Who Am I?

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Minneapolis Interview Project

I was born in St. Paul, Minn., on July 1, 1948, at the end of the World War, and at the beginning of the decade of the Cold War, Red Scare, post war boom. I was taught that the boom was caused by the veterans getting low-cost schooling and low-cost mortgages as well as the fact that Europe, the Soviet Union and Japan were recovering from a devastating war.

My mother, Rachel Tilsen, was raised by her grandparents Marian and Arthur LeSueur, staunch Farmer Laborites, Socialists, Feminists and political activists, and her single mother, writer Meridel LeSueur, independent, feminist, environmentalist and futurist. My father, Ken Tilsen, grew up in St. Paul’s Selby Dale area, became a socialist along with most of the people he knew after serving in the Navy in World War II. He went to undergraduate and law school at the University of Minnesota, paying $28 a quarter on the GI bill, and went on to a life of defending and supporting those facing oppression, exploitation and repression.

My first real political work I remember was when my father was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Unamerican Activities in the early 1960s. As a 12-year-old with my father’s name in the paper, I was thrust into doing a lot of things I had never done before: speaking at rallies, designing leaflets, going to meetings and thinking about organizing strategy.

When my mother got involved in the Civil Rights movement— organizing Twin Cities housewives to go to Selma and hosting visiting SNCC workers among other things—, my sisters and I also got organized. We organized friends of SNCC, and sold tens of thousands of “brotherhood buttons,” little buttons with black and white clasped hands. We also got involved in the anti-war and emerging women’s liberation movement.

I attended college at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., and the University of Minnesota, after which I helped create and was an instructor at the Experimental College. There, in 1970, I met Barbara Sandstrom. We bought a house in South Minneapolis with eight friends, named it Bread and Roses Collective, and lived communally as we worked together on political theater, the Twin Cities Women’s Union, New American Movement, ending the war, creating a printshop and trying to mediate the co-op wars. Barbara and I have been together ever since, getting married in 1976. We have three brilliant children, who graduated from South High School, and now celebrate the joys of my life: four grandchildren.

I have spent my life working on making the world better. I have been involved in every election since 1968, managed four businesses, and worked as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospital systems, governments and colleges. I retired from HighJump Software in 2013.

I have the insight, and am ready to be a leader in repairing our city—in bringing public safety that is trusted by the entire community and is part of and trusts our diverse community.