“The city is ripe for taking over.” Marjaan Sirdar

 

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I interviewed Marjaan on June 11, 2016, during the two weeks between the death of Muhammad Ali and what would have been the 45th birthday of the late Tupac Shakur. He was thinking about them both as we talked and then edited this piece.

I was born in Chicago in 1979. We were essentially homeless – although I didn’t realize it until I worked with homeless youth in Minneapolis thirty years later. My father, an immigrant from Pakistan, was struggling to find work. My mom was busting her butt working at a Department Store, but it wasn’t enough. Mom, my older brother and I lived with my grandma for a while. I was one years old when we first went to stay with my grandfather in Minnesota.

My grandfather ended up in Minnesota because he was sent to Federal prison in Sandstone. He was a minister in the Nation of Islam. He opened up the first Mosque in Kansas City in the late 60s. According to him his conviction was a FBI set up. I’m not sure the real story. His wife moved to Minnesota to be near him when he was incarcerated and when he got out they settled in Bloomington.

We moved nearly ten times before I was five. My mom and dad were trying to work it out but mom was determined not to have us grow up in Chicago. She grew up in the Nation of Islam in a Black middle class bubble on the south side . She watched as Chicago grew more violent from the 60s to the 70s and didn’t want her children to end up dead or in jail. My father left permanently, a month before I turned four, back home to Pakistan. We finally settled in Plymouth, MN when it was time for me to go to kindergarten.

I went to a Wayzata district school from kindergarten until 6th grade. Very wealthy and White. Good academically. Very isolating socially. We moved to Bloomington in 1991. They put me in remedial classes so I didn’t learn anything, but I liked it because I was with other kids of color. At Kennedy High School I skipped class, smoked weed, got kicked out of school for fighting, but I graduated.

The thing that saved me when I was a kid was hip hop, not the 1990s commercial stuff but the late 1980s artists. They–and my mom — instilled in me a sense of self-pride.

I went to Inver Grove Heights for college for a couple semesters. Didn’t get much work done. I lived with other college kids and we hung out and partied. I hardly worked, just sold drugs mostly. I began going out with a girl I’d know since junior high and eventually I moved in with her back to Bloomington.

I started working at a warehouse in Edina. I was making good money. I knew people with college degrees working at Perkins.  I decided college made no sense. My coworkers were working class conservative white men. There was one guy there who was kinda radical and he turned me on to Democracy Now. For the nine years that I worked at the warehouse I listened everyday, Monday through Friday, while at work. And I argued politics with my coworkers, customers and my boss. It politicized me.  I learned how to debate and hold my ground, arguing with people listening to conservative talk radio. We discussed the news of the day from 9/11, through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to when Barak Obama ran for president.

In 2007, I bought my own house in the Bryant neighborhood, a historically African American community in South Minneapolis, where Prince lived and went to school as a kid. I was 28 years old,eager to get out of the suburbs and be in a Black neighborhood. To get away from conservatives. To meet liberals. Boy was I in for a surprise.

I got a six-week job working in Keith Ellison’s 2008 relection campaign. I canvassed and door knocked. It was exciting. I loved the people working on his campaign. Multicultural, multiracial, Muslims, Christians, Jews, old and young, Ellison was bringing them together. At that time I was drinking Obama’s Koolaid. I related to his life story. My father was an immigrant like his.

It was a bittersweet time in my life. In 2008 my brother was diagnosed with cancer. He had his leg amputated at Mayo clinic the day before Obama’s first inauguration and just days before I turned 30. I stopped looking for work because my brother was getting sicker and sicker. He died April 18, 2009. I grieved for a while, not working.

When I started to look for work in non-profits I discovered most of them required a college degree. I applied for a job at a welfare-to-work agency in St. Paul. I killed the interview and they hired me. I was dressing up to go to work, learning new skills and getting good feedback. It felt good. Until one day, they told me I was fired for “lying on the job application about my criminal record.”

But I didn’t lie. I had told them about the DWI and drug offense, neither of which wer felonies. The courts had my criminal record mixed up with my brother who had just passed.

They wouldn’t even check to see if I was telling the truth. I was the only Black man working there. I knew if I was a White woman — like most of them — they would have listened to me and checked my story. I would’ve been innocent until proven guilty. Their attitude was: “I knew you were too good to be true.” That was my introduction to social services.

I enrolled at MCTC the following year. I was 31 years old. It was the greatest thing I ever did. The professors were great and so were the students. Soon after I got a job working with homeless youth. My education into the world of liberal social services continued. My coworkers and bosses were all White folks, most of whom grew up in small towns, went to college and wanted to do good. Their first experience with people of color was in this position of power. They embraced the social service charity model and ignored systemic racism. They’d say “we can’t change the world.” Almost all of our clients were Black.

I ended up arguing with them like I did the warehouse workers. I learned that I preferred the conservatives. Racism among liberals comes out in bizarre ways. Micro-aggressions. They would never admit their racism. At least the conservatives were honest.

It is a crime that in this rich liberal city, people who look like me are struggling, youth are homeless. The youth I worked with were some of the most talented and brilliant people. Some were high school educated, some were not. The majority were Black, almost all people of color. The same system that controlled their ancestors under slavery and Jim Crow was still keeping them down. Poverty and homelessness are completely intertwined with the history of racism.

The system is fucked up. It keeps people in poverty, gives them just enough to make deals to find a place to stay. Two hundred dollars in food stamps is not enough for anyone to survive; $200 dollars in cash assistance – those are death wages. There was a white homeless population who traveled across the country, from the west coast, who chose a hobo punk rock lifestyle, but the folks of color were not choosing it. They became homeless because a they were in section 8 housing and they turned 18 and were kicked out of their family homes because the system did not allow that many adults to live in one apartment. They might have trouble getting on the lease because of a criminal record.

They didn’t want hand outs. They wanted work. Some were unable to due to mental illness. Some ended up homeless because their families couldn’t deal with their mental illness but others acquired mental disorders as a result of the trauma associated with homelessness. None of them asked to be there.
These youth experienced so much trauma: one night in the shelter, the next on the streets getting raped or selling their bodies for a place to stay, then back in a shelter, acting like nothing happened. Young men as well as women, selling their bodies for a place to stay. A couple bags of groceries was useful to them because they could barter food for a place to stay. They get thrown in jail for the crime of being homeless. The city of Minneapolis was always trying to get rid of them so they could bring white suburban dollars and attract well-off buyers of new condos downtown.

In addition to racism these experiences helped me to reflect on my own complex class background. I grew up in low-income housing with other poor Black, Native, Asian and White people but surrounded by a middle class White community with all its resources. I had access to the education, and was within walking distance of everything we needed, even if we couldn’t afford it all. My father came from one of the poorest countries in the world but his family was rich. They lived in gated communities with servants. My mother grew up in the Nation of Islam, socially well-respected people. She went to a private Nation of Islam school named after her grandmother. She lived in a Black middle class bubble. She was a good kid who never drank or smoked. Her kids on the other hand, grew up in the Twin Cities suburbs and were exposed to drugs and gangs at the age of 11-12, stuffed she was shielded from growing up.

My mother had middle class values she passed on to us. She would say “Just because we are poor doesn’t mean we have to act like it. We hold our head high with dignity. We come from great people.” Those values helped me out in life, but I recognize them now as classist in nature. Today I am very much middle class but I identify as working class. That is where my allegiance lies.

My neighborhood is historically black. I am surrounded by small African American churches. But if you go a few blocks west you are in Kingfield — all White, supposedly progressive – but not many people look like me. Go ten blocks south and you have those big mansions on the parkway. I hate it. I really hate Minneapolis.

But I am attached. I don’t know anything other than the Twin Cities. I feel an obligation to change it. At the same time its a big burden to put on anybody. Especially people of color. We didn’t create the problem. How many of my White peers wake up feeling an obligation to change their city? Those who do are friends of mine. I have managed to create community with them.

I hate and am attached to America in the same way. I hate this country because this country has always hated us. I idolized Muhammad Ali as a kid for standing up to White American racism. His values are alive inside me today . My story is very American.

In kindergarten my teacher told me I didn’t have to pledge allegiance to the flag because she knew we were from the Nation of Islam. It kind of alienated me because I sat there while the other kids stood up, but it set me apart in a good way too.

There was always an anti-imperialist sentiment in my household. My mother’s second husband was Ethiopian. Her best friend was Palestinian. At ten years old we were in solidarity with Palestine. In 6th grade current events class I was the only one who knew who Yasser Arafat was. We have always been internationalists.

So I organize. Listening to Democracy Now in my 20s, I romanticized organizing. When I moved into Bryant Neighborhood I assumed my house would be worth less over the years. I never thought White people would be moving to the neighborhood. I never saw White people there until the bike paths came. Black and Brown people have been riding bikes for decades, but when White people start doing it, because gas prices are rising, because they want to lower their carbon foot print, we get bike paths in the street, Park-and-Rides in the suburbs and bike lanes cutting across Black and Brown communities.

Now the White people are moving in, running, biking, walking dogs, pushing strollers. Now we have the coop, the yoga studio, a Spanish immersion day-care where the Urban League office was for 40 years. I want Black people to have organic food, yoga, and Spanish immersion, but they can’t afford it. Its pricing people of color out of their neighborhood.

You ask, am I a gentrifier? Growing up in the suburbs I craved a Black community to be a part of. I wanted this to be my community. I didn’t join one of the churches that surround me because I’m not a Christian. (I was taught that Christianity was the White man’s religion. I believed that until I took Keith Mayes Black history course and learned about the Revolutionary role of the Black church in Black liberation movements.) Now I am slowly building relationships, to organize with those Black churches right outside my door. So yes ,in many ways I am a gentrifier. But I like to think I did not come to the neighborhood and ask it to change for me.

I challenge White people who say to me they have a right to live wherever they want to live. Because Black and Brown people don’t have the right, the access, to live wherever they want to live. I like to push back on people. They don’t realize when they come into a community they come with a lot of social capital. They might not intend to change the community but they do. When White people show up in waves, those communities change to accommodate their families.

I joined the Bryant Neighborhood organization when I heard about the coop coming in. Now three years later I am the chair the Bryant Neighborhood Organization. We have a big pot of money, $500,000 . It has been used for home loans, home improvement loans. It has not been used to protect people from foreclosure. We want to recruit Black and Brown people to buy homes by creating a first-time home buyer loan. If they live there for ten years the loan is forgiven. We want people to stay in the neighborhood. We don’t want people flipping homes. We have an emergency fund for people with very low-interest, but unfortunately most of the people who use it are white. So getting the word out is important. Our neighborhood organization has operated like a social club for many years. We are finally hiring staff. Radical organizers. We are creating a land-use committee to make decisions about new development. We have talent in the community that we can use to build the development the people want and need.

There is a difference between white organizers and organizers of color. Whites organize to organize. We organize around issues that directly impact our lives. Sick Pay. $15 minimum wage, restore the vote, drivers licenses for the undocumented. But it is harder to get Black and Brown people to mobilize. We are struggling with survival. We don’t have time. And now I do. I feel powerful as an adult. I’m learning how to step up and use my power.

In my 20s I wanted to be Che Guevara or Malcolm X. Eventually I got this idea of teaching. I’m not going to be the next Che Guevara but I could teach the next generation of freedom fighters. I’d rather be working with youth than going to meetings with adults.

I want to indoctrinate kids to teach them to believe in themselves. I know indoctrination is a controversial word but you need to realize the kids are already indoctrinated with White supremacy. We need to challenge that dominate message. The Black Panthers, when they had their free breakfast program, they were indoctrinating kids, teaching them Black love, pride and Black History. They had them singing songs the kids didn’t understand but eventually they would.

I want to be the teacher who teaches kids how to destroy education. The government created education to grow an obedient citizenry with a false nationalist identity. A false sense of unity when in reality you have all these marginalized groups. There is nothing more critical than to teach kids to question nationalism, to question patriotism, to question the education system.
So that is why I am in school. To get a master’s degree in education. We’ll see how much I like teaching. I may hate it.

If you are committed to changing the system you will probably have to hate some of it. But then, just like the city you hate and the neighborhood you love… there will be the kids….

Yes. Direct service is my passion — working with kids. Teaching high school history. Teaching kids about the history of resistance. But I will have to challenge the administration, organize faculty, like I have done with every other job.
Because there is so much wealth here and so many poor people, we are in some ways ground zero in this new movement. The new Montgomery. And that is why I need to be organizing here. It is where the struggle is.

Here is a predication. There is going to be a power shift in this next few local elections. The young activists in Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Immigrant rights are going to be moving into positions of political power. The city is ripe for taking over.

All these things I was ashamed of growing up: being poor, Black, Muslim, son of an immigrant, I have learned to find power in those things. I think that is the definition of being an adult. Owning your past and using it to be who you want to be.

Minneapolis Project. 

 

Isaac Reed. In Divided Minneapolis, Seeking Space to be Unique and find Unity.

Isaac Reed Age 17

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I interviewed Isaac at 9am on Sunday morning, June 12, 2016. As he got ready to leave, we hugged. When the door closed I checked my phone. Someone on Facebook had posted: “ If you know a young GLBTQ person of Color, please give them a hug and tell them how important they are.” I thought, “Cool! I just did that!” Then I read on, hearing for the first time about Orlando.

Who Am I? I am unique. I am not a normal story. I have two moms and a sister. I’m gay. I’m adopted from India and I grew up in a white wealthy neighborhood. I could care less about sports. In the last year I lost one of my moms and two grandparents. I wake up at 5am. I go to bed at 8:30pm I am not a typical teenager .

I was born in Calcutta, India and adopted into a two-mom family in Minneapolis. I came home when I was 6 months old. I’ve been told it was sweltering when we got to Minneapolis, but I was fine with it since it was like that where I came from. My mom Jan was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before I was adopted, so I never knew her without her cancer. There was a point where she was in remission, but that was only for a short time. She passed away last May. It’s been a rough year.

I was two years old on 9/11.  When President Obama was elected I was in fifth grade. I was so excited. It was historic.  In retrospect his election was a mixed bag. We still have a long way to go.They didn’t show the inauguration at Armatage elementary school. They showed it at Kenny and a bunch of other schools. My mom was upset they decided not to show it at my school.

I was  14 when we got marriage equality in Minnesota. My moms always told me they were married in their hearts and that was what mattered. It was interesting to see different people in our community making the decision to get married or not. It is so important to have a choice. Still, for full equality, we have a long way to go.

My mom Cindy, got together with someone shortly after my mom Jan died and I really like her. Her name is Kristin. It is hard for people to understand that even though Kristin is in our family, we still love and miss Jan everyday. She was a wonderful mother, and I feel incredibly blessed to have gotten 16 years with her.

I have a sister, age 15. She was also adopted from the same orphanage in Calcutta- IMH, International Mission of Hope. She was born with bleeding in the brain which led to cerebral palsy so she uses a wheel chair to get around. When I describe her to someone I try not to say “she’s the one in the wheel chair.” That like saying, “he’s the fat kid.” But its hard. That is the description that people first see. My sister and I are incredibly close. I love her so so much. She is my best friend, and I couldn’t be in this world without her. She is a guiding force in my life.

I recently went back to India with an organization that specializes in trips for people who have been adopted.  I was going to go with my mom, Jan, before she died. I went with my aunt, Beth, Jan’s sister, instead.

I have a twin, born and brought into the orphanage the same day. We don’t know if we are biological twins. He lives in Boston. He grew up with a strong Indian influence. He lives with his mom and his sister. I grew up watching American cartoons and using a dishwasher while he grew up reading Bollywood comics and eating Indian food. When I told him I was going to India he was indifferent – like, “Well good for you’.

My knowledge of India before I went was all things I made up in my head, like dirt roads. To see the truth of it was incredible. One of the things I enjoyed most was being with other kids who looked liked me and had my American experiences. They knew what a double cheeseburger was.  We could talk about Dunkin Doughnuts. Usually when I meet someone from India they have an accent and family ties in India. We look alike but we don’t have anything else in common.

I went to Calcutta, where my orphanage (INH) was. I met a man who was adopted through INH, who moved back to Calcutta as an adult and started an adoption alternative, Foster Care India.

Turns out INH was corrupt. They burned  their papers including birth certificates.  There are no documents left about my birth. It is a huge mystery.  The only thing good about INH was the superb care we got.  They focused on premature babies. If a girl got pregnant and she wasn’t married, they induced labor at 6 months so no one would know she was pregnant. When I was born I weighed one pound, five ounces.

In Minneapolis I don’t know adoptees from India but I do know many adopted kids. We have a social network of adoptees with two-mom families.

***

I live in Southwest Minneapolis and go to South High School which isn’t in my school zone. I disagreed with my parents decision to send me to South and I still do. My parents  thought I would  have better Special Ed. supports. I have ADHD, depression, anxiety. Teachers always say I m great, I’m smart but I don’t finish assignments.

In Middle School I had a tough time and hopped schools : Anthony, Minneapolis Academy, Folwell, and back to Anthony, All of them were White schools except for Folwell. So it was pretty amazing at South to see people who looked like me. We have a Native American program that is incredible.  Beautiful. I have friends in it.

I grew up in a very different neighborhood than where South is. My neighborhood is 95% Caucasian. 95% two parents, two kids, a dog and a cat. I feel really safe. We don’t worry about locking our doors. I take it for granted that I can walk outside at ten at night and not worry about anything. (Although people don’t walk in my neighborhood unless they are walking their dog.)

So it is interesting to go to South. I see people on the streets. There is a bus line that people actually use.  Going to South has made me realize that people don’t all live in the fantasy world I live in. I think it has made me a better person.

Being at South has broadened my perspective but it has also isolated me socio-economically. It’s hard to switch over. When I say “I’m going to Hawaii for Spring break” my friends say “ I’m going to take care of my little brothers.” I can choose not to tell them things like that, but they can tell where I come from. I show up in my own car… If I make a friend, its hard to get them to come over to my house. It’s an hour bus ride for them.

Even after three years it’s still hard.

I have not joined the GLBT group at South. There are only five people in it. I don’t want to be confined to those five people. At Southwest they have a large group. More than 20, I think. People are dating each other. I would like to date someone of the same sex. That is not happening at South. Right now I don’t really have friends at Southwest or Washburn either. So I spend a lot of time alone.

I’m not in any clubs at South. I may join the South dance team next year. For eight years I was involved in Young Dance, a city youth dance company. On Saturdays we’d be downtown. Other days we rehearsed at Barton school. I did it until my sister got involved and it became her thing and not mine anymore.

This summer I am taking a course at the Loft with a StarTrib journalist. I am excited. I enjoy all kinds of music except country. I love the Hamilton Soundtrack. I love Broadway soundtracks. The Indigo Girls speak my truth. I danced with them on stage when I was 10 years old.

I am focused on my future. I have two different plans. One is to be an Occupational Therapist working with people with permanent special needs like my sister. The other is to be a Foreign Service Officer and work in a place like Baghdad. I like that whole embassy experience. I’d like to say there’s a reason behind that Foreign Service Officer thing that is meaningful and moving but the truth is I watched the TV show Homeland and thought it’d be really fun.

Someday I’d also like to go back to India and do something like Foster Care India.

For college I want to stay around here — family distance. Maybe Mankato, Winona State, UW Schools, Hope College in Michigan — it has a good Occupational therapy program and I know someone from the India trip who went there.

I go to Church on Diamond Lake – UCC. My mom Jan is buried  in a columbarium there. Its a place where her ashes are – and a plaque. It’s a mixed bag going there now. Lots of support – but its a constant reminder.. .

I think my sleep habits are a reaction to grief. I don’t want to join a grief group at South. I feel like we would just all sit around and cry. I don’t want to be stuck in that place. And I might not have anything else in common with the others…..

One time that I felt a sense of community at South is when I participated in a Black Lives Matter walkout. We walked in the middle of the street from South to Martin Luther King Park where we met up with other schools. It got on the national news and helped change the story. I felt like, wow, we really can make a change. It was powerful. You know, if one person walks out, they get suspended, but they can’t suspend 500 students. We all were there for one purpose,for something we really believed in. I felt like we were unified ….

Hmmm. I think I just talked myself into going to a grief group.

Minneapolis Project. 

4th precinct Occupation Built Community in Ways that Can’t be Bulldozed

 


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Photo on the march from the 4th precinct to City Hall in Minneapolis on November 24, 2015.

 In the early hours of December 3rd the city destroyed the occupation of the 4th precinct in Minneapolis.  But they can’t bulldoze a movement .

People  lived outside of the 4th precinct North Minneapolis police station for 18 days, breathing campfire smoke, eating whatever was offered as an unusually mild Minnesota November has turned into a wintry December.

It was an intense protest — like fasting, or marching hundreds of miles — illustrating a deep and unmoving commitment to uprooting an unjust status quo.

The injustice here is a system that sanctioned the killing of an unarmed Black man– Jamar Clark — by police. The protest demanded — and won — a federal investigation and release of the names of the police officers.  A key demand — release of the video tape of the killing — has not been met.  Other demands for deep structural changes, including an end to grand juries, removal of  Police federation President Kroll and investigation of his and other officer ties to white supremacists groups, and reclamation of the 4th precinct site to rebuild the community center that once was there,  are developing as people are continuing to imagine and plan how to move to justice. 

The subsequent criminalization of protesters by police and the mayor; the silence of police officers not involved in the shooting; the light charging of White men who shot protesters;  added dimensions to the struggle for justice.

The 4th precinct occupation itself, uncovered the depth and breadth of the criminal injustice system.

One of the strengths of the occupation was  its ability to engage people near and far with many different abilities and resources.

  • There were daily requests for food, wood, hot water, social media support.
  • Activists held diverse events at the site: a vigil, march, church service, Thanksgiving dinner, concert, daily meetings a funeral. East African and Latino communities and organized labor held support rallies on site and middle school students from nearby Anwatin public school marched to the precinct.
  • Support actions offsite allowed thousands of people to play a part, including those far from Minnesota who have  bought a meal, or sent a message of solidarity.
  • Marches connecting Minneapolis, Chicago with local struggles have taken place in New York City, Buffalo, Tampa and many other cities.
  • The National NAACP came and led a vigil.  A Hip Hop legend stopped by to lend his support.

Every one of these connections big and small  built community.  This is the  immeasurable strength of the occupation, evidenced in stories that need to be gathered.  No wonder the powers that be wanted the occupation to end.

I spent one day at the 4th precinct, the day after White terrorists shot five protesters.  I arrived at 7:30 AM.  It was quiet — a half dozen people awake, an equal number still sleeping in sleeping bag lumps.  Seagulls– an unusual sight in Minneapolis — hovered together outside the cement blockade, apparently attracted to smells of food.

Three men who witnessed the attacks the night before stood around the fire reciting reasons why they believed the shooters had to be connected in some way to the police — They noted the lag time of police response to a crime taking place in front of their noses, and to the fact that they maced the  protesters  when they did arrive –criminalizing the victims of the attack.  A young woman who’d been there all night said when they heard the shots and screams they thought their friends had been killed.  “We sat in a prayer circle for an hour.”

By 9AM people began to come.  From 9 to noon this is what I saw:

  • Black men holding down the fort, staffing food tables, feeding fires.
  • People of all races dropping off food.  Four dozen bagels and cream cheese.  Hot cereal in a huge pot.  Egg sandwiches.
  • Four people on a sleeping bag down on the sidewalk meditating.
  • Two women singing in perfect gospel harmony, and a group swarming around them.
  • A woman in her fifties cornering a man wearing a green Mad Dads shirt. “I’m trying to stay peaceful, but I’m getting angry” she said again and again.  She had come down to get help channeling her anger.
  • Two young men, Black and White, talked history. One traced the road from  slavery to the old and then new Jim Crow. The other talked about Chinese workers who died building a railroad.   “We don’t learn about that.  That’s what whiteness is — an erasure.”

By 12:30 it was a different place — full of people, cameras, national  media.    Testifiers were now using megaphones.  A statement was read to the press.  A march was scheduled to begin at 2pm.  By 1:50 there were already too many people to hold in one place so we  marched around the precinct, through alleyways.  Neighbors came out on their stoops and joined in chants.  The back of the precinct was filled with cop cars and cops.

When the march began to move down Plymouth Avenue, it swelled in size, covering one block…  then two blocks… then more than three.

We marched all the way downtown, causing the shuttering of federal and local government buildings.  Over a thousand people.  Plus three hundred who stayed at the precinct, and another several hundred students around the city who walked out of their schools in protest.

When I returned to the precinct I could barely stand up, but the concert for Jamar in front of the precinct had begun and the music, the children picking out winter hats and mittens from the gigantic box of donations, the free dinner for three thousand, the singing and dancing, were intoxicating. As the Sounds of Blackness sang their movement anthem Black Lives Matter, I leaned on my husband who had joined me, managing to stay upright for another half hour, my awe at the stamina of those living at the 4th precinct growing by the moment.

When we walked back to our car, passersby greeted us on the side-walk.  Instead of “hello” they said,

“Black Lives Matter.”

“Black Lives Matter” we replied.

 

The occupation is over. The  movement continues. The Rally at 4pm  December 3 at Minneapolis City Hall  filled to the rafters 

 

#Jamar Clark, David Carr and two Minneapolis nights.

 

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A storied past. If we live long enough, we all have one, full of ups and downs.  As the story of Jamar Clark’s life and death emerges, as the best forces in my city fill the streets to demand justice for a man murdered by police, as sources gather to piece together what happened on one Minneapolis street on one Minneapolis night, I keep thinking about another Minneapolis story.

I keep thinking about David Carr, a man, who unlike Jamar Clark, lived long enough to tell his story.

Carr told  of one Minneapolis night when he wanted a drug fix so bad he left his two infant children alone in a car in the winter while he went into an apartment and got himself high. Carr went on – just months later — to become a parent advice columnist(!) and then later celebrated journalist and writer, whose death from sudden illness was mourned by millions.

We all deserve second chances, chances to tell our side of the story; for people to know the complexities of our realities; to heal.   David Carr had that chance.  I am so glad he did. I was one of the readers of his advice column who took strength from his stories as a new parent.  Carr had a louder megaphone than most of us can ever dream of having. Jamar Clark was killed and then his killers were given the megaphone to tell his story!  

In the tales of these two men, on two Minneapolis nights, is the story of a city divided by race and class, without equal justice.  Only in the streets,  united, our numbers multiplying the amplification, do we have the possibility of telling a true tale of a Minneapolis night of tragedy; of changing Minneapolis’ storied past of deep structural injustices; of building the One Minneapolis we seek.  As new details of Jamar Clark’s story emerge, it is up to his survivors — ALL OF US —  to create a healing end.

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Minneapolis and the World Need Less Policing, more Humanity

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On Sunday November 15, at 1AM  in Minneapolis police shot and killed a young Black man, Jamar Clark.. A protest began at 3pm on November 15 at the site of the shooting. Protesters demanded a release of the surveillance video, federal investigation, and arrest of the officers involved.   An occupation of the 4th precinct  continues as I write.  On the evening of November 16 protestors shut down of  I94  freeway for a couple hours, ending with the arrest of  40 activists including Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds.  Mayor Hodges requested a federal investigation this afternoon. The video has yet to be released. Witnesses say the man was handcuffed. Police say otherwise. Protesters fear tampering with the video. The occupation of the 4th precinct will continue until the demands are met. Tents have been set up outside the precinct, and a makeshift kitchen. Food and money donations are desired. 

#Occupy4thprecinct #Justice4Jamar

The last few days I have laid on my couch overcoming the flu. In my fevered state the stories of suicide bombers in Paris, Beirut and Iraq, and the death of the young man Jamar Clark, killed by a  Minneapolis police officer, overlapped. Among the clammer, a speech in my Facebook feed by Angela Davis celebrating  historian John Hope Franklin provided startling clarity among the din.

“We need more historically-minded people,” Davis said.

She did not mean people with their heads in the past, but those who see their present lives connected to past unfinished business  and a future bearing the fruits of their time on earth. They are not afraid to demand what can’t be achieved in their life time. Cognizant of historical roots of current problems, they  envision the future we need and a path to get there.

Davis illustrated what she meant, repeating the goals of her life work:  abolition of the prison system and law enforcement as we know it. “Take the guns from the police” she said. She does not believe her demands will happen in her life time, yet she paints for us a future in which security is based on the fulfillment of our needs for health, education, housing…

Events of the last days illustrate the wisdom of Davis’ vision. Law enforcement on November 15 did not provide security for a woman, a man or a neighborhood in North Minneapolis.

Police can’t address unmet human needs for decent jobs, affordable housing and well-funded schools  that would provide real security, but our tax dollars redirected can.

On a global level, Davis’ definition of security is as salient. As Mayors and Governors in the U.S. and World Leaders rush to build armies and police forces to “provide security” and  invoke America’s ugliest past by barring  Syrian refugees they deny the obvious.  Violence begets  violence.  We do not need to look very far back –– 9/11, Iraqi war! —  to understand that it will only make our future less secure.

#Occupy4thprecinct

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