A dozen reasons to celebrate America, Minneapolis-style

One of many reasons to celebrate America’s birthday during the Trump years. Photo by Jim Walsh

As his brutal immigration policy played out callously last week on the Mexican-Texas border and beyond, “president” Trump was in Duluth ignorantly fanning the flames of Islamophobia by lying, “You have plenty of problems up here in Minnesota with respect to people coming in,” and, “So the Democrats want open borders. Let everybody come in. Let everybody come in. Let everybody pour in. We don’t care. Let them come in from the Middle East; let them come in from all over the place.”

Ugh. Forget for the moment the racist-in-chief, and all who are emboldened by him, and screw the Supreme Court’s upholding of his discriminatory Muslim ban. We’re a week away from America’s 242nd birthday, and I need a few reminders of how and why the semi-oasis of Minneapolis flies in the face of so-called Trump’s America:

  1. Ilhan Omar. Upon becoming the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the United States, Rep. Omar told a national television audience “I am America’s hope and the president’s nightmare.” Let the hope and Trump’s nightmare continue as Omar’s bid for Congress ramps up.
  2. Birchbark Books & Native Arts. I’ve spent some time Montana this summer, and when one bartender/owner heard I was from Minneapolis, she excitedly asked me if I know Louise Erdrich’s bookstore, which I do and love — and so should you. Anytime you’re in need of a respite from the here and now (not to mention unvarnished history lessons, good medicine, timely tales and great literature) go browse the Birchbark bookshelves and get schooled on America the brutal/beautiful via the first Americans.
  3. Sarah Streitz, “God Bless The Immigrants.” This two-year-old tune from South Minneapolis singer/songwriter/schoolteacher Streitz has been a timely and touching balm since she first wrote it, and the chorus has been keeping me good company these strange days: “God bless all the immigrants/Thank god for the immigrants/All the suffering, pain and sorrow/God bless all the immigrants/Thank god for the immigrants/I once was an immigrant.”
  4. The Current (89.3 FM). Fourth of July is historically one of the most perfectly curated days and nights on the Current, with all sorts of rock, pop, blues, hip-hop, jazz, Americana and world music reminding everyone within earshot why this land was made for you and me. Much needed, much appreciated.
  5. KMOJ (89.9 FM). Can’t stand the normalization of Trump by the fair-and-balanced-and-weirdly-lacking-in-outrage voices of the Twin Cities’ mainstream media? Tune into the People’s Station most anytime for the real deal — smart, hilarious and insightful commentary, not to mention scads of great music.
  6. Lizz Winstead. The South Minneapolis-reared New Yorker is a tireless and up-to-the-maddening-minute critic of Trump and all his cronies, and on July 26, she brings her Lady Parts Justice League’s Vagical Mystery Tour to the Cedar Cultural Center, along with Chastity Brown, Jill Sobule, Laurie Lindeen, Janey Winterbauer, Bruise Violet, Lori Barbero and more. Long may she vent and vex.
  7. Attorneys like Diamond Lake neighborhood-based Karla Vehrs. Vehrs does pro-bono work on behalf of immigrants and encourages all her fellow attorneys to do the same. “We have some great legal services organizations in Minnesota that do the important work of interviewing and vetting potential clients and cases on the front end,” Vehrs told me recently, for a profile in Minnesota Super Lawyers this month. “So if you’re interested in taking on a case in this arena, it’s really just a matter of picking up the phone and getting in touch with them and doing a training so that you can get up to speed on what you need to know about the type of case that it is. Between the Advocates For Human Rights (theadvocatesforhumanrights.org) and Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ilcm.org) there is no shortage of opportunity to get involved — and need — for pro bono work. I know there are statistics about the difference in outcome, depending on whether immigrants have an attorney or not in their process, and those numbers are shocking.”
  8. David Brauer on Twitter (@dbrauer). My old pal and colleague and former editor/columnist at the Southwest Journal is (along with my other Twitter faves @LeslieSimone, @joefaheymusic, @bbierschbach and @solace ) nothing short of a bright light on Twitter. I dig having my morning coffee or a nightcap with him, because his up-with-the-sun optimism and reporter’s chops amidst the dreck cut straight through to the head and heart. Dude cracks me up/makes me think.
  9. The Minnesota Lynx. Unlike the tone-deaf-to-the-times NFL, the Lynx were the first professional sports team to take a stand against the scourge of police shootings of black males, and they continue to make their voices heard on all sorts of social ills. Hail to the champs.
  10. El Tejaban Mexican Grill (6519 Nicollet Ave.) and Taqueria Los Ocampo (809 E. Lake Street). My two favorite Mexican restaurants in town, where I and my date are often the only gringos in the joints.
  11. Amy Klobuchar. Minnesota’s first elected female senator is a reasoned, relentless thorn in Trump’s side, constantly and dutifully calling him out on his daily dumps. Long may she run.
  12. Brit’s Pub (1110 Nicollet Mall) and Nomad World Pub (501 Cedar Ave.) during the World Cup. Always a good gathering place for big soccer matches, these two stalwart saloons positively teem with positivity and global love during the World Cup. Cheers and jeers can be heard in every language, like the soccer “Star Wars” bar come to life, and for anyone (like me) who gets tired of all-white crowds at bars in this burg, these two pubs make for some of the most beautiful world citizen-watching this side of the Mall of America.


Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at jimwalsh086@gmail.com.