Interview of Beverly Propes

Interviewer: 00:37 Yeah so I’m going to go ahead and get started, so, I’m an adult facilitator on this project, she’s the youth facilitator, and this is project that we’re doing. We’re ReCAST Minneapolis, and it’s called Nort side oral history, and it’s focused on gathering information from the North side community on how certain government policies affected the communities in the past. And the reason why they’re doing this is to have a better understanding, try to bridge the gap in the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and the community. So, we most definitely appreciate you being a part of this interview, and I’m just here to really oversee, be like the backbone, but she’ll be the one doing the interview and asking the questions.
Beverly Propes: 01:24 Okay.

Interviewer: 01:25 Okay so the first question is your name with the spelling.
Beverly Propes: 01:29 My name is Beverly, and that’s BEVERLY, and my last name is Propes, PROPES. I should say my married name is Propes, PROPES.

Interviewer: 01:42 Okay, and then on this map are you able to tell where you live, or anything that involves you where you work, anything of that sort?
Beverly Propes: 02:00 I’m on 12th and Thomas, and, it would be not too far from here. This is going Valley Road, so I’m about right here.

Interviewer: 02:14 All right, okay so, thinking back to when you first came to this area today, what changes have you seen that can be positive or negative?
Beverly Propes: 02:23 Okay, I’ve been a resident at my home for 47 years, and that’s 1141 Thomas Avenue North, it sits on a corner across from a park. It’s down the street from Al McFarlane who publishes the Insight News… when we moved here, I had two children, and I was pregnant with a third child, who is now 47. And the park when we moved here, was in, there was no grass, there was no play activities, the housing was very, very nice, we were told it was because there was many individuals at least in my house, of Jewish descent. And that neighborhood in of itself, many of the Jewish individuals had moved as a result of a riot that occurred on Olsen highway. We moved, we were not part of the riot, because the riot had occurred before we moved. But it was enough for the community that lived close to that area to move, so our house was the third house on that block, that was owned by a Jewish family.

Beverly Propes: 04:00 The house was in very good condition, it has three floors. It has a basement, one level, and then it has an attic area. And all of those areas had been kind of finished off, so it was able for us to have a three bedroom, two bathroom…home at that time, with living room and fireplaces on all three floors.

Beverly Propes: 04:26 Some of the changes that occurred when we moved was we immediately connected with our neighbors, other people that we knew moved in, and across from the park was a soon to become city council person, Jackie Cherryholmes, she still lives there. So the first thing that we did because of her responsibility is to meet with her about redoing the park, and she did, I can’t tell you what year it was, but it was a long time ago because my youngest one was about… he might of been three or four, because we wanted to make sure the park was scaled in such a way that it would serve preschoolers, as well as young people, as well as older people. So we had a swing, a wooden swing put there, we did not want a basketball hoop, because we knew that would draw more young people that weren’t in our community, and we didn’t want that to happen.

Beverly Propes: 05:36 The other changes that have occurred in our neighborhood, was at one time we had mostly African American families, and as of two years ago, we began to see an influx of families from other cultures. What was interesting about that is that there is a large… Hispanic or Latin American or Mexican community that lives further West from us and the only way we knew we had such a diverse community is that every year when we had night out all the people around the park would come and that’s when we knew we had a real diverse community.

Beverly Propes: 06:27 But there was seldom a lot of European people that attended and in the last, I want to say five years, we’ve had a lot of families that have bought into our community. I think that one of the reasons is that we did have a tornado in our community which destroyed not so much in our community in terms of housing and roofs, although my roof was damaged, but beyond Plymouth and Penn Avenue there was quite a lot of damage, and of course that damage brought attention of the opportunities to build new housing, and I believe that is why we have so many families, more diversity in our community then we have had.

Interviewer: 07:17 I’m not going to ask you why you think these changes are happening because you had such good answers so I’m skip to five, so we are gathering these stories to increase the understanding of the city in Minneapolis community, and the impact of the historical discrimination of the government policies, so we wanted to ask you the… war on drugs, the employment and housing in the early 20th Century. How did those policies impact you for the community itself.
Beverly Propes: 07:52 Okay, give me if you could a date when you talk about early 20th Century.

Interviewer: 08:02 1990’s.
Beverly Propes: 08:03 Okay, good. All those issues that really impact the work that I do, I am a public health nurse, and so early in, probably about 1995, there was increasing evidence that the people in my community were suffering for what are being called social determinants of health. What that meant to me, as a public health nurse provider, was that the people in my community were at high risk for shorter life.

Beverly Propes: 08:42 So, also around that time… close around that time the whole issue of crack was brought into our community, and it wasn’t so apparent in my neighborhood until one of the children, I also have developed an early childhood program in North Minneapolis, and I noticed that one of the children’s parents seemed to have changed in terms of her behavior. And she happened to live right across from the park, and so, slowly but surely it was apparent that she was suffering from addiction.

Beverly Propes: 09:27 And that actually was the closest in my community that I observed at that time. As a public health nurse, other issues such as diabetes, other issues such as cancer, were issues, infant mortality, were all issues that I was very much involved in to have a voice in our community, on th city, and the state, and even at the University of Minnesota. One of the things that I continue to be involved in is those committee discussions that discuss the despaired health in our community.

Beverly Propes: 10:12 Now I can say that in my neighborhood, which is 1141 Thomas, that the surrounding communities, most of my neighbors know that I am a nurse. And they will come to me and ask me about ear infections of their children, and lumps in their breasts, and what they should do when they find out they’re pre-diabetic, and usually as a resource I’m able to steer them. Also, at that time I was in involved in what was then called Pilot City, and I served on an advisory committee to talk about how we could improve the outreach health efforts for the North Minneapolis community. And the result of that we change the name, and it is now called North Point and it’s health and it’s wellness, and the reason why it’s wellness because as a public health provider encourage the committee to be thinking about how we can increase the wellness in our community despite all the illness, and that includes drugs, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, blood pressure, poor nutrition, and those are all things that North Point addresses today.

Beverly Propes: 11:31 Once I was on the board, I was able, I was appointed to the board, and I served as the president of the board, called the chairman at the time. We were able to encourage the community to be looking for a wellness effort, and that also included what I ask Mr. Hayden to think about instead of calling it chemical dependency call it chemical health, and so that is now one of his goal areas in the work that he does. Though he did not live directly in my neighborhood, he did develop some programs to address some of the drugs that were increasing in our community.

Beverly Propes: 12:14 With the issue of crack, early when it began to penetrate our community I had gotten a call from one of our nurses in the hospital at Hennepin County, because she knew that I was on several committees addressing health as an issue, telling me that more and more North side women were leaving the hospital right after the birth of their babies and though they could not diagnose why, it was apparent that it was because they were on crack usually the babies were born too small, usually the babies were born still involved in crack because of the parents use. And so that really started an activity to link with someone like Mr. Hayden to reach those populations, and I think as I look back 20 years, a lot has changed as a result of his involvement. Now it’s opioids. I’m not as connected any longer in the community as it relates to drugs, but I do know that there are still babies born that parents have ingested, not so much crack, but opioids, smoking, and alcohol. And so part of my campaign is to encourage young women to have well babies by taking care of themselves.

Beverly Propes: 13:46 In terms of policy, I would say that because of North point and the voices that came out of that from the community board, there was a lot of policies in the City of Minneapolis, that began to look at how they could provide funding to address those issues. Through at that time they used to call the City of Minneapolis had a health department and so did the state, and so does the county all have health departments that get dollars from the federal as well as from the city, and with a couple of conversations could see value in providing some of those dollars to some organizations in North Minneapolis so we can address directly the culturally needs of our community.

Interviewer: 14:40 Is there anything that’s new that has developed? I know you mentioned, what did you say, opioids?
Beverly Propes: 14:51 Opioids.

Interviewer: 14:52 Okay so in the community is there anything that you have concerns about?
Beverly Propes: 15:01 I do, and like I said earlier I know there is a committee that’s kind of looking at strategies and I know that there’s money been allocated. And for the most part from a policy prospective that’s the kind of things that is a standard procedure, best practice, so you know oh we’re going to have to solve a problem, what should we do, we should have a committee and so you bring people together and they learn by talking to individuals that may have direct connection with individuals that are suffering from that addiction and you get that information.

Beverly Propes: 15:39 My concern is that that takes a long time, and my biggest concern is the children that may be exposed to a parent who is challenged by the responsibility of parenting, challenge because education has not been a path that she’s completed, challenge because it’s easier to not do anything because of depression, and having children is sometimes overwhelming if you don’t have parent or other support to help you. And so sometimes those things result in people taking action, that change their perspective and their mood, which often is drugs.

Beverly Propes: 16:29 So my concern is the children that may be in those households, and I know that just from people that I’ve talked to that, and working in the schools, that kids bring that to school and there’s so much… bullying, and if somebody hits you, you hit them back, and “I don’t like this I only want to eat hot chips.” Those are all things in my view, have a direct influence as to the environment in the home that they’re in, and it’s a real challenge to try to change that, and part of my work in the schools I would work doing that, I would have meetings with parents, I would tell parents you know, when you come in the building and you’ve been smoking, I can smell it, and I know everybody else can, and you go back in your car and your child smells it, and that’s not a good thing.

Beverly Propes: 17:31 And what I’ve found is when I have those conversations it’s necessary. And parents will listen, it’s just I have not had the chance to talk to parents that have gone from one drug to now opioids, and I guess heroin too is now easier, to me do something to change that, since children is our future and we’re not helping them if they’re in those kinds of environments.

Interviewer: 18:09 Okay you just kind of answered it but could you go more in depth, what gives you more hope for the future in the community?
Beverly Propes: 18:15 Oh that’s a good one, I want to say just being interviewed by you young people, because I can tell by your demeanor that what I’m talking about are things you know need to be talked about. And the work that you’re doing based on NRRC, I use to be on the board in NRRC, and one of the things that I advocated for was for them to include a goal in their efforts, because they’re interested in housing, yes, and they’re interested in economics, yes, but they also need to be interested in the environment. Which is what you’re doing around water, and the food, because in my view, is how we can help parents be more responsible and knowledgeable about what they need to do to help their children grow.

Interviewer: 19:05 Okay, that’s all we have for you today.

Beverly Propes: 19:05 Okay.

Interviewer: 19:11 Thank you for your time, we really appreciate it.
Beverly Propes: 19:14 You’re welcome, you’re welcome, I hope I helped, and I hope you get more information about what we should do to have a healthier community.

Interviewer: 19:21 Yeah.

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