Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Karamu Sign Controversy? Cultural Artifact Or Hand-Lettered Embarrassment?

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

First of all, I personally have no opinion either way about the Karamu sign on U of M's UROC Center. Apparently, it is some kind of remnant of a business which was there before, and failed. The fact the sign still remains after the renovation appears to show somebody thinks the sign is an "artifact" worth saving...

Not knowing much of the history of Karamu except a little bit about contaminated soil cleanup that took place there, click here for more info--and far too busy dealing with Level Three sex offender saturation and the reappointment of Chief Dolan to go chasing this relatively small story--I don't have a position either way. Ask me about the "cultural artifact" on the front of the Friedman's Shoe Store--their nasty discolored Plexiglass--and, sure, I'll have an opinion about THAT, click here.

But a couple folks have written to me asking that I mention something about the Karamu sign, and publish a picture to show exactly what we're talking about. This blog does try to be responsive to readers--in an unpaid, understaffed, overworked sort of way--so here's the picture.

Here you go.

Talk amongst yerselves.


kanoyes said...

I like the sign. It's got character. It 's definitely not corporate. From your picture it seems to stand out like some tribute to god of colourful bread bags. Imagine if all of Minneapolis was hand lettered and painted. We need more of the such. A good thing I say.

Low End Leroy said...

We're at Plymouth & Penn, roughly. Here, yards from the CrackDonald's old location, I still see Karamu. This is Karamu. Hmm... Someone once told me what this meant, but I forgot. It meant nothing to me, but I know it was a name with a meaning.

Wikipedia here I come... Karamu: "A place of joyful gathering," in Swahili.

Now I remember. Sounds good, I guess.

I don't celebrate Kwanzaa, but I once went to Karamu's infamous Sno Foods looking for a Kwanzaa card to send to someone. Karamu happens to be the final feast day of Kwanzaa (Thanks Wikipedia).

Guess what?
Sno Foods... the "Ghetto Market" DID NOT CARRY KWANZAA cards!

Outside Sno Foods in the parking lot I found the real Karamu, a gathering place for all the folks who used to shop and sell at the CrackDonald's, until they tore it down. Nice.

Karamu: A joyful gathering place where you can't buy a Kwanzaa card during Kwanzaa. Anyone got a dime bag? Nice.

So, now I see this sign, this marker to an era recently past.
I think it looks amature, at best. It makes me think that the U's community engagement staff threw a bone to the "community" and left this ugly thing in order to appease someone, AS IF IT HAS SOME MEANING!

Well, Someone, I hope you are happy. Your ugly sign reminds me of the Sno Foods store that never heard of Kwanzaa, but knew well enough what it took to facilitate a thriving illegal drug market.

I find it ironic that on Plymouth Avenue the University agreed to leave this ugly sign as a tribute to an era of drug dealing and not so joyful hood-ish gathering.

This sign is more than the thugs who destroyed Plymouth Avenue in the late sixties were willing to leave.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, let it be. Sounds like this is some tiny group (or just one person?) that hates the sign because of an ancient shopping experience. Next! Real news pleez!

Anonymous said...

The sign is crap. It is a crappy hand painted sign. There is an art gallery down the street that showcases the work of northside artists among others. Much better stuff than the tacky sign. As for the Swahili, if the neighborhood was filled with Swahili speaking immigrants maybe. But not everybody in the neighborhood (black or white) even celebrates Kwanzaa. Why not a gang tag instead of a sign? that would be more authentic and artistic. The only joyful gathering I remember there was the open market for drugs in the snow foods parking lot.

Margaret said...

I am pretty sure that hand lettered signs are against code in Minneapolis. Although the ordinance isn't really enforced judging from West Broadway. I guess they made an exception for Karamu too.