Thinking Globally - Acting Locally - and Making it Personal


All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii [..] exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited - Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.

The Clinton campaign didn't adopt Penn's proposals. Since they'd never shown the slightest evidence of scruples before, I have to guess that they judged their opponent's values and culture to be, basically American.

.....You may have noticed recently that I've promoted the campaign to Save Florence Court.

Florence Court in SouthEast Minneapolis is a grass yard cloistered by row houses dating from 1886. When you walk in there at night, it's like stepping back 100 years. Shaded lamps like gaslights highlight each individual porch and strings of bulbs twinkle across the central garden.

Living there are students and professors, artists, civil servants, punks and hippies, young and old. In the early 80's residents included activist Marv Davidov of the Honeywell Project, Jim Walsh, musician, journalist and heart of Twin Cities, together with a future underground poet-laureate of downtown Minneapolis and his son Ian.

What formed residents into a community was the courtyard itself. On Summer nights we would all gather at the barbecue pit with hamburgers or hot dogs along with potluck bowls of salad and beer. After dinner the entire complex turned into an open house. You could wander into an apartment, sit, talk a while, have a drink and move on somewhere else and a different group of people. Special days were celebrated by the whole Courtyard. I remember the 80th birthday party for a woman who had lived at Florence Court since she came to the US as a refugee after World War II.
Courtesy of Save Florence Court

Throughout the years landlords have tried to develop this prime property near the University of Minnesota. In 1983 the Court residents got a historical designation for the largest building in Florence Court. (Kudos to architect/resident Sally Grans-Korsh.) It seemed like the Courtyard was saved. This year though, a new landlord came up with a plan to tear down the other buildings and to erect a four-story student dorm, right up abutting the courtyard.

Last August 12th there was a meeting of the Minneapolis Historical Preservation Committee to pass on the fate of Florence Court..

.....I'd been in Minneapolis City Hall before, but only to the Police Department on the first floor and the basement where the jails are. Certainly never as high as the fifth floor where the Mayor and City Council had offices and where the Preservation Committee met in an elegant chamber, itself a worthy act of historical preservation.

Florence Court turned out en masse. Sally and I and other past residents showed up. The most dramatic testimony came from Samir who spoke in broken English, gesturing passionately. He told of growing up in Lebanon during 15 years of Civil War: "killing which decided nothing." When he moved to the US, he had been filled with hatred. He felt frightened and threatened after 9/11 but his neighbors in the Court responded to him with love. He told them he was Muslim. They didn't care. "I used to be a hater. Now I am a lover. This is what America is about." he proclaimed.

In the end, the Committee denied permission to tear down the old buildings. And they did so for exactly the right reasons, because a valuable community had grown up here and should not be destroyed.

And I want to tell this story - not because I care about the U.S., or any other nation for that matter, but because Minneapolis is my home, these are my people.

I need to tell this story now, because, with the exception of one lone Green member, the Mayor and City Council of Minneapolois seem determined on a historical restoration of Chicago, 1968. Soon, in the basement of that same City Hall, the jails will throng with protesters, especially in the blind spots on the video monitors, where the police can't be seen beating their prisoners. .

I need to remember that there are people here who are sickened by Mark Penn and landlords and police and the Republican Party, that such people really can best represent "basic American values and culture".

No comments:

Post a Comment