Language alert: some people or employers may take issue with a couple of words in this post. Also, an apology: I know I promised a reprieve from my recent rants, but this is too important not to talk about, even in this micro format.
In the year 2009, Minneapolis had 19 homicides, down from 40 in 2008. We all felt good – violent crime was on the retreat. These numbers were in contrast to the mid-nineties, when my city was burdened with the moniker “Murderapolis” with 97 at its annual peak in 1995. Last year’s 19 is the lowest we’ve had in over 25 years.
It is now March 7. In 2010 so far, we’ve had 10 homicides. In the first two months of the year (the quietest crime months, historically), we’re already halfway through last year’s total. I was at the store buying some beer yesterday after driving through a mob of people on Penn and 26th. There were bullhorns, cruisers, and hand-made signs. I didn’t read the paper on Friday, so I asked at the store about the gathering. The cashier said it was a march for peace, and the guy behind me in line chimed in: “This is messed up, man! I’m not from here, but where I’m from, if someone’s on the street and they fuck up, brother gets gat, but no one else. Up here, this gang banging all over, people ain’t even involved, minding their business getting gunned down!” Last year I would have said he was wrong, and that innocents are largely safe. This year I’m no longer so sure. The crowd was a peace march to the church where the funeral was being held for the latest shooting victim, a 17 year old girl shot in the neck while standing in a group of friends outside a party. I thought, well that’s good. It’s good that people are standing up to this and being counted against this violence. Then this morning I opened up the local section of the paper to read that a gang fight broke out inside the church at the conclusion of the 17 year old girl’s funeral. Do me a favor and read the underlined, linked portion of that sentence aloud. See if you aren’t just a little ashamed to be talking about a major American city. Seriously, at a fucking funeral?!
What the hell is wrong with these assholes? I’m sorry, but I’ve lived on the north side long enough to say this is my neighborhood too - as well as the woman two houses down who works for the city, the men who own and run the Quick Mart two blocks over, the teachers at the school at the end of my block, not to mention the children going to said school - and I’d like to respectfully ask these gang bangers to get the hell out of our city. We citizens of this place are trying to build a positive community up here, opening restaurants and businesses, creating community gardens, making public art, and you are cutting down our efforts. So get out. If you want to be a tough guy, cowboy, or vigilante with your guns and dope, you go do it somewhere else. We’re trying to freakin' live here. The quotation in the paper from Al Flowers, the former mayoral candidate, community activist, and sometimes political troublemaker, says it best. Outside the church yesterday, he called into a bullhorn as the police tried to diffuse the situation, “This is a baby’s funeral! Seventeen years old and she can’t rest in peace?”
Can I just say that in five plus years of owning a home on the north side of MPLS, this spring is the first time I’ve ever avoided certain areas of the neighborhood, even in my car, for safety reasons. That is not the neighborhood I bought into, and desperately wanted to turn into a beautiful urban area. That is not a place I would want to open a business or raise a family in. That is not a place that will attract new residents – residents who care about the place and want to live in a truly neighborly hood.
I’ve always been the quiet neighbor. The guy who lives here and gardens and walks places in the neighborhood, but pretty much keeps to himself. As of now I am making a resolution (if a late one). This year I am going to be more involved in the life of the greater community. I will get to know more of my neighbors, and show them that I truly care about our block, our community, and their own well-being. I will attend block parties, Take Back the Night picnics, and public festivals. I will be a visible part of this neighborhood, because I am a part of it, and I don’t like some of the violent elements that have been rearing their ugly, gun-toting heads lately. So to the north side council members, Don Samuels, Diane Hofstede, & my own Barb Johnson, police chief Tim Dolan, and Mayor R.T. Rybak, I say this: I’m going to do my part. Now it is up to you all to give us a fighting chance. Step up beat patrols, yes, but also get more familiar with this troubled community. Ask us how the municipal powers that be can facilitate growth and the culture of this part of the city. We are unique, and have unique problems here. We will need unique solutions that only we on the ground can come up with, but only you can make happen. Let’s talk.