With each year, I anticipate the hot blue sky and cool breeze that greets us when I step out on Plymouth Avenue overlooking a crowd of smiles and Black faces. The excitement propels me to rush the family’s pace. Days like this never cease to conjure that perfect moment when you experience several hours of aromatic grill encompassing the street, not so distant sounds of stage performances, and warm embraces from familiar friends and relatives. After visiting for several minutes, we made perfect time to witness remarkable talent at its best with Drill Team exhibitions and a stage cover by B-dot Croc. Events such as the Urban League Family Day invoke nostalgic romantic communal ideas that we spread across North Minneapolis as a being hallmark of the area. I look upon such an event as a tool that shape my experience of the Northside, yet, the starch reality of what consist of this great neighborhood vastly exceeds the 8 hours of tranquil beauty of festive gathering.
Four years back, I pledge my allegiance to the “community”, and within my microscopic orientation that geo-community was North-side Minneapolis (NS).
I must admit, it is a struggle to remain objective regarding elaboration of this topic enlight of recent events surrounding my home. I will state this plain and clear; in considering family, economy, safety, and health it is hard to commit oneself and family to the “community” unless there is a major sacrifice or acceptance of insecurity. This is not the sacrifice of your typical character martyr who gives his/her life, time, or talent to the ‘movement’ and offers up virtues of integrity. I’m speaking of the perils that we take for granted. I’m talking about the moderate relative comforts of a safe family environment, emotional security, healthy community interactions, and livable wages that are consistently challenged everyday in our “community”. Four years back, I pledge my allegiance to the “community”, and within my microscopic orientation that geo-community was North-side Minneapolis (NS). Currently, after recent experiences of the last three years, I have reconsidered previous notions and become torn between contending ideologies about my commitment to the “community” and my residency in the “geo-community”/neighborhood.
Black residents increased within the confines of intentionally mapped Jim Crow policies enacted on the city, county, and state level.
North Minneapolis has deep roots with the historical migration and resettlement of Black people. From the Mary T. Welcome rooming house to Phyllis Wheatley neighbor development, Black people have changed the landscape of Northside residency. As of 2012, the largest concentration of Black residents in Minnesota, renters and homeowners, are in the 55411 and 55412 area code, essentially the NS. Our presence has altered and lead the politics, economy, and aesthetics of the Near North, Hawthorne, and Jordan community. Historically, these roots were formed and maintained through segregation and the political bureaucracy of Minneapolis. Black residents increased within the confines of intentionally mapped Jim Crow policies enacted on the city, county, and state level. Employment restrictions, banking red-lines, and wage opportunities created an oscillating experience of Black home ownership acquisition within the same walls of the NS. Coupling this phenomena with migration patterns of Blacks from St. Louis, Kansas City, Gary, and Chicago the result, like most urban history, is the concentrated geo-community of Black folk that range in economics, skill, and education.
What better way to live out this value than to purchase a home within my perceived geo-community NS, right?
Married to the neighborhood through my work with youth, the infatuation with NS begin when I started to seriously align my values with my career path. Principally as a value, it was easy to link the connection between “living among my people” and “working to build my people”. I couldn’t stomach the adage that “successful achieving” Black folks are obligated to “give back” to the people/community, assuming they “arrived” (Whatever the hell that means). I argued, and still do, that achieving Blacks should always “build up” the community. This subtle difference speaks to the necessary orientation required to be effective. The former is a distant relationship while the later implies living within the rubble working to make change from the ground up. What better way to live out this value than to purchase a home within my perceived geo-community NS, right? This is the rational space that was sensible at the time when we purchased our home. Admittedly, I found silent moral judgement toward those who didn’t reside on the NS, yet, they swore there commitment and allegiance to the area. Well, after two marvelous births, the quest for schooling, four home burglaries, car stolen, a mug, employment adjustments with the threat of fore-closure, and the increasing home repairs to a cheaply built structure, we have now questioned the viability of living on the NS.
With the staggering percentages of Black students railroaded into special education, continuous budget complications that effect schools, and the deeply failing relationship with the surrounding community, its not rocket science to comprehend the outcomes Minneapolis Public Schools are currently challenged with in terms of graduation rates.
In the quest to find prominent educational facilities for our growing sons, my wife and I have become desperate. With the staggering percentages of Black students railroaded into special education, continuous budget complications that effect schools, and the deeply failing relationship with the surrounding community, its not rocket science to comprehend the outcomes Minneapolis Public Schools are currently challenged with in terms of graduation rates. The economy is never good for youth development practitioners and finding employment offering livable wages focused within the area is slim to none. Theft and burglaries in the NS (Hawthorne and Jordan) is a consistent dilemma that does not seem to have valuable solutions outside of a major social systemic shift. Our home and block is consistently targeted for anything within and without the perimeter. There is no emotional resolve when your house is under monitor from an individual who, timing the moment you leave to seize the window of opportunity, kicks in your door and break the window. Hence, our experience has drastically challenged the loyalty to the geo-community NS and the values that brought us to this place.
…do we want to raise our children around this mess?
This paradigm shift conjured several positions I once held sacred. To this day, I feel this strong inclination to breath, walk, raise children, and enjoy life among the plethora of Black folk. Further, I still harbor the belief that to change the socio-political dynamics of Black folk, we have to be willing to work within the midst of our struggle while possessing a broader morale and historical understanding of our condition. Additionally, I contend that we need to explore the relationship between the geo-community and the ‘ideological community’, which we romanticize in conversation. However, conflict arise when you cannot secure your home from the economically disadvantaged community member’s trending operation to acquire electronic merchandise. Complication surfaces when your neighbor is ‘pushing weight’ across the street, and the contending house across the way has repeated disturbances of domestic situations 2 o’clock in the morning. Cognitively, I know the historical, social, and economic backdrop of my people, however; my wife and I have asked ourselves numerous times, do we want to raise our children around this mess? The collective identity and affinity we are attempting to instill into our sons and the reflected
environment does not parallel. Moreover, it would be idiotically insane to continue to raise our children with these notions of Black people that doesn’t correlate with their surrounding geo-community.
…NS Blacks create a quasi real ideal about their neighborhood based up limited experiences.
Part and parcel of this analysis is the ideological projection upon NS and its meaning to residents. In light of the organizers, workers, multiple generation of residents, and politicians NS is as much a community “concept” as it is an actual geo-community. There is a tendency to create a surreal concept of our community and then attempt to blend the ideal to the reality, which never fully aligns. Maybe surreal is harsh, but the point is clear, NS Blacks create a quasi real ideal about their neighborhood based up limited experiences. I’m a victim of this. From the mouths of Blacks in NS, its common to hear “community” as a term conceiving the idea of a Black geo-community between Glenwood and Dowling Avenue, Penn Avenue and Interstate 94. A small percentage of us have nostalgic endearing memories growing up in this area or may have experience a moment of Black love and pride at an event. Whatever the case, we have come to romanticize this once community that we hope will restore itself. Simultaneously, quite of few attempt to conjure only the concept of the beloved Black community unconfined to any geographic perimeter. I struggle with this notion based upon the premise offered by Black Nationalist politics. How can we discuss Black community without talking geographic land ownership? How can we justify building peoplehood and constructing focused healthy communities while we are attempting to build alliances between Blacks from Plymouth, Burnsville, Minneapolis, and Mendota Heights. Our flight to own a piece of the rock away from the concentrated areas of our people has been our demise. I digress.
There is no way i can explain away the idiosyncrasies between the observations of my son and what we are teaching him regarding Black people and our community.
As I previously stated, part of my value is to live in the community I attempt to build up. Now we arrive at my conflict and struggle. I’m torn and slightly ashamed that I want and need to move away from the geo-community in order to find safety, security, quality educational options, and a peace of mind. It challenges the very ethic that I subscribe toward. It upsets my previously conceived notion of political and social anchoring; to build community you have to live in that community. The sacrifice is so heavy. I can’t risk a random bullet piercing my wall and obliterating my legacy planted in my sons. I refuse to invest more into a home that has become the open box for picking among my economically disadvantage brothers. I’m not obliged to sit back and watch political candidates exploit ageless issues which they are unprepared nor equipped to address. There is no way i can explain away the idiosyncrasies between the observations of my son and what we are teaching him regarding Black people and our community. Yet, if I move, I become one of them, pledging my commitment to a concept and spending my remaining years justifying why I refuse to own a piece of the rock that was historical crafted via segregation and now the pride of a few.