Jamal Denman

Recent Articles

Wilder Foundation hosts unFRAMED conversations

Blacks discuss Zimmerman verdict’s effects on youth
 
By Jamal Denman

Online Editor

 

 

On Wednesday, August 28, 2013, the Wilder Foundation’s Wilder Center for Communities played host to what was referred to as a “community conversation,” where members of the Twin Cities community were invited to listen to and partake in a discussion about what impact the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent verdict in the Andrew Zimmerman trial will have on how young people — particularly young people of color and specifically African American boys — are taught and raised by those who care about them. The event, billed as unFRAMED: The Lessons of the Zimmerman Trial, was organized by Barbara “Bob-e” Epps and Dave Ellis of the Black Men’s Early Childhood Project (BMECP). Epps is a consultant to the Science Museum of Minnesota, which had started hosting an exhibit called The Wonder Years, an exhibit that “looks at early childhood development from prenatal to age five,” Epps explains. The Science Museum also started hosting a series of conversations, which they called “citizen’s conferences,” where “up to 100 people from a cross section of populations come together, look at the exhibit, and then have a discussion about what [the exhibit] means to them, what their thoughts are about children, and what do they want to invest [in them].”

In early 2012, Epps was asked by the Science Museum to help facilitate similar types of community conversations throughout the state, and she gladly said yes. “I suggested that they bring African American men together and have a dialogue with them,” says Epps. Continue Reading →

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Twin Cities Jazz Festival 2013 — Cyrus Chestnut trio highlights full day of great music

 

 

 

With the scent of fresh cut French fries and the sounds of salsa music in the air, I found a seat near the main stage at Mears Park to take in the music of Cyrus Chestnut’s trio at the 2013 Twin Cities Jazz Festival on Saturday, June 29. Chestnut and his crew were just warming up on stage, so my timing was good. Mears Park was packed with a rainbow assortment of people, many of whom sat intently in their fold-up lawn chairs. Some festival-goers, myself included, found a giant-size rock to sit on, which was draped with someone’s colorful blanket. Greeting the crowd, Cyrus said cheerfully, “It’s good to be here! Continue Reading →

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Mint Condition front man focusing more on production

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Online editor

 

Stokley Williams (known throughout the music industry on a first name basis — simply as Stokley) is a St. Paul native and the front man for one of the most talented, successful, and consistent R&B groups of the past 25 years, Mint Condition. Most artists would be completely satisfied with just being a part of a multi-platinum group that is highly respected by their contemporaries and an inspiration to many. But Stokley — as well as the rest of the members of the band — are expanding their musical horizons even further by putting more of a focus on producing and working with other artists. The members of the band, who have been together since the early 1980s, have plans to provide production work for new and established artists collectively and individually, and not just with other R&B artists. Continue Reading →

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Mayoral forum focused on Mpls communities of color — Candidates acknowledged inequities but lacked solutions

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Online Editor

 

On Thursday, June 6, the Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis hosted the One MPLS Mayoral Forum, giving candidate hopefuls the opportunity to address the questions and concerns of members of Minneapolis’ communities of color. Questions were collected from the audience before the start of the forum, and the candidates were randomly selected to answer each question. While it is assumed that the participants in the forum were made aware of the forum’s overriding theme, because of the candidates’ constant inability or unwillingness to directly answer questions posed to them it would not be hard to believe otherwise. The auditorium in the Sabathani Community Center was packed with a diverse crowd of community activists, politically active young people, and concerned citizens eager to hear what the people vying to become the next mayor of Minneapolis had to say. Mayoral candidates Mark Andrew, Jackie Cherryhomes, Betsy Hodges, Tony Lane, Doug Mann, Don Samuels, Gary Schiff, and Jim Thomas faced the 500-plus people in attendance and their questions that centered on addressing issues facing communities of color. Continue Reading →

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Community involvement now emphasized in Mpls Park Board planning

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Online Editor

 

Over the years, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has had its fair share of critics. Often the criticism has come from residents concerned about the amount of effort the Board and its members have put into providing resources to the community and maintaining park grounds and facilities. Some such critical sentiments were recently expressed in a story published in the MSR (“Youth sports build more than just muscle,” April 4, 2013), where youth sports coach and community leader Laverne Turner questioned if the MPRB’s actions were matching up with their claims of providing extensive programs and activities for youth. MPRB Communications and Marketing Manager Dawn Sommers agrees with Director of Recreation Centers and Programs Al Bangoura that such concerns were warranted some years ago. “We saw the story…and we appreciate [and] we understand his [Turner’s] criticism of the time,” said Sommers. Continue Reading →

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Up-and-coming playwright Junauda Petrus shows There Are Other Worlds

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Online Editor

 

Junauda Petrus had been living in New York when she was initially inspired to begin the creative process of writing and developing the concept for the gripping play entitled There Are Other Worlds.  Her original idea for the performance, which sold out each night of its four-night run, was a little different than the work which was presented at the Open Eye Figure Theatre in Minneapolis April 25-28, 2013. At first Petrus just “wanted to do an aerial performance piece featuring all Black women” and combine those elements with “poetry vignettes,” and was inspired by Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. But during the creative process, the concept eventually transformed into a powerful and poignant story that touched on a number of topics considered taboo, such as the treatment of Black women, rape, murder, and the prison industrial complex in the United States. One element of the original concept that remained was the aerial performance, something Petrus wanted to exhibit. She describes aerial performance as “a circus art that deals with hanging apparatuses,” where acrobatic movements are incorporated with the use of materials hung from the ceiling. Continue Reading →

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Mpls to build 100 green homes on city’s North Side

 

Welcome, MSR readers, to a new section you will see appear regularly in these pages, something we call Green2Green. Most of you by now have heard of the green movement to clean up our planet, stop the waste of precious natural resources, and get climate change under control. What is not always clear is just what this movement means to each one of us in our everyday lives. Nor is it always clear how this movement includes environmental justice issues of particular concern to communities of color. And finally, it is not always clear how the green movement can also save us green, as in Benjamin green, and is creating new opportunities for productive careers. Continue Reading →

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Minneapolis creates local base for environmental justice — EJAM reclaims cultural wisdom in respecting the earth

 

 Welcome, MSR readers, to a new section you will see appear regularly in these pages, something we call Green2Green. Most of you by now have heard of the green movement to clean up our planet, stop the waste of precious natural resources, and get climate change under control. What is not always clear is just what this movement means to each one of us in our everyday lives. Nor is it always clear how this movement includes environmental justice issues of particular concern to communities of color. And finally, it is not always clear how the green movement can also save us green, as in Benjamin green, and is creating new opportunities for productive careers. Continue Reading →

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Youth sports build more than just muscle — Laverne Turner helps students achieve academic success, learn leadership skills

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Contributing Writer 

 

As a youth, local community leader Laverne Turner was heavily involved in organized team sports, and he remembers how positive an impact it had on him growing up. As an adult in 2003, he says he noticed there were no athletic programs for youth in his community, which motivated Turner to develop a sports program for young people in his South Minneapolis Phillips neighborhood — the East Phillips Park Sports Association (EPPSA). To decide which type of sports team to organize, and if there would even be any interest among the kids, Turner surveyed the young people in his neighborhood to get their feedback. “Most kids wanted to play football, so I tried to put together a football team in cooperation with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board [MPRB] at the time,” Turner says.  

The partnership lasted for a year, and he says it “had some successes. Continue Reading →

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‘Harlem Shake’ videos spark effort to ‘resist the fad’

 

 

News Analysis

By Jamal Denman

Contributing Writer

 

On March 13, Hamline University in St. Paul hosted a forum titled, “The Harlem Shake as Blackface: A Critical Look at Cultural Appropriation.” The forum was a panel discussion about a recent YouTube phenomenon and its relation to racism and people who identify themselves as White appropriating elements of cultures created by people of color. The panel of nine was made up of scholars, professors, students from Hamline, local artists, and others described as being nationally known speakers and activists connected to either hip hop culture, the city of Harlem, privilege, or appropriation who can share their experiences and expertise to shed light on why the “Harlem Shake” videos are a problem. For those who are unaware, the “Harlem Shake” being addressed is not referring to the dance made popular by Harlem youth in the 1980s; instead, it refers to a track created by a producer named Baauer, who named it “Harlem Shake.”

The track itself is not what is necessarily causing the commotion. It is the fact that it is used in videos uploaded to the Internet showing people moving around wildly to the track, and that it has created a sort of phenomenon, having influenced many different people to create similar videos. Continue Reading →

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