By Hal Huggins
Ride4Reparations held its third and last scheduled 2020 ride on September 26th; a tour of the old Rondo neighborhood in St Paul. When I arrived a few minutes before our planned 2:00 start time, almost all of the expected riders had gathered at Rondo Plaza and were taking in the text, maps, and pictures that make up the plaza. Before heading out on our bikes, Louis Moore, our guide for all three rides, shared some details of the plaza and some personal recollections of the time when the I-94 highway decimated the Rondo community.
One block south and one block east of the Plaza is Carty Park. The park honors Episcopal priest and civil rights leader Rev. Denzil A. Carty. Just east of the park is the Sterling Club, a 100+ year old social club established by and for an occupationally diverse group of Black folks, not welcome at similar white establishments. Their Facebook page includes contemporary and historical pictures.
Two blocks further east along Iglehart Ave is Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, a virtual beehive of community activities. The center is home to and partners with everything from a food shelf, to learning centers, to the world famous Penumbra Theater.
A short trek back west at the intersection of Concordia Ave and N Victoria St is the Brooks Funeral Home, a venerable institution serving the Black community for 75 years.
We then rode north and east again to 663 University Ave, the site of Western Bank. The bank warrants recognition by R4R because, until at least the mid-1960s, Western was the only St Paul bank that would do business with the Black community.
Pilgrim Baptist Church at the intersection of Central Ave and Grotto St N is the oldest predominately Black church in Minnesota. It was founded by people who escaped from slavery in Missouri, landing at Fort Snelling in 1863. This article in the StarTribune commemorates the 150th anniversary of the church, which, alongside some the institutions mentioned earlier has been a part of the civil rights struggle since its inception.
It was on the steps of Pilgrim Baptist that riders expressed their appreciation for the experience and asked about future plans for Ride4Reparations. Those plans include building the website, eventually holding virtual rides (until Covid is over), and then moving on the real world rides.
We arrived back at Rondo Plaza just as a light rain started to fall.
As with the previous two Rides, the participants of our third event committed to make donations /pay reparation to one or more of our Recipient Partners.