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Rondo Block Party Celebrates Restoration

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Organizers of the Rondo Block Party pose for a photo (Courtesy of Rondo Block Party)

Rondo Community Land Trust is the first commercial land trust in Minnesota. It was created in 1993 to restore home ownership and economic power to the Rondo neighborhood. This year marks its 30th anniversary of commitment to building back a better Rondo. To celebrate, it’s hosting a public block party on July 22 featuring BIPOC- owned food trucks, a beer garden, live musical performances and interactive community art projects.

Rondo was a thriving predominantly Black neighborhood in Saint Paul that was all but destroyed by the city of Saint Paul’s decision to place the I-94 highway through the community. Construction took place between 1958 to 1968, displacing many Black residents with little or no compensation. The massive upheaval undercut the community’s economic power. Rondo CLT’s Executive Director Mikeya Griffin says the organization is committed to creating opportunities for Saint Paul residents to bring their families and businesses back to Rondo. She says it’s the bare minimum of what the once bustling community deserves.

“It's important to reestablish our history and what was lost to us,” said Griffin. “We are resilient people. We all know that there are barriers, we know what the system is. And so to move towards us back to that whole interdependent economy that we had - that's village, and that's community. I just want to move away from the perception that it can't be done.”

Griffin says community land trusts are a reflection of Black resilience. The first community land trust – New Communities, INC – started in the 60s in Albany, Georgia. During the Civil Rights movement, Black sharecroppers lost their homes and jobs in retaliation for fighting for their civil rights. In response, activists raised a million dollars to help Black sharecroppers buy farmland and work it cooperatively.

Now, there are over 350 Community Land Trusts across the nation. Griffin says with the Rondo CLT, the political and economic power is in the hands of the people.

“I believe land holds political and economic power,” said Griffin. “With the community land trust model, it is collective ownership of land. It's shared equity. Our job is to ensure that whatever ownership the community has, whether that's collectively holding the land together, or if someone owns their individual home, like what are we doing to help you capitalize on that asset? If we hold land, the community is deciding what they want to see and not see. If someone's coming in, they have to comply with that.”

The Rondo Community Land Trust’s 30th anniversary block party takes place Saturday, July 22 from 1-4 pm at 1041 Selby Ave in St. Paul.

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