Rondo: Beyond the Pavement

33:11
by Scotty Herold
in Student

A film made by students at High School for Recording Arts in Saint Paul, MN, in partnership with Saint Paul Almanac and SPNN.

In the 1920s, Rondo, Saint Paul’s largest African American neighborhood, was flourishing. With music, theatre, African American newspapers, and businesses booming, the community was thriving—until September of 1956, when construction of Interstate 94 tore through the Rondo community. Rondo homeowners resisted the construction, and protests began. Residents were forcefully removed from their homes. Thousands of Rondo homeowners were displaced. Homes and successful businesses were demolished, and a community was torn apart.
The construction of 94 shattered homes, businesses, and families. It did not shatter Rondo’s spirit.

These are the stories of “RONDO: Beyond the Pavement.”


Director Biography – Bianca Rhodes, Katharine DeCelle, Jevrye Morris , Angelo Bush , Charles Fuller , Amina DeLeon, Jose Quintanilla, Yevrah Bradley, Deonte Jones, Destiny Roberts, Darius Gray, Jasmine McBride, Harvey Bradley, Georgia Fort
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Saint Paul Almanac, in partnership with Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) and High School for Recording Arts (HSRA), present Rondo: Beyond the Pavement, a new student-produced film and podcast that chronicles the history of a once thriving African American neighborhood torn apart by the I-94 Interstate corridor.

See film trailer and podcast page below:

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Since February 2018, youth from the Rondo community have been learning documentary skills from Emmy award–winning filmmaker Bianca Rhodes and production skills from audio maker Katharine DeCelle. Rhodes produces Candy Fresh on SPNN and DeCelle is director of Frogtown Radio. Youth artists Aubriana Jackson, Jasmine McBride, Angelo Bush, Jose Quintanilla, Harvey Bradley, Deonte Jones, Charles Miller, Amina DeLeon, Destiny Roberts, and Jevrye Morris created the film.

“Learning about what happened in the Rondo community while interviewing those who witnessed their homes being destroyed was heartbreaking,” says Morris. “It was astounding the resilience they showed. It lit a fire in me. Rondo never stopped trying to rebuild what was there. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself to go after what I love to do in life. I learned that I-94 going through Rondo was a power struggle to limit what the black community could actually do. It didn’t stop us at all.”

Georgia Fort provided transcription services and additional editing. Clarence White and Kemet Imhotep provided additional mentoring.

Saint Paul Almanac’s Storymobile, led by director Melvin Giles and manager Darius Gray, wanted to collect and preserve the historical memory of the Rondo neighborhood from a multigenerational perspective. Storymobile worked with Rondo youth to record stories of Rondo that give an intimate view of the impact the destruction of Rondo and construction of the I-94 highway had on people’s lives and how that impact continues today.

“If we know who we are and who we came from, it helps us to go forward in our lives,” says elder Donna Evans in the film. “If we know nothing about our history, then how are we to know about our future?”

Saint Paul Almanac is a literary-centered arts organization that has been publishing an annual book of Saint Paul stories and poems for more than a decade. We share stories across cultures and cultivate dialogue to promote understanding, relationships, and collaborative action.

HSRA is dedicated to providing all young people a chance to realize their full potential, despite any previous setbacks. As we engage students through music and the exploration and operation of the music business, we demonstrate that core learning areas and real-world, twenty-first century skills can be acquired at the same time. More than just earning a high school diploma, HSRA prepares students for a positive post-secondary education and life.

SPNN’s mission is to empower people to use media and communications to better lives, use authentic voice, and build common understanding.

We hope that Rondo: Beyond the Pavement will inspire other cities to share the voices of marginalized neighborhoods that disappeared because of the construction of the Interstate system during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Access grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.