East Phillips residents and friends gathered Sunday to restore the community artwork Minneapolis city workers unceremoniously removed from the fencing around the controversial Roof Depot site.
The city wants to use the Roof Depot site near 28th and Hiawatha to expand its Public Works yard, a move neighbors say would bring more pollution to an already polluted neighborhood. The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) has proposed a much more community-friendly development for that site.
The city wants to demolish the unused warehouse building on the Roof Depot site, the same building EPNI wants to repurpose into an indoor urban farm, small business incubator space, and more.
Complicating matters, this area was home to a pesticide plant that left massive arsenic pollution. Workers removed some 80,000 tons of arsenic-contaminated soil from the former Superfund site. However, that work didn’t touch the contaminated soil underneath the warehouse, which would get stirred up during demolition, neighbors say.
Native Americans and enslaved Africans included in the sculpture were neither immigrants nor refugees
On Friday, the sculpture “Angels Unawares” arrived in front of the Minneapolis Basilica of St. Mary, an effort to call attention to both the suffering and sacredness of immigrants and refugees and the importance of welcoming them with an open heart.
The statue is a replica of one commissioned by Pope Francis, installed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome in 2019. It was the first new sculpture in the Square in 400 years. A replica statue is on a U.S. tour; previous stops included Boston and Miami.
The sculpture includes 140 immigrants and refugees crowded on a boat, representing different cultures from different historical times. Its 140 figures echo the 140 statues of saints on St. Peter’s Square.
I’ve been updating this blog since I posted it. I want to acknowledge up front the good intentions behind this project. During a time of anti-immigrant sentiment, the sculpture brings an important message of tolerance and compassion. It encourages empathy instead of hostility towards more recent immigrants and refugees, such as Somali, Hmong, Mexican and Central American people. Kudos for that.
At the same time, the sculpture includes a Native American and enslaved Africans on a boat full of immigrants and refugees, suggesting some commonality. There is little if any commonality.
I worry this is too preachy, but I also want to be direct: At a time when faith communities are wrestling with racial justice and truth telling, this sculpture miscasts the Native American and enslaved African experiences. By including them as just two narratives in a boatload of immigration stories, it ignores their unique experiences and arguments for reparations that are now gaining steam.
Ramsey County DA Choi employees restorative justice practice to reach agreement
Mike Forcia, a leader in the American Indian Movement and the only person charged for bringing down the Columbus statue on the Minnesota Capitol Mall June 10, will receive a suspended sentence and do 100 hours of community service.
Ramsey County District Attorney John Choi created restorative justice circles to help reach a decision on the appropriate punishment. (Such circles are becoming more main stream, but have long been a part of Native American cultures.)
The sentencing agreement included powerful acknowledgements from both sides of this case regarding the harms done.
Ramsey County Prosecutor Sarah Corey acknowledged the failure of the public system to address long-standing community concerns about the statue. People had been trying to use legal means to remove the statue that “received little to no consideration,” she said.
Forcia acknowledged the harms he had done both the the Italian-American and Native American communities.
Oklahoma launched a new branding campaign stunning in its 19th Century worldview and its failure to acknowledge the state’s Indigenous history and continued presence. It drew immediate rebukes. Here’s an eye-popping branding statement from the initial roll out:
This is a place that was built from scratch, made by people who gave up everything to come here from all over the world to create something for themselves and their families. We started this place with a land run in 1889 — and honestly, we’re still running, still making, still pioneering.
Emily Larson became Duluth’s first female mayor in 2016, and one of the changes she’s brought to City Hall is new art for the walls. It’s a lesson that other civic leaders should follow.
The Duluth Art Institute now helps curate rotating art exhibits in City Hall’s rotunda and the Mayor’s reception room. The first rotunda installation (2018) was a series of Anishinaabe art by Anishinaabe artists, said Christina Woods, the Institute’s executive director. Another installation focused on what it’s like to be homeless in Duluth, including artistic renditions of recipes from the street.
“Lots of people living on the streets have beautiful art to offer and never have a chance to have gallery space,” Woods said. “It goes deep in building awareness among public officials about what life is like when you don’t have a home to go to or a place to keep your things.” Continue reading →
My wife, I and two friends traveled to Osceola, Wisconsin last weekend to take 90-minute train ride to enjoy the fall colors.
The eye-opener for me was the “Chief Osceola” statue in the center of the town of about 2,500 that still seems stuck in the 1950s.
The statue has the stereotypical Plains Indian look, a half-naked man with an eagle-feather headdress, nothing like what Osceola actually looked like. It’s more town mascot than honoring the town’s namesake.
I’ll admit that there are many more pressing issues for indigenous peoples than one more offensive statue. There’s the loss of traditional indigenous languages, environmental threats to wild rice, homelessness, crude oil pipelines and more.
I still feel compelled to write about the statue and how it’s interpreted.