Photo taken at May 1 2015 demonstration at the corner of Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street in front of the Kmart where immigrant rights and Black Lives Matter marches met and became one.
Two years ago I invited my Race and Public Policy class to my home for the final session. The way things worked out, a few students had not presented their policy proposals. They needed a TV to project their powerpoint. I did not own a TV.
Or a car.
“No problem” by partner said, and he hopped on the 4th Ave bus to the Lake street Kmart. Within an hour he emerged from a taxi with a digital TV.
Thirty years ago when we lived on 32nd and 3rd Ave, Kmart was six blocks away. We didn’t have a car then either and we shopped there regularly. A few years later we moved to an apartment building off of 34th and Chicago, by Powderhorn Park. At that time we had a car, a baby and the gift of a cloth diaper service, but we found that pampers at night made the difference between sleeping and not sleeping. Emergency trips to Kmart for diapers were common.
More recently my school social work husband has taken to running to Kmart to buy emergency clothing for middle school kids caught with embarrassing stains or simply no clothing. Last time he did that I asked him to pick me up a pair of jeans. Dreaded shopping done.
My family’s use of Kmart is basically irrelevant to this debate, except that it may help explain why I know how important it is in South Minneapolis if you live without car.
If you walk into the Lake street store you will immediately notice that it is bilingual space. Those iconic announcements to Kmart shoppers are made in accented English and native Spanish. The parking lot is usually not full because many shoppers don’t have cars. They walk, bike and haul Kmart bags on buses on Lake and First Avenue. I imagine that many of the people who work as prep cooks, dish washers and store cleaners at all those sweet little restaurants north on “Eat Street” and those new cafes and coffee shops opening up south of the store on Nicollet, shop at Kmart.
I don’t think Kmart is a progressive employer or buyer of goods. But as long as big box stores are a necessity for basics like diapers and inexpensive clothing and those big ticket items like TVs we occasionally purchase, we need these stores to be accessible to all. I ask those who are crying to get rid of it — do you shop at a big box store? If so, do you have right to take away the only one that is accessible to your neighbors?
Maybe I’m off base. I suggest someone from City Hall who speaks Spanish go talk to people who work and shop there before they make a decision.
I do think there are other agendas that City Hall and the Minnesota legislature need to attend to first. The #Mplsworks agenda of living wages, regular work schedules and sick days will make it possible for people to afford the time and transportation costs to go elsewhere.
Passing legislation for drivers’ licenses for all, will help non-citizens who shop at Kmart get to another store.
Given all we need to do to #ReclaimOurCity, getting rid of the Kmart on Lake Street seems like a strange priority.