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Somali Independence Day – July 1 – a reason to learn a little about our neighbors by Ann Treacy
July 3, 2017, 6:01 am
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday I just missed enjoying the Somali Celebration down on Lake Street by minutes. We walked around watching the different booths pack up – we were there too late. But it was fun especially to see the women decked out in sparkling hijabs and made up in a way that I don’t usually see.

I was thrilled to see today that there was an informative session tonight at the Minnesota History Center. (It’s Somali Week!) So Aine and I went to visit to learn more about Somalia and Somalis in Minnesota. It was interesting. We saw some Somali dance, music, poetry, hiphop and heard a keynote speaker in Somali. The keynote was a woman who had been recruited to play basketball at an American college and after was traveling back and forth encouraging other young woman to take up basketball. There was a fair number of young women in the audience (who seemed to understand Somali) so that was nice to see.

I hate to admit that my knowledge of Somalia is very limited. I know that a huge percentage of Somalians in the US are based in Minnesota. That was all I knew. Tonight I learned more about the importance of 1960. In 1960, the Somali Republic was established when two British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united. (Clearly I’m skipping huge chuck of Somali history here but tonight focused on Independence.) The Somali Republic became the Somali Democratic Republic in 1969 under Mohamed Siad Barre, who touted a scientific socialism focusing on the national over clans. In 1991, a civil war broke out, which led to fighting among factions. There was some relief from fighting in 1998.

Transitional governments were set up in 2000 and 2004. More fighting in 2005-2007 – although apparently with less intensity than in the 1990s. The Federal Government of Somalia was established in 2012, after Kenyan troops entered Somalia in 2011. Somalia is currently considered a fragile state. They are working toward stability but continue to deal with insurgents, especially in the countryside.

The first speaker to take the stage tonight spoke about the importance of maintaining Culture, Language and Religion. I think he’s right – it’s important to keep those three alive both in a home country and an adopted country. Our lens is through life as Irish Americans. We have absolutely seen that happen with Irish culture. (Language being a little different.) There’s room to celebrate nation of descent and choice. I think the last performer highlighted that duality. He was a hiphop artist, American of Somali descent. He sang – don’t judge me by my clan but my merits. He also noted (I think it was he) that this is a big week as we celebrate Independence Day for Somalia and the US.

It was an interesting event. I’m glad we went. I’m glad I learned a little bit about folks I see around Cedar Riverside, at the YWCA and various cultural events around town.



Gathering for Philando Castile – sad, warm, motivating by Ann Treacy
June 17, 2017, 4:52 pm
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of the death of Philando Castile, a young black man who worked in St Paul Schools. Last summer Yanez stopped Castile for a broken brake light – or some other minor, car-related violation. Minutes later Yanez shot him multiple times – while Castile’s girlfriend and her young daughter watched. She live-streamed his death (post shooting) on Facebook.

Last night approximately 2,000 people met at the Capital to demonstrate their disappointment in the event. And I say “event” because there are so many points of failure in the system for Philando Castile.

Tom and I went to the demonstration. We did so to show support for the community, to let people outside of Minnesota know that inside Minnesota many of us recognize the points of failure, to help community leaders see that we want change and honestly because it’s helpful to see that other people care when times are dark.

We listened to the speakers. One noted that this isn’t a black and white issue – it’s a dark and light issue. And while it’s definitely a black and white issue, the point is well made. It’s a dark time for all of us when one of our own (many of our own!) are unsafe doing daily tasks.

The police play an important role in civic society. We need our brightest and best in that role. Yanez was clearly not the brightest or best. He was fired but to read it in the paper, he was fired like a football coach who gets caught doing something bad. He’ll lose his job but some form of compensation is coming.

I don’t understand why the police officers who are our best (and they are out there!) aren’t more vocal about needing better team members. He clearly did not have the confidence to stop a black man without resorting to violence. So he should not have been in that position. That’s one of the first points of failure – and maybe the biggest.

It may be a bad analogy – but to this day it bugs me to see a bad waitress (or waiter) because back in the day I was good at it. When I see terrible service I want to go in and show someone how to balance a tray, how to pay attention (ketchup before the bill please), how to smile. A good cop has to feel the same way. Better training, better standards have to be in place. Collateral damage for a waitress in training is a broken dish and a hungry customer. If collateral damage for a police officer is death of citizens – that is unacceptable! As Nekima Levy-Pounds said – it’s our right to demand justice.

OK back to the demonstration. We heard speakers and singers. We heard from family, friends and folks running for office. In the crowd we met classmates of Philando Castile – who told us they will be holding an annual fundraiser for him akin to a class reunion.

I was proud to see Lily, Kate and Lucia (our adopted road trip kid) at the demonstration.

We stayed with the March for an hour or so. My favorite stranger was the young woman of small stature with the “Water and Snacks (free)” sign and backpack. My least favorite stranger was the young woman who (with her friends) suddenly covered her face with a make-do mask and then put on latex gloves. Unnerving in any setting.

People were saddened but warm. There was a lovely woman making stenciled posters and giving them away. I proudly carried it until I gave it to Lily to carry. We moved on feeling sad, warm and motivated to try to make things better. I am a huge proponent of transparency and I think a video in every hand, stories from every corner support that effort.

We were not there when the march moved to 94. It had occurred to me earlier that might happen but then later I was surprised to hear that it had. I thought the plan was to backtrack to the Cathedral via Selby. Ironically on the way back to Minnetonka I saw the miles of traffic backed up due to the protestors on the highway.

It looked like the police remained cool for the most part. I heard secondhand account of some pushing. And reading the paper today 18 people were arrested – after they were all convinced/shepherded off the highway.

I have mixed feelings on a protest on the highway – but I think it’s much less destructive than allowing unprepared officers on the street. And if helps bring better training to police (they clearly handled the situation much better than last year) and encourages police departments to really look at the skillsets on their forces then it’s an action with a purpose, which again is much more than we can say for Yanez’s actions!



Howling at the moon at the Ely Wolf Center with the Girl Scouts by Ann Treacy
June 7, 2017, 3:15 am
Filed under: Ely

Last weekend Aine’s Girls Scout troop slept with the wolves at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. First, they went camping and had a great time. I met up with them for the indoor camping.

The Wolf Center is a research and educational park for wolves. We spent the night, which meant several hikes and a night in the observation auditorium. It was very cool.

They did a really nice job with the hikes. We saw the Kawishiwi Waterfalls, found a geocache prize, learned about flora and fauna. We learned the difference between deciduous (leafy, shrubby, trees that shed leaves in the fall) and coniferous (more like pines) trees. We saw a beaver dam. We got to use our senses of smell and hearing to figure out our place in the woods.

Mostly we got to watch the wolves. You are behind glass the whole time but it’s kind of amazing to be up that close and just watch what they do for a day – and night. Without a doubt the highlight for me was the first time they all started howling. I was sure it was the girls at first – but it wasn’t. I got a quick video.

Wolves eat beavers and deer. We got to see some sides of both that we hadn’t seen before – like intestines. It is very cool to see them eat. You get used to it but not entirely desensitized to the gruesome nature of nature.

The girls were super tired but they rallied for wolf Jeopardy, a wolf movie (which included some wolf sex and violence – loved to watch the girls’ faces for that!) pizza and almost everyone was out for the count by 10:30. Some of us stayed up with the hope of seeing Northern Lights. No luck but we had fun trying.

The next day we drove back home – but not directly. We made a quick stop at the North American Bear Center – which is less than five miles away. We got a quick behind the scenes tour with the bears. They are big and seem so tame and at least in that setting seem so slow. Mostly they eat berries and leaves and ants. Unfortunately it really was a very quick trip – but worth it. Interesting to see the difference between the two animals. And to hear the stories of the bears – most of which are rescues with heartbreaking stories.

And on the way home? Cheeseburgers and malts at Gordy’s High Hat! Not to brag but Gordy himself took our order.

The best part of the trip was the girls (and their moms). Such a nice group of women. These kids have been in the troop for 8 years – since kindergarten. They are different kids with different interests but they all seem to genuinely like each other. They are kind, they are inclusive and they soak up info like sponges.



Women’s March in St Paul: we march so that no one stands alone by Ann Treacy
January 22, 2017, 7:47 pm
Filed under: St Paul

march20Yesterday we went to the Women’s March in St Paul. I marched with my mom, Aine and my friend Mary. I thought I’d be marching with 20,000 kindred spirits – turns out 100,000 people marched!

I was reminded that patience is a big part of demonstrating – just as patience is going to be a part of change we need and holding ground we can’t afford to lose.

We waited – in sloppy, slushy, slippery muck of the St Paul College backfield for more than an hour before we began marching. But we cheered, we read signs, someone handed out donuts, another had chocolate kisses. The crowd was predominately women but lots a colors, a few languages and all ages – from strollers to walkers.

It was a march of solidarity. An important reminder that we stand together against predatory people in power – if we don’t remind ourselves we run the risk that some may imitate predatory, bullying actions and other may be afraid.

The march was the first step to build a momentum to make sure everyone can survive and thrive – we need to be vigilant and act for what we believe is right. But it was a really powerful first step!



Little Mekong Night Market with a Black Lives Matter detour by Ann Treacy
July 25, 2016, 4:31 am
Filed under: St Paul

Little Mekong is an area in St Paul with lots of Hmong markets and Vietnamese restaurants. I think this is the third – maybe fourth year that they have had a night market in the area, which as the name would imply is a market that stays open at night. This year the market was open one weekend for Saturday and Sunday nights.

The food is great. There are plenty of choices. There are some break dancers, all sorts of singers, we even heard a Hmong comic. We also saw some guys doing a film that looked like some batman sort of thing. They had a mannequin dressed in all black and they asked everyone to just walk by without appearing to notice it.

I went to the Night Market both nights. On the way to the market on Sunday I was detoured. Folks have been demonstrated outside the governor’s mansion since the death of Philando Castile. We have been out of town most of that time but I have seen them as I’ve been driving. Tonight the road was blocked and several people were speaking so we stopped.

A friend of Philando Castile spoke. It was very touching to hear him. He told stories about Philando because as he said he was glad that more people got to know him – but sad for the reason. He mentioned a scholarship they were starting at Central High School to encourage more black men to go into teaching and into the schools. He noted that he himself had never had a black, male teacher. And how nice it would have made for him to see someone more like himself in a teaching position.

The speaker graciously thanked everyone for being there and supporting the effort. He said he didn’t see colors – and colors of people around the area were numerous – but that he just saw people.

Aine asked me why people were at the Governor’s mansion. I said that Governor Dayton had suggested/invited people to come there – rather than protest on highways. Then she asked what he could do to help the situation – to elevate the need to understand that Black Lives Matter.

As we talked we realized that it’s not for one person to take it on – that we all have to take it on to make changes.



Open Street Minneapolis: East Lakes Street by Ann Treacy
July 25, 2016, 4:21 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

Today we nailed out challenge for fun in the Cities it with Open Streets on East Lake Street. Open Streets is an effort to give the streets back to everyone not in a car – for a day. It happens in different parts of Minneapolis on different weekends. I’ve been to a few of them in the last year or two. But I have never been more impressed than I was on Lake Street today.

They closed at least 20 blocks of the street. There was music and tons of food and a lot of fun kid games. We walked about 6 miles. (Aine loves to walk huge amounts in the heat!)

I’m going on a limb to say Aine’s favorite activity was the musical chairs. Big game musical chairs. We didn’t win – but I have to say they did a great job getting us excited for it.

We also tried to pogo. Word to the wise – pencil skirts aren’t the best for a pogo stick. We shot an apple of each other’s heads with a bazooka squirt gun. A soaky fun thing on a hot, hot day. Watched a pie eating contest.

We saw some gorgeous Aztec dancers, some breakdancing and a band that was new to me called Tabah. I just thought the Open Streets people did a great job bringing back every fun thing from being a kid with blocks and blocks of blocks of easy distractions.

 



Steaming in the Cities – so we’re hanging on a boat by Ann Treacy
July 25, 2016, 4:10 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

The older girls have gone to Ireland leaving me and Aine with the challenge of having even more fun in the Cities. The extra challenge on Friday was the insane heat. Luckily Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes and we have a friend with a boat – so we went swimming off the boat.

I love swimming. Swimming in a lake is a little different for me. First I’m a baby because I always think it’s going to be too cold. I must admit it wasn’t. The water actually felt pretty good.

BUT it turns out lakes have fish – tons of them. And you’d think they’d like to swim away from people. Not true. The swim toward you. Aine loved it – spent half her time trying to catch a fish. Luckily she was not successful or we may have been looking for a new receipt for fish stew!




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