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McCollum Statement Honoring Rondo Plaza

December 7, 2016
Statements For the Record

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize residents of the historic Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota as the community comes together to seek hope and healing. Earlier this fall, it was an honor to join community leaders to break ground on a Rondo Commemorative Plaza as a first step toward reconciliation for this neighborhood that was torn apart during the construction of the National Interstate Highway System in the 1960s. Like so many predominately black urban neighborhoods around the nation, cultural, social, and political trauma stemming from this civic wound still scars our community today.

Old Rondo was Saint Paul's largest and most prominent African American community centered around a once thriving street called Rondo Avenue. From the 1900 to the early 1960's African Americans migrated from the south to seek good jobs and Saint Paul's rich and vibrant quality of life. Generations created and invested in businesses, schools, civic organizations and families.

When plans were made for a National Interstate Highway System, people of color, those of limited means or political representation were not at the table. Designs for Interstate 94 landed squarely on Rondo. Over the cries and protest of its residents, bulldozers were brought in, and Rondo Avenue and the homes and businesses nearby were razed. This tight-knit community was devastated. During the decades since the freeway was built, longtime residents have worked hard to rebuild a community lost. Thanks to them today the spirit of Rondo's neighbors still burns bright.

Immutable leaders like Marvin ``Roger'' Anderson, Floyd Smaller, Nathaniel Khaliq, Debbie Montgomery and countless others have brought tireless dedication and commitment to restoring the Rondo spirit and community. They've begun successful local festivals like Rondo Days and the Selby Avenue Jazz Festival which bring community together in new ways to celebrate and chart a new future.

While nothing can be done to undo the injustice that was done to the Rondo community more than four decades ago, that doesn't mean nothing should be done to help our residents remember our history so that we don't repeat it again. Anderson and other Rondo leaders are planning the Rondo Commemorative Plaza as a tangible place to acknowledge and confront the dark chapter in Saint Paul's relationship with its African American community. It will be a place to remember the vibrant Rondo neighborhood, and continue moving forward into the 21st century--with all voices at the table.

This plaza will be a beautiful community gathering spot to learn about Rondo through written and oral presentations, music and art. It will serve as a social gathering place for all generations, for visitors to appreciate and remember the history of Rondo and the strength of residents that lives on.

Mr. Speaker, please join me in recognizing the strong will and unassailable pride of the Rondo community as they build the Rondo Commemorative Plaza. We look forward to the grand opening of this special place and the big step in healing and reconciliation of the past.