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Tent City in Minneapolis – a community biding their time for an answer we need to create by Ann Treacy
September 10, 2018, 5:15 am
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

Today I went to visit the tent city on Hiawatha Ave near Cedar Ave, in Minneapolis, where people who are experiencing homelessness have set up tents. There are about 200 people staying there right now. I went with Monica, who is well acquainted with the world of homelessness, after working tirelessly in the community for decades.

I’m not as knowledgeable or experienced. Although we did visit the emerging tent city in St Paul last week.

I am tempted to start by asking what’s wrong with a community that has so many people sleeping outside in tents – or on trains or buses or anywhere but a safe bed?! Where is our humanity? But I’ll hold back and just talk about what I saw.

First thing you notice in a tent city is the sea of tents. There are dozens of them in Minneapolis. Most are setup along side a wall. Some have tarps added above as extra protection. In St Paul, I learned, that on Monday the police “red tag” the tents, which means they have been cited and will be coming down on Wednesday. Most people throw those tags away. But if your tent gets taken away, the police tell you to go to People Incorporated. When you get there, they give you a new tent. This doesn’t happen in Minneapolis.

Many people are sleeping in the tents or just hanging out. There are people of all ages and I noticed a few wheelchairs and canes. Kids are playing around the tents. I saw a tiny baby who couldn’t have been more than two months, I saw toddlers, preteens and a few teens. Kids are playing as kids do. Pretty polite but way more interested in playing with a train than anything else going on.

In Minneapolis, Natives Against Heroin seem to be hosting or managing the campsite. Those are strong terms but they are the best I have. There are two tents set up with logos from Natives Against Heroin – one includes an upside down American flag – an upside down flag being a universal sign of distress. Nearby are tables with food and clothes, which have obviously been dropped off as donations and a large pot cooking up stew. People are generous but the food can be random – a big box of bananas, homemade buns, coleslaw. From what I’ve heard and what little I’ve seen, the people who are most generous are the people closest to poverty line themselves – people who maybe know what it’s like to be hungry.

The stew was cooked by a matriarch-type with donated meat, cans of veg, cooked pasta dropped off in party-size baking tins.

There are kids asking “when is it going to be ready” just like you can hear in every house in town at this time. And once it’s ready they are happy and they know the drill – to line up like it’s a picnic buffet. The only catch with this lovely stone soup, they have bowls but no spoons. So that’s not like every house in town.

I saw one “sink” or a large barrel of water and a make-do wash up area. Mostly the area seems pretty picked up; unfortunately the city garbage cans are overflowing. Although it’s a Sunday – hopefully there’s a pick up tomorrow. No point in setting up garbage cans if the refuse isn’t collected often enough. There are also port-a-potties set up on either end of the campsite. It doesn’t feel like enough infrastructure to keep 200 people safe, clean and healthy.

There is a sense of community. There’s a shared meal or at least shared food available. But then everyone has their own space too – within their tent. Thankfully, I have never experienced homelessness but I have to imagine that having that space where you know you can stay tonight, where you can maybe even keep a few belongings must be a great relief.

There’s no sense of urgency. No one is rushing to get anywhere. Time stands still. Our intent was to be there for 30 minutes; we were there two hours. People are biding their time. Some have been drinking. Sadly a woman died of an overdose earlier this weekend. People try to escape in the ways they can. While others persevere.

The question is what will happen when the snow flies? The mayor says the tents can stay. He doesn’t want to move people to another outside area. We saw police walking their beat through the tent city. They try to be there if they are needed but also don’t want to intrude. They worry about under-reported crime; they worried about safety of the people in the tents. They don’t see an end coming soon. They suspected some people would leave when it gets cold but otherwise not much movement.

We need people outside of the tent city to care. As I said, there is no sense of urgency in the camp. These people are at the end of their tether; they cannot do long term planning. They have a place to put their head tonight and that’s all they can take on today. But kids can’t grow up this way. People can’t be their best selves. The area is ripe for an epidemic or incident that could be an even greater disaster. And it will be too cold soon. We need to step in and care – to have compassion, donate, volunteer and vote for people who care.



Father’s Day Protest to keep families together – so hot and so uplifting by Ann Treacy
June 17, 2018, 11:39 pm
Filed under: St Paul

It was 98 degrees today. I only went to the protest because I committed to Tweeting for the Women’s March there. The cause was keeping families together – the Minnesota Immigrant Rights  Action Committee hosted it. It started at the offices of the Republican Party of Minnesota and the march went through Cedar Riverside to the top of Washington Ave. (For readers outside the Twin Cities that has the largest immigrant population in the area – especially from East Africa.)  I figured I’d be there 10 minutes, Tweet and leave. I figured there’d be a few dozen people.

Wrong on all accounts. There were loads of people there. And I marched for the duration because it felt good to be with people with compassion. People – some who seemed likely to be personally at risk for immigration issues – and many who just recognize that families need to be together, who realized that as a country we’re better with greater diversity. Better on all fronts – better problem solvers, better art, music and food, more innovative.

I walked for a while with a woman who was not American born but was adopted as a child to American parents. She said she felt some form of survivor guilt. So despite a disability (and again crazy heat) she marched. I met new candidates running for office. I saw one I knew – and I’m anxious now to hear her views on other issues. I met a woman with two daughters (maybe ages 6 and 8) who thought it was important to get kids going young. I told her it would pay off – that I have seen my daughters at rallies and protests with and without me now that they’re older and they started young too.

Walking down Cedar Ave, a woman from Wadajir grocery in lovely robes and head scarf handed out boxes of water and other drinks – thanking us for marching. Holding cars up at each street we passed, I saw a driver and passenger get out of their car to applaud the march. There was a ska band marching with us! So awesome!

Unfortunately I also saw a truck try honk and mock run down a marcher as he yelled get a job. (Wanted to tell him we took the Lord’s day off to protest idiots like him but I was too far away.) While buying a Diet Coke, I heard the manager of the convenience store say – no bathrooms for protestors, we’re closed to them. I suggested maybe he wasn’t as closed to protestors as he thought. And I did see organizers buy a lot of water from him later – so again closed only in his mind.

In the end, the kindness and compassion far surpassed the ill will – which I hope is an omen for the end of this movie!



Week of Graduations: Congrats to Aine (8th Grade) and Kate (High School) by Ann Treacy
May 31, 2018, 4:19 am
Filed under: St Paul

We have had a very eventful week – two graduations – Aine graduated from 8th grade – and Kate graduated from high school. It’s the end of an era in a few ways. I have had a kid in Nativity for 14 years. No more.

Mostly we’ve been happy with it. It’s probably too religious and definitely too conservative for me. BUT the same school – in walking distance from home – for 9 years for each kid. The school knows them and they had a big comfort level with the kids and the school. Also – they have the best principal ever – Kate Wollan. She knows every kid’s name – and really gets what makes each individual kid shine.

Aine’s graduation was very nice. She looked like a grown up kid – and not only because she was wearing my high heels. After the ceremony the kids had a party. It was bitter sweet. The hope is that Aine will go to Nova (she’s 4 on the waiting list!), which is an unusual choice for her class. So she’ll be moving on and making many new friends. I think the thing Aine may miss most from Nativity is the robotics team – although she plans to visit to help out next year.

The week topped off with Kate’s graduation at the Cathedral tonight. Actually we started this morning with Mass and brunch. It was very nice. And then ended with the ceremony at the Cathedral. It was beautiful. Kate looked great in her cap and gown. It was fun to see her with her friends, especially Lucia. (They were voted Best Best Friends in the yearbook!)

I am excited for Kate next year. She is going to the University of Manitoba (Lily goes to U of Winnipeg). I’m glad that they will be near each other and also glad they are not at the same school. I think it will be good for Kate to be in control of her own day to day destiny. I think it will bring her peace. I know she’s ready.

Memorable in her graduation was the speech by her favorite teacher Mr. Spika. (His picture is included below.) He teaches religion but as Kate says, it’s not really like religion. He has had diverse guest speakers come to talk to the kids about everything under the sun. Then he got the kids to give speeches about some of their most personal accomplishments and stories.

Recently someone gave me a very hard time about sending my kids to Catholic schools. I did it because I think the education is good and I like the sense of community. But in many ways, I diametrically oppose the Church’s view on many things but Mr. Spika’s speech reminded me that part of the education is helping kids learn that doing good is as important as doing well.

He started off with the big guns – literally. He praised the kids for their March For Our Lives march in support of gun reform. (You may recall Kate was a planner.) He spoke about several students and their firsthand experience with  gun violence on and off the school grounds. He spoke about the need to make the community (all communities) safer – so that women could run down Summit Ave at night, so that GLBT kids could walk where they want, so that we all understood that all lives matter – but in a spirit that recognized that really we need to know that Black Lives Matter. He reminded everyone that financial success was not the only or best success. And he told the kids that the voice in your head says “someone ought to do something about that” was really the Holy Spirit telling you it was your job. I might not use the term Holy Spirit – but I like the idea – and I feel like teachers like him have given them the tools to succeed in making the world better.

And I have to add that while I disagree most with the Church on issues related to women it is worth noting that the Top Ten Academic positions were all held by young women.

As a mom I never wished my kids would stay little forever. I am always excited at their steps forward. It’s so much fun to see what they take on, to seem them rock it, to see them happy. Today we all took two giant steps forward.



March for our Lives – kids should not worry about being shot or being left behind to grieve by Ann Treacy
March 24, 2018, 8:01 pm
Filed under: St Paul

Aine and I went to March for our Lives MSP. We were helping to amplify the messages as the Women’s March. I used Twitter; Aine used SnapChat. I’m glad we had a little role to play. And I’m grateful that so many people showed up for the event – thousands! Here’s hoping that we’re loud enough to be heard. Loud enough to get run reform bills heard in the Minnesota Legislature.

There’s something exciting and shaming to have the next generation take over because we the grownups are falling down on the job of keeping kids safe. I guess all we can do is ask – how we can help?

The students met at Harriet Island and marched to the Capitol. We met them there. It was cold. So cold! But we were out there for hours chanting, holding signs, listening to stories, demanding change – and some registering for vote!!

There was one speaker who struck a chord with me. A 15 year old girl who talked about her brother teaching her how to disarm a gunman when she was 8. Heartbreaking on its own, she went on to talk about the evolution of planning for a shooter in your classroom. At 8 there was a bravado of planning to save your classmates as you take down the shooter. Sadly as you grow older and school shootings become more common the lessons shift to how to keep yourself safe. You learn to use the blood of fallen classmates to disguise yourself before playing dead.

Her tear-wrenching last line spoke brutality of the schoolyard today – she feared being shot at school but more than that she feared being the last one left standing – drenched in her friends blood.

I’ve included video and pictures. Sadly I don’t have this young woman on video. If/when I get her name I’ll add it. The video is rough – it was difficult to hear on site at times – but it gives a flavor of the crowd, the day, the wind. (Let’s hope it’s a good wind!)

 



Kate leads the revolution to safer schools and gun control by Ann Treacy
March 7, 2018, 9:12 pm
Filed under: St Paul

OK – maybe she isn’t singled-handedly leading the effort – but she’s there in the front row and I’m super proud of her. The MN School Walkout is a student-led effort to raise awareness and protest gun violence – especially in the wake of the school shooting in Florida last month. Apparently there were 15 schools participating. I saw that 770 people had signed up to participate as of yesterday. I’m terrible with estimating crowd size but I heard there were 2,000 students.

Kate worked with her school (CDH) to get involved. In fact, Kate was one of a few students interviewed for an Editorial in the Pioneer Press. For the CDH kids, the walkout started around 10:30; they walked (or drove) to Central High School where they met with the rest of the group and walked to the Capitol.

I caught up with them midway; I was Tweeting for the Women’s March at the event. They marched to the Capitol – cheered and then moved to the Leif Erickson Park (next door to the Capitol) for a rally. Their signs were great. They kids were super enthusiastic. Plenty of legislators watched and I talked to a few who also had kids in the crowd. People were proud and optimistic for our future to have kids so ready to rally. I couldn’t hear much of the speakers – but there was plenty of cheers. It was chilly (20 degrees and windy) and the park was covered in deep snow but the kids persisted.

Kudos to CDH for embracing the opportunity. I got a call saying Kate was missing from school, that many students were going to the walkout and that the school was OK with it. Please contact the school if as a parent you weren’t OK with it and your kid would get Saturday detention.

There was one odd duck in the crowd promoting “Castle Laws” but I have to give him props – he’s exercising his right to free speech!



Circuit Sisters Robotics Team Goes to State – ends up finalists by Ann Treacy
February 11, 2018, 1:36 am
Filed under: St Paul

A season of ups and downs and CAD and 3D printers, drivers, engineering books and alliances has come to a spectacular end. Aine’s all girl robotics team did very well.

They started strong and were even in first place a few times throughout the morning. During the morning two divisions of 24 teams each compete multiple times. For each match they are randomly matched with an alliance team. Each alliance gets points with each match. Rankings for the morning are based on points awarded throughout the 6 matches played during the morning. The ranking is shown throughout. It’s a moment of joy or a slippery slope of dismay as you team goes up and down. We had ups and downs.

The first match was awesome. But the third match was a little rough. The robot arm got weak, too weak to pick up the blocks. (I won’t even go into the scoring system for the matches as it’s so complex – but picking up blocks is a good thing.)  By the fifth match the arm was back to full strength and they even boosted the power.

At the end of the morning, the girls were ranked 9. Also at the end of the morning, the top four teams each select two teams to join them to form an alliance for the afternoon matches. Part of the robotics game is getting to know the other teams – trying to form potential alliances. Being in place 13 their odds were good but we just didn’t know. Aine was chosen to accept the alliance if they were asked. As the spots filled, we all started to bite nails. But thankfully, there were chosen.

So we stayed the afternoon. The first and fourth alliances duke it out and the second and third duke it out. Pleased to report that the girls’ alliance won in three matches against the second alliance. So on to the next bracket. Sadly their luck run out. They lost in two matches (it’s always best two out of three) to the first alliance. To be fair, the first alliance was very good.

We stayed for the awards. They got to troop across the gym floor to pick up their medals. We were all so proud. They all worked so well together. They cheered for everyone. The met so many people. They charmed and wheedled their way into great places all season.

Their coaches are awesome. Anne keeps everyone going and gets the school on board with everything. Her work has been such a game changer for Aine and others. Then there’s Walter – coach extraordinaire. He put up with a gaggle of 13 year old girls pulling in 13 different directions most days. He taught Aine so much about robotics but just about having a  positive attitude and how to embrace the iterative process. Without a doubt, robotics has been the best thing for Aine in 8 years at Nativity. We are sad to see it go but live on the fumes of its success!

 

 



Tweeting and Snapping for the Women’s March MN by Ann Treacy
January 22, 2018, 5:22 pm
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday Aine and I volunteered to help with social media at the Women’s March MN event. It was awesome. She ran the SnapChat. I ran Twitter. We posted pictures, quotes, videos. It was a great way get involved and stay engaged. They were thrilled to have someone young enough to be proficient in SnapChat. And nothing I like better than live Tweeting a conference.

There was some controversy – mostly because this was an event with performers and speakers, not a march. It was indoors and required a ticket. It sold out, which meant there were people who wanted to go but couldn’t. The goal was to deepen the motivation and encourage action from a stronger base rather than reach out to wider base. That wasn’t my decision. The event is run entirely by volunteers so I think whatever happens is great.

The biggest thrill was meeting the woman who was 102 (and 2/3) . She had a great sign and had been one of the early directors of Planned Parenthood – in the 60s. That’s a tough chick! And she was thrilled to be meeting so many young people. Then we heard from women of all walks of life – elected officials such as Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States, Andrea Jenkins and the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. There were performers like Soul Beautiful and K.Raydio. And there were activists such as Leslie Redmond – who had been married earlier in the day. That’s dedication.

Rather than try to recount the whole afternoon, I thought I’d share quotes and pictures we shared yesterday on behalf of the group:

  • People want to work with people they like – first step – get out and get to know people! @LegallyBlack18
  • “I honor the women before. She always speaks for truth!” @KorinaBarry
  • “Don’t be an ally – be an accomplice! Together we rise!
  • @namd4kids
  • “You must look into your heart. Know where you are missing the mark. Actions are born of self-determination. ” @libritos
  • “I was raised to believe that women have a rightful seat at the table. That women were the past, present and future!” @IlhanMN
  • “I come with too many invisible treasures … I am a refugee and I challenge humanity” @ifrahMansour
  • “Bodily autonomy is a basic right! Women can decide what is best for ourselves and our families. Consider this when you vote!” @karenkellylaw
  • “We’re here to let our elders know we haven’t stopped. We’re still going. Pass the message onto the next generation – you are strong and mighty”
  • @MariaIsa
  • “What if love was the most powerful word in the language. Love, Love, Love Love…” @annapoetic



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