What's in a Name?

Yusef Mgeni (Photo courtesy Metropolitan State University)

Growing up as young Black men in Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, we learned a lot from the generation of Black men who preceded us. We, like they before us, were simply known as “the Rondo boys.” Rondo was where we learned to survive, to grow and develop—it was where we learned the value of our extended family membership, where we fell in love and got our hearts broken. It was also where we learned what’s in a name.

I Remember RONDO

McKinley School circa 1911, Carroll Avenue between Arundel and Mackubin, Saint Paul. (Photo: MNHS)

I remember Rondo . . . the streets were cobbled stone.
I remember Rondo . . . 450 was our home.

I remember Rondo—the intersection Arundel Hill,
On one corner the cab station; across the street,
Joe’s Grocery Store . . .
I remember Rondo, and we never locked our door.
I remember Rondo—smiling faces still in my mind

Gordon Parks Recalling 1920s Rondo

Gordon Parks (Photo: Rose Sprott)

Gordon Parks was an acclaimed artist who confronted poverty and racism with such creative grace that he became an internationally admired cultural icon long before his death in 2006 at age ninety-three. An accomplished photographer, writer, composer, musician, and film producer and director, Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912, and later moved to Saint Paul, where he spent his formative years. His memoir, A Choice of Weapons, which describes his experiences from 1928 through 1944, was first published in 1966 and reissued in 1986 and 2010 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Old Saint Paul

(Photo: Alex Lazara/Flickr Creative Commons)

Old Saint Paul, up and down your ripped up sidestreets,
kids roam, hands deep in pockets, snapping ice with each step.
Their mothers poke out of houses,
“Time to come inside,” they say,
waiting to hang blankets off shoulders
and brush the child’s hair from his face.