As a result of the great migration, the Rondo community of St. Paul has been a beacon in the African African community in Minnesota since the late 1800s. Today, Rondo still remains the pinnacle of a resilient community that is still standing in spite of the destruction that its people experienced throughout the 1960s and still experience today. Storytellers Maya Johnson, Johnny Allen Jr., Kasim Abdur Razzaq, Sasha Cotton, Emmanuel Donaby, and Jaraux Washington explore and illuminate the persistence and evolution of the Rondo community.
Stay tuned to explore their storymap.
2892 St. Paul's Storytelling Team
Maya Johnson was born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. She studied at both St. Catherine University and Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She currently works as a legal aid attorney for the Healthcare Legal Partnership unit at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services based out of St. Paul to address racial and income inequality in the region. She works with families who interact with the Children’s Healthcare system and are currently facing housing, family, immigration, and economic injustice issues which directly correlate with their social determinants of health. Her desire to become an attorney and advocate stemmed from her goal of representing marginalized communities and creating impact litigation to systemically address social and legal inequalities in the State of Minnesota. Maya's background also includes working in the areas of civil rights and incarceration and reentry.
Kasim Abdur Razzaq
Kasim Abdur Razzaq is a sought after speaker , author, business owner & psychotherapist from the historic Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. He utilizes his formal education, natural gifts and life experiences to improve the lives of people and organizations. Kasim has crafted a unique process to interpersonal engagement known as "Social Architecture." As a social architect Kasim works on spaces not people as he constructs sacred space for people to learn, heal and grow! Kasim's work has shifted attitudes, beliefs, practices, culture and climate within organizations. He has facilitated change work for universities, community organizations, religious institutions, K-12 education, youth development programs and corporate spaces. Kasim's current research as a psychology doctoral candidate focuses on developing a "Black Personhood Inventory" scale used to assess the experiences of African Americans working in organizations implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
Sasha Cotton is currently the Director of the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention (Minneapolis OVP) in the Minneapolis Health Department. The Minneapolis OVP is responsible for coordinating violence prevention initiatives across the city enterprise and engaging with communities throughout the Twin Cities to better address violence and safety issues using a public health approach. The Minneapolis OVP focus its efforts on non-traditional public safety strategies, with a racial equity lens. Sasha is a current Commissioner with the St. Paul Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission and represent Minnesota on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Ms. Cotton holds a B.A. from Metropolitan State University with a double major in Criminal Justice and Ethnic Studies. She is also a certified Restorative Justice Facilitator completing her training at the University of Wisconsin, Thief River Falls. Sasha is a lifelong St. Paul resident and a proud descendent of the historic Rondo community. She is a mother, grandmother & active social justice advocate.
Johnny Allen Jr.
Johnny Allen Jr. is the Founder/owner of The JK (JohnnyKnuckles) Movement. In this role with JKM, Mr. Allen assures that the organization has a long-range strategy, which achieves its mission, “To empower and inspire effective change in the minds, bodies, and spirits of young people” and oversees the overall operations. He leads an experienced and dedicated team by providing leadership, passion, charisma, and support. Johnny is a big believer in “effecting change” for the better.
Johnny’s focus was determined from his upbringing in St. Paul. Being a product of Mary and Johnny Sr. Allen; Johnny learned early about his values being raised in the Rondo neighborhood. His energetic and hardworking attitude led him to play youth sports at Jimmy Lee Recreation Center; from there, his reliable and versatile style voted him in as a team captain on his Highland Park Football Teams his Junior and Senior years and the honor roll all four years in high school. After his student athlete days were over at Highland Sr, his persevering and ambitious ways led him to graduate from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in General Business.
Mr. Allen recognized the struggle that youth go through during their life journeys. Through this ongoing journey, Johnny has always had a special gift to motivates individuals to turn all transitions into triumphs! He supports motivating children and young adults by inspiring them to reach their ultimate potential. Johnny prepares them through education, strengthening their self-confidence, and empowering them to successfully deal with their biggest challenges.
Johnny saw this as a foundational piece in establishing the JK Movement back in 2008. Students work hard to receive good grades. With positive influences such as those provided by The JohnnyKnuckles Movement, that calm smile is brought to the families, schools, neighborhoods and throughout the community where the students face negative influences on a daily basis. Johnny wants to influence them to reach for the stars, to make the appropriate sacrifices, commitments, and allow themselves to obtain their ultimate goals.
Prior to starting The JK Movement, Johnny has spent over 20 plus years in various positions. From being an intern with the Minnesota Vikings in the Player Development Department to a case manager with St. Paul Youth Services. Johnny has also reached out to our youth as a mentor with various organizations; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Twin Cities, Football Coach at West Minnehaha Recreation Center, Leo Lewis Football Academy; African American Student Association; National Football Foundation; St. Paul School's Mentorship Program.
Emmanuel Donaby has dedicated nearly 20 years of his career to working with youth. He is heavily involved in the St. Paul community working with youth and young adults. He is a graduate from Concordia University - St. Paul with a BA in General Studies in Elementary Education and also an AAS degree in Child Development from St. Paul College. He has been involved with the National Children's Defense Fund and led extensive work with the organization both locally and nationally since 1999 to the present.
Jaraux Washington taught science for 16 years and is passionate about empowering, equipping, and inspiring the next generation to identify, explore, and solve problems within their communities and abroad. Jaraux is a National Geographic Certified Educator and is currently the regional manager of EmpowerED.