Recently in March 2010 Category

A Message from Scott

Thumbnail image for Picture1.gifCan you believe the winter season is almost over? The melting of the snow, shedding of winter coats, boots, and hats are all strong indicators that the spring season is upon us. Never the less, your March Newsletter is here! As always the Department of African American & African Studies is very busy. In this issue you will find relevant information regarding the Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund, learn how the Future Scholars program is opening doors for students at St. Paul Arlington High School, discover how faculty member Alexs Pate is deepening the theoretical knowledge of African American poetry and African American literary criticism, read how the Department of African American & African Studies partner Roxanne Givens is preserving Minnesota African American history, and keep up to date on the latest events in the community.

We hope that you enjoy this issue of The Village and as always, my personal thanks to all of you who strive to make the Department of African American & African Studies the most proactive Ethnic Studies Department. Remember to let us know of your happenings so we may share your success with alumni and friends. We also solicit your ideas and input on any way we can make the newsletter better, or suggestions for other ways the department can be more valuable to you.

Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund

The Morrill Hall and Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund has been created to acknowledge and honor the work of the Afro American Action Committee (AAAC) and Rachel Tilsen. By acknowledging the 1969 Morrill Hall Take-Over at the University of Minnesota Campus (see the award-winning film at and Rachel Tilsen, we recognize the importance of personal sacrifices as well as organizational efforts in the struggle for social justice. The Afro American Action Committee (AAAC) emerged from a rich tradition of protest, revolt, and resistance to the spirit of racism and ruthless domination. AAAC embraced the "incarnate spirit of justice, hatred of a lie, that willingness to sacrifice money, reputation, education and life itself on the Alter of right." AAAC stood on the shoulders of the NAACP and the Niagara Movement. The members of AAAC believed, they stood and they spoke. In fact the tenacity of the AAAC members transformed the University of Minnesota to become more inclusive, more tolerant, and less separated from the dynamics of the entire community.

Rachel Tilsen epitomized the term Social Justice. Rachel was more than just a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and wife. She was a fierce freedom fighter and lover of life. In many respects her legacy lies in her courage and the attributes she instilled in every woman that had the opportunity to meet her. She was not only a freedom fighter she was a teacher. Rachel taught others to have respect for self, family, culture and history. She was a morale lifter who believed that you had to let your voice be heard and that you had to follow your words with action. She championed what she believed. Rachel insisted that we have a responsibility to stand up for the people who do not have the strength or the will to stand for themselves. Rachel fought for social justice regardless of race, color, religion or creed.

The Morrill Hall and Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund is intended to continue and promote the activism AAAC and Rachel subscribed to: equality and justice for all people, with all people equally valued; vigilant relentless struggle in the fight for justice.

Grants up to $5000 will be awarded to individuals or organizations for projects addressing social justice.

Applications and criteria are available for download. Email questions to

Applications will be accepted up to midnight April 1, 2010.

Awards will be presented on May 1, 2010 at the inaugural Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund Gala Event.

Opening a New World to Students

The Future Scholars program was created by the Department of African American & African Studies as a means of mentoring students from St. Paul Arlington High School in order to increase the number of students prepared to attend college. The program currently consist of twenty-five high school students and seven University of Minnesota undergraduate students.

Through Future Scholars, University mentors, many with similar backgrounds as the Arlington students, are trained to help high school students persist through adversity, learn study skills, prepare for and apply to college and give back to the community. Dedicated University mentors meet with their Future Scholars mentee weekly. The program started with a simple concept: before students can consider college they must have a GPS (Getting Prepared for School) plan that will navigate them step by step to the road to college. Mentors make sure students stay on the right track, keep up on homework, study for test, and meet college application deadlines.

In the department we believe we have a successful model to help students reach their goals of graduating from high school and college. Through frequent mentoring with University students who share a similar life experience, parent and family involvement, pushing participants to enroll in rigorous courses while in high school, and connecting students with faculty and staff of the University of Minnesota are all key components that drive the Future Scholars program.

Course Spotlight

The Beat Goes on : Advanced Studies in the Poetry of Rap

Alexs Pate.jpgIn this course, faculty member Alexs Pate deepens the theoretical knowledge of African American poetry and African American literary criticism and bring them together in the construction of a viable aesthetical discussion of rap/poetry. The five objectives include:1.Explore the cultural influences which provide context for contemporary rap, 2.Explore the way critical literary theory has approached black literature, 3.Survey the nature of critical essays which address hip hop and rap/poetry, 4.Establish ways of "reading" rap/poetry that contributes to a deeper understanding of the meaning and characteristics of this popular literary form, 5.Examine the growth trends in poetic expression. The goal is to arrive at the place where a critical literary theory about rap poetry can be expressed. The work in this course forms a collective study group to review contemporary rap to discern a list of poems that might be considered important; not because of the beat but because of the words. If every art form has a canon which is naturally established or chosen by scholars, then our work may be looked at as the beginning of that process. We begin by reviewing the evolution of post-colonial and postmodern literary theory as it relates to African American poetry and American popular culture.

Making Black History available all year

The following is an excerpt from the Star Tribune by Ian Larson.

Black history month may be over, but local historians say Minnesotans shouldn't forget about it until next February.

African-Americans are Minnesota's most numerous minority -- nearly 280,000 live in Minnesota -- but the Land of 10,000 Lakes doesn't have a single operating black history museum.

If history buffs have their way and raise enough money, Minneapolis will have two, with the first perhaps opening as early as next year.

Roxanne Givens first saw the for-sale sign on the Amos Coe mansion when she got lost driving in south-central Minneapolis two years ago. "It screamed 'Museum!'" she said.

Within six months, Givens had ignited an effort to transform the 130-year-old mansion into a place to showcase the little-known history of black Minnesotans.

Now, as renovations continue and museum organizers plan exhibits, they say the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center (MAAM), is primed to make a statement about Minnesota's history, with an opening planned for next February.

"It's our way of saying black history is going to be 365 days a year, so that it's not just one month," Givens said.

Organizers intend for it to be filled with interactive displays and artifacts, such as records from the 17 black families who helped establish Edina, and clothing worn by George Bonga, believed to have been the first black man born in the Minnesota Territory.

The group also is creating a video exhibit from Twin Cities Public Television's "North Star" series about the state's black pioneers. And they envision having interactive tools like the Apple iPad to display extra information and illustrate artifacts not in the collection, said Sharon Kennedy Vickers, who is planning the exhibits.

The Legislature has included $840,000 for the project in the state's bonding bill, but it's not certain the money will survive cost-cutting procedures by the Legislature or governor.

State Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, said cutting the money would be a shame. "In my mind, this is a priority, and it should be at the top of the list," Champion said, noting the museum would employ people and attract tourists.

Even with state money, the group would be short of its $5 million fundraising goal. It hopes to ultimately close the gap through donations.

Civil rights scenes

Leola Seals isn't as far along with her museum plans as Givens' group is, but she has a long-held vision.

A former Minneapolis NAACP president, Seals has toured the state with civil rights exhibits since 1996, but she's wanted to move her exhibits out of storage and into a permanent site.

Bad health in recent years kept her from realizing that vision, but now she wants to jump-start her museum by asking the Legislature for seed money.

"I think there's enough history to have 10 African-American museums in the state of Minnesota," she said.

Seals doesn't have a location yet, but she can already imagine her African American Historical & Civil Rights Museum filled with life-sized scenes exemplifying the civil rights movement. Those would include a mock-up of a "whites-only" diner and a cutaway of a bus like the one in which Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat.

"What's appealing to the mind and what's appealing to the heart is the real, true history of African-Americans," she said.

Michael Chaney, who organizes local Juneteenth celebrations, said the museums would show the diversity of Minnesota's black history.

"Clearly there is some distinction between their visions," he said. "But in many respects, they are certainly driving down the same road."

Quote of the Month

Malcom X.jpg"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X

Upcoming Events

Governor Candidate's Forum

Date:March 18, 2010

Time: 6:30pm - 9:00pm

Location: Minneapolis North Community High School

Cost: Free

Contact: Troy Parker (612)242-0892

Confirmed attendance: State Representatives - Paul Thissen, Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, Tom Rukavina, State Senator John Marty, Matt Entenza, Ole Savior,and Peter Idusogie

6th Annual Thinking College Early Fair

Date: March 20, 2010

Time: 9:00am - 12:00pm

Location; St. Paul Harding Senior High School

1540 E Sixth Street

St. Paul, MN

Cost: Free

Contact: Sharon Cobb (651)603-4948 or

March Siter Spokesman

Date: March 27, 2010

Time: 1:00pm - 5:00pm

Location: Arnellia's

1183 University Ave

St. Paul, MN

Cost: Free

General Information: When's the last time you've taken a real vacation? Not just running down to Chi-town or down South for the family reunion, or flying out to break the bank in Vegas, but also a trip to one of our nation's national parks? Or an excursion to another country? Or simply a retreat to secluded hotel far from the city?

A vacation that gets you in touch with nature, broadens your horizons, or gives you quiet respite from the daily grind does not require emptying your pocketbook. Come learn about traveling from local experts in the field.