Patricia Frazier-Hickman cared tirelessly

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2011 - 12:48 AM

Activist "was everyone's extended mother." She spent decades fighting for the disenfranchised.

Patricia Frazier-Hickman

Photo: Family Photo, Star Tribune

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For decades Patricia Frazier-Hickman was known as a tireless advocate unafraid to speak her mind at school board meetings and the State Capitol, but her small acts of kindness toward the disenfranchised are her true legacy, said a close friend.

Frazier-Hickman, 70, died on Sunday in the St. Paul home where she raised five children and countless others at the daycare she ran for 35 years.

"She was everyone's extended mother or big sister," said Yusef Mgeni, a longtime community activist who grew up with Frazier-Hickman. "She would stand in front of the school board and they would stop the clock when she was telling them how to do better by black children and families."

But Frazier-Hickman spent even more time behind the scenes helping everyday people navigate the welfare, criminal justice and governmental systems, said Mgeni, who recently retired as St. Paul Public Schools' director of educational equity.

"A lot of poor people don't know how to ask for help," Mgeni said. "She would interject herself into their lives" and provide that help.

Frazier-Hickman was born in Fergus Falls, Minn., and was raised in north and south Minneapolis before eventually moving to St. Paul. She came from a politically active family that descends from some of the state's earliest black settlers.

That legacy encouraged her to fight for educational and social equality, and she imparted that to her children and everyone she met, said daughter Robin Hickman. "She just taught us, her children and the village children, to take their rightful place in the world," Hickman said.

Frazier-Hickman cared for numerous children through the years, taking on kids whose parents couldn't afford daycare and keeping tabs on them long after they'd grown up.

Through the years she advocated for early childhood development, racially inclusive curriculum in public schools, diverse teacher hiring, civil rights, women's right and other causes. She served on several local and national organizations, including the National Black Child Development Institute.

"She served on more committees than Jimmy Carter had peanuts," Mgeni said.

Frazier-Hickman had been in failing health in the last decade, and although she could not run her daycare anymore, she was still calling community leaders to speak her mind.

She was hospitalized Nov. 5 and spent about a month there before returning home to spend the last few days of her life surrounded by family members and a carousel of visitors, including grown men and women she had once cared for as children. She died on Sunday from cancer, Mgeni said.

In addition to daughter Robin, she is survived by daughter Kellie Hickman and sons Robert Jr., Arthur (Kedar) and Aaron Hickman, six grandchildren and two of her six brothers, Arthur and Michael Frazier.

Robin Hickman said the funeral will be held at Emmanuel Tabernacle Church of God in Minneapolis, burial will be at Crystal Lake Cemetery in north Minneapolis and a celebration of Frazier-Hickman's life will be held in St. Paul. Times and dates are being determined.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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