VJ Smith

Recent Articles

President Obama’s visit to discuss gun violence disappoints


What joy and excitement energized the Black community, individuals and organizations alike, anticipating seeing and meeting the first African American president, Barrack Obama, in North Minneapolis when he was in town Monday, February 4 to make a major speech on guns and violence in America. Although disappointed in what the president’s administration has not done for communities of color, and skipping North Minneapolis as a campaigner, expectations still ran high until they gave way to high disappointment when his visit turned out to be a PR drive-by, as his motorcade sped to and from the well-fortified police academy building at 41st and DuPont in North Minneapolis, leaving many bewildered and upset. The gun and crime statistics didn’t match ours of columns past nor address the concerns Harry Belafonte expressed at the February 1 NAACP Awards show: that Black Americans are the “most incarcerated, most unemployed, and most hunted in America,” nor the question Belafonte asked earlier regarding why contemporary discussions continue “to ignore decades of urban gun violence.”

The courtesy and respect denied the community in general spilled over to key leaders such as the Assistant Majority Whip of the Minnesota Senate, who received none of the considerations that should be accorded to a man of his political stature (he stands fifth in the line of succession for governor). One wonders how many were behind Senator Hayden being so disrespected by his own. Senator Hayden is known within the Black community for his significant expertise and experience. Continue Reading →

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Second Chance advocates ‘make some noise’ on the Hill



By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


When Sarah Walker first lobbied the Minnesota Legislature on behalf of former offenders, she didn’t see it going over very well. “The first time I organized this, I was concerned that this would be received very poorly,” recalls Walker, the COO of 180 Degrees, Inc. 

But as a result, over 50 organizations formed the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and started Second Chance Day on the Hill. “Since then we have gotten more legislative leaders interested in this issue. I think we really fundamentally changed the dialogue about the issue at the Capitol. We passed three bills in 2009, and we’re hopeful again this year for another good year,” continued Walker. Continue Reading →

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Father-son chess teachers ‘sound like buddies’

News Analysis

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer



Donald “DJ” Hooker, Jr. is a refreshing change of pace from the all-too-pervasive images of young Black males constantly recurring in the mainstream media. You know: the very picture of rabid recklessness with little sense of community and less regard for human life. The lost-cause character Larenz Tate portrayed in Menace II Society, “O-Dog,” for instance. Tate, it turns out, played a greatly different, sweetly coming-of-age character, the nice kid “Drew” in The Inkwell, which, of course, though just as well made and brilliantly acted as Menace II Society, never drew nearly as much attention. Real life examples on the order of Drew don’t make your typical news coverage. Continue Reading →

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