Author Archives: saraherickson4

In Summit- University, Ethnicity Influences Power

Power is a large word thrown around to coin a person who has a sense of authority in one way or another. It can be shaped and created by many different aspects such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, economic stability, etc. and while it might not always be fair in a way that the best man/woman holds the power, it certainly does become a way of life.

Based on my interpretation of the neighborhood and on visual and interactional experience, in Summit- University , power is shaped by ethnicity. This is plain to see as you travel through the streets and see, for the most part, segregated living areas.

I will not fill you with boring facts to prove this power relation, I will simply try to show you my point through my own, hands- on interaction with the neighborhood and its residents.

While the decrease of segregation within the neighborhood has made immense strides, it is still easy to see that this ethnic segregation depicts the people in power.

I will be blunt in saying that whites hold a vast majority of power in Summit-University. It doesn’t take much to realize this, as the “white” part of the neighborhood is ubiquitous with beautiful Victorian style housing, government buildings, college and churches.

It does make sense, then, that one of the greatest residents in power is Governor Dayton- one of the most powerful men in the state. Obviously, this is where political influence starts to relate to power. Not only does the governor reside here, but many of his supporters and non-supporters as the State Capitol is just a few minutes away.  Following Summit Avenue down the road and you will find see a large amount of Caucasian men in dress clothes heading to the college of law that happens to be on the “white side” of the neighborhood. Keep following to the Ramsey Hill area and you will run into the old F. Scott Fitzgerald hangout which is now the Ramsey Hill Association club house. Head to their website and sign up for a membership for benefits such as: committee chair members, parks and garden overseer, Hill House tour/fundraising director, as well as sitting in on meetings discussing the neighborhood and election of executive officers and board of directors.

All of those glamorous sites and preppy clubs seem pretty keen to the eye, huh? Well now it’s time to walk down the street to Selby Avenue, in the “ethnic” and “diverse” part of the neighborhood. Here, you will find a similarity in the closeness of the community, but that’s really it. As far as power goes, these people have little say. Of course, this has gotten much better throughout the years, with some ethnic minorities even holding committee positions, but still.

In my opinion, Selby Avenue is the best part about the neighborhood. It brings a laid back community- like atmosphere, diverse with all different cultures from Russian to White-American to Islamic, to an otherwise very busy part of St. Paul. Rarely will you see people strutting around in slacks or heels. Instead, a common sight is business owner in jeans and a t-shirt conversing with locals. I’m sure in some cases, these business workers are more preferred than the ones with “power” but we’ll leave it up to the harmless gossip to decide that!

Speaking of businesses, history, economic and social context play a big role in influencing how we understand power as operating in this neighborhood. Like most areas within Minnesota, whites flooded majority of Summit- University, as mentioned in my history blog. When African Americans came to town and started business there was racial uproar, which created the segregation that stands today. This segregation then creates a divide in economic standings as is evident by looking at the conditions of housing from one end of the neighborhood to the other. Since so much in this world is based around money (some even say you can buy love, which is absurd) eventually economic standing leads to a social divide. And although the Selby Avenue area is very open to every race and ethnicity, this social divide is almost entirely in the Summit Avenue area where the majority is white.

Like I said, it may sound a bit blunt but it is what I am seeing. All of these aspects led to power then and still leads to power today. And as times are changing, little by little, it is hard to say when or if power will ever be equal.


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An Identity of Pride

Reflect on the identity of yourself and the community you grew up in. As we know, identity is the way in which we perceive ourselves and by which we are perceived to others. While identity might be different in the eyes of many, by understanding it, we are able to get a grasp of what an individual or community stands for.

Summit- University neighborhood has a very rich identity to that of its people and those passing by. This identity has been shaped by a history of growth and hardships between its businesses and people as well as a sense of pride for its great amount of historical landmarks.

Though, the identity of this neighborhood is contested by people who see it from the outside, it remains dynamic by those who reside in and take time to appreciate Summit- University. Stop and chat with a resident and you will notice quickly that this neighborhood prides itself on the history of its upbringing.

Almost everyone is sure to point out its main attractions such as the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Governor’s Mansion, Summit Hill and the residence of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Such historical venues establish a great base for the neighborhood’s religious, political and cultural values that are instilled in all who reside today.These characteristics are ones that the people of Summit- University identify with.

Perhaps this identity where the “lend a helping hand” motto comes from around this tight knit community. A resident of the neighborhood was quoted on the Summit- University Planning Council’s website giving thanks to young catholic school helpers cleaning up around the community.

Joshua Beran states, “I am writing to say thank you for the clean up you did last week, wow!  An excited group of young people and their leaders were helping to keep the neighborhood looking nice…. The group was proud, and they should be. You all inspired me to care about the great neighborhood we live, work and go to school in. I hope you will head out again this year… in an effort to keep everything looking the way we all want it to be.” What a proud and compelling letter from a resident who, like others, takes pride in the value of this proud neighborhood.

There is more pride to this neighborhood identity than just its looks and history, though. People take large amounts of pride in the businesses and family-like communities that have formed throughout the years. This is another identity that makes Summit-University so well known and appreciated by its people and, eventually, by its visitors. As mentioned in my last posted conversation, business owner, Lee, is proud of his neighborhood’s growth into a community over the years.

Although it wasn’t all gum -drops and smiles, it has formed the unique identity of a community that is always up for lending a helping hand and looking out for each other. It is easy to see that the struggle of businesses from the early 1900s has taught a valuable lesson to business owners today- be grateful for what you have.

When feasting over a brunch at the new Louisiana Café or sipping a coffee at Nina’s Coffee Café you will be sure to notice this thankful attitude booming from the workers to the daily costumers who live around the area. Walk down the streets into the residential areas of Summit- University and you will see the same, dynamic, identity- grateful and thankful are the people that live here. It is certain that when one is in need, you can always find a hand.

For instance, the Hearts and Hammers volunteers reached out to this friendly neighborhood by upgrading a dozen homes and I can tell you, that people around the area are beyond happy and thankful. A Hearts and Hammers member quotes, “When we see one property in the neighborhood abandoned and left neglected, it has a multiplying effect. Well the same is true when we have on property that is renovated…like this,” St. Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter says.

So whether it’s a Council Member like Melvin Carter, a business owner like Lee or a new resident owner like Gerard (in my previous post), people of this neighborhood are sure to leave you with a lasting impression of gratefulness and helpfulness.



Hearts And Hammers Helps Fix Up St. Paul


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Best BBQ in the Neighborhood

If you get a chance to stop by Lee’s BBQ restaurant on Selby Avenue, I suggest you do it! You won’t find a better BBQ sandwich in town; And one can garuantee you won’t engage in a better conversation! Read along as my partner, Hawo, and I learn more about the community through the eyes of a long- time business owner.

How long have you lived here?

21 years

How long have you owned the restaurant?

 21 years, my daughter actually owns it now…I just do all the work, haha

Has the neighborhood changed at all since you’ve been here?

 Changed a lot! It used to be real rough. In 20 years it has changed over. There were no white people on Selby Avenue back then.

Is there more of a diversity now?

 Oh yes. There are more immigrants than ever before. And we all get along

What’s the best part about the neighborhood?

 There’s more business! Everyone relates in some way. Like if someone were to come in here and steal a meal, I maybe know someone down the road who that same person might have helped out. I know, then, that person isn’t so bad maybe just hard getting by. It’s very friendly around here too. 20 years ago you didn’t see no one getting together with others. Now we are close.

And the worst thing?

 I can’t name a bad thing nowadays. People all try to get along and are much more accepting

Would you consider this part of the neighborhood a community?

 Oh of course. People are always getting together now, not separating. People and places are always trying to get us all together, seems like each week. Next Sunday, actually there’s a church gathering at one of those big churches by Summit Avenue. We all get together there as a community.

Do those gatherings happen often?

 Yea, they happen every month. Especially now it’s nice weather outside. The winters are a little cold but once that sun comes out, everybody is outside together.

So the relationships are pretty close around here?

 Yes, relationships here are very close.

As a business owner, do people look up to you a lot?… As a person who kind of brings this area together?

 I would say so. I think there are a lot of people that look up to me and the other businesses around. I mean, you get to know all the people on another level because you’re always interacting.

And how is your relationship with other businesses throughout the years?

 Much better. It used to be we were all trying to get businesses up and running and there was a lot of bad stuff going on. Now, businesses are a positive thing. We’re always helping each other out. Giving each other costumers and what not.

Sounds like this area has formed into a pretty tight knit community over the years?

 You could say that. Yea I think we’re a very tight knit community. It’s a community to be proud of.

(Costumers started coming in…)

Well, it looks like you’re getting busy! And so that’s all we have for you. We’ll let you carry on your day. Thanks for your time!

 Thank you, stop by some time for a meal…

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What About Race?

The topic of race tends to be a touchy one from time to time depending on your level of comfort with the people surrounding you. Though often times it becomes a fabulous ongoing debate between people of all different areas of life, it is one that, I think, gets overplayed more than it should. In my opinion, race should not be a discussion that creates such an argument. Rather, we should view each other as people of the universe, all tied together as one regardless or your ethnic background or skin color. I feel this will be the best way to combat the decreasing level of racism throughout our nation. Though dismissing race is not all that realistic, when and if it is brought about in discussion, I feel the topic should be treated with a sense of respect. For instance, in Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, she notes many encounters with her young child questioning the skin tone of herself and other people. Tatum does a tremendous job parenting her child and responds in a way that supports the diversity of people around the world by teaching and reiterating that skin color does not define a person. To me, this is exactly the way I would like to go about discussing race, when and if it ever comes up. 

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The Contemporary View of Summit- University

After reading and reflecting my previous post on the history of the Summit- University neighborhood, one should have a pretty good understanding of the transformation that this community has had over the years. Clearly, residents of Summit- University have witnessed a positive growth throughout its existence. From our knowledge of history, we are able to hold a better sense of the current atmosphere of this diverse community. 

As we know from the history, there are different “areas” within the Summit- University neighborhood. The that areas  I felt were most compelling and showed the biggest and best representation are the Selby Avenue and Summit Avenue/ Ramsey Hill communities. Both of these areas have grown immensely in many ways leading them to the present day characteristics of this neighborhood. Continue on your reading adventure to paint a portrait in your mind of the contemporary context of this magnificent neighborhood. 

Selby Avenue. 

Walk down the Selby Avenue and you will see an array of sights. On one end, you will find an upscale, popular retail area containing clothing shops, gathering spots and destination dining. On the other end you will see a residential area in a more run- down, yet very optimistic and diverse part of the neighborhood. In order to tie these ends together, the neighborhood does a great amount of community involvement. For instance, there is the Summit- University Planning Council which is a council that promotes the well- being and positive incline of the community by providing community meetings to discuss issues affecting the area, sponsoring an annual National Night Out event and encouraging a cleaner community by recycling and having neighborhood clean-ups. This council also provides a common area for residents of all likes to meet and greet each other on a monthly basis. This provides residents with the opportunity to become part of a tight knit community that is glowing with pride. There is also a newsletter, called Porch Lite, that projects positive influences, new businesses, and daily events throughout the community. Though larger reports such as newspaper and television provide mixed reviews, this community does a great job at promoting the positives in order to make a change in the future. In communicating with residents of the neighborhood, they have a great relationship with the city around them. They are proud to be part of the St. Paul area and embrace its history and culture as best they can. 

Summit Avenue/ Ramsey Hill 

Because this area is host to many historical, educational and religious sights, including mansions, art institutes, law schools, beautifully large churches and government offices, it gets a fairly good reputation throughout. Just walking down the street, I felt a sense of superiority within the community. It is not an odd sight to see a man or women in a business suit or decked out in Nike running gear to head on an evening jog full of fantastic site. The pride of this community is shown in the Ramsey Hill Association newsletter. Here you will find a large display of neighborhood news, clubs to join, network building opportunities and events such as May 2012s front page introducing the beginning of a jazz and blues night club in The Commodore, “which hosts the famous Art Deco bar that was frequented in the the 1920s by literary figures F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis as well as such notorious gangsters as Fred Barker and Al Capone.” Just like Selby Avenue, this newsletter puts much emphasis on maintaining and promoting a crime-free and environmental friendly atmosphere. Again, from conversing and watching I learned that while this community is proud to be part of the larger St. Paul area, St. Paul is very proud to host it. This neighborhood is a large part of the historical culture of St. Paul and attracts a large amount of tourism into the city as a whole.

In saying this, I find it very interesting to compare the history of these communities to the contemporary contexts of the Neighborhood. Obviously, there has been great strides in creating a Neighborhood that is based around pride, history and cultural diversity. I do recommend, if you ever get the chance, to venture over the Summit-University and witness it for yourself. You will not be let down!



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A Casual “Chat” with a New Friend on Selby Avenue

Walking through the streets of Summit-University, my project partner, Howa, and I found a neighborhood rich with cultural diversity from one end to the other. When we hit the Selby Avenue, we were welcomed with open arms and were fortunate enough to have a couple of great conversations to prove it. In this conversation, we will reflect on our interview, or should I say friendly chat, with Gerard- a fairly new resident in the heart of Summit- University’s Selby Avenue. Though his time here has been short (6 months), he can already see changes within what he considers to be a community in which he calls “home”. Please enjoy, as we did, getting an outsider’s view on Selby Avenue, a large part of the Summit-University Neighborhood. 

How long have you lived here?

I just moved here… about 6 months (ago)

 Do you like it so far?

 Yea, actually I do. Actually, I do. One thing though, just a little too much police.

 You don’t like that?

 Yea, I don’t. I’m not a big fan of that.

 Why do you think there are so many police?

 I’d have to say because some people just don’t have any sense. They don’t have any no sense. They don’t know how to act. You see people (like that) always, you know every where you go.

 Yeah… There’s a lot of police on the college campuses too. Is there a lot of younger people here?

 I would say it’s, middle, mixed. Older and young people.

 I think, from what I see, over that way (pointing to Summit Avenue) is more older people, is that right?

 Yea, the older people. Older, more mature (laughs) and everything.

Both: Laugh and agree

Do you know about the history of this neighborhood?

 Yes, and it was worse. It was bad at first. It’s much better now.

To begin, was there a lot of violence?

 Well, I mean, I’ve only been here a short time but I definitely do see a change in the amount of violence.

So has the neighborhood changed at all since you’ve been here?

  Umm… I can say a little bit because, in part of, “me”. Because of the way I am and how I was raised.  I do see less (violence)…I stopped a lot of fighting, you know. I can’t stop everything but it’s getting better as far as violence goes.

 I see… so what is the best part of the neighborhood.

 I say one of the best thing about it is the community and our corner store guy. He helps out the kids, he gives them free food, gives money to the church.

 Wow, I should start coming here more often!

 Haha, he’s a sweetheart. He’s the corner store right there (points to about a block away). He’s sweet, he’s a good guy and I think that’s one of the good things about the community right now is that he’s keeping the community together.

That’s great, in what way?

 He opens up to everyone. He helps there be more contact with different cultures.

Very nice, positive influence.

 Yes, very.

And you said the worst thing is the police?

 Yea.. police.

I don’t like police either, don’t worry… Kidding, of course!


 Would you say that you’re, kind of, active in the neighborhood?

  Umm.. just now, really. I just started being active in it.

 Sure, because you’re kind of getting used to it?

 Yea, I’m getting used to it.

 Do you think it’s a community? Do you think people are engaged in community actions here?


Let me rephrase that, Do you know a lot of people around the community?

Oh yes. Yea.

 So it’s close knit?

 Yes, very close knit.

As far as cultural diversity goes, is there a lot of that around here?

 Oh yes, yea. That’s a good thing… to see different race, different people. And they’re actually helping each other out. Like, it was crazy at first. Africans and Somolians, we did not get along, for nothing. Now, we’re talking to each other. You know, we communicate. That’s good. The corner store guy, you know, he’s somolian and we’re best friends. And it’s wonderful now, talking to everybody. It’s good.

That’s awesome…. So you obviously feel welcome in this neighborhood, you feel like you fit in and don’t feel like an outcast? This is your home… does it feel like home? Since you’ve been here, in your short time?

 Umm.. Yea it feels like home. I think I’m a little too nice sometimes. I helped out a lot of people; like some homeless people around the area, I let them stay here. I mean… it gets better by day. I do miss Eden Prairie where I used to live but this is much more convenient for me right here. It’s becoming home. I really enjoy it.

And that ‘s really what matters, is that you feel home.

 Yea, I do. I really do.

That’s great Gerard. That’s about all we have for you. Thank you so much for your time. It has been a pleasure learning about your neighborhood. We hope it continues to grow.

 No problem, thank you!


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The Power of History

Before diving in to discussion, take a moment to think about the knowledge of your educational history. Remind yourself of the history lessons learned through your elementary, high school and for some, college years. In my opinion, it is safe to say that these histories sculpt how we view different cultures and interpret past events while also shaping the way we carry ourselves throughout our daily lives. 

While all history is important, there is much that tends to be left out along the way. In saying this, what determines whose histories and stories get told? 

While pondering this question myself, I came to realize that there may not be, in fact there is not, one single answer to this question. So, I find myself narrowing down some of the driving factors that might play a role in determining what and whose histories get told.

The first is Location. Educational systems in a certain location are sure to teach about the relevant events that effected their own geographical history. I realized this while growing up in two different educational locations. In a small town in Northern Minnesota, I learned the basics of United States History. It wasn’t until my family relocated to Bemidji, Minnesota near the Cass Lake Indian Reservation that I learned about the thick history of Native Americans and African Americans- both of which I found very compelling. I learned quickly the effect that location has on the learning structure of an education. Perhaps this is because cultural diversity (especially Native American) flourishes in the latter location while small town Northern Minnesota is predominantly white. 

The second factor is reputation. I found this to be true when reading a chapter from Kinzer’s book Overthrow This excerpt was extremely compelling and eye opening. Mind you, previous to this reading I had only really been educated about the greatness of American history. Rarely was there any negativity or openness to the wrong doings of the United States. In this excerpt, though, I am reminded that even the United States is guilty as charged in many cases. For a brief overview, Kinzer’s writing was based largely on how family history can bring about power that is tough to be overthrown and easy to gain more and more power. We see this true in President Wilson’s Secretary of State, Dulles. Dulles was born into great family history of success and power and he uses it in a negative way to frame and overthrow the whole Iranian government for little or no reason. The odd thing is, as mentioned earlier, I had no previous knowledge of this MAJOR event in history where the United States was so corrupt and wrong. I was a bit let down by my educational history in that reputation of the United States depicted a skewed viewpoint.

The third factor is fear. I believe there is a bit of fear that comes to mind when the word intercultural or cultural diversity is used. For example, the film Precious Knowledge creates a fabulous portray of cultural education being banished for fear of expressing the importance of Mexican heritage in the United States. In an Arizona school district, failing students were mentored and molded into intelligent young men and women with the introduction of an “Ethnic Studies” course. Here, Mexican, as well as American, students were able to understand the world around them in relation to the history of their culture- a great deal of importance for Mexican people. Yet while these students were becoming more willing to engage and enjoy their education, even bumping up test scores immensely, government officials had a hard time dealing with the emphasis on Mexican heritage in an American school system. Again, fear of cultural diversity had set in and eventually wiped out “Ethnic Studies” courses for teaching against American History. Students were left fighting for the education of their history to be taught and embraced just like that of American history. Since we live in a land that is free and open to so many different cultures around the world, I find it hard to see how history is determined and swayed in such a way. 

While we are influenced by the many different histories in our lives, there must be a way to get the real truths behind these important issues.  In order to do so, one must be able and willing to ask questions, be educated in all areas of history and be open to digging for different viewpoints of history.

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