World Law Day

Today is World Law Day.

Never heard of it?  You’re excused.  But beginning May 1, 1964, a group of citizen activists in Minnesota held the first World Law Day dinner, then annually through 1988, and sporadically thereafter, the dinners were held, always well attended and appreciated.  Then, after a hiatus of some years, the series began again in 2013, thence through 2019, all at the Gandhi Mahal restaurant at 27th and Lake Street in Minneapolis.  The 2020 and now 2021 events didn’t happen due to the pandemic.

Fire destroyed Gandhi Mahal on May 29, 2020.  To my knowledge no one has been arrested about this specific fire.

On this day, May 1, 2021, the site of Gandhi Mahal is a vacant lot surrounded by a fence of bamboo grass, a place being prepared for resurrection at some point; a monument to resilience.  If you wish to note this years World Law Day, drive by the site sometime this weekend.  It is a peaceful place.  Today I am hoping to visit Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandhi Mahal, at the site of the restaurant.  I have visited the site numerous times in the past year.

All “days” like “World Law Day” are artificial constructs, of course.

There is still an official U.S. Law Day on May 1.  The first U.S. Law Day was declared by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958, and was codified by Joint Resolution of Congress in 1961 (U.S. Code Title 36 Section 113).  It was an idea from the American Bar Association.  Here’s a summary of its history.

It was a very short leap for citizens to expand the idea of Law Day to World Law Day.  Our world is complex and interconnected in now-innumerable ways.  We are a community.  Chaos is prevented by systems of laws, rules and regulations.

My friend Lynn Elling (dec. 2016) was involved in the first World Law Day in 1964, and ongoing.  In 2012, he lobbied hard to resurrect the World Law Day dinner at a favored restaurant of his, the Gandhi Mahal.  Thus it began and continued.

The 2013 Law Day speaker was David Brink, then 93, and past-president of the Hennepin County, Minnesota and American Bar Associations between 1967 and 1982.

David Brink, World Law Day May 1, 2013, Gandhi Mahal restaurant Minneapolis.

The most recent speaker, in 2019, was Jim Nelson, who talked on the history of World Law Day as about the attendant history of the United Nations Association of Minnesota and Citizens for Global Solutions.

Every year had very well informed speaker, and an equally well-informed audience.  I always marveled at the dynamics of the audience: there was always enthusiastic conversation at the tables before the speaker; always good questions; enthusiasm at the end….

Events are never easy to plan or execute.  I’m grateful that Lynn Elling had the determination to continue the long-standing tradition, and I hope it resumes in 2022.

The 2020 event, which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, would have featured R. Padre Johnson, who held a one-man show of art at the United Nations in 1992.  His art was incredible.  Here is the cover of his book about the family of humankind, which includes his art.

Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandhi Mahal, welcomed us at all of the World Law Day celebrations.  Here is a photo of him at the first.

Ruhel Islam, May 1, 2013

Obviously I hope the events resume next year…and at a new Gandhi Mahal.  “Esprit” gatherings like these World Law Day dinners have been are very important.  Lynn Elling and Ruhel Islam, very active in his south Minneapolis community, made it work.  Special thanks to both of them.

Here’s the latest photo I have of Ruhel – a screen shot of a Zoom gathering Friday morning.  Today, later, I’ll meet him at the site of the future rebuild of the successor Gandhi Mahal.  The second photo was taken on Thursday.

Ruhel Islam gave the message online April 30. Apparently Ramadan is about mid-point.

Gandhi Mahal area Thursday morning April 29, 2021

The World Law Day speakers in the series that began in 2013:

2013 – David Brink; 2014 – a panel of young people moderated by Ehtasham Anwar, Fellow in the Human Rights Program at the UofM Law School.  Panelists were Md Abdullah Al Miraz, Emily Bilius, Stephen Eigenmann, Janelle Shoemake and Dr. Tea Rozman Clark (of Green Card Voices); 2015 – Annelee Woodstrom; 2016 – J. Drake Hamilton; 2017 – Shawn Otto; 2018 – Louisa Hext; 2019 – Jim Nelson; and 2020 (cancelled due to Covid-19) – R. Padre Johnson.

Lynn Elling (blue shirt) May 1, 2013, Gandhi Mahal Minneapolis MN

Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandhi Mahal, received a gift symbolizing the restaurant as a Peace Site on May 1, 2021. At Islam’s right is the flag of Bangladesh.  Ramadan 2021 is April 12 through May 12.

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