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The Legacy of Rondo Ave

By Bontu Gemeda

I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul and my understanding of the Twin Cities was that it was static and never-changing. Boy was I wrong. In 2015 I moved to St. Paul to attend the University of St. Thomas and began working at the Rondo Community Outreach Library as a work-study student. I tutored students but I also learned a lot about the community while I was there. I learned about how I-94 destroyed the only middle-class black neighborhood in the city. I learned about how people’s homes and businesses were decimated in the construction process. I learned that Rondo neighborhood now pales in comparison to its glittery past.

I also learned about the resiliency of Rondo. The avenues and streets that were renamed in order to remember. I never knew Rondo in its glory days, I only know it now as a diverse community welcoming of Somali, Hmong, Karin, and Ethiopian immigrants. The spirit of entrepreneurship, hospitality, and community that permeated the landscape of Rondo in 1950 persists to this day. People like businesswoman Amanda Lyle

Amanda Lyles was a successful entrepreneur and active member of the community. She established Hair Bazaar at the intersection of Fourth and Wabasha Streets, which offered beauty salon services and rented and sold party, wedding, and funeral attire. Lyles also was state superintendent for the Women’s Christian’s Temperance Union from 1897-1901, president of Minnesota’s Women’s Loyal Union.  Her proactiveness in the Rondo neighborhood as a prominent businesswoman propelled opportunities for the whole community. 

The spirit of Rondo is to propel the community forward and to thrive. The Legacy of Rondo is one that simply cannot be extinguished. I-94 destroyed the physical landscape of the neighborhood and displaced hundreds of people out of their homes but Rondo is now a space that is inclusive of all people.

 

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