Archive for the ‘Minneapolis’ Category

Manuscript Monday: “Two moms, two dads, who cares?”

Monday, March 25th, 2013

An excerpt from Chapter 8:

GLBT-friendly diversity curriculum being proposed for our elementary school might bring out a crank or two from the Catholic parish across the street, but no sensible person at my school would object to inclusivity.

Would they?


The first sign that I was wrong appeared when Elliott and I approached the northeast side of the school.  Cars were double-parked in the school’s surface lot, with more cars lining the streets as far as I could see. I soon discovered the reason for the parking squeeze—the entire south side of the school block was swallowed up by four Minneapolis Police squad cars and an enormous mobile satellite truck from the local Fox affiliate.  “Cool!” my son squawked from the back seat.

I allowed him to gawk the crowds and cops without registering that this was, in fact, a bad thing.  This meant that someone, somewhere, anticipated a burst of hysteria that four, count ‘em, four MPD officers would be required to quell.  Elliott also failed to notice that he was the only child in the overcrowded music room.  “HEY!” he yelled as a teacher waved from across the aisle.  “DID YOU SEE THE NEWS TRUCK OUT THERE?  COOL, HUH?”  She nodded and stifled a giggle.

A school district representative approached the microphone with a plea for respect and self-restraint ahead of the short film that would preface our discussion.  From her tremulous, agitated tone I assumed we would be watching a clip from Good Will Humping or You’ve Got Male, and I had my hands ready to cover my son’s eyes and ears if need be.  I was disappointed to see a fairly boring five minutes of cute multi-culti children gabbing about their families, a few of which were headed by same-sex parents.


Post-viewing, a stack of index cards was passed throughout the room.  Did we wish to share our opinions with the group?  I nudged Elliott.  “Yeah,” he said, cookie crumbs from the snack table tumbling down his shirt, “I wanna.”  I wrote out our names and handed the card back down my row.

“Okay everybody,” announced the school principal, his usual look of hurried anxiety replaced with what looked like defiance.  “Please,” he urged, “remember to be respectful and to honor everyone’s opinions.  Our first speaker is Shannon Drury.”

Elliott squeaked with glee.  I felt a moment of deep gratitude for holding off on the Thin Mints, for when the Fox 9 News camera operator caught sight of me he whipped his enormous lens directly into my face, where any telltale brown specks would be instantly visible.  I edged through the crowd to the microphone, Elliott bumping knees and elbows with abandon as he trailed behind.

I cleared my throat, blushing under the telephoto lens and the hundreds of eyes fixed upon me.  “First of all, I want to express how grateful I am that our school is offering to pilot this program,” I said.  “It means the world to me that our school takes seriously the fact that children are already bullying and stereotyping each other.  I am a member of the Human Rights Campaign, and I believe in their mission of equality and civil rights for everyone.”

A murmur went through the crowd.  Had I said something wrong?  Hell, you’d have thought I just declared myself a feminist.

As I warmed up, I revealed the shockingly obvious truth that children, our innocent and loving children, are born without prejudice.  Their social phobias are learned from the adults who pass them along.  I explained that when it finally dawned on Elliott that his best friend Morgan had two moms, his reaction was not “ew, gross,” but “NO FAIR! I only have ONE!”

I paused for the laughs that never came.  That story usually killed, but in this crowd, it died.  Tense anticipation showed in the sea of clenched jaws surrounding me.  Every chest in that room was crossed with defiant arms ending in tightly balled fists.  Uh oh.

I gave up and adjusted the mic for my short partner.  “Hi, I’m Elliott, and I’m in second grade,” he said.  The cameraman moved in closer.  For a second I feared Elliott would shout in the mic for the guy to back off, which would be a trigger for pandemonium.  Instead, he remained calm.  “I think that bullying is just wrong,” he said.  “Two moms, two dads, who cares?  It doesn’t matter!”

The room erupted—with applause.  The camera caught Elliott’s truly perplexed shrug as he wandered away for another dozen cookies.



To find out what happened next, check out my June 2008 column “What Would You Call a Welcoming School?”  ….and of course my long-threatened book The Radical Housewife,  coming to you soonish from Medusa’s Muse Press.

All illustrations by the brilliant Todd Parr


Wonder women rising

Thursday, February 14th, 2013


Whatever your feelings about the obnoxious commercialization of Valentine’s Day, put them aside and consider the goals of today’s OTHER big campaign, One Billion Rising.


…and whatever your feelings about the largely symbolic nature of the One Billion Rising movement (and I share them, believe me), consider that Katie Couric, hardly a radfem, just Tweeted: “1in3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her life.”  Anything that gets that TRUTH spoken more often in public is, to my mind, a step in the right direction.

Do you remember the first time you heard that statistic?  I do.  I couldn’t believe it–and really didn’t believe it until a friend told me what happened to her.  Then another friend told me her story.  Then another and another and another.  As a member of the randomly lucky two out of three, I was changed forever.

I am changed every time I hear the truth.  Are you?

I hope to attend tonight’s Minneapolis event, a rally, meal, and dance dedicated to the memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey, but it’s possible that I’ll be worn out after  my usual Thursday duties: volunteering for a local organization that provides services to women and children experiencing domestic violence.

As a dedicated binary rejector, I tell you this not to imply that one (direct service) is better than another (dancing at Powderhorn Park).  Each complements the other.  In fact, survivors of violence and those who work in the field are the ones who need to dance most of all!

My hope is that those who come to dance  are equally moved to put their hearts, hands and wallets to work towards domestic violence education and prevention, as well as ensuring that resources are readily available to survivors who need them.  Many of today’s dancers know where to buy a Wonder Woman outfit but remain unaware of their power to be advocates for REAL wonder women in their own neighborhoods.



To DANCE in your community:

To SERVE in your community:

To LOBBY for reuathorization of the Violence Against Women Act:


SlutWalk 2: Legitimate Rape Boogaloo

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012



It’s that time again!

Time to put on your t-shirts, thongs, hoodies, dashikis, combat boots, tank tops, hijabs, miniskirts, Chuck Taylors, granny panties, stilettos, bow ties, Wonderbras, jeggings, jodphurs, jeanshorts, bikinis, overalls, OR scrubs, Crocs, saris, slacks, power suits, cummerbunds, evening gowns, Zubaz, bell bottoms, Birkenstocks, bondage pants, flannels, petticoats and WALK TO ELIMINATE RAPE CULTURE.

Here’s a picture of me at the walk last year:

No, I’m not the Clone Trooper, silly!  I’m holding the white NOW round, wearing my red SlutWalk Minneapolis sweatshirt, brown Old Navy cords, and Saucony Jazz shoes.

Did I look like what you expected?  Did I “prance down our streets in lingerie and fishnet (sic),” as a local self-described feminist worried, making me “look stupid, desperate and ignorant of our common history and the fragile, ever-eroding political power of Minnesota feminism”?

To be fair to Kristine, she’s right that rape culture did not magically end after October of last year.  But neither did the Minnesota legislature hurry to take away my right to vote and wear pants, corduroy or otherwise, in public.

What has changed is that the concept of  “rape culture” left the lofty realm of feminist academic (and blogospheric!) discourse and entered the mainstream.  Sadly, we have truly awful humans Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to thank for that, not the concerted efforts of millions of anti-violence advocates.

Sigh. It was ever thus.  In the meantime, we keep walking.


If you can’t join us on the Minneapolis riverfront on Saturday, remember: SLUTS VOTE!  I expect all you sluts to be registered and ready to cast your ballots on November 6.  The above image is available on a t-shirt that benefits SlutWalk Minneapolis would really rock your poll workers’ world.  Grab it before it sells out!


Surprise, surprise

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

So THIS just appeared across the street:


It’s the first VOTE YES marriage amendment sign I’ve seen anywhere, let alone in a deeply blue corner of the People’s Republic of South Minneapolis.  I don’t know the neighbors, who haven’t attended a National Night Out function in the nine years I’ve lived here and therefore haven’t clue about the many LGBT people living on our street and on streets nearby.

I think I’m supposed to feel rage or contempt, but mostly, I just feel sad.

Really sad.


To get your own ORANGE lawn sign for a donation of only $10, please contact Minnesotans United for All Families.




The day the bridge fell

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Five years ago today, the 35W bridge fell.

To most people, “The 35W Bridge” means the one that dropped into the Mississippi River on August 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145 more.  To me, a lifelong resident of south Minneapolis, there are many, many 35W bridges.  I travel on one of them when I take my kids to their pediatrician.  I bike underneath a 35W bridge on my way to the library.

The first we heard of the disaster was when my mother-in-law called, hysterical, hoping that we were okay.  I remember turning on the television and nearly fainting from surprise, shock, and horror.

Here?  HERE?  In sweet, simple, provincial Minneapolis?  A town that, all protestations to the contrary, secretly liked being a part of flyover country?

Then, of course, our thoughts turned to the last time we’d traveled that particular stretch of highway.  I’d been on it just the day before,  and on that day, July 31, I too found myself stuck in traffic in the sweltering heat, watching MnDOT workers sweat through another day on the job while my kids whined in the back seat.

Hanah Sahal was only two years old when she perished with her mother, Sadiya, on August 1, 2007.  They were driving to visit a relative when the bridge fell.

Three weeks before the bridge collapsed, I had an emotional blowout/breakup with my family of origin, for reasons that are as complex, frustrating, and prone to mistakes as the science of structural engineering.  Friends from across the country e-mailed and called to see if we were safe.  My California friend Kristi, bless her heart, texted and I had no idea how to reply on my chunky circa-2006 most assuredly not smart cell phone.  But neither my mother, my father, nor my sister bothered to contact me to see if I was okay.

In truth, I wasn’t.  2007 was a year of personal disasters, each more enormous than the other.  In November, someone as dear to me as Sadiya and Hanah were to someone else also died, though not suddenly.  On August 1, 2007, it was obvious to anyone paying attention that she would not live very long.  Later that month, the same August that would forever be marked by the bridge collapse, I would visit her home in Boston for the last time.  I still miss her terribly.

On August 2, 2007, and in the weeks thereafter, I became unusually protective of my hometown.  I wanted to scream at the hordes of national reporters to GO AWAY AND LEAVE US ALONE.  I wanted privacy to lick my hometown’s wounds.  This was not New York or L.A., places where Bad Things could safely happen to Interesting People!  This was MINNEAPOLIS, for cryin’ out loud!

This was my home!

My bridge! My highway! My family! My Liz!

The calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh, a truly great writer, thinker, and teacher.  I’ve read many of his books in the five years since 2007 and I’ve learned this:

Every disaster, both personal and public, both televised and otherwise, is another opportunity to disabuse ourselves of the illusion of control.

Remember that, today.




Racism in your own backyard

Friday, July 13th, 2012


Minnesota Public Radio News recently published an essay of mine called “Racism in the neighborhood.” I began work on the piece in October 2011, just after the community event that I mention in the first paragraph.  Like a lot of things in my life, it languished as my fall careened towards disaster and my winter proved no better.  And my spring?  Meh. Now I’m not suggesting that I’m in the midst of what Camus would call an invincible summer, but I’m starting to get a few things back on track.  I certainly aim to post here more often, gentle readers.  I appreciate your patience.

Below is the complete text of the essay, accompanied by a photo of Miriam and Megan playing in the backyard of Michele Norris’s house.  The Grace of Silence is a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.  Elliott promises me that he will get started on it soon–after he finishes memorizing every character in The Halo Encyclopedia, of course.



Last fall, I attended an event sponsored by Building Bridges, a community organization that, according to its mission statement, “seeks to understand how race and racism impact our communities and to build the future of our neighborhoods together.” The group’s name reflects the yawning gap exposed when south Minneapolis neighbors clashed over a proposal to create an off-leash dog area in a park named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s also a literal reference to the east-west divide created when Interstate Hwy. 35W was built in the 1950s.

Held in Minneapolis’ Field neighborhood, the event featured remarks from Minneapolis native Michele Norris, former co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered and author of the 2010 memoir The Grace of Silence. Norris grew up in a two-story Tudor on a corner lot only three blocks away from where we feted her, and her book describes not only her Minneapolis childhood but also the painful legacy of racism in the silence and secrets carried by members of her family and, by extension, members of her hometown and nation.

Here in Field our discussions over the book are personal, indeed — Norris spent her childhood on the same street where my children Elliott and Miriam are spending theirs. The corner house where Norris lived with her parents Belvin and Betty is where my kids and their friends alight from the bus every afternoon.

My kids were thrilled when they learned that “the lady on the radio” once lived on the block. But their joy turned to confusion when I shared that Norris’ white neighbors put their homes up for sale as soon as the block’s first black family moved in. Next door, Norris wrote, “the forlorn For Sale sign sat in front of the house for weeks. At one point, someone attached a flyer that read BEWARE NEGRO NEIGHBORS.”

When he heard that, Elliott looked stricken, as if he’d bit into an apple and tasted a worm. To a young white child in the Midwest of the 21st century, racism is not unfamiliar, but it is too easily categorized as the distant past, or something that occurred in the South. His school did a terrific job teaching about the horrors of the Middle Passage as part of a unit on colonial history, and the work of Dr. King is recalled throughout the year, not just around his birthday. But racism, here? In this bucolic backyard, where friends of many different colors like to play with one another?

His reaction was immediate: “that’s awful,” he said, adding quickly: “We can’t tell Kelcy and Megan about this.” Like the Norris sisters, these two dear friends are African-American.

“Why? I asked.

He looked at me like I was insane. “It would hurt them,” he said.

I couldn’t blame Elliott for automatically defaulting to silence. As Norris writes, “the mere mention of the word race can make some people apopleptic or pious or frozen by anxiety, only to beat a hasty retreat to their comfort zone: grim taciturnity.” Norris acknowledged that even she and her husband struggle with how much they care to expose their own kids to what she writes is “a four-hundred-year-old cancerous social disease.”

Though the discussion that evening was fascinating, heartfelt and honest, I had to admit later that I had attended in hopes it would immediately thaw my own anxiety about discussing the thorny issues of race with my children and their friends. It’s melting, but like most parents, I am impatient; I want to fix ugliness for them now.

On June 26, 2012, 5-year-old Nizzel George was killed when gang members fired into the north Minneapolis home where he slept. We heard the story reported on public radio as we drove to summer swimming lessons.

“Could that happen to me?” Elliott asked anxiously.

“No,” I replied.

Nizzel may have lived in the same city, but he inhabited a different world. The north side might as well be on another planet, racked by poverty, unemployment, violence and the painful legacy of racial quarantining — the same separate but unequal attitudes that confronted the Norrises when they were among the first to integrate the south side. How could I begin to untangle all this for a confused 12-year-old, a kid who wanted answers now?

Our human response to discomfort is fight or flight, anger or withdrawal, seething or silence. Rarely do we allow ourselves the opportunity to grapple with nuance, yet this is where the real transformations occur. Building Bridges and The Grace of Silence are essential tools as we tread that middle path — and I’m happy to say that the book is now on my son’s nightstand.




Wednesday, June 20th, 2012


What would YOU do with that much money?

Would you pay for a year’s tuition at my alma mater, Carleton College?  It wasn’t that steep when I went there, luckily.  If it was, I’d never have been allowed to leave the Evans Hall dishroom.

Would you buy a car–or several of them?  My mid-life crisis car has always been an early ’70s Chevelle SS or Dodge Charger, and for that much dough I could get one of each!

Would you click over to to charge up two thousand copies of Davina Rhine’s book Rebel Moms, all because you aren’t Trish from Mississippi, winner of my first-ever book giveaway?  And you tend to overcompensate when you lose random blog raffles?

Probably not.

You’d think of something sensible to do with a pile of cash that large. If you were the mayor of a large city you might use it to fill potholes, clean up dirty parks, improve bike lanes–you know, the usual, boring, “make a city more livable” stuff.

My hometown, the everlovin’ City of Minneapolis, spent $42,429 on THIS:



 Photo credit: Occupy Homes MN

A recently released document shows that my city spent $42,429 to “protect” this empty home from the peaceful, but fiercely determined, protests of Occupy Homes activists.

The Cruz family claims that an online accounting error led them down the rabbit hole of foreclosure with PNC Bank, who had at one point pledged to work with the family to straighten out the mess and allow them to stay in the home on 4044 Cedar Avenue South. (HuffPo coverage of the standoff can be read here.)

Cedar Avenue is a north-south throughway that I use almost daily.  I’ve been by the Cruz house countless times, and I can attest that it is a fairly nondescript little thing, a dinky 1910s-era bungalow that is typical of the area.  It’s nothing fancy.  It is totally insignificant to a bank like PNC that holds assets of $270 billion.

Yet PNC somehow cowed my city into putting its muscle, and $42,429 of its cash, in the service of ridding the house of peaceful, but fiercely determined, protesters.

I was born in this city and have lived here for the vast majority of my life, but a story like this makes me fear that I slipped dimensions and entered Bizarro Minneapolis.  How do I slip back, I wonder?  In the meantime, I should head over to Lakewood Cemetery to see if Paul & Sheila Wellstone’s grave is moving….



Whew.  There’s still hope.

On that note, tomorrow is Occupy Homes’ #J21 National Day of Action Against PNC Bank.  People across the country will support David and Alejandra Cruz as they visit PNC’s Pittsburgh headquarters to hand-deliver loan modification documents to its CEO, Jim Rohr, who earned $16 million in 2011.

Wow! $16 million is a lot of money….!

It could buy 380,952 Minneapolis police actions like the one pictured above.  It could buy EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND copies of Rebel Moms, which would make it a bestseller so massive it would be immediately be turned into a major motion picture starring Kristen Stewart as Davina Rhine herself.









A stadium for the 0.1%, on the backs of the 99.9%

Monday, March 5th, 2012

What follows is a commentary on the latest in the embarrassment that is the negotiations to build a new Vikings stadium (owned by the 1%) here in Minneapolis, WITHOUT putting the matter to a voter referendum (which would involve consulting the 99%).  It was written by Ed Felien, publisher & editor of Southside Pride, and is excerpted here with his permission.  

Photo via The Uptake


A “People’s Stadium?” Really?

By Ed Felien

[Minneapolis mayor] R T Rybak and [Minnesota governor] Mark Dayton are going to tear down the existing Metrodome because, we are told, it’s outdated. It doesn’t have enough luxury boxes, so it doesn’t make enough money for billionaire Zygi Wilf . Ticket prices have to be higher. Ticket prices for a Viking game are already so high that most people who live in the City can’t afford them, but R T and Dayton are going to send us a bill for $338.7 million to tear down the existing stadium and build an even more expensive one. And they’re calling that a “People’s Stadium”…..

In 1977 the Minneapolis City Charter was amended in a referendum with almost 70% of the voters approving a provision that requires the City to get the voter’s approval on any expenditure for a sports stadium that exceeds $10 million. R T and the legislature believe they can sidestep a Minneapolis referendum on this question because the City of Minneapolis is granted its charter by the State of Minnesota. And what the State granteth, the State can taketh away….

How is this stadium a “People’s Stadium?” The existing Metrodome is quite adequate for high school football, soccer games and monster truck rallies. The only difference between the existing stadium and the new one would be the addition of more luxury boxes for Viking games. That’s a benefit for Viking ticket holders.

There are 64,111 seats in the current Viking stadium. There are 5,344,861 people in the State of Minnesota. So, that’s not a case of the 99% subsidizing the 1%. That’s a case of the 99.9% subsidizing the 0.1%.

It’s certainly a case of the taxpayers of Minneapolis subsidizing the ticket prices of wealthy people generally living in the suburbs. Those same people elect State Senators and Representatives that have cut financial aid to the cities, so that city property taxes now subsidize suburban and rural police and fire departments.

Carol Becker, the city-wide representative on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, has said, “$300 M at a modest 3% a year interest rate is roughly about $20 M a year each year for 20 years. When you divide this by the number of people in Minneapolis, you get a figure of $53 per person per year. Or for my family, it is a whopping $159 dollars a year for a football stadium. $159 a year!”

Minneapolis could buy a lot of police and fire protection for $20 million a year.

If this were a genuine “People’s Stadium,” it would be open to kids in the neighborhood; it would be a sports and health club that poor people could enjoy; it would have a swimming pool so people could exercise in the winter; it would be built with strict affirmative action guidelines making sure that neighborhood people (where there is the highest unemployment in the City) would be employed.

R T claims he’s a tough negotiator. He’s not. He gave away the store.

We’re giving away $368 million that could have been used to help the City budget in exchange for the privilege of watching rich suburbanites come in here and tailgate.


Thinking about racism (and getting a headache)

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

A funny thing happened at SlutWalk NYC last weekend–a white woman was photographed carrying this sign:

Yes ouch can you believe it I know oh my god.  Wow.  It hurts my brain.  It makes me feel terrible.  It makes me want to hit this fellow PWW* for making me look like an asshole by association.

Racialicious posted a discussion about it, featuring comment from the woman herself, but if you’re in a hurry all you need to read is this summation by the site’s editor Latoya Peterson:

Slutwalk is one of the many long, long conversations about relationships between feminism, racism, class, nation-states, colonization, and power… some people don’t want to understand why women of color would be angry at that phrase, and they don’t care why John Lennon isn’t the best representative on race issues.  

Ironically, I’m working on a piece today that’s NOT about SlutWalk (or at least it wasn’t a minute ago), but about a very heartfelt and thought-provoking discussion on racism that occurred in my neighborhood last week.  It was sponsored by Building Bridges, a new south Minneapolis organization that “seeks to understand how race and racism impact our communities and to build the future of our neighborhoods together.”  The group brought local-girl-made-good Michele Norris to town to discuss her memoir The Grace of Silence, selected as the first book in the city-wide One Minneapolis One Read.  Turtle Bread on 48th & Chicago was packed to the rafters with people of all colors who wanted to talk honestly about the history of racism in our community.  It was exactly the kind of nuanced discussion that, in my humble PWW opinion, has the power to make the transformative change that we claim we wish to see in the world.

And this photo turns up on Facebook.  Ugh.

In her book, Norris writes:

All the talk of postracial America betrays an all too glib eagerness to put in remission a 400 year old cancerous social disease.  We can’t put it to rest until we attend to its symptoms in ourselves and others.

I agree….but I need to take a handful of Advil first.


*privileged white woman

Strange things are afoot in Minneapolis

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Why happening, Prince? Have we offended you? Consider:

Neal Krasnoff has closed up most of his blog, leaving behind only four posts: an “apology” for offending anyone with his SlutWalk rantings, his resignation from local Democratic Party leadership, and two posts from 2008 about…..ME! Read and chuckle along.
The smartest reporter in Minneapolis, Andy Birkey, was named as a co-defendant today in the defamation suit being brought by Bradlee “gays should be jailed and/or executed” Dean against Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. Birkey is the writer who first exposed the links between Dean and local pols, including Tom Emmer and Michele Bachmann. MSNBC calls the suit “baseless.” Duh. I hope the whole mess makes Birkey extremely famous. He deserves it.
Did you ever wonder what kind of feminist you are? Well, a couple of Minneapolis women have figured it out for us (thank goodness!). I guess this was first written last May, but since I get all my information from Amanda Marcotte’s Twitter feed, I didn’t hear about it until yesterday. Now, I enjoy witty stereotyping as much as the next Angry Feminist, but these bitches put me in the Stay at Home Feminist category with Our Lady of GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow. If I see these two munching tots at Grumpy’s, I will douse their filmy Forever 21 dresses with non-organic ketchup, may Betty Friedan forgive me.
FUN FACT! My kids have only two days left of summer camp. Things in Minneapolis are only going to get stranger!