This week is an important week in a lot of ways. We are looking forward as much as we are remembering the stories of our past, both recent and distant. We are remembering a summer that has already come to an end with the shuttering of the State Fair and the start of school and is having its last pieces put into storage with the last few festivals. It’s also the week for the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac Book Release Party at Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar. We are glad you are with us this week. We hope to see you in Lowertown for the party, and a few other places, even if it’s just in your heart.
In the Almanac Family
Thursday, September 11, is a day for the somber and for high celebration for the Almanac. I have personal stories that fit both. I worked near Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on that date in 2001, during hours and days that made that environment seem even stranger than the rare animal it is. Months later, I returned to my Saint Paul to relive the stories that make our town great and give us reason to celebrate every year. The Almanac will travel the rails of that story in one evening.
First, Soul Sounds Open Mic marks this important date in global history by presenting a space for “Hard Truths and Deep Loss,” a date to reflect on the events of 9/11, its impact, varying narratives, opinions, intersections, and elegies. The event will be led by Tish Jones. Come for a thoughtful, powerful conversation presented in poetry, music, and spoken word that can include what is in your heart and mind. Soul Sounds gets started at 6 p.m. at Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe, 921 Selby Avenue (at Milton).
Later on Thursday, the ninth Saint Paul Almanac will get its due celebration. We’ve been waiting for the 2015 edition, and it sees its first life at one of Lowertown’s finest annual events, the Almanac book release party, “To the Nines:” a Book Launch Celebration for the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac.
Nine is not 10. It’s pretty near perfect, though, like this year’s Almanac.
This year’s Almanac is dedicated to the outstanding and ongoing work of educator, administrator, and activist Yusef Mgeni and to the memory of Kenneth Tilsen, a Saint Paul civil rights attorney and mentor to many. These are two giants of our community. We hope that this year’s party and this year’s book will live up to their stature.
“To the Nines,” a Book Launch Celebration will take place in Lowertown, Saint Paul, at the the AZ Gallery, the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, and Clouds in Water Zen Center, at the Northern Building, 308 Prince Street. And this year, you can take the train on the Green Line to Union Depot Station.
As usual, this party will feature author readings, live music, food and refreshments, street performers and festivities, and, of course, books for sale!
This year carries a few special treats. For one, this is our first party with Storymobile, our new multimedia, solar-powered roving art space that is fitted out to share and record your Saint Paul stories that has been all the rage this summer.
This year, we took a page out of the Saint Paul Saints. Our Re:Booked project invited local creatives to take a copy and make it into their own, reimaged piece of art. We will name the winners of this challenge as well as launch the month-long exhibit of paintings, photos, sculptures, and other original art commissioned for the 2015 edition of the Almanac at the AZ Gallery.
Like last year, the music will be great. We were fortunate enough to have Martin Devaney play for our curated episode of tpt’s TV Takeover “Where Are You Going?” as well as performing a featured piece. We will also have Lowertown favorites Hot Date as well as a welcome back for TwinCities SitarTabla. In addition, there will be special performances, both inside and out, by performers from Circus Juventas! With music, there has to be dancing, and who better to dance with than the Saint Paul Saints’ Mudonna!
We could not bring you down to the party without sharing some of our stories. This year’s author readings will feature Carol Connolly, Laurie Hertzel, IBé, Rebecca Song, Gavino and Douglas Limon, and others. The reading never disappoints and is a great prelude to a strong 2015 collection of moving stories.
Of course, books will be for sale. I suggest you buy one for yourself and at least one to have on hand to give to someone from out of town. This year’s collection includes works by Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Garrison Keillor, Mameneh George, Mary Kay Rummel, Steve Kaplan, Katherine Klein Sawyer, Peter Rachleff, Margaret Hasse, Mike Finley and many more, including some great emerging writers in addition to some from our rich, established literary landscape.
In addition to honoring Yusef Mgeni and Ken Tilsen, we also have interviews with people who have great Saint Paul stories. Nimo Farah is a new Bush Fellow. She is a Somali poet, storyteller, artist, and young leader. Her piece ”Titanic Tower” was featured in Almanac’s TV Takeover episode “Where Are You Going?” Another interview features Metric Giles, who has led the board of directors of the Almanac, bringing a unique set of community connections that illustrate the richness and dynamic nature of the gathering that is the Almanac and Saint Paul itself. We also have an interview with legendary Saint Paul baseball coach Billy Peterson. If the Almanac were a daily, we would have had the scoop on other media in town who interviewed him after we had our 14-year-old editor (and former player) sit down with him and capture the legend in his own voice.
This year’s book is beautiful, from the cover art by Ricardo Levins Morales and the other art inside to the dear stories that have, year after year, made the Almanac so great. Holding it in your hands will make you feel wonderful. Seeing hundreds of other people carrying a copy at the same time will inspire you. Please join us on the 11th.
There’s More to Saint Paul Than a Party
I would like to say that the only things going on this week in Saint Paul are happening at the release party, but you will need something to do on the other days. As always you can find more of what’s happening in the Almanac arts calendar. We have to mention a couple of important Saint Paul things before we set you out for the week.
There are a couple of festivals lingering to extend the summer feeling. Attending them both will give you a great sense of Saint Paul, its people, and its culture and are great places to say hello and connect with our stories.
This weekend is the 40th Nativity County Fair. This is a huge, three-day festival in the south end of the Macalester Groveland neighborhood of Saint Paul. Hosted by the Nativity Parish on their school grounds, the fair has become a favorite tradition in the parish and the neighborhood. It is a weekend of activities, auctions, music, games, food, and fun. The fair runs Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. Activities center around the school grounds at 1900 Stanford Avenue. You might want to make this your first stop for the weekend. Things get underway at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 12.
The second Saturday of September sees Selby Avenue light up with the Selby Avenue JazzFest. It is the brainchild of Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe. One could say that the festival was their response to the events of 9/11 as the first anniversary approached. The neighborhood coffee shop also didn’t have a grand opening. “The first anniversary of 9/11 was coming up and you could just tell that people were feeling pretty somber,” said shop co-owner Mychael Wright. “I then thought to myself, ‘I’m tired of feeling this way. We need to celebrate the good things that are going on in this world.’” The festival offers a full day of free jazz from local, regional, national, and international entertainers; a health and wellness area; food ranging from soul to state fair fare to healthy options; a Family Fun Zone; art; and neighbors from near and far. They block off an area on Selby Avenue at Milton Street. (Golden Thyme is at 921 Selby Avenue.) This year, the fest is on Saturday, September 13. The event begins at 11 a.m. and goes until 8 p.m.
Sunday, September 14, marks an amazing event sponsored by Public Art Saint Paul and created by Seitu Jones. Create: The Community Meal will gather 2,000 people at a ½-mile-long table in the middle of Saint Paul’s Victoria Street for a civic dinner table conversation about Food Access, Food Justice, and Healthy Eating. This event
is a collaborative effort that touts the healthy food access work that Seitu has been doing through his community advocacy and his art. He has worked with many of his Frogtown neighbors and has enlisted artists such as papermaker Mary Hark, who has engaged many young people in the neighborhood, and Melvin Giles, who has been an important food and community advocate. The event will include a spoken-word piece by TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laurine Chang, Nimo Farah, & Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria with youth of the community; poetry by G. E. Patterson; choreography by Ananya Dance Theatre; and Almanac’s Storymobile. The table will branch out from the Green Line station on University Avenue. The celebration starts at 1 p.m. Come join the fun; join the movement.
On Wednesday, September 10, Penumbra Theatre will make a space for community sharing around the surging national discussion that has reached a new crescendo in the wake of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The event is called “Let’s Talk: Ferguson”. Hosted by Penumbra codirector Sarah Bellamy, the discussion will help neighbors grapple with questions such as: How is our community responding? What can artists do to support racial justice efforts? and In the five decades since Freedom Summer, how has the conversation changed and how is it the same? Penumbra Theatre is at 270 N. Kent Street. The discussion begins at 6 p.m. Check the link above for reservations.
There is a lot more cool stuff going on. Take a good look at the Almanac arts calendar. I know it’s a busy and engaging week. Still, I earnestly hope to see you at the book release party on Thursday. There is a lot of love to share. There are a lot of stories to tell. Have a great week!