink champagne, and pretend that we shall overcome when they mean just themselves.

My friends, you live in a metropolitan area in which the civil and human rights of the African American are nullified and reversed, all under the guise that Black folks just aren't that important, and that their children have no right to a future -- or to even exist.

May God continue to pray for Black Minnesotans. Sometimes it seems as if he is the only one who does.

Posted 11-7-06, 3:08 a.m.

October 24, 2007 Column #22: A great warrior takes his final journey home. Go in peace, Brother Vernon, on your flight to the Spirit World

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

Vernon Bellecourt came into this life born WaBun-Inini -- Man of Dawn, in Ojibwa -- on October 17, 1931, on Minnesota's White Earth reservation, where unemployment was 95 percent when he was growing up. He moved to Minneapolis when he was 16.

Read tributes [Minnesota Public Radio], [New YorkTimes], [U.N. Observer], and [Fox News].

Read 1995 Interview of Vernon.

For most of his life, Vernon was a true and consummate warrior fighting not only the battles of his beloved people, but sitting at the table with world leaders in his role as a "diplomat for justice" (as stated in a UN piece) fighting the battle for the world's disenfranchised. His funeral was October 17, 2007.

I had the pleasure of knowing Vernon for over 35 years. He co-founded AIM (American Indian Movement) in 1968 and served as AIM negotiator at the 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., as part of the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan.

He was with Jesse Jackson in Operation Push in Chicago in 1973. In 1974, under United Nations auspices, Vernon helped organize an international conference on the rights of native peoples. We intoned "We shall overcome" alongside the American Indian's "We shall overrun."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune paid appropriate and well-deserved recognition to this great man on October 15.

Some who came to his wake at All Nations Church in South Minneapolis were government officials from such African countries as Ghana and Libya, paying their respects to a man who has now taken flight to the Spirit World, a sign of the respect and admiration for him around the world.

It was heartwarming to see former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton at his wake. Other politicians were notable in their absence.

As president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, Vernon reminded everyone that Indians were people, not mascots or artifacts (protesting the tens of thousands of skeletal remains of American Indians held at various universities, anthropological centers and museums, and thus denied burial).

Truly we "pass this way" but once. To come this way and do nothing for humanity nor your people is to forfeit your right and claim to a legacy. Vernon Bellecourt leaves a legacy rich in achievements, success and caring.

It is in the context of extreme U.S. government repression of the American Indian Movement that Vernon and other indigenous leaders are best appreciated. He became an internationalist and was a founder of the International Indian Treaty Council, a staunch advocate, supporter and speaker for indigenous peoples around the world.

He understandably sought help wherever he could find it. Although reviled in Minnesota, he sat with leaders of international importance, such as Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Vernon was loved around the world, where he supported all indigenous people, including the Irish, Venezuelan, Cuban, Libyan, Nicaraguan, Palestinian, etc.

His first trip to see a foreign leader was in 1989, to Libya, when he met with Col. Qaddafi, who pledged a billion dollars for American Indians -- which the U.S. government didn't allow.

Unable to obtain free or cheap heating oil for our Indian reservations here, he got it from Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves. It was partly by meeting with controversial foreign figures like Libya's Col. Muammar el-Qadafi, Yasir Arafat, Chavez, etc., that Vernon was able to gain international recognition for Indian nations and their treaties.

Vernon Bellecourt, this humble son of Minnesota, sat at the table of international power. His council and wisdom were sought by those who walked the international stage in the fight for freedom. Vernon loved his people and was displeased with anyone who had no caring for those considered to be the least of our citizens, particularly the children of the world.

As we have pointed out in this column, Vernon fought against the use of despicable Indian names for sports teams. In this regard, not many will forget his arrest in October 1997, in Cleveland, Ohio, and the discomfort he brought on Ted Turner and Jane Fonda as they did the "tomahawk chop" at Atlanta Braves games.

But it was his concern for the future of the world's children that brought an even greater demand for his counsel and for his wisdom.

Some forget that not every private citizen gets asked to address the United Nations, as did Vernon. At the time, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega probably said it best when he called Vernon Bellecourt the most compelling spokesman for the indigenous people of the world.

Vernon Bellecourt will be missed on the local and world stages. You only pass this way once, and to have come and seen and said nothing will guarantee a bleak recollection and remembrance of your presence. But to have come, to have seen, to have spoken, and to have reached out to make a difference, to make a change, and to provide hope accords Vernon the right to be called forever one of the great warriors on the long and unbroken civil rights trail on behalf of his people.

Go in peace, our brother, and may you be greeted by the giants of our time, yesterday and today.

Posted Oct 24, 2007, 1:54 a.m.

October 10, 2007 Column #21: Shame on U of St. Thomas for silencing free speech

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

Last spring, Cris Toffolo, associate professor at St. Thomas University and chair of the Peace Studies Department, supported inviting South Africa's Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at St. Thomas in April of 2008. Rather than respond with joy and positive reflection, St. Thomas "scuttled" the visit and relieved her of being Peace chair (for supporting the visit and for letting Bishop Tutu know, on Peace Studies letterhead, that there was a problem due to pressure from the Jewish community).

The great Jewish traditions support democracy (Deuteronomy 1), oppose the rule of kings or dictators (I Samuel 8), and speak the Exodus liberation mantra, "Let my people go." And, it was a Jew who gave us the Golden Rule. How shameful for those claiming to represent a people historically denied free speech, and whose books and people were burned, to characterize speech of a peace advocate as "offensive and hurtful."

Truth: Bishop Tutu supports the state of Israel.

Truth: He supports all people, including Palestinians, seeking inclusivity rather than us/them.

Truth: He succeeded in achieving the "truth and reconciliation" in South Africa that helped end apartheid.

In his October 4, 2007, Strib article, Randy Furst makes it appear that the Jewish position was correct, faultless and absolute. We respectfully disagree (free speech, remember?). Remember holocaust denial? We also abhor apartheid denial, history denial, and opposing views denial.

Truth: In the 1970s and 1980s, with Nelson Mandela still imprisoned on Robbins Island, Bishop Tutu exposed the USA and the state of Israel, its military, and its intelligence services and their close working relationship with the obstructionist and terroristic White apartheid regime of South Africa.

Truth: Bishop Tutu led the fight from a position of danger inside South Africa, calling upon the world to support the Sullivan Principles (to train and hire Blacks).

Bishop Tutu revealed the sinister and evil plot of the Israeli government and American corporations to sabotage the Sullivan Principles and continue supporting apartheid.

Truth: We understand the USA supporting dictators who sided with us against the USSR during the Cold War. But those days are over. Time to move on.

Truth: Bishop Tutu exposed the then evil and dangerous relationship between South African, American and Israeli scientists in the development of biological weapons to use, just in case, against the Black population of South Africa and against the military operations of the ANC (African National Congress, led by Nelson Mandela).

Truth: For those who desire to deny, we refer you to Congressional testimony of both the 1980s and 1990s and their lists of South African, American and Israeli corporations involved in this diabolical plan.

St. Thomas attempts to silence a voice renowned worldwide for its dedication and commitment to peace, truth and freedom, and instead embraces the voices of reversal and nullification to silence truth, which include our silent Black leadership and liberals.

Marv Davidov, a Jewish peace activist, represents the good in our community. He speaks truth about the shame of silencing: "Stifling debate and dissent [and] criticism of Israel is a disservice to all Jews, the state of Israel and the American people."

Bishop Tutu has made a difference on the world stage, earning the Nobel Peace Prize. St. Thomas has earned shame. God bless Bishop Tutu and his legacy, and shame upon the Catholic University of St. Thomas, a school that needs to engage truth and reconcile.

Bishop Tutu will speak at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul April 11-13, 2008. This is fitting and honors the legacy of Nellie Stone Johnson, who served on the board of trustees of this university with campuses across Minnesota.

We saw it coming

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis Police Dept. Chief Tim Dolan led a delegation to a gathering of 170 police chiefs, mayors, and other government officials in a suburb of Chicago to discuss how to reduce violent crime ( Strib, Sept 29), including Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum (who advises both Minneapolis and Israel on security issues) was one of the prime organizers. Our mayor and chief offered "Crime as a Public Health Issue."

The issue is not health. Let's review: Under the Patriot Act and other national security provisions, lists have been prepared, roundup sites designated, and special security units trained and developed.

Do you remember when the FBI was shamefully allowed to target Martin Luther King, Jr.? Do you remember the shameful Tuskeegee experiments? Do you recall our mantra about the shameful emergency regarding young Black males as a targeted and endangered species? Is there a shameful new Ritalin for Black males?

Again, the issue is not health. The issue is whether or not to prepare young men for jobs through education and whether to have families supported by community. If the prime economic base, limited to a couple of thousand, is sports, music, and selling drugs and rap songs, then your math reveals millions of young Black men excluded from the equation for success.

Then you understand that some consider us Black Americans expendable. That's what they really talked about in Chicago.

Posted 10-10-07, 4:00 a.m.

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.

« Previous Quarter | Next Quarter »
| 2007 Columns» | All Columns» | 2007 Blogs»