I sat down with Diane Sims Page and Alan Page to discuss naming our performance venue the Alan Page Auditorium. They gave me a tour of their amazing collection of Jim Crow art and then inquired about my proposition. Naively, it hadn’t dawned on me that naming usually had a monetary component, but permission to recognize Justice Page was and is an honor. Alan Page embodies – through action, word, and deed – the mission, vision, and raison d’etre of the Mixed Blood Theatre and it has been our privilege to so dub our reconfigurable performance space.

There is a Middle School, a Foundation, and a theater bearing his name. Marathon runner, Supreme Court Justice, children’s book author, All-American football player, NFL Hall of Famer, NFL MVP, Pro Bowl defensive end, college national champion, elected official, U of M Regent, art collector, union rep, JD and doctorate recipient, orator, and so much more, Alan personifies all that I admire in a humane human. Father, grandfather, husband, and friend are his most cherished titles and achievements, which only magnifies my regard.

Oh yeah, last year Mixed Blood received two Ivey Awards. Justice Page received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For seven years I was fortunate to be the only non-lawyer on the Judicial Council’s “Racial Fairness In The Courts” committee, over which Alan and Justice Paul Anderson presided. I don’t know if I ever contributed meaningfully, but I never failed to learn at each meeting, not only about justice and disparities to those in the justice system, but about being a leader, thinker, and visionary.

In November of 2000, Governor Jesse Ventura joined me as the Mixed Blood Theatre declared its old firehouse’s biggest room The Alan Page Auditorium. A sign and framed photo have adorned the lobby, since coined Equity Hall, for the past 18+ years. One would think that there’d be a Dorian Gray-like portrait in a closet somewhere because Alan hasn’t aged a bit since that dedication.

Nonetheless, this Friday we recommit ourselves to the name that has brought us pride to proclaim since the turn of the millennium and will unveil a new photo of Justice Page and rededicate THE ALAN PAGE AUDITORIUM.

My career in nonprofits began when I was 22, but my first fundraising effort happened when I was nine!

I cut a picture of Cassius Clay from Sports Illustrated, pasted it onto a shoebox, cut a slit, wrote with magic marker “HELP FIGHT SONNY LISTON,” and went door to door collecting pennies, nickels, and dimes. (Cassius Clay went on to beat Sonny Liston in a legendary one minute fight and announced his name change to Muhammad Ali.)

I told my parents of my achievement, got sent to my room, and was told to decide to what charity I would send the $7.43 I had raised. From proud entrepreneur to punished fourth grader, I chose the only charity that advertised on TV: Radio Free Europe! (Radio Free Europe broadcast propaganda of democracy to people living under Communist rule in Europe.)

But for 43 years we at Mixed Blood have sought support for our mission and endeavors via direct mail, email, and eye-to-eye conversation. No advertising. Is that a problem? After all, Communism in Europe eventually came to an end and Mixed Blood hasn’t realized its mission yet. We seek the successful coexistence of peoples with differences and theater is our delivery system. Transform the American divide of us/them to one of we/we. Transform a culture of judgment to one of empathy.

Come see ROE, opening next week, or AUTONOMY, opening in May and playing for just four days. Make a judgment. Give a gift…or not. I hope you’ll be moved to do so.